Thursday, May 5, 2022

Dr. Deborah K. Reed, director of the Iowa Reading Research Center, has announced her resignation. She will be joining the University of Tennessee, Knoxville as the senior literacy scholar and director of its new reading research center. Her last day with the IRRC and the University of Iowa will be July 1.

Portrait of Dr. Deborah Reed smiling

“This center, our staff, the literacy leaders with whom I have worked closely, the educators I have served, and, most importantly, the children and teens in schools across the state that we have strived to help have meant so much to me these past seven years,” Reed says. “I’m excited for this new challenge, but I will miss my collaborators. I’m proud of what we have been able to accomplish together.”

Reed became director of the IRRC and joined the University of Iowa College of Education faculty in 2015. Her impact on literacy research in Iowa took off in 2016 with the Intensive Summer Reading Program study, where she oversaw the largest study ever conducted by the IRRC with 43 school districts and over 1,000 students participating. Since that flagship study, Reed and her staff designed, conducted, and reported results from over 20 literacy studies and technical assistance projects, including multiyear partnerships with several community school districts and Area Education Agencies.

While at the IRRC, Reed also led the development of the Varied Practice Reading (VPR) instructional method for teaching reading skills. This innovative approach first focused on reading fluency and vocabulary development at the elementary school level, and later expanded to the middle school level to help students learn science and social studies content, vocabulary, and other reading and writing skills. In 2021, the Institution of Educational Sciences awarded Reed and the IRRC a $2 million grant for a four-year study investigating VPR for middle school students.

Reed also established the IRRC as a source for professional learning for literacy teachers in Iowa and beyond with the development of the center’s eLearning. Since the launch of eLearning in 2019, Reed and colleagues created nine modules covering teaching methods and other topics relevant to literacy instruction. The modules have been completed 15,275 times by in-service and pre-service educators, at no cost to educators in Iowa and a small fee for everyone else.

Additionally, Reed was the IRRC's representative on the Iowa Dyslexia Task Force. Established in 2018, this group of educators, dyslexia experts, and family advocates made recommendations to the Iowa Legislature which were later passed and signed by the governor as Senate File 2356. This legislation created new roles and expanded existing roles for the IRRC, including the establishment of a dyslexia specialist endorsement program for experienced teachers coordinated by the IRRC and a requirement for all in-service educators to complete the IRRC’s eLearning Dyslexia Overview module.

“I can't think of another individual who has made such a significant contribution to training Iowa educators to understand and address dyslexia,” says Decoding Dyslexia Iowa President Katie Greving. “The online learning modules and the dyslexia endorsement did not exist just a few years ago, and they have created a path for teachers who want to learn and do better for their students. That path would not exist without Dr. Reed's leadership and dedication. To say we will miss her knowledge and expertise about reading and dyslexia is an understatement.”

Both UI College of Education Dean Dan Clay and Director of the Iowa Department of Education Ann Lebo thank Reed for her service and contributions to literacy efforts in the state.

“We thank Deborah Reed for her seven years of leadership, expertise, and service,” Clay says. “The University of Iowa looks forward to continuing to successfully partner with the Iowa Department of Education, and we are confident we will identify an exceptional successor to carry out this important work.”

This will ensure that Iowa students, their families, and teachers continue to receive the resources, professional training, and support needed to be successful, including continuing to provide the Dyslexia Specialist Endorsement for educators, Clay notes.

“Professor Reed has made significant contributions to literacy research through the work of the center,” Lebo says. “Thanks to Professor Reed and her team, thousands of Iowa students and their teachers and families in schools and communities across the state have benefited from resources, support, and training. Professor Reed has also developed and strengthened relationships with schools, community organizations, and education agencies, and we look forward to continuing these partnerships. 

Clay and Lebo say they are confident that a national search will help identify an exceptional new leader of the Iowa Reading Research Center to continue its success and impact.

In the meantime, an interim director will be identified to ensure a smooth transition and to continue the delivery of evidence-based resources and training to Iowa students, families, and educators. A center evaluation will also be conducted to ensure the center continues to deliver its vision and mission while meeting the current and future literacy needs of the state.

“Supporting literacy efforts in the state of Iowa will remain a high priority to ensure the success of all students,” Clay says.