FSU research center receives $2.3 million award to promote reading

A Florida State University research center that works to create programs to improve schoolchildren’s reading comprehension, vocabulary and fluency has received a major boost from the federal government.

The Florida Center for Reading Research (FCRR), a research group under FSU’s Learning Systems Institute, has been awarded a five-year, $2.3-million contract by the U.S. Department of Education to enable it to participate in a newly formed National Comprehensive Center for Instruction in Reading, Math, and Science. The national center will work to develop research-based materials and training for use by Regional Comprehensive Centers that will directly serve school districts and state departments of education. The goal is to help all U.S. schools improve instruction to meet the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.

Within the national center, the FCRR will focus on the development of materials and training to support instruction in reading from kindergarten through 12th grade both for normally developing students and for students in special education. In fact, a significant part of the work of the national center will be to help schools develop more effective methods for working with students with disabilities. One of the FCRR’s partners, the University of Texas, is charged with coordinating this part of the effort, and the FCRR will work with that university to provide guidance to schools in teaching reading to students with various cognitive or social handicaps.

“We are excited about this opportunity to extend our work to improve literacy instruction to the national level, and we are grateful for the very high quality of our partners in the national center,” said Joseph K. Torgesen, a professor of psychology and education at FSU who serves as the FCRR’s director. Assisting Torgesen at the FCRR is Marcia Kosanovich, an associate professor with FSU’s Learning Systems Institute who will serve as
the deputy director for the instructional center’s work within the FCRR.

The FCRR worked with the University of Texas, the University of Oregon, the University of Houston, Stanford University and RMC Corporation to submit a successful application to operate the National Comprehensive Center for Instruction in Reading, Math, and Science for the next five years. RMC will provide overall coordination of the activities among the university-based partners.

“I’m delighted that FSU has been given this opportunity to increase the national scope and breadth of our work with schools to improve reading instruction,” said Laura Hassler, director of the Learning Systems Institute. “In addition to its many advances in scientific research, FSU is at the forefront in the growing field of educational research. The USDOE contract will allow us to break new ground in terms of developing methods for improving children’s reading skills.”

The Florida Center for Reading Research (www.fcrr.org ) was established in 2002 as a cornerstone of Gov. Jeb Bush’s “Just Read, Florida!” initiative to have all schoolchildren in the state reading at their grade level by the year 2012. For the next three years, the center will focus its efforts primarily on improving the reading skills of K-3 students under President Bush’s “Reading First Initiative,” which is aimed at helping the country’s youngest students improve their reading skills.