[Federal Register: April 10, 2002 (Volume 67, Number 69)]
[Page 17590-17592]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Program of Research on Reading Comprehension

AGENCY: Office of Educational Research and Improvement, Department of 

ACTION: Notice of final priority.


SUMMARY: The Assistant Secretary announces a final priority for a 
Program of Research on Reading Comprehension. The Assistant Secretary 
may use this priority for competitions in fiscal year (FY) 2002 and in 
later fiscal years. We take this action to build a scientific 
foundation for educational practice by supporting rigorous research on 
reading comprehension. We intend this priority to produce research 
findings that will change instructional practice and promote academic 

EFFECTIVE DATE: This priority is effective May 10, 2002.

Department of Education, 555 New Jersey Avenue, NW., room 513, 
Washington, DC 20208-5573. Telephone: (202) 219-0610 or FAX: (202) 219-
    If you use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), you may 
call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 1-800-877-8339.
    Individuals with disabilities may obtain this document in an 
alternative format (e.g., Braille, large print, audiotape, or computer 
diskette) on request to the contact person listed under FOR FURTHER 



    The Office of Educational Research and Improvement (OERI), 
authorized under Title IX of Public Law 103-227 (20 U.S.C. 6001 et 
seq.), supports research and development activities designed to provide 
essential knowledge for the improvement of education. Although 
significant advances have been made in knowledge about early reading 
skills, much less is known about reading comprehension. Reading 
comprehension is necessary for academic achievement in virtually all 
school subjects and for economic self-sufficiency in cognitively 
demanding work environments. Improving reading comprehension, and 
providing all members of society with equal opportunities to attain a 
high level of literacy, require a focused program of educational 
research. Knowledge gained from such educational research can help 
guide the national investment in education and support local and State 
reform efforts. Because this targeted program of research focuses on an 
enduring problem of practice, it will be the primary mechanism for 
pursuing new knowledge about reading comprehension.
    Prior to publishing the notice of proposed priority, OERI reviewed 
the Report of the National Reading Panel (2000) and the RAND Reading 
Study Group Report (2001) to identify the most needed reading research 
and development activities. Following this review, OERI proposed this 
priority, recognizing that critical frontiers for reading research, 
such as deriving empirically-grounded theories of comprehension 
development and reading instruction across the full range of ages and 
grades, have barely been broached in the research literature. OERI's 
Program of Research on Reading Comprehension (PRRC) is intended to 
expand scientific knowledge of how students develop proficient levels 
of reading comprehension, how reading comprehension can be taught most 
optimally, and how reading comprehension can be assessed in ways that 
reflect as well as advance our current understanding of reading 
comprehension and its development. An overarching goal of the program 
is to obtain converging empirical evidence on the development and 
assessment of comprehension that coheres with scientifically supported 
theories of the processes involved in reading comprehension. A further 
purpose is to provide a scientific foundation for approaches to 
comprehension instruction that allow students to achieve proficient 
levels of comprehension across a range of texts and subjects.
    We published a notice of proposed priority for this program in the 
Federal Register on January 22, 2002 (67 FR 2864). Except for minor 
revisions, there are no differences between the notice of proposed 
priority and this notice of final priority.

[[Page 17591]]

Analysis of Comments and Changes

    In response to our invitation in the notice of proposed priority, 
three parties submitted written comments. Letters of support for the 
Secretary's priority or letters of support for existing teaching 
practices and programs are not included among this count. The Secretary 
has reviewed the three public comments and believes that the proposed 
priority as written is broad enough to encompass the specific research 
topics recommended by the commenters. An analysis of the comments 
follows. We group major issues according to subject.
    Generally, we do not address technical and other minor changes--and 
suggested changes the law does not authorize us to make under the 
applicable statutory authority.

Comment Related to Middle and High School

    Comment: One commenter argued that, in addition to investigating 
how to obtain proficiency in reading comprehension, how it can be 
optimally taught, and how it can be assessed, it is critical to examine 
where reading comprehension should be taught, who should be teaching 
it, and to whom it should be taught, especially at the middle and high 
school levels.
    Discussion: The Secretary believes that investigation of these 
three dimensions--where reading comprehension should be taught, who 
should be teaching it, and to whom it should be taught at the middle 
and high school levels--is permitted under the priority as proposed.
    Changes: None.

Comment Related to One-to-One Mentoring

    Comment: One commenter recommended that additional research be 
supported that supports the role of one-to-one mentoring using trained 
community volunteers as an intervention strategy for struggling readers 
in the area of comprehension.
    Discussion: The Secretary believes that such a study is permitted 
under the priority as proposed (e.g., falling under inquiry area number 
2 of the priority).
    Changes: None.

Comment Related to Social Studies

    Comment: One comment concerned student comprehension of social 
studies expository text, and indicated that research on the nature of 
expository text in social studies (and probably in other subjects) 
should be included in the priority. The same commenter argued that such 
a research effort would involve expert analysis of currently published 
expository text.
    Discussion: The Secretary believes that studying the effects of 
features of expository text on the assessment, development, and 
improvement of reading comprehension is permissible under the proposed 
priority. In addition, the Secretary maintains that expert analysis of 
expository text could play a role in the design of a scientific study 
using approaches described in the proposed priority.
    Changes: None.

    Note: This notice does not solicit applications. In any year in 
which we choose to use this priority, we invite applications through 
a notice in the Federal Register. When inviting applications we 
designate the priority as absolute, competitive preference, or 


Program of Research on Reading Comprehension

    Under the Program of Research on Reading Comprehension (PRRC), 
applicants must propose research that is focused on one or more of 
three areas of inquiry:
    1. Developmental patterns of students' reading comprehension;
    2. Instructional interventions for reading comprehension; or
    3. Measures of reading comprehension that reflect empirically 
justified dimensions, distinguish reader differences, and are sensitive 
to instructional goals.
    Furthermore, research must be motivated by a specific conceptual 
framework and relevant prior empirical evidence, both of which must be 
clearly articulated in the proposal. The research must have the 
potential to advance fundamental scientific knowledge that bears on the 
solution of important educational problems. The proposal must indicate 
method and why the approach taken optimally addresses the research 
question. Any approach must incorporate a valid inference process that 
allows generalization beyond the study participants. Proposals must 
indicate which of the following approaches is to be used:
    1. Experiment (control group; randomized assignment--both 
    2. Quasi-experiment (comparison group, stratified random 
assignment, groups comparable at pretest, statistical adjustment for 
    3. Correlational study (simple, multiple/logistic regression, 
structural equation modeling, hierarchical linear modeling).
    4. Other quantitative (e.g., simulation).
    5. Descriptive study using qualitative techniques (e.g., 
ethnographic methods; focus groups; classroom observations; case 
    The design of studies must be clear: Independent and dependent, or 
predictor and criterion, variables should be distinguished. Proposed 
research is expected to employ the most sophisticated level of design 
and analysis that is appropriate to the research question. For research 
questions that cannot be answered using a randomized assignment 
experimental design, the proposal must spell out the reasons why such a 
design is not applicable and why it would not represent a superior 
approach. Thus, applicants must propose to conduct rigorous studies 
that are scientifically sound, relevant, timely, and ultimately useful 
to practitioners and policy makers.

Post-Award Requirements

    The Secretary established the following post-award requirements 
consistent with the OERI's program regulations at 34 CFR part 700 and 
the Education Department General Administrative Regulations (EDGAR) at 
34 CFR 75.720. Recipients of a research award must:
    1. Provide OERI with information about the research project and 
products and other appropriate research information so that OERI can 
monitor progress and maintain its inventory of funded research 
projects. This information must be provided through media that include 
an electronic network; and
    2. At the end of the award period, synthesize the findings and 
advances in knowledge that resulted from research conducted and 
describe the potential impact on the improvement of reading 
comprehension instruction.
    Applicable Program Regulations: 34 CFR part 700.

Electronic Access to This Document

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    Note: The official version of this document is the document 
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Regulations is available on GPO

[[Page 17592]]

Access at: http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/index.html.

(Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance Number (84.305G) Program of 
Research on Reading Comprehension)

    Program Authority:  20 U.S.C. 6031.

    Dated: April 4, 2002.
Grover J. Whitehurst,
Assistant Secretary for Educational, Research and Improvement.
[FR Doc. 02-8719 Filed 4-9-02; 8:45 am]