FSU wins $1 million award to improve preschool education

FSU Associate Professors Beth
Phillips and Carla Wood.

Two Florida State University researchers have received a $1 million Lyle Spencer Research Award to improve the quality of education in preschool classrooms.

Associate Professors Beth Phillips (Florida Center for Reading Research) and Carla Wood (School of Communication Science and Disorders) will lead an interdisciplinary team to investigate key characteristics of children’s language development in preschool classrooms. The three-year study, funded by the Spencer Foundation, will identify the predictors, associations and valid measurement of language environments in preschool classrooms serving children at high risk because of poverty and low parental education.

“The relevance of this study is tremendous,” Phillips said. “Some teachers are likely not influencing children’s language development sufficiently to close the skill gap for high-risk children. The goal of this study is to contribute to evidence-based strategies that can inform instruction and lead to improved learning outcomes.”

Phillips and Wood will partner with 100 preschools throughout the southeast to investigate the crucial role of teachers in developing children’s language skills.

The Florida State team combines expertise and resources from the Florida Center for Reading Research (FCRR), School of Communication Science and Disorders and the College of Education.

“This study will complement the rigorous and relevant interdisciplinary research conducted by the faculty, scientists and doctoral students of the Preschool Research Group at FCRR,” Phillips said.

Introduced in 2014 and administered by the Spencer Foundation, the Lyle Spencer Research Awards are a highly competitive series of grants aimed at advancing education practices internationally. The 10 inaugural 2015 recipients were selected from an initial pool of 270 initial applicants.

More information regarding the Lyle Spencer Research Awards may be found at www.spencer.org. For more information about FCRR, visit www.fcrr.org.