Practitioners and Researchers Overcoming Problems of Literacy (PROPeL)

PROPeL students

What is PROPeL?

PROPeL is a unique and customized, recurring two-year initiative of the Iowa Reading Research Center. In 2016, the University of Iowa Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost and the University of Iowa College of Education awarded the IRRC seed money to launch PROPeL.

Addressing Urgent Literacy Concerns

For this inaugural cycle of PROPeL, the Iowa Reading Research Center is 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.

In future years, the focus of PROPeL may change to other types of schools, different grade levels, or different literacy challenges.

PROPeL Partners for 2016–2018

The following partners were selected for the inaugural two-year cycle (2016–2018) of PROPeL:

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

How PROPeL Works

For the current cycle, PROPeL partners submitted a data-supported, practitioner-identified literacy problem related to alternative schools or juvenile justice facilities that they wish to address.

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

Following the conference, schools will carry out a literacy improvement plan during the 2017–2018 school year. Student- and teacher-outcomes will be measured throughout the initiative.

PROPeL 2016–2018 Timeline

2016 Application

Applications for the current cycle were due December 1, 2016.

  1. PROPeL partners form a local study team of up to six individuals composed of:

    • District administrator (or equivalent with authority to commit funds)

    • Alternative school representative or juvenile justice liaison

    • Building administrator in charge of curriculum or academics

    • Literacy teacher (English language arts, reading, reading intervention) or literacy coach

    • Up to two additional team members, as appropriate

  2. PROPeL partners conduct preliminary data analysis to identify a specific literacy problem related to the poor performance of students in the alternative school or juvenile justice facility. This includes:

    • Defining a problem that the district can influence and control (i.e., a fixable problem)

    • Investigating prior attempts to address the problem(s)

2017 Post-Selection

  1. Teams in the selected schools will organize weekly team meetings, participate in monthly team leader webinars, and visit the Iowa Reading Research Center prior to the 2017 May PROPeL conference

  2. Educators in the selected schools will complete the IRRC’s pre-tests of literacy knowledge to inform conference content

  3. Local district team attends the May 2017 PROPeL conference to create improvement plan for upcoming school year

2017 Post-Conference

  1. Teams will meet in the summer to finalize plans and prepare for implementation during the 2017-2018 school year
  2. Educators in the selected schools will complete the IRRC’s pre-tests of literacy knowledge

2017–2018 School Year

  1. Educators will carry out the improvement plan during 2017–2018 school year with collaboration from the Iowa Reading Research Center
  2. IRRC and district teams will evaluate teacher and student outcomes

Benefits of Participating in PROPeL

This innovative initiative combines training, translating research into practice, need-based improvement planning, and continuous support from literacy experts. There will be close collaboration between each district team and the Iowa Reading Research Center at the University of Iowa College of Education.

Most importantly, this inaugural implementation of PROPeL aims to bring improved literacy outcomes for students in alternative schools or the juvenile justice system.

Follow PROPeL on Our Blog

We will be writing about the various phases 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