Introducing Reading Reimagined
AERDF, a Breakthrough Education R&D Initiative, Introduces
Reading Reimagined, a Program Founded on Belief that
Every Child Can Be a Great Reader
Now Accepting Applications for the Program’s
Founding Educator Advisory Council
For Release October 21, 2021
OAKLAND, Calif. – The Advanced Education Research & Development Fund (AERDF) announced today the launch of Reading Reimagined, the third program in its effort to accelerate progress against intractable teaching and learning challenges that disproportionately impact Black and Latino students, and PreK-12 students of all races experiencing poverty. Reading Reimagined joins Assessment for Good and EF+Math in AERDF’s Inclusive Research and Development (R&D) effort.
AERDF is a national nonprofit initiative that pursues breakthrough outcomes in student learning, well-being, and opportunity. At the heart of AERDF is its Inclusive R&D model, where each multi-year program run by a visionary program director brings together diverse teams of educators, researchers, and developers to co-create new, practical solutions to real-world problems. Beginning with a powerful hypothesis, each program builds on existing evidence and learning science to translate fundamental insights into more useful practices, approaches and tools for public school educators.
The mission of Reading Reimagined is to unlock the great reader in every child. Specifically the program will focus on increasing reading fluency and comprehension for all students, particularly Black, Latino, and Native American children and those experiencing poverty. Reading Reimagined will take on research and development cycles that tackle critical, unanswered questions in reading and that result in groundbreaking coordination of curriculum, intervention, assessment, and supplemental literacy support for elementary and middle-school students.
Today only one-third of American children read at grade level, which means that the American education system is failing two-thirds of our students. Even more, as students progress through school, the system does worse, producing declining results over time in reading for students. The experience within the education system of Black, Latino and Native American students and those experiencing poverty is even more striking — only 1 in 7 Black students and 1 in 5 Hispanic and Native American students read at grade level in 8th grade, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Despite significant effort and resources over the last decade, literacy rates have not improved; in fact they have declined. Yet every student is capable of reading challenging texts, and every school should place students on that path.
Reading Reimagined will begin by forming an Educator Advisory Council, for which applications are now being accepted. As a vital advisory body, this Council will partner with the Reading Reimagined team in its design of and learning from the research and development projects. Later this fall, Reading Reimagined will solicit applications for school communities to participate in the R&D cycles, continuing its commitment to put the voice of students and educators first.
This winter, Reading Reimagined will release a paper summarizing the foundational research available and areas where more evidence is needed, which together will sharpen programmatic focus areas and allocation of resources. Throughout the winter, the program will solicit applications from researchers and reading product developers who will, in collaboration with the community partners, lead the inclusive R&D projects that can be scaled to ensure wide adoption.
“We believe it is possible to live in a world where every student can read texts that excite them, that help them prepare for the world they live in,” said Rebecca Kockler, program director of Reading Reimagined at AERDF. “We’re a team of literacy curriculum experts and former practitioners who are not daunted by a challenge of this magnitude. In our systems we were frustrated by how hard it was to tackle these issues and just how many questions still existed about how to do this well, especially for Black, Latino, and Native American children and those experiencing poverty. We plan to build on the research that exists and then partner with students, their teachers and communities, and researchers to find practical, breakthrough approaches for teaching reading grounded in evidence and tested in classrooms.”
Among those joining AERDF with Rebecca Kockler, who formerly served as Louisiana Assistant Superintendent of Academic Content, will be Dr. Brandy Nelson, former Executive Director of Learning and Teaching in Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District, who will serve as Academic Director; Sara Ruiz Solar, a former teacher, literacy coach, and instructional school leader who will serve as Associate Director for Stakeholder Engagement; and Dr. Julia Lindsey, a former reading teacher and researcher, who will serve as Manager, Early Literacy.
In addition to leveraging reading research and practices that currently exist, Reading Reimagined will focus its Inclusive R&D on three core areas that impact student reading, but which lack research-based approaches to instruction. The learning in these efforts will be made widely available and integrated into practical, coordinated tools and products:
- Cultural identity and self-efficacy — What elements of student identity and self-efficacy most influence a reader’s success? What instructional strategies must be present to ensure a successful reading experience for Black, Latino, and Native American students and those experiencing poverty?
- Building knowledge in service of reading comprehension — How do we best build a diverse set of knowledge that contributes to a student’s reading success? When students encounter a book that they do not have knowledge for, what are the most meaningful ways to unlock comprehension?
- Foundational skills with fourth through eighth graders — What is the most efficient approach for teaching older learners who have not yet mastered their foundational reading skills? How can we do this in a way that honors their identity, dialect, and intellect while building their skill and confidence as capable readers?
The Advanced Education Research and Development Fund (AERDF) supports ambitious Inclusive R&D programs designed to tackle intractable teaching and learning challenges that disproportionately affect Black and Latino students and students of all races experiencing poverty.
Every student is a powerful learner. Their learning experiences should prepare and inspire them to create good lives for themselves, make positive change in their communities, and build a more equitable future for everyone. Our education system is struggling to meet this aspiration for every young person. Yet we know more today than ever before about how children and young people learn and develop. Breakthroughs in areas such as neuroscience, cognitive science, and human development provide basic insights that could lead to stronger learning and life outcomes. The education sector struggles to translate these insights into more widely used methods, tools, and practices that support students and teachers. Other sectors have more robust investment in R&D capacity that plays this role.
In education, R&D can bridge the gap between basic research on the one hand and professional practice and product development on the other. R&D converts research into capabilities — practices, methods, prototypes, tools — that can be built on to create breakthroughs. However, traditional R&D is often siloed into separate and sequential stages of discovery, development and adoption that can take a decade or more.
By contrast, Inclusive R&D engages educators, researchers, and developers from the beginning in shorter cycles of innovation with clear, ambitious goals. By funding multiple projects in different contexts, Inclusive R&D plans for scalability from the outset, designing approaches and solutions that are meant to work in many communities rather than a single school or district.
AERDF staff will work with teachers, students, education leaders, researchers, and developers to identify problems and opportunities that can be tackled through Inclusive R&D programs in the coming years. This exploration will help identify Program Directors who can build on existing evidence and learning science to design multi-year Inclusive R&D programs to translate fundamental insights into more useful practices, approaches and tools.
AERDF has been seeded with $200 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, and the Walton Family Foundation. AERDF will grow to a portfolio of up to five Inclusive R&D programs on different topics by the end of 2023, each of which will build on learning science and pursue ambitious goals to create breakthrough outcomes.
Assessment for Good, introduced in July 2021, is an Inclusive R&D program focused on dramatically improving conditions for the social and emotional health and positive academic outcomes of learners aged 8 through 13, through a series of R&D projects that will advance the capabilities needed in a responsive and accessible system of asset-based assessment with a special focus on Black and Latinx students.
EF+Math, founded in 2019, is a five-year Inclusive R&D program focused on infusing executive function skill development into high-quality math instruction, with a goal of doubling the number of Black and Latinx students and students experiencing poverty who are proficient in math in grades 3 through 8.