A coordinated approach to the needs of struggling readers

Project Coordinate improves literacy instruction for students with reading challenges, including disabilities, by coordinating teachers into teams to share their knowledge, practice and strategies.

 Project title 
Project Coordinate

 Official grant name 
Project Coordinate: Increasing coordinated use of evidence-based practices for improving word study in an RTI framework for teams of 4th grade teachers

 Award amount 
$834,601

 Grant effective dates 
July 1, 2017June 30, 2022

 Principal investigator(s) 
Amber Benedict

 Originating sponsor 
U.S. Department of Education

 Direct sponsor 
University of Florida



The challenge

Interventions on behalf of students with learning disabilities are frequently applied and practiced apart from a student's classroom environment. A specialist in reading disabilities and challenges may see the student during a “pullout” period in their day, away from the student's classroom and primary teacher, to teach strategies for coping with the disability. A lack of coordination between the specialist and the classroom teacher in encouraging the student to apply the strategies within the classroom can result in less-than-optimal benefits for any interventions.



The approach

Amber Benedict is a co-principal investigator working in collaboration with Mary Brownell of the University of Florida in Project Coordinate, a professional development innovation funded by a $1.4 million grant from the  U.S. Department of Education and focused on improving the shared knowledge and skill of teams of 4th-grade general and special educators. Using Benedict’s 2014 dissertation, “Learning Together: Teachers' evolving understandings during ongoing collaborative professional development,” for the promise data, Project Coordinate is designed to improve literacy instruction for struggling readers, including students with disabilities. This is to be accomplished through two steps. First, teachers acquire knowledge of students with disabilities as learners, and of teaching multi-syllabic decoding, morphological awareness, and summarization through participation in interactive online content modules. Following each OCM, teams of teachers — two general educators and the special education co-teacher — integrate the newly acquired knowledge, practices and strategies into their daily instruction through weekly lesson study planning sessions. The lesson study process supports teachers in incorporating what they learn through the OCMs into their instructional repertoire while also providing a mechanism for feedback, analysis and improvement.



Findings & impact

This multi-year project has been using design-based research to study the impact of Project Coordinate on teacher knowledge, teacher practices and student achievement with teachers and learnings in Northeast Florida and the Southwest. Funding began in July 2017 and continues through June 2022. The products of this project include a fully developed professional development program that improves teachers' implementation of coordinated, evidence-based instruction and student outcomes, as well as peer-reviewed publications and presentations. In fall 2021 the investigators will implement a random-control trial testing Project Coordinate's impact on teaching and learning.