CAST and Vanderbilt University to Lead $10 Million Effort to Improve Middle School Literacy

October 31, 2011
Contact: David Gordon
40 Harvard Mills Square, Suite 3
Wakefield, MA 01880
Tel: 781-245-2212 ext. 275


U.S. Department of Education Invests in Research and Development of Next Generation Digital Supports for Reading Improvement

Wakefield, MA, October 31, 2011 — The U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs has awarded CAST and Vanderbilt University, along with leading curriculum development partners, $10 million over five years to launch a national R&D center to develop innovative, technology-based approaches to improve literacy for middle-school students with disabilities.

The partners include the Strategic Education Research Partnership (SERP) Institute, the University of Michigan, and Scholastic, Inc.

Led by Principal Investigators David H. Rose (CAST) and Ted S. Hasselbring (Vanderbilt University), the Center will research and develop a technology-rich learning environment—called the Next Generation Literacy Ecosystem—that makes it possible for schools to provide personalized literacy support across content areas to students throughout the school day.

Says David Rose, who is CAST’s Chief Education Officer: "The partners—who all have deep experience in emerging literacy practices and new technologies—agree that simply grafting new technologies onto a system of literacy instruction dominated by printed text will not improve adolescent literacy. So we are aiming to transform the core ecology of literacy instruction itself, creating a digital literacy ecosystem that respects the individual differences of learners and gives teachers continuous access to new data on student learning that can inform instruction in a timely way."

Co-Principal Investigator Ted Hasselbring adds, "We at Vanderbilt look forward to bringing our years of research and development on technology and literacy to the mission of the Center. The synergy between CAST and Vanderbilt will no doubt lead to new and valuable approaches to improving middle school literacy practices with emerging technologies."

The partners will leverage existing, high-quality literacy curricula and content-area instructional strategies to develop this approach, guided by the principles of universal design for learning (UDL), a research-based framework for designing effective and fully inclusive learning environments.

After an initial formative development stage, the Center will conduct efficacy research on the Next Generation Literacy Ecosystem (NGLE) with more than 4,800 students across 36 schools. The NGLE will combine robust literacy instruction with leading-edge analytic tools to assess student progress and suggest timely, personalized adjustments in instruction.

David H. Rose is co-founder of CAST and a lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Ted S. Hasselbring is a Research Professor of Special Education at Peabody College of Vanderbilt University. Both are authors of award-winning and best-selling educational technology programs.


CAST is a nonprofit research and development organization that works to expand educational opportunities for all individuals through Universal Design for Learning. To learn more, go to

CAST's Mission
To expand learning opportunities for all individuals, especially those with disabilities, through the research and development of innovative, technology-based educational resources and strategies.

Did You Know...?
CAST has earned international acclaim for its efforts to make the World Wide Web more accessible to all learners through the development of tools like Bobby and CAST eReader.

A Word about CAST
" revolutionizing the way reading is taught."
Robin Ray, Boston Herald family/technology columnist