Reading achievement has stagnated over the past few decades according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). This is particularly true in the area of comprehension, where students are expected to make more ambitious uses of reading and text. The problem is exacerbated at the higher grade levels, where there is less understanding of how to help adolescents acquire the skills needed to read the more challenging texts they encounter as they advance through school.

In 2010, the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) made a dramatic and visionary commitment of $120 million to establish the Reading for Understanding initiative (RFU), a research and development network focused on improving reading comprehension for students in grades preK-12. Six teams were funded, each at the $20 million level, for a five-year period. The teams were separate, but engaged in thematically connected projects that built on new and traditional theories of reading in order to improve deep reading comprehension. In addition, the project teams were charged with designing new reading interventions and assessments across all grade spans.

Collectively, there have been over 130 researchers and over 200 publications have resulted from the RFU effort ( The work of the six RFU teams has resulted in a diverse, impressive, and useful body of research.

To build upon this foundation, the National Academy of Education (NAEd) established a three-year working committee charged with developing insights and implications from the IES RFU initiative. The purpose of this project is to follow through on the promise of the RFU to make sure that what has been learned from this extraordinary effort continues to benefit education research and practice. The goals are to:

  • Articulate findings and common themes across the RFU projects to contribute to a full- range view of reading development;
  • Identify obstacles to on-time reading achievement as well as factors supporting success;
  • Examine cross-project findings to identify areas of agreement and productive tension; and
  • Find common principles underlying instructional programs across projects.

The strategy for meeting these goals is to use a collaborative approach that brings together leaders in the six RFU projects with scholars who, while not directly involved in RFU, share the commitment to improving our understanding of comprehension processes, pedagogy, and assessment. Over the course of three years, this working committee will meet, direct the work of the project, and produce a summary report. The report, based on proceedings of the meetings and papers commissioned by the committee, will provide a foundation for subsequent publications (and possibly other products) highlighting usable findings from across the projects.


  • P. David Pearson (Co-chair)
    University of California, Berkeley
  • Annemarie Palincsar (Co-chair)
    University of Michigan
  • Donald Compton
    Florida State University
  • Susan Goldman
    University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Kenji Hakuta
    Stanford University
  • Glynda Hull
    University of California, Berkeley
  • Laura Justice
    The Ohio State University
  • Christopher Lonigan
    Florida State University
  • John Sabatini
    Educational Testing Service (ETS)
  • Catherine Snow
    Harvard University & Strategic Education Research Partnership (SERP)
  • Sharon Vaughn
    The University of Texas at Austin

The research reported here was supported by the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, through Grant R305U160002 to the National Academy of Education. The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not represent views of the Institute or the U.S. Department of Education.

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