The University of Iowa

Research and Evaluation Services

Teacher with students raising their hands

The Iowa Reading Research Center provides comprehensive literacy research and evaluation services. The center receives multiple inquiries from school districts across the state in need of specialized assistance with gathering and analyzing student literacy data or expertise in literacy materials, instruction, and assessment.

Recent assistance provided to districts has included: quantitative analysis of literacy data, professional development and consultation to support districts’ literacy initiatives, and rigorous experimental and quasi-experimental studies to help districts evaluate the effectiveness of literacy curricula and instruction.

The Iowa Reading Research Center stands ready to help districts improve students’ outcomes by working with educators to find evidence-based solutions to literacy challenges in the classroom.

We Offer

Literacy Expertise

Led by Director Dr. Deborah K. Reed, Iowa Reading Research Center research faculty have decades of combined experience in literacy education research and technical assistance across the United States. Our collective knowledge and experience covers all aspects of birth-12th grade literacy development.

Design and Statistical Analysis Expertise

Utilizing our deep understanding of data collection and analysis, Associate Director of Statistical Methods Dr. Ariel M. Aloe and Iowa Reading Research Center staff are poised to help make informed decisions about the best ways to measure the effectiveness of new instructional approaches before, during, and after implementation.

Technical Assistance in Implementing Literacy Programs and Initiatives

We have provided evaluation services, including data-driven guidance and tracking of adherence to goals, for successful literacy initiatives in both metro and rural school districts. Initiatives have involved students of all backgrounds, including English learners, students with disabilities, and economically disadvantaged students.

Experience Working With Multiple Stakeholders

All Iowa Reading Research Center efforts are conducted in collaboration with educators, parents, community representatives, and policy makers. Results have had a direct impact on literacy policy and instructional best practices.

Specialized Analytics Expertise

CUTOS Framework graphic
Copyright © 2017 Ariel M. Aloe | Permission granted for reproduction

Through partnership between researchers and practitioners, we contextualize evidence to inform practice and policy. We developed the CUTOS Framework to make decisions more systematically. The combination of literacy and statistical expertise allows us to meet the unique needs of each educational partner. Our analytical capabilities include (but are not limited to):

  • Designing and analyzing non/experimental studies (e.g., partially/cluster-randomized trials, regression discontinuity, propensity score, multilevel modeling, growth modeling, reliability and validity, mediators and moderators)
  • Assessing the quality and relevance of existing evidence
  • Cluster randomized trials

Research and Evaluation Projects: Partnering With Schools

Council Bluffs Community School District

An established leader and innovator when it comes to summer school reading programs in Iowa, this district initially asked the Iowa Reading Research Center for assistance with analyzing student data from its 2015 summer program. The next year, Council Bluffs partnered with the Iowa Reading Research Center for the statewide Intensive Summer Reading Program study involving 44 total districts. Based on findings from that research, the district asked the Iowa Reading Research Center to assist with adjusting and improving its summer reading program for 2017, during which the Iowa Reading Research Center served as an external evaluator. The center continues to assist in collecting and analyzing teacher implementation and student outcome data.

The Iowa Reading Research Center has been invaluable in helping us to design a better summer learning program around more intensive, research-based literacy instruction. Dr. Reed’s expertise in literacy as well as her organization’s experience with program evaluation have been much appreciated and highly utilized. The results have been substantial improvements in both programming and effects.

Dr. Marty Shudak
Director of Assessment and Data Management, Council Bluffs Community School District

PDF iconEvaluation of the Council Bluffs Community School District's 2019 Summer Program

PDF iconEvaluation of the Council Bluffs Community School District's 2018 Summer Reading Program

PDF iconEvaluation of the Council Bluffs Community School District's 2017 Summer School Program

Sioux City Community School District

In July of 2016, Iowa Reading Research Director Dr. Deborah K. Reed began providing literacy professional development for this district in the form of presentations and other meetings with school administrators and teachers as part of the district’s efforts to improve student reading performance. The district is implementing a new instructional approach that involves small-group, skills-based instruction within the 90-minute literacy block to better address students’ literacy needs. Five elementary schools began the work with the goal of building internal capacity. The Iowa Reading Research Center created fidelity monitoring tools and is providing ongoing support for refining implementation during the 2017-2018 school year as the district expands the program to nine additional elementary schools.

The IRRC provides expertise based on research; professional development for teachers, administrators and teacher leaders; and analysis of program implementation and achievement results as we implement small-group, skills-based instruction. We are seeing a decrease in the variability of instruction within the literacy block across grades K-5 in our 14 elementary schools. Student achievement will be positively impacted because of our partnership with the IRRC.

 Dr. Kim Buryanek
Associate Superintendent, Sioux City Community School District

PDF iconEvaluation of the Sioux City Community School District's Implementation of Small-Group, Skills-Based Instruction

Ames Community School District

During the 2016-2017 school year, the Iowa Reading Research Center served as an external evaluator for the district’s word study pilot in Grades K-2. This effort was part of the district’s ongoing efforts to support Tier 1 instruction of foundational reading skills. Three sets of phonics instructional materials were used in 11 classrooms. The Iowa Reading Research Center oversaw the collection, analysis, and interpretation of student improvement and teacher fidelity data to help determine the effectiveness and feasibility of phonics instructional curricula. The IRRC collaborated with teacher preparation students from Iowa State University and Drake University, who administered reading tests to Ames students four times over 8 months. Based on data gathered during the pilot, the Ames School Board approved the adoption of one set of materials.

The IRRC identified a tool and data analysis that were sensitive enough to measure student growth over three phases of our pilot. They have significantly helped us raise our standards for pilot evaluation as well as adoption. We are grateful for our partnership with the IRRC.

Dr. Mandy Ross
Associate Superintendent, Ames Community School District

PDF iconReport of the Kindergarten-Second Grade Phonics Materials Review for the Ames Community School District

PDF iconSlides from a June 2017 presentation by IRRC Director Deborah K. Reed detailing results of the pilot