$1M Anonymous Gift to Address Pandemic-Related Learning Loss, Vaccine Hesitancy

Jack Fletcher, principal investigator, Texas Center for Learning Disabilities.

Virtual learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic has presented immense challenges for students, especially those from low-income families who may not have access to the necessary technology. Some children stopped going to school altogether and others struggled mightily due to learning problems or poor literacy skills.

Now, help is on the way for hundreds of Texas students who experienced pandemic-related losses in reading skills. A $1 million gift from an anonymous donor to the Texas Center for Learning Disabilities, a multidisciplinary research center led by the University of Houston, will expand a reading intervention and health literacy research project at six middle schools in Houston, Austin and San Antonio. The research project is funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

Beginning this fall, as many as 800 students – about double the number originally planned – will be recruited for the project. The cohort will include adolescents who experienced a significant lack of access to schooling throughout the pandemic, or whom teachers or test scores indicate reading is a problem. Half of the eligible students will receive a one year reading intervention with an emphasis on word reading, fluency and comprehension. To test the effectiveness of the intervention, the other half will be identified as at-risk for the schools and can receive what represents standard practice in the schools.

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