Senator Kennedy Announces BU to Receive $1.25 Million Grant from the Department of Education to Help Struggling Readers

Contact: Pamela Powell, (617) 353-0197 | ppowell@bu.edu

(Boston) – “It’s essential to learn more about why some students have more difficulty than others in comprehending what they read, so that we can take more effective steps to improve their skills. I commend BU for undertaking this important research, and I look forward to its practical implications in the years ahead,” said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy when he recently announced that two Massachusetts institutions, including Boston University will receive grants from the U.S. Department of Education to help struggling readers. “With these funds, BU will be able to conduct valuable research on the kinds of support needed to improve the comprehension skills of struggling readers.”

Gloria Waters, Ph.D., dean of BU Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, will receive a $1.25 million grant from the Department of Education (DOE) to study the reading comprehension skills of middle and high school students.

The four-year grant, Assessment of Reading Comprehension Skills in Older Struggling Readers, will allow Waters and her team to develop a new comprehensive, computerized language assessment tool to identify various language comprehension problems of older, struggling readers. This is critical to current education needs and is often stressed by Senator Kennedy.

The assessment tool will be unique among tools currently available because it will allow educators to distinguish between general language problems or those specific to reading and will show them which of many aspects of language processing a student is struggling with such as vocabulary, grammar or passage comprehension. The tool will also measure the speed with which a student can comprehend language when reading and listening.

“Hopefully this will aid in literacy development of older students by allowing educators to better identify older students who are having trouble reading and targeting them with focused remedial programs,” said Waters who also serves as the chair of the Department of Health Sciences and professor of communications disorders at BU Sargent College. “This will also help teachers assess whether or not a student’s reading ability improves with concentrated instruction.”

Researchers will test a total of 680 students from grades 7-10 in the greater Boston area on both written and spoken comprehension followed by a random sample of 50 students in each grade to test the tool’s reliability.

The grant is part of the DOE Reading Comprehension and Reading Scale-up Program. CAST, Inc., Wakefield, MA, will also receive a grant from this program.

Boston University Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences is an institution of higher education, research and clinical centers whose premier academic programs prepare dynamic health professionals and whose research and leadership in the health and rehabilitation sciences is actively shaping health care. BU Sargent College is the only private institution in the country offering five nationally ranked graduate programs in health and rehabilitation sciences. For more information and to learn about degree programs in physical therapy, occupational therapy, communication disorders, health sciences, athletic training, nutrition, and rehabilitation counseling, visit http://www.bu.edu/sargent.