Reading Center gets new head

Ben Marks, [email protected]

The University of Iowa and the Iowa Department of Education announced on Monday that Deborah Reed will become the new director of the Iowa Reading Research Center.

The center was established in 2012 after education reform was passed by the Iowa Legislature, and it is part of a statewide push to increase students’ literacy before the end of third grade.

“She absolutely has what it takes to help us advance our literacy efforts in Iowa,” said Staci Hupp Ballard, the communications director for the Education Department. “She has a lot of expertise in this field; she’s worked in both general and special education.”

Christopher Morphew, the executive associate dean for Research and Innovation in the UI College of Education who was on the search committee for Reed, said the members started interviewing candidates in late May, and hired Reed roughly a month later.

One of the reasons she was selected, Morphew said, was because of her extensive experience with university research centers.

Previously, Reed was a researcher and faculty member at Florida State University’s Florida Center for Reading Research, in Tallahassee.

In addition to a new director, the center has undergone some other changes as well.

The center has been located at the Grant Wood Area Education Agency in Cedar Rapids since 2012, but in April, the center moved its offices to the UI College of Education.

Morphew said this is because one of the requirements of the agency’s establishment was that it would always be partnered with an educational institution.

Being at the UI provides the center with some advantages, Morphew said. Among these is the ability to access the college’s grants office and external funding sources, another is the nearby faculty and students who can aid with research.

“Prior to last year, when it was located in the area education agency, it didn’t have the opportunity to work with Ph.D. students who were in the building who were working on their own research,” Morphew said. “[Another benefit is] proximity to other faculty who are working with reading and other teacher-education research.”

But with the new facility comes new projects and challenges, which, Morphew said, he’s confident Reed will rise to.

One of those projects, he said, is a large-scale study to examine the efficacy of different summer reading programs and reading interventions.

Another of the center’s current priorities is reading literacy in third grade, because of new law that says in the summer of 2017, students who are below grade level in reading by the spring of third grade will be required to repeat the grade.

Reed is still in Florida; she won’t arrive in Iowa City until Aug. 17, the day before she officially starts work.

Although the two states are more than 1,000 miles away, Reed said, she’s sure at least one thing will feel like home: the humidity.

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