UCI News

UCI receives $14.7 million grant to expand its successful literacy outreach project

Secondary school intervention program will spread from California to six other states

October 23, 2018
UCI receives $14.7 million grant to expand its successful literacy outreach project
“Cognitive strategies instruction is an approach to teaching and learning that can be implemented anywhere. This grant allows us to scale up and work with the National Writing Project, which has great reach and infrastructure across the country,” says principal investigator Carol Booth Olson, UCI professor of education and creator of the Pathway to Academic Success Project. “We’ll be able to take what we’ve done successfully here in California and achieve similar results in other states and beyond.” Steve Zylius / UCI

Irvine, Calif., Oct. 23, 2018 — The University of California, Irvine has received a five-year, $14.7 million Education Innovation & Research expansion grant from the U.S. Department of Education to expand its Pathway to Academic Success Project, which helps close reading and writing achievement gaps among high-needs students in grades seven to 11.

Successfully implemented in 10 Southern California school districts over the past 20 years, the project will be extended into Arizona, Illinois, Minnesota, Nevada, Texas and Wisconsin.

The multiyear professional development program for teachers promotes an instructional approach to enhance the thinking tools that research indicates students use to understand, interpret and write analytical essays about nonfiction texts.

Principal investigator Carol Booth Olson, professor of education and director of the UCI Writing Project, is the creator of the Pathway to Academic Success Project. First launched in the Santa Ana Unified School District in 1996, the effort has consistently generated statistical evidence of improved student outcomes among those who are English learners, at risk of failure or performing far below grade level.

“Grants are awarded on the basis of a program’s proven success in achieving results,” said Richard Arum, dean of the School of Education. “Sufficient evidence of the size and scope of the intervention’s effectiveness must be demonstrated for funding. There were only three programs in the nation funded at this level, and Pathway was the highest-scoring. It’s very exciting to see the federal government look to the UCI School of Education for scalable solutions to the nation’s problems.”

The expansion will involve 240 teachers and 109,200 students in school districts affiliated with the National Writing Project and includes a two-year field trial of professional development, summer institutes for instructors and course modules designed to help English learners grasp writing. Project outcomes will be measured by an on-demand assessment of academic writing, standardized test scores and graduation rates.

“Pathway is based on the science of education,” Olson said. “Cognitive strategies instruction reinforces the connections between reading and writing and empowers teachers with the tools they need to help kids. It’s critical to close the achievement gaps among high-needs students by developing their analytical and comprehension skills so they’re better prepared for postsecondary education.”

Robin Scarcella, UCI professor of academic English, is project co-director, and Rebecca Black, associate professor of informatics, is co-investigator. Scarcella is a linguist whose expertise is important in understanding the language form and structure of students who are English learners from diverse backgrounds, and Black specializes in creating technologies to assist in the teaching of academic writing.

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is the youngest member of the prestigious Association of American Universities. The campus has produced three Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Howard Gillman, UCI has more than 30,000 students and offers 192 degree programs. It’s located in one of the world’s safest and most economically vibrant communities and is Orange County’s second-largest employer, contributing $5 billion annually to the local economy. For more on UCI, visit www.uci.edu.

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