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SPOTLIGHT on Cross-institutional Collaboration: Project FOCUS

| Faculty Scholar Collaboration

Project FOCUS is an IES-funded Goal 1 project that ultimately aims to help schools “focus” on implementing a key set of malleable variables (those that can be changed by the school) associated with reading outcomes. NCLII faculty member Stephanie Al Otaiba (SMU) is the Principal Investigator while Aki Kamata and NCLII faculty members Jill Allor and Paul Yovanoff serve as Co-PIs. NCLII faculty member Francesca Jones is also participating in this research. Other NCLII faculty who have consulted with Project FOCUS include Michael Coyne, Chris Lemons, Dan Maggin, Jessica Toste, and Jeannie Wanzek.

The project’s immediate goal is to learn which factors about Response to Intervention (RTI) or Multi-tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) implementation are associated with stronger reading outcomes for students in Tier 3 or for students receiving dyslexia services or special education services for reading disabilities. A strong rationale for Project FOCUS is growing concern in the field of special education that variable RTI implementation results in a diluted Tier 3 and less potent special education for students with the most intense needs.

Project FOCUS involves data collection across multiple sites in multiple states in partnership with NCLII, allowing for a variety of RTI models as well as geographic and socioeconomic locations to represent a range of school risk. The project is nearing the end of its second year of data collection. Collaboration with NCLII Scholars has been instrumental in ramping up Project FOCUS; these Scholars include Kristi Baker, Carlin Conner, Veronica Mellado De La Cruz, and Jennifer Stewart (SMU); Rachel Donegan (Vanderbilt); Katie Leonard and Tori Whaley (UConn); and Skip Kumm and Gina Braun (UIC).

Scholars have been involved in the process of interviewing RTI campus leaders, recruiting schools, conducting informational sessions with school staff, completing observations of reading lessons on-site, preparing video trainings, collecting staff surveys and school-wide reading data, coding data, and disseminating findings, among other tasks. These sources will be used to more closely consider factors related to challenges faced by schools, including RTI implementation and teachers’ knowledge of RTI implementation. 

The completion of Project FOCUS will result in a rich database that will allow for the design of feasible and promising interventions for students in order to improve professional development for teachers and to better understand school system supports that can help improve implementation of Tier 3 and special education. For more information, visit the website.

The contents of this website were developed under a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, #H325H140001. However, those contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the U.S. Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government. Project Officer, Celia Rosenquist.

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