The FCRR PIRT training program brings together faculty and resources from multiple departments, colleges, and institutes within Florida State University. These organizational units include the Departments of Psychology, Childhood Education, Reading, and Disability Services, Educational Psychology and Learning Systems, Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, Special Education and Vocational and Rehabilitation Services, and Communication Disorders; the College of Education and the College of Arts and Sciences; the Center for Economic Forecasting and Analysis, Learning Systems Institute, and the FCRR. Graduate students across these organizational units are united under the umbrella of the FCRR PIRT training program and will receive specialized interdisciplinary training and experiences in education science with a focus on reading research. However, all fellows also retain the identity of their home department, which will award their doctorate. Consequently, fellows have access to the resources of their home departments (e.g., courses and faculty who are not a part of the PIRT training program, opportunities to teach courses) as well as the university (e.g., a major research library system, including on-line access to journals, search engines, and interlibrary loan). The program is housed in FCRR. Additionally, fellows also have access to the resources of the other institutes affiliated with the program.
FCRR is an interdisciplinary organizational unit of FSU. The majority of the faculty, including the program director and co-program director, are faculty associates of FCRR. FCRR was established in 2002 by the Governor's office and the Legislature with a four-fold mission:
The production of scientific knowledge about reading, reading development, reading assessment, and reading instruction that will improve reading outcomes for all children in the State of Florida and throughout the United States.
The use of high quality research methods to address problems in policy and practice that will have a direct impact on reading outcomes for children in the State of Florida.
The dissemination of reading research through a variety of methods appropriate for decision makers, teacher educators, practitioners and others who are accountable for ensuring that Florida students learn critical reading skills
Provide leadership and technical assistance in the design and implementation of Florida's Reading First grant, which is the largest initiative ever undertaken in the state (and nationally) to improve reading outcomes for students in grades K-3.
All faculty within FCRR hold tenure earning appointments in an academic department within the University. Currently, six faculty members are formally associated with the center: Dr. Joseph Torgesen (Director; Psychology), Dr. Christopher Lonigan (Associate. Director; Psychology), Dr. Richard Wagner (Associate. Director; Psychology), Dr. Christopher Schatschneider (Psychology), Dr. Stephanie Al Otaiba (Childhood Education, Reading, and Disability Services), Dr. Alysia Roehrig (Educational Psychology), Dr. Carol Connor (Childhood Education, Reading, and Disability Services), and Dr. Roxanne Hudson (Childhood Education, Reading, and Disability Services). Dr. Ralph Radach (Psychology), who is an experienced researcher and expert in reading research using computer-linked eye movement technology, will be joining the FCRR faculty in January 2005. FCRR has been permanently funded from the State of Florida to partially cover salaries for faculty, staff salaries, and infrastructure. It is expected that FCRR will hire two additional faculty members in education and one additional faculty member in psychology within the next two years. When recruitment is complete, it is expected that FCRR will have six faculty from education and six faculty from psychology. In addition to faculty, the Center currently has six senior staff (two with Ph.D.s), two postdoctoral fellows, and 10 support staff. The center is housed off campus in approximately 15,000 sq. feet of office space. In addition to its mission in the State of Florida, FCRR is the Eastern Regional Reading First Technical Assistance Center (ERFTAC). In this role, FCRR's ERFTAC staff (an additional 6 professional staff) works with states to develop training programs aligned with scientifically based reading research and state standards, develop training on use of progress monitoring for tracking outcomes and informing instruction, and develop staff professional development of various core reading, supplemental and intervention programs.
In addition to the grant-funded research being conducted by faculty associated with the fellowship program, there are several ongoing major projects within FCRR that provide opportunities for fellows to gain training and experience in educational research.
As part of FCRR's ongoing work in support of Reading First in Florida, we have developed a web-based system to store progress monitoring and outcome data for all students in Reading First schools. The system is called the Progress Monitoring and Reporting Network (PMRN), and it currently contains data for 160,000 students in grades K-3. Next year the number will go up to 200,000. We have incorporated a formal system for evaluating the reliability of the test data in this system, and initial estimates indicate that, with several minor exceptions, it meets acceptable standards for measurement reliability. By the end of 2004, the system will contain data from four Fall, Winter 1, Winter2, and Spring) assessments using the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS; Kaminsky & Good, 1996), scores from the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test for all K-3 students, reading comprehension scores from the SAT-10, reading vocabulary scores from the Gates-MacGinitie test, and scores for third graders on Florida's Comprehensive Assessment Test. The system retains data on students for five years, making it possible to examine student, teacher, school, and district level data longitudinally. The system also contains extensive demographic information about each student (e.g., ethnicity, free/reduced lunch status, handicapping conditions), and data can be disaggregated by these factors. Although most of the schools in the system have Reading First grants, there are a number of non-Reading First schools also using the system, and we expect that number to increase each year.
Data in the PMRN can be used to support at least two types of research studies: (a) archival studies that will ask questions about relationships among variables (both concurrent and predictive), as well as factors associated with change in performance at the classroom, school, and district level; and (b) studies that use the data to assess outcomes from planned interventions or to study relations between student outcomes and other variables that might be assessed. Additionally, data from the PMRN can be used for psychometric analyses (e.g., examining the performance of items across different subgroups of students).
With the emphasis on reliable and valid assessments to identify children struggling to acquire early reading skills that is part of Reading First, there is an urgent need to develop more efficient forms of assessment. FCRR is currently engaged in two long-term test development projects. One project is concerned with developing a computer adaptive test of early reading development that could be used for screening and progress monitoring of early reading growth (grades K-3). The other project focuses on development of a computer adaptive diagnostic test for students in grades 4-12. This latter test would be used to help provide diagnostic information for students who have struggled to achieve grade level standards on Florida's reading accountable examination, the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT). On both of these projects, there will be opportunities for fellows to learn about item development, applications of item response theory to item selection, development of computer adaptive algorithms, and test validation.
FCRR is in the middle of a series of large-scale studies to examine the reading, language, and cognitive skills that are most important to predicting performance on the FCAT. The FCAT reading test is a measure of reading comprehension that contains demanding texts and places a special emphasis on student's ability to engage in complex thinking about them. We have already completed data collection for one study of 600 children at grades 3, 7, and 10 that included students randomly sampled across the full range of ability. Our next study will focus on students who have performed poorly on the FCAT to more fully understand their particular difficulties with the test at different ages. We hope that this series of studies will become a model to other states as we seek to understand more fully the construct of reading comprehension and the way it is measured by various state level reading accountability measures. These studies should also inform educators and policy makers about the full range of instructional challenges involved in helping every child achieve grade level standards on measures of complex reading comprehension.
Increasingly, FCRR is being asked to participate in evaluations of new reading interventions that are being implemented in Florida's schools. This past year, for example, we carried out a random assignment study of an intervention for 9th grade students that involved paraprofessionals and volunteers implementing a systematic reading program. The initial results are promising, but they are not sufficiently strong to warrant wide spread use of this program at the present time. As with last year's study, we expect that this evaluation work will be funded by the State of Florida as part of the cost of any tryout of new instructional programs. Our goal is to work with schools and providers to develop the most rigorous designs possible and our standard will be random assignment studies. Over time, this should lead to a new awareness within the educational community about both the feasibility and the desirability of this type of research as a prelude to broader funding of specific initiatives. We also expect to develop considerable expertise in ways to facilitate random assignment studies within complex school environments.
FCRR also is actively involved in helping the State of Florida develop sound educational policy for its constitutionally mandated universal preschool initiative. Both through basic and applied research on preschool instructional strategies and curricula (Drs. Lonigan, Schatschneider, and Hassler), and through working actively in the policy arena (Dr. Lonigan and Dr. Beth Phillips, one of our postdoctoral fellows) we hope to help Florida develop both policies and practices for its state supported preschools that reflects the best information we can provide from research. At the local level, FCRR is helping the local preschool coalition develop evidence-based guidelines for helping centers choose curricula and professional development strategies. As above, FCRR is working with the local preschool coalition to develop and conduct a randomized evaluation study of curricula and professional development for low performing centers.
Because of its role within the State of Florida at the intersection of research and policy, a number of FCRR's ongoing responsibilities can provide learning opportunities for fellows in terms of the application of research to policy and understanding the types of questions of use to educators. For example, FCRR is charged with writing and publishing reviews of literacy instructional programs at the pre-k, elementary, and secondary level. These reviews examine both the content, instructional strategies, and organization of the programs as well as whatever research is available to support their use with specific populations. Dr. Phillips has been involved in helping write the research portion of these reviews, and we would expect opportunities for fellows to be involved in this if they desired. FCRR is also responsible to conduct one-day site visits to 10% of Florida's Reading First schools each year. The site visit includes classroom observations and structured interviews with school personnel in order to evaluate the extent to which they are implementing the major required features of the Reading First program in Florida. The site visits are designed to provide a first level evaluation of the quality of instruction being provided in Reading First schools. Fellows would have a chance to participate in several of these site visits as observers/recorders, and in so doing could begin to acquire a sense of several critical dimensions of school organization and teacher performance that can affect student outcomes.
FCRR employees a full-time computer engineer who can provide support for computer set-up and trouble shooting, programming for web-based surveys and data collection, development of digitized video applications, and set up and execution of teleconferencing applications. In addition, FCRR has two other staff who have high level expertise in computer applications and trouble shooting. FCRR has video production facilities, including equipment to digitize, edit, and produce high-quality video for training and other research purposes. FCRR has approximately 20 portable computers that can be used for data collection in the field, and FCRR has site licenses for all the major word processing, presentation, and data management and analysis applications (MS Word, Excel, PowerPoint, SPSS, SASS). FCRR maintains a large on-site library of journals and books related to reading research as well as a large library of standardized assessment and curricula materials. FCRR will provide fellows with office and research space as well as necessary office equipment, including computers. All of FCRR's space has wired or wireless Internet access to support routine office and research activities.
The Learning Systems Institute (LSI) is an interdisciplinary organizational unit of FSU dedicated to bridging the gap between research and practice in education and training. LSI's mission is to develop practical and workable solutions in education and training based on research, with a focus in three primary areas: (a) Improving public education through major educational reform at the state and national levels, (b) International development related to improving educational systems by using appropriate technologies, and (c) Designing, developing and implementing performance support systems. FCRR is administratively housed in LSI, which is directed by Dr. Laura Hassler, a program faculty member.