Campus: Long Beach -- September 6, 2007

U.S. Department of Education Awards $2 Million Grant to Center for Language Minority Education, Research at Cal State Long Beach

The U.S. Department of Education has awarded a four-year, $2 million research grant to the Center for Language Minority Education and Research (CLMER) at Cal State Long Beach (CSULB) for a project aimed at improving the reading skills of adolescents who struggle with reading.

Titled “Content-Rich Vocabulary Development to Improve Reading Achievement of Struggling Adolescent Readers,” the project will be directed by Claude Goldenberg, executive director of CLMER and a professor of teacher education at CSULB. It is being undertaken in collaboration with the Consortium on Reading Excellence (CORE) in Berkeley and SRI International in Menlo Park.

The project aims to create a content-rich vocabulary program for struggling adolescent readers and obtain pilot data on the association between exposure to the program and subsequent vocabulary and reading comprehension. The project will be conducted in urban California school districts with struggling adolescent readers, many of whom speak English as a second language.

“The goal of this project is to work with history and English teachers and students in the seventh and eighth gradewho are two or more grades behind in their reading achievement. The target is to increase students’ vocabulary and background knowledge,” Goldenberg explained. “These are not special education kids. Their decoding and word recognition skills are probably okay. The problem is, they don’t have enough vocabulary and background knowledge to understand fully when they are reading in content areas such as social studies. Although there are many reasons for poor reading performance, our point of attack in this grant is vocabulary and content knowledge.”

Goldenberg believes one reason for the Department of Education’s support of this research is the project’s two-phase construction. In the first two-year phase, the project will work with approximately 12 middle school English and history teachers to develop the program. In the second two-year phase (a field test phase), a randomized study with eight schools assigned either to experimental or control conditions will establish whether there is evidence of the program’s effect on vocabulary and reading comprehension when compared to a no-treatment control.

“The premise of this project is that limited vocabulary, and the limited background that accompanies it, severely limits the reading comprehension of struggling adolescent readers,” Goldenberg noted. “The problem many youngsters face is that the knowledge demands of comprehending written text increase enormously as they advance in school.

“By middle school, a student must know tens of thousands of words and word families. The words must be part of their working and productive vocabulary if the student is to have a chance at achieving at grade-level in middle and high school,” he continued. “Yet, astonishingly, there exists no vocabulary-enhancing program for struggling adolescents that has been tested and evaluated to determine its effects on reading achievement. This project will develop and field test such a program, using the most current findings from vocabulary instruction research.”

Goldenberg is the author of “Successful School Change: Creating Settings to Improve Teaching and Learning” and he appeared on the PBS series “Becoming Bilingual,” which aired around the country. He has an A.B. in history from Princeton University and an M.A. and Ph.D. in early childhood and development studies from UCLA.


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