Skip to main content

Closing the Literacy Gap

Infographic depicting that 36% of 8th grade students in the U.S. are proficient readers

Project Name

National Center on the Use of Emerging Technologies to Improve Literacy Achievement for Students with Disabilities in Middle School

Project Website

Project Description

In 2013, the National Assessment of Educational Progress showed that only 36% of 8th grade public school students read at a “proficient” level.

CAST, in partnership with Vanderbilt University, is researching and developing a transformative approach to supporting middle school students with low literacy skills. The Center seeks to leverage the learning sciences and emerging technologies to develop a flexible reading environment that meets the needs of students who vary in their reading skills and motivation.

Within this environment, UDL provides just-in-time supports that afford students the opportunity to read age-relevant, grade-level text, discuss readings with peers, and write about what they read as a means to increase comprehension.

The goal of Udio is to

  • foster motivation and a passionate interest in reading for students who have traditionally been uninterested in, or disenfranchised by, traditional classroom literacy practices
  • substantially improve the reading comprehension skills of middle school students who have experienced recurrent failure in the domain of reading

Take a Tour of Udio

Udio, our literacy research tool, is a networked reading environment for middle schoolers that displays engaging Web content in a supported, personalized, and pedagogically rich format.


01/01/2012 to 12/31/2016

Funded by

Office of Special Education Programs, US Department of Education


Vanderbilt University

Principal Investigators

David H. Rose, EdD, CAST
Ted Hasselbring, EdD, Vanderbilt University


Christina Bosch
Alyssa Boucher
Linda Butler
Peggy Coyne
Samantha Daley (Project director)
Kim Ducharme
Miriam Evans
Boris Goldowsky
Tracey Hall
Susan Kingston
Kristin Robinson


Tracey Hall


Findings will be posted as they become available and published.

Data emerging from the initial weeks of classroom pilot testing in fall 2013 suggest considerable potential and reason for optimism about the outcomes of the pilot test and eventually the project.

This optimism is buoyed by ratings of Udio's quality, relevance, and usefulness (QRU) in a survey of experts and of classroom teachers conducted by the Center's external evaluator.

Publications and Media

  • Coyne, P. (2014). "Universal Design for Learning, Comprehension and Online Dialogues: Engaging Struggling Middle School Students." Presentation at Massachusetts Reading Association. Quincy, MA.

  • Coyne, P. (2014). "Fostering Creative Response Using Universal Design for Learning." Presentation at International Reading Association. New Orleans, LA.

  • Hasselbring, T. (2013). A technology-rich literacy experience for students with disabilties. Edutopia blog, December 30, 2013.

  • Daley, S. G. (2013). "Rethinking Literacy: Universal Design for Learning, Affective Neuroscience, and Emerging Technologies." Presentation at Learning and the Brain. Cambridge, MA.

  • Rose, D. (2013). "Multimedia for Multiple Representations in Literacy." Presentation at Universal Design for Learning Institute: Reaching All Learners (Harvard Graduate School of Education). Cambridge, MA.

  • Rose, D. (2013). "The Universal Literacy Network: Work in Progress." Presentation at New Profit's LDSEL (Learning Differences and Social-Emotional Learning) Conference. Brewster, MA.

  • Rose, D., Hasselbring, T., & Rappolt-Schlichtmann, G. (2013). "Emerging Technologies to Improve Middle School Literacy: The Role of Data Analytics Within a New Universal Literacy Network (ULN)." Break-out Session presentation at OSEP Project Directors' Meeting. Washington, D.C.