Practitioners and Researchers Overcoming Problems of Literacy (PROPeL)

PROPeL students

What is PROPeL?

PROPeL is a unique and customized, recurring two-year literacy initiative of the Iowa Reading Research Center. As the name implies, it is designed to spur (or propel) schools forward in their efforts to improve students’ literacy outcomes by partnering practitioners in the school with the researchers at the Iowa Reading Research Center (IRRC).

How PROPeL Works

During a PROPeL cycle, the Iowa Reading Research Center provides various levels of technical support to PROPeL partner districts or schools who have presented a data-supported, practitioner-identified literacy problem that they wish to address.

Members of local partner teams receive training, professional development, and other technical assistance from literacy experts at the Iowa Reading Research Center on implementing a customized literacy improvement program. This plan must include a research component to evaluate the implementation and the outcome of the effort.

Addressing Urgent Literacy Concerns

The specific focus of a PROPeL cycle depends on the need identified by either partner schools and districts, policy makers, literacy experts at the Iowa Reading Research Center, or a combination of stakeholders. Areas of focus may include the district- or school-wide literacy curriculum, the literacy performance of particular groups of students, or the pedagogical skills of teachers.

Bottom Line of Participating in PROPeL

PROPeL involves a close collaboration between each school/district team and the Iowa Reading Research Center. Through this researcher-practitioner partnership, this innovative initiative combines customized training, the translation of research into practice, need-based improvement planning, monitoring implementation fidelity, monitoring students’ progress, and continuous support from literacy experts. All these efforts combine to improve students’ literacy outcomes.

Hear from some of our PROPeL partner team members on how they and their schools are benefiting from participating in the initiative. 

Follow PROPeL on Our Blog

We will be writing about the various phases and aspects of PROPeL and featuring insight from educators in our partner districts and facilities. Click here for a listing of our PROPeL blogs and news items.

Questions About PROPeL?

Please contact us with any questions about this exciting new initiative to make a difference for literacy outcomes in Iowa.

IRRC Director, Dr. Deborah K. Reed

IRRC Assistant Director, Dr. Sandy Schmitz

Ongoing PROPeL Cycles

Cedar Rapids Community School District (2017-2018)

This cycle of PROPeL is focused on closing the reading gap between students with individualized education plans (IEPs) and their non-disabled peers in the Cedar Rapids Community School District. This cycle started in July of 2017 with a training meeting for partner team members and will continue through the 2017-2018 school year. The following elementary schools have been selected as pilot schools for this cycle:

Alternative Schools and Juvenile Justice Facilities (2016–2018)

This inaugural cycle of PROPeL has focused on alternative schools and juvenile justice facilities because their students’ literacy difficulties are at a crisis level both in Iowa and nationally. Alternative school students often have special needs including poverty, disabilities, and increased dropout risk. Research findings also have shown a strong correlation between poor literacy and involvement in the juvenile justice system.

PROPeL partners for this cycle submitted a data-supported, practitioner-identified literacy problem related to alternative schools or juvenile justice facilities that they wish to address. The following partners have been selected for this two-year cycle (2016–2018) of PROPeL:

This PROPeL cycle included a May 2017 conference where practitioners were taught various strategies tailored to their literacy problem. This was not just a “sit and get” conference but a way to make research findings work for each partner.

During the 2017-18 school year, schools will carry out a literacy improvement plan they developed at the conference. Student- and teacher-outcomes will be measured throughout the initiative, with the assistance of the IRRC.