Talking Ed: SMU Experts Connecting Science and Practice
Bite for Bite


SMU’s Institute for Reading Research in the School of Education opened its doors in 2003 with a gift from the Texas Instruments Foundation. The Institute is rapidly expanding with both new faculty and approximately $16 million in externally funded projects.

Sealing-up Effective Interventions for Preventing Reading Difficulties. U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Science. $6 million, 2003-08. Researchers from SMU and the University of Texas at Austin are working with 48 schools to see if a proven successful method of teaching struggling readers will work when applied to several classrooms. Over the next five years, the researchers will look at how much teacher support will be needed to implement and sustain the initial laboratory success.

Maximizing Literacy Learning Among Children with Mild to Moderate Mental Retardation (Project Maximize). U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Projects, $3 million, 2005-09. SMU researchers are working with 150 children identified as mildly to moderately mentally retarded in 10 Fort Worth schools. Half will be taught reading with the district's current special education methods. The other half will receive nearly an hour of intense instruction daily to help them not only sound out and read words, but also to know what those words mean. Researchers want to know if the same successful methods used to teach other struggling readers will apply to children with mental retardation.

English Language/Literacy Acquisition (Project ELLA). U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Science, $7 million, 2003-08. This research represents a collaboration among researchers at Texas A&M, Sam Houston State University and SMU. The main focus is on how best to instruct Spanish-speaking children in our nation's schools. Comparisons are being made between programs that immerse children in English starting in kindergarten, versus programs that begin instruction primarily in Spanish and transition children to English by the third grade. The question the researchers are exploring is which method leads to greater English language and literacy competence.

Continuous Monitoring of Early Reading Skills (CMERS). National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, $1 million, 2003-05. Researchers are determining the effectiveness of a computer-assisted program that monthly tracks the reading progress of children in grades K-3. Students take the test alone, and the computer program grades their progress. The assessment tool looks at, among other things, phonemic awareness, text reading fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. Teachers can make decisions about a child's reading progress over the course of the school year rather than wait for standardized tests at the end of the year. SMU is working with Florida State University and the makers of Talking Fingers, an educational computer program.