Funding, Grants & Awards
$3.5-Million Grant Aims To Improve Student Reading Comprehension
professor at Texas
A&M University has
received a $3.5-million grant from the United States Department of Education's
of Education Sciences to continue work on her project to improve
for fourth- and fifth-graders who go to school in high-poverty areas.
Wijekumar, a professor of teaching, learning
and culture at the College Station, TX, university first initiated her
Tutoring System for the Structure Strategy (ITSS) project in
when she was teaching at Pennsylvania State University.
is a Web-based digital tutor that teaches
students to examine the structure of content in order to increase their
comprehension. The software is intended to show students how to look at
a text is organized in order to understand its main idea, a concept
students struggle with.
the ITSS software, a digital avatar appears
as a friendly high school student who leads the student through each
the student reads a short piece of text, the avatar leads him or her
series of tasks. For instance, the student might be asked to describe
article's main idea or explain what is being compared.
are also used as lessons. In one, a green
dragon walks through a series of boxes with words in them. When she
the signaling words, students are supposed to click on the box. The
might wander through boxes labeled "great" or "U.S.A." before passing
which the student would be expected to click on.
are only helpful to the extent that
they can make us strategic thinkers and problem solvers," Wijekumar
ITSS software has already been tested on 15,000
children in high-poverty schools in Pennsylvania, Michigan, California,
Mexico and Texas.
Michael Hart is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and the former executive editor of THE Journal.