With the creation of its Reading Research Center (RRC), Texas A&M International University's College of Education is working to improve education in Laredo and the surrounding area.
Funded by a $460,443 grant from the U.S. Department of Education's Fund for the Improvement of Education (FIE) Program, the RRC is researching barriers to learning and training educators to overcome those barriers.
Dr. Idalia Rodríguez Pérez, project director and associate professor of education, said that while the Center is not physically finished, its research is already underway.
"At present, the RRC has children from some schools receiving services through a graduate course at the University on Wednesday evenings. The course is designed to train teachers to become Reading Specialists or Master Reading Teachers," said Dr. Pérez, "In addition, one school district in Laredo and two semi-rural school districts in nearby communities have agreed to participate in the Center's research project. The schools have been approved and pre-testing will being late this summer. The curriculum will be developed and teachers trained during the Fall."
Pérez said research at the Center will focus on fourth-grade students because research has shown that the greatest gap in reading achievement is at the fourth-grade level, particularly among Hispanic students.
"Fourth-graders will receive instruction with the developed curriculum model in Spring of 2003, post-testing will take place mid-Spring 2003 and results will be written Summer 2003," said Pérez.
Pérez explained the Center's importance to the region.
"A 1998 national study reported that 52 percent of fourth-grade Hispanic students were not able to understand texts at the literal level, and only 15 percent of these fourth-graders were able to understand at the inferential level," said Pérez, "As a community, we need to insure that our students overcome barriers to learning and achieve academically."
Pérez said that the Center's mission specifically addresses problems area children may face and hopes to improve the standard of living over time.
"The Center's mission is to conduct the empirical research and evaluation needed to transform linguistically and culturally diverse students from non-readers to skilled readers. This will reduce the risk of educational failure and prevent premature entry into low-wage jobs," said Pérez.
A formal dedication ceremony has been planned for late summer or early fall. Dr. Rosa María Vida, dean of the College of Education, said that the Center was an important part of the University and of great importance to the community.
"The research related to reading and reading difficulties in children clearly indicates that there is a correlation between teaching practices and the students' performance. The Reading Center will work with area teachers to determine which teaching strategies are appropriate in addressing the problems the students possess," said Dr. Vida.
For further information on A&M International's Reading Research Center, please contact Pérez at 326.2678 or 326.2436, visit her office in the Reading Research Center, C Building, room 122, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
University office hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
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