RESEARCH IN ADOLESCENT LITERACY RELEASE DATE: December 19, 2002 RFA: HD-03-012 National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) ( Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE), U.S. Department of Education ( Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) ( Institute of Education Sciences (IES) ( LETTER OF INTENT RECEIPT DATE: February 26, 2003 APPLICATION RECEIPT DATE: March 26, 2003 THIS RFA CONTAINS THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION o Purpose of this RFA o Research Objectives o Mechanism of Support o Funds Available o Eligible Institutions o Individuals Eligible to Become Principal Investigators o Where to Send Inquiries o Letter of Intent o Submitting an Application o Peer Review Process o Review Criteria o Receipt and Review Schedule o Award Criteria o Required Federal Citations PURPOSE OF THIS RFA The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), in partnership with the Office of Adult and Vocational Education (OVAE), the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS), and the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), US Department of Education, invites research grant applications to develop new knowledge in the area of adolescent literacy. The specific focus of this RFA is on the discovery of cognitive, perceptual, behavioral, genetic, hormonal, and neurobiological mechanisms that are influential in the continuing development of reading and writing abilities during the adolescent years, and on methods for the identification, prevention, and remediation of reading and writing disabilities in adolescents. This RFA will result in grants supporting multidisciplinary research projects (R01), which may be single- or multi-site; the funded investigators will become part of an Adolescent Literacy Research Network. RESEARCH OBJECTIVES Background The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) has had a longstanding interest in the study of literacy and reading disabilities. Two recent workshops co-sponsored by multiple federal agencies and professional associations focused on the important but under-researched area of adolescent literacy. The Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE) has an interest in research activities that will improve the quality and effectiveness of secondary education and support academic achievement of those students who traditionally have been held to lower expectations. The expansion of the knowledge base on the literacy needs of older youth and the best methods for helping struggling readers develop the reading and writing skills needed to meet high academic standards is of particular importance to OVAE's mission to strengthen career and technical education programs and to support the U.S. Department of Education's commitment to reading proficiency for all students. The Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) is highly interested in research activities that will improve services and results for adolescents with disabilities. Adolescents with disabilities fall behind their peers academically, increasing the likelihood of dropping out of high school and affecting opportunities for full-time employment adequate to sustain adult living. Research on effective instructional methods for adolescent students will enable OSERS to better achieve the U.S. Department of Education's goal of enhancing literacy and employment skills of young American adults. It is clear from epidemiological studies that learning to read is more difficult after nine years of age, but the factors that might explain this decreased learning ability are not well understood. It is well known that in learning to read, kindergarten- and elementary school-age children must develop adequate phonological processing skills; phonics abilities; the ability to apply these word-reading skills fluently to both decoding and text-reading activities; and background knowledge, vocabulary, and reading comprehension strategies to facilitate understanding of what is read. But there are obvious critical influences that age and experience bring to the reading acquisition process, particularly if basic reading abilities are not developed prior to the third grade. Within the past five years, there have been both educational programs and publicity focusing on the important goal of having all children reading by the end of the third grade, reading by age nine. But there has also been frequent reference to the "fourth grade slump." We know that children who have not developed foundational reading abilities by approximately nine years of age are highly likely to struggle with reading throughout their educational tenure, if not the rest of their lives, and may never read efficiently enough to acquire information or to enjoy the process. Thus, most of the middle school and high school students who are poor or failing readers could be "left behind" as they continue through school and move into the workplace. It is time to focus in both research and educational practice on the "after nine" group - on struggling readers. Data from the 1998 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) show not only the often-cited fact that 41 percent of fourth grade boys and 35 percent of fourth grade girls read below the basic level. It also reveals concerning facts about high school youth. In eighth grade, at a time when we expect all students to be able to acquire information through the reading of textbooks and other materials, 32 percent of boys and 19 percent of girls cannot read at the basic level. In twelfth grade, 30 percent of boys and 17 percent of girls cannot read at the basic level. Among Black, Hispanic, and American Indian students, the picture is even more dismal: 47 percent of Black, 46 percent of Hispanic, and 39 percent of American Indian eighth graders and 43 percent of Black, 36 percent of Hispanic, and 35 percent of American Indian twelfth graders read below the basic level. Even those adolescents who score at the proficient level require continuing instruction, as they are faced with increasingly complex text to decipher and understand. The 1998 NAEP data also indicated that nearly 60 percent of adolescents can comprehend specific factual information (which means of course that 40 percent cannot!), yet fewer than five percent of adolescents were able to extend or elaborate the meaning of the materials they read. Further, in the NAEP writing assessment, the data indicate that few adolescents could write effectively with sufficient detail to support main points. Instruction for adolescents typically focuses on teaching content - science, math, literature, etc. - and does not focus on teaching students how to read and write effectively. Approximately 1.4 million students drop out of school between grades nine and twelve. Achievement varies among ethnicities and economic classes, with a large difference between whites and Latinos and African Americans. A majority of incoming ninth graders in high-poverty urban schools read two to three years below grade level. We know that reading disabilities persist over time - they do not go away. Research has indicated that as much as 74 percent of children with early reading disabilities have reading deficits at follow-up several years later. Thus, we know that that the long-term implications of low literacy levels among pre-adolescents and adolescents are serious. Data from international comparisons of 16- to 18-year-olds show that even the top 10 percent in the United States cannot compete with the top 10 percent of 16- to 18-year-olds in other industrial countries. Many high school graduates enter college unprepared in reading. Approximately 25 percent require remedial reading courses. In community colleges, that number ranges from 40 to 60 percent of freshmen, and 25 percent of these students leave school without graduating. Many drop out because they cannot read well enough to do the course work. About 56 percent of Hispanics, African Americans, and students with disabilities do not finish with a diploma four years after they start. There is a clear need for both basic and intervention research on the development of higher-level literacy and on reading and writing disabilities during adolescence. Research is needed to elucidate how adolescent students learn higher-level reading and writing skills (the cognitive processes involved and how we can best facilitate this learning), how best to ensure that those with difficulties are identified, and what are the most effective and efficient methods of prevention and intervention for these difficulties. This solicitation focuses on adolescent literacy, encompassing all components of reading. This effort is being coordinated with all offices of the Department of Education, some of whom are co-funders. In addition, the Office of Educational Research and Improvement (now the Institute of Education Sciences) recently solicited research on reading comprehension across all age groups, and anticipates reissuing that solicitation possibly in the spring of 2003. For information on that Program of Research on Reading Comprehension, see the archived solicitation at Research Scope Despite the significant advances that have been made in our understanding of the abilities children must acquire to become successful readers and the conditions under which the necessary skills are most effectively taught, very little converging evidence addresses how best to teach literacy - reading and writing - to middle and high school students. We need to know the extent to which our current evidence about early reading instruction holds true for older students who fail to acquire the basic foundational skills for literacy. Why does it seem that learning to read is more difficult after age nine, and how can we best intervene after that age? Which specific reading abilities are more predictive of reading difficulties in adolescents? Do the relationships among phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and reading comprehension that predict age-appropriate reading development for kindergarten to grade three children also apply to older students who are having reading difficulties? How can we best identify, prevent, and remediate reading and writing difficulties? And how do we motivate middle and high school students who have experienced failure in literacy to re- engage in this all-important learning task? It is clear that much research is needed in this under-studied area. Both longitudinal and cross-sectional studies are needed, and there is a need for novel uses of designs and methods and for the development of innovative ways to study this challenging group of students. Studies should be multidisciplinary and study samples, wherever possible and appropriate to the research design and questions being addressed, should reflect the diversity of adolescents in the U.S. today. In addition, studies are needed to establish reliable and valid measurement strategies and instruments, to identify critical etiological factors (cognitive, linguistic, genetic, neurobiological, experiential) associated with reading and writing disabilities in adolescents, and to develop well-defined, evidence-based treatment interventions. In addition, advances in the application of structural and functional imaging modalities need to be expanded and applied to the study of brain-behavior relationships relevant to reading disabilities in this group. Development can be viewed as a superordinate, organizing principle for this research. There is a need to elucidate the typical developmental process, how many students are performing in a manner inconsistent with it, and what is necessary to alter the process to provide for more normative progress in the future for students who experience learning difficulties in reading and writing. Research is needed to investigate the connections among several basic dynamic domains or themes that affect the development of adolescent literacy. Regarding the adolescents, we need information on their abilities and characteristics, the context and environment, and outcomes of interest. We also need information on the characteristics of teachers, practices, and programs, and on professional development. More detail on these areas is given below. In addition, across all of these domains are three integrated elements that must be considered: assessment; intervention for creating the outcomes, where intervention might be individual remediation, classroom instruction, or restructuring of school programs; and linguistic and sociocultural issues. Research Focus The focus of the research solicited through this RFA can be summarized in two complex overarching questions. While not every application will be able to answer both or either of these questions completely, it is anticipated that longitudinal studies of change over time, possibly with cross sectional components, will be required to attempt to address at least some part of these overarching questions. In addition to the two following questions, which focus on the adolescent reader, there is interest by at least one funding agency in the teacher issues (preparation and continued professional development) that would contribute to successful reading and writing outcomes for these students. 1. What characterizes adolescent readers and adolescent struggling readers? That is, what are the characteristics of these students, their environments, the context in which they receive instruction, and the nature of that instruction with regard to reading and writing during adolescence? What characterizes these students at different developmental levels of literacy? What are the interactions, the reciprocal relationships, among these factors? 2. How do the factors affecting the development of literacy change over time? Specifically, how do the characteristics of students, their environments, the contexts in which they receive instruction, and the nature of that instruction with regard to reading and writing during adolescence change and develop over the course of adolescence? This is not a passive model of change. How do adolescents navigate and work through the transitions into and from one level to the next within adolescence? What resources do they access, what literacy practices do they engage in on their own, and what factors affect, mediate, or moderate change? As noted in "Background" above, there are specific areas where additional information is needed to address these questions. These areas are discussed below: o Abilities and Characteristics of Students In describing learners, several factors must be considered. First, cognition, knowledge, and executive function (self-regulation, metacognition) must be measured and characterized over time, and should be considered in designing interventions. Similarly, it will be important to describe language and communication characteristics, psychosocial factors (such as identity and motivation), and sociocultural factors (such as socioeconomic status, culture, and English as a second language). In addition, because learning can be constrained by neurobiological factors, it will be important to study the neurobiological aspects of the learning process as adolescents advance their reading and writing skills. Research samples and individuals should be sufficiently well characterized that studies can be replicated and results can be generalized to some extent in attempting to answer the overarching questions. o Context and Environment The school context, in general, can affect motivation and learning, as well as how instruction and intervention are provided; thus, the context in which students are learning must be considered. Research should also examine the context in which adolescents are functioning, and what should be changed in those contexts to help students read better. School environment in both middle and high school should be considered. Studies might be designed to address differences between the two, and how the characteristics of each, the differences between them, and the demands of the middle school and high school learning environments affect student learning and motivation. It is also important to consider implications for instruction as well as for teacher preparation and professional development. Other environmental factors should also be taken into account, such as home, after-school activities, peer groups, the neighborhood and the community, although clearly not every project can study all contexts and environments in depth. The language spoken in all of these locales is an important part of the learning environment, and should be considered, as should the cultural differences that may exist within schools and communities. o Outcomes of Interest Literacy is a broad concept, but is here operationally defined as the ability of the learner to perform reading and writing tasks. Outcomes of interest in adolescent literacy should include all of the same components of reading as in younger children, but the level of complexity of the material and the expertise that will constitute success for adolescents differ. Note that grades four to six are an important period in the development of reading proficiency, and are an area in which prevention of adolescent reading difficulties should take place. Reading and writing outcomes studied in early adolescence may thus relate to preventive interventions that take place in the latter half of the elementary school period. o Characteristics of Instruction and Intervention The foundational information on developmental changes that occur as adolescents learn to read and write and as they develop these skills at increasingly complex levels will serve as the basis for identifying the specific intervention needs of struggling adolescent readers and writers, and for the design and implementation of interventions. As for all other age groups, it is crucial to determine the most appropriate and effective instructional approaches and interventions for adolescents. Intervention research must answer the question of which instructional program and interventions are most effective, for which students, under which conditions. Thus, it will be important for studies to document both characteristics of instructional programs and interventions and their fidelity of implementation. In determining "for which students," it will be important to consider students' linguistic and cultural differences in the design, implementation, and assessment of interventions' effectiveness. These interventions are no less important than interventions for any other age group, and are possibly even more complex for adolescents who are experiencing peer pressure and neurobiologic changes, and whose motivation and self image may have already suffered from failure to achieve mastery in literacy. There is also a need to more fully understand and address the literacy instruction and intervention needs of students with various types of disabilities, both learning disabilities (reading and other learning areas) and other disabilities (including those with significant cognitive, motor, or communication needs) that can interfere with the process of developing reading and writing abilities. Finally, there is a need to identify the instructional strategies for supporting the literacy development and academic achievement of those students who have traditionally been relegated to lower- level tracks and expectations (e.g., vocational education students). Issues of scalability and sustainability should be considered when instructions/interventions are conceptualized. That is, we need to design interventions that inherently contain the attributes that would facilitate their being taken to scale. Much of what researchers develop may be highly effective in a research setting, but too cumbersome or difficult to implement in the classroom. If our intent is to have all students taught with scientifically based instruction, then it is imperative that our instructional practices, and at least some of our intervention practices, be in a form that can be brought to scale. One way of bringing programs to scale, for classroom instruction, may be through the development of instructional models or curricula; this RFA will support the development of such models, and their preliminary testing. Data should be gathered that include careful sample characterization so that we can learn which models work better for which students, classrooms or schools. However, large studies testing the actual bringing to scale of proven interventions will naturally exceed the cost limitations of the current solicitation. Researchers wishing to propose such large-scale studies are referred to the Interagency Education Research Initiative (IERI), an NICHD/Department of Education/National Science Foundation annual solicitation, at o Assessment Methods and Measures In addition to asking appropriate questions and applying appropriate research designs and methods, researchers must have instruments for assessing the constructs under study that will lead to valid and reliable inferences. Reading and writing are developmental processes and assessment methods are needed to determine how children are progressing along the continuum. A need exists for many different types of measures. Measurement development is anticipated to be a substantial part of the research to be funded under this RFA. For example, it is possible that during an initial period of a project, the research team might develop and test new measures. Research Questions Below are several examples of specific research questions that need to be addressed in the area of adolescent literacy. These are offered only as examples of research topics that applicants may consider when developing their responses to this solicitation. Research questions and topics considered responsive to this RFA include, but are not limited to the following: Questions related to student abilities and characteristics: o To what extent does oral language proficiency affect a student's ability to learn to read and write? This is important to examine for all students, but should also be studied in depth for English-language learning students. How do these relations differ for adolescent students and students in earlier grades? o What is the role of motivation in learning to read and write? How does one instill a sense of confidence and an attitude of self-efficacy in the adolescent reader? Does the content of the reading material contribute to the motivation level of the adolescent? How do the text structures and readability level contribute to motivation? Good readers do not necessarily read for pleasure; to achieve something, it is not always necessary to enjoy doing it, but there should be a value to the student in the accomplishment. When one achieves, there is believed to be an increase in intrinsic motivation. What is the relationship between student perception of the importance of reading and writing and student performance? How does motivation differ for students in different cultures? What are the different motivating factors that must be recognized and taken into account in attempting to measure literacy skills and develop interventions for linguistically and/or culturally different groups of students? Psychometrically sound measures (e.g., self-report, teacher ratings, observations) are needed to assess motivation. o What is the role of the background knowledge that the student brings to the task of reading? How and to what extent does background knowledge limit the adolescent student's reading performance, and what are the most effective and efficient remediation approaches? How does background knowledge differ for students from different cultural or ethnic groups? o Prevalence of reading disabilities in adolescents. Longitudinal, epidemiological studies are needed to estimate the true prevalence of reading-related learning disabilities in adolescents, whether alone or as a co-morbid condition with other learning disabilities. Such studies should identify specific linkages between reading disability and sociocultural, economic, and demographic factors. Of particular import are the specific effects of poverty on the failure to develop literacy proficiency, and the identification of risk and protective factors within these contexts. Questions related to severity, classroom behavior, teacher expectations and perceptions, student motivation, and the influence of comorbidities need to be addressed explicitly. Questions dealing with context and environment: o How do schools where large numbers of students achieve high levels of literacy differ both structurally and functionally from those where students do not perform as well? Are there effects of school or program design or structure on literacy development? Specifically, is there a fit between school characteristics and differences in adolescent literacy ability levels and motivation for reading and writing? o What is the role of classroom composition in affecting student literacy outcomes in middle and high school? To what extent does instructional group size and composition impact learning? o Because an adolescent's values and position on education may be strongly influenced by his or her peer social group, the values of the group can be key to a student's development. How do adolescent social groups, both inside and outside of school, relate to adolescents' literacy development and outcomes? What is the role of social groups in motivating or affecting a student's commitment to learning to read and write, and how can this information be used in the design and implementation of effective interventions? Cultural differences must be taken into account in any such research. Questions related to outcomes of interest: o What are the characteristics (the profile) of adolescent readers with different levels of ability? And how do these characteristics change over time, within the various components of literacy? o What roles do core components of reading (e.g., phonology, fluency, vocabulary, reading comprehension) and background knowledge play in affecting students' writing abilities? Research is needed to define and describe the developmental aspects of the core reading components and outcomes for adolescents and how they interact within the context of the types of text that students encounter, such as newspapers, textbooks, or texts in the work environment. o What are the relationships among the phonology, fluency, vocabulary and syntax, and reading comprehension in adolescents? How do these components interact in the ongoing development of reading and writing ability in adolescents? o How are reading comprehension and listening comprehension related, and how can these relations be exploited in the development of complex reading and writing abilities in adolescents? How do alternative modes of input and output affect comprehension/ composition of text? What strategies are effective for improving adolescents' comprehension of text, and their written expression? What are the contexts across which specific strategies generalize, and which strategies do not generalize well? What strategies should adolescents be taught, and why? Under what contexts should adolescents be taught to use specific strategies, and what can adolescents and their teachers expect will result from such instruction? How do students best learn strategies for reading comprehension, and what factors influence when, whether, and how well they implement those strategies? Questions regarding instruction and intervention: o How well does research on younger learners apply to adolescents? How much of what we know about effective instruction and intervention can be used in developing and testing instruction and interventions for middle or high school students? How much of what we know about effective instruction and intervention can be used in preventive instructional programs for students in the grades just prior to middle school? o To what extent do interventions affect student motivation, and to what extent are the effects on achievement mediated or moderated by effects on motivation? o What structural elements (e.g., scheduling, grouping configurations, level of teacher support) in middle and high school support successful implementation of reading and writing strategies? o There is a direct interaction between writing and reading and derivational, morphological knowledge in spelling. How should instruction and intervention techniques for literacy address both writing and reading? What is the role of text format, rhetorical characteristics, and derivational morphology in developing literacy and how can these be incorporated into effective instructional approaches and interventions? o What interventions will be most effective for which learners? Are different intervention strategies needed for particular subgroups, especially students who are English-language learners and those with a range of disabilities? o How is reading textbooks similar to and different from reading other texts? Are there alternatives to textbooks? Are there alternatives to having all students reading the same text? How do teachers use different types of text to supplement their teaching strategies? What types of support do teachers need to be effective in using a diversity of texts in their classrooms? How accessible is text to special populations where accommodations are needed? o How do teachers and students use text and how do they communicate teacher- to-student and student-to-teacher about text? To what extent and how do students communicate with one another about texts, and to what extent do these communications affect students motivation to engage in literacy, and affect literacy outcomes? How can texts be better designed to facilitate the development of higher-level literacy abilities? What are the optimal text and/or document characteristics for different content areas? Is there a set of core text characteristics that is common across content areas? How can we optimize the interaction between instructional approach and text characteristics, and what types of training would best prepare teachers to effectively implement instruction with different types of text/documents? o Computers and multimedia technology play an important role in adolescent literacy. Most adolescents will do a great deal of their writing and reading on computers, and will read a large amount of text in multimedia format. Characterizing the technological learning environment and its utility in motivating, instructing, assessing, and intervening with adolescent readers and writers is an important research aim. What is the role of technology in reading and writing? How can technology tools be used to mirror and support literacy instruction? How are technology tools effectively integrated into the literacy curriculum? Which tools are best suited to different subgroups of adolescent learners? Which tools assist students in self-regulating reading and writing processes at the appropriate times and at the appropriate levels? How can these tools be used to effectively facilitate instruction in reading and writing? Questions related to teacher preparation and professional development: o What do prospective and current teachers need to know and be able to do in order to deliver effective, high-quality literacy instruction to adolescents? For example, to be successful, does a teacher need to know about learner characteristics and learning environments? To what extent is this information part of programs of teacher preparation or professional development for middle or high school teachers? What are the most effective methods of delivering needed professional development for middle and high school teachers? o How do teachers learn new strategies? For how long after an initial gain or change in instructional behavior do teachers maintain that behavior? (There is preliminary evidence that if teachers change their behavior, student outcomes improve, but if the teachers revert to old teaching habits, student performance declines.) Replication and more in-depth investigation are needed of these findings. o What are the crucial aspects of professional development within content areas? Do students have specific literacy instructional needs within content areas? How does the presentation of knowledge differ across content areas, such as math or history? Are there specific differences that might help to inform both instruction and intervention? Should some aspects of reading and writing be taught by content area teachers and, if so, how should those teachers be prepared? What is needed in professional development and how can that best be delivered? What combination of professional development opportunities is most effective? o What are the characteristics of exemplary teachers? How do they support literacy in their classrooms? What are they doing? How can other teachers be motivated to do what these effective teachers are doing? Which students are the exemplary teachers helping? o What training is required for teachers depends not only on what students are being taught, but also on who the students are. What do teachers need to know and be able to do to successfully teach literacy when English is not the native language of the student, and/or when many languages are represented within the classroom, and which teachers might most benefit from training in English as a Second Language (ESL) or other specific instructional approaches? o What are the optimal methods of teaching literacy to adolescent students whose first language is not English? What techniques are effective with a group of students whose first language is the same (e.g., Spanish) and what techniques are effective with a group of English language learning students who have different first languages? Is it more effective to teach struggling adolescent readers to read in their native language first and then to transition them to English? How do adolescent English language learners access/acquire literacy in the content areas? How do we teach students who are both limited in their English proficiency and have learning disabilities? Neurobiology (Neuroanatomy, Neurophysiology, Neuroimaging) A research area that cuts across the many student questions and issues is the neurobiological underpinnings of reading disabilities in the adolescent period. Given advances in neuroimaging technology, the timing is excellent to use these tools to clarify the relationships between brain structure/function and the persistence of reading difficulties into the adolescent period. Recent advances in the application of functional neuroimaging modalities (e.g., fMRI) have indicated that neural activation patterns differ significantly between reading disabled children and normal readers. Ideally, convergent evidence will be gathered using any of a number of neuroimaging modalities (e.g., MRI, fMRI, MEG, MRS, Diffusion Tensor Imaging) and dependent measures to assess the neural organization of cognitive and linguistic abilities in adolescent struggling readers. Given the findings of a "neural signature" for skilled reading and for reading disability, it will be important to determine whether there is a change with age in the individual's potential to change such neural signatures. Preliminary data suggest that changes in reading behavior produced by well- defined early interventions are reflected in changes in neural activation in those brain regions implicated in the development of basic reading skills. Integrated intervention-neuroimaging studies need to be replicated and expanded to better understand the specific impact of behavioral perturbation on brain development and function, and to determine whether the intensity and duration of the intervention required to produce both behavioral and neural changes vary as a function of chronological age. MECHANISM OF SUPPORT This RFA will use National Institutes of Health (NIH) Research Project Grant (R01) award mechanism. As an applicant you will be solely responsible for planning, directing, and executing the proposed project. This RFA is a one- time solicitation. Future unsolicited, competing-continuation applications based on this project will compete with all investigator-initiated applications and will be reviewed according to the customary peer review procedures. The earliest anticipated award date is October 1, 2003; some awards will be made by December 1, 2003. This RFA uses just-in-time concepts. It also uses the modular as well as the non-modular budgeting formats (see Specifically, if you are submitting an application with direct costs in each year of $250,000 or less, use the modular format. Otherwise follow the instructions for non-modular research grant applications. FUNDS AVAILABLE The participating co-sponsors intend to commit approximately $2.8 million in total costs [Direct plus Facilities and Administrative (F & A) costs] in FY 2003 to fund four to six new grants in response to this RFA. An applicant may request a project period of up to five years and a budget of up to $750,000 direct costs per year. Because the nature and scope of the proposed research will vary from application to application, it is anticipated that the size and duration of each award will also vary. Although the financial plans of the co-sponsors provide support for this program, awards pursuant to this RFA are contingent upon the availability of funds and the receipt of a sufficient number of meritorious applications. ELIGIBLE INSTITUTIONS You may submit an application if your institution has any of the following characteristics: o For-profit or non-profit organizations o Public or private institutions, such as universities, colleges, hospitals, and laboratories o Units of State and local governments o Eligible agencies of the Federal government o Domestic or foreign o Faith-based or community-based organizations INDIVIDUALS ELIGIBLE TO BECOME PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATORS Any individual with the skills, knowledge, and resources necessary to carry out the proposed research is invited to work with their institution to develop an application for support. Individuals from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups as well as individuals with disabilities are always encouraged to apply for NIH programs. SPECIAL REQUIREMENTS Meeting for Investigators Principal Investigators of projects funded through this RFA will be expected to attend one meeting per year to share research designs and proposed measurement strategies, as well as methods and approaches to data collection and analysis, and to establish, where possible, core instrumentation intended to maximize the systematic collection of converging data across projects. Requests for funds for annual travel to this meeting should be included in the application budget request. Application Considerations In preparing applications in response to this RFA, applicants should insure that the following methodological and organizational issues are addressed: 1. Research Population The selection of the research population should be based upon the need to conduct integrated prospective, developmental, longitudinal investigations incorporating cognitive/behavioral, early (and later) treatment/intervention, and possibly neurobiological studies with adolescents who manifest reading disabilities, alone or in combination with one or more of several domains to include oral language and written expression, as well as deficits in attention or executive function. Within this context, longitudinal studies may be initiated with late-elementary grade children, with the students being followed as they enter and proceed through middle school. Studies might also be initiated with middle school students, and follow them longitudinally through the transition to high school. Cross-sectional studies of reading disabled children of different ages ranging across the later elementary and middle school or middle- to high school age-span also should be considered, but such studies should be related meaningfully to the questions being asked within the longitudinal studies. Students selected for study likely will vary across cultural, familial, ethnic, racial, economic, and other demographic characteristics that could influence development. There likely will be subgroups and subtypes of children with significantly different patterns of demographic characteristics, academic deficits, different patterns of comorbidity, levels of severity, and different psychological/cognitive processing deficits. Therefore, applicants should consider research protocols that are capable of identifying well-defined subgroups and subtypes that exist within the sample. Investigators also should consider casting the sampling net wide enough to insure a representative number of subtypes and contrast groups within the study population. For example, of interest are studies of subtypes or profiles of struggling readers of varying demographic characteristics, intellectual abilities, with primary deficits in reading who display no comorbid deficits, a single comorbid deficit, or a combination of comorbid deficits in attention, behavior, and social competencies, etc. 2. Subject Selection Criteria The samples for study must be defined rigorously so that complete replication can be accomplished. Within this context, applicants should provide clearly documented and operationalized definitions for their subject selection criteria. These definitions and criteria must be specified in an a priori manner. The selection of "school-identified" or "clinic-identified" learning-disabled children is clearly discouraged unless the demographic and diagnostic characteristics in these cases match the applicant's a priori established selection criteria. Likewise, criteria for selection of contrast group(s) must be specified in an a priori manner. All individuals selected for study must be defined with reference to age, gender, grade level, length of time in special education placement (if applicable), type of current special education placement (if applicable), previous special education placement(s) (if applicable) to include intensity and duration, ethnicity, socio-economic status, primary learning disability, comorbid disabilities, severity of disability, familial and/or genetic findings, physical/neurological findings, intellectual status, cognitive- linguistic status, neurophysiological and neuropsychological status, levels of academic achievement in oral language, reading, and written language, and presence or absence of attention deficit disorder. 3. Measurement Criteria Standardized tests, laboratory tasks, observational measures, interview schedules, and other assessment procedures (e.g., dynamic assessment procedures, case studies, ethnographic studies) must be selected on the basis of known reliability, validity, trustworthiness, and appropriateness for the samples under study. If reliability, validity and trustworthiness of the measurement/assessment/observational procedures are initially unknown, the application must include specific plans for establishing these measurement properties. The valid measurement of change over time is critical to much of the research solicited via this RFA since the study of developmental course and treatment effectiveness is of primary concern. If instructional treatment studies are proposed, applicants should be aware of and employ robust procedures for separating treatment effects from the effects of development, in general. The use of growth curve models and longitudinal data is encouraged as is the collection of sufficient data prior to, during, and following the instructional/treatment study to allow for estimation of change over time. WHERE TO SEND INQUIRIES We encourage inquiries concerning this RFA and welcome the opportunity to answer questions from potential applicants. Inquiries may fall into three areas: scientific/research, peer review, and financial or grants management issues: o Direct your questions about scientific/research issues to: Peggy McCardle, Ph.D., MPH Child Development and Behavior Branch National Institute of Child Health and Human Development 6100 Executive Boulevard, Suite 4B05, MSC 7510 Bethesda, MD 20892-7510 Telephone: (301) 435-6863 FAX: (301) 480-0230 Email: Marlene Simon, Ph.D. Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services U.S. Department of Education 330 C Street, SW, Room 2128 Washington, DC 20447 Telephone: (202) 205-9089 FAX: (202) 401-4079 Email: Peggy Zelinko, Ph.D. Office of Vocational and Adult Education U.S. Department of Education 330 C Street, SW, Room 2128 Washington, DC 20447 Telephone: (202) 401-9963 FAX: (202) 401-4079 Email: Anne Sweet, Ph.D. Institute of Education Sciences U.S. Department of Education 555 New Jersey Ave., NW, Room 513A Washington, DC 20208 Telephone: (202) 219-2043 FAX: (202) 219-1402 Email: o Direct your questions about peer review issues to: Robert Stretch, Ph.D. Director, Division of Scientific Review National Institute of Child Health and Human Development 6100 Executive Boulevard, Room 5B01, MSC 7510 Bethesda, MD 20892-7510 Telephone: (301) 496-1485 FAX: (301) 402-4104 Email: o Direct your questions about financial or grants management matters to: Dianna Bailey Grants Management Branch National Institute of Child Health and Human Development 6100 Executive Boulevard, Room 8A17, MSC 7510 Bethesda, MD 20892-7510 Telephone: (301) 435-6978 FAX: (301) 402-0915 Email: LETTER OF INTENT Prospective applicants are asked to submit a letter of intent that includes the following information: o Descriptive title of the proposed research o Name, address, and telephone number of the Principal Investigator o Names of other key personnel o Participating institutions o Number and title of this RFA Although a letter of intent is not required, is not binding, and does not enter into the review of a subsequent application, the information that it contains allows NICHD staff to estimate the potential review workload and plan the review. The letter of intent is to be sent by the date listed at the beginning of this document. The letter of intent should be sent to: Peggy McCardle, Ph.D., MPH Child Development and Behavior Branch National Institute of Child Health and Human Development 6100 Executive Boulevard, Suite 4B05, MSC 7510 Bethesda, MD 20892-7510 Telephone: (301) 435-6863 FAX: (301) 480-0230 Email: SUBMITTING AN APPLICATION Applications must be prepared using the PHS 398 research grant application instructions and forms (rev. 5/2001). The PHS 398 is available at in an interactive format. For further assistance contact GrantsInfo, Telephone (301) 710-0267, Email: SPECIFIC INSTRUCTIONS FOR MODULAR GRANT APPLICATIONS: Applications requesting up to $250,000 per year in direct costs must be submitted in a modular grant format. The modular grant format simplifies the preparation of the budget in these applications by limiting the level of budgetary detail. Applicants request direct costs in $25,000 modules. Section C of the research grant application instructions for the PHS 398 (rev. 5/2001) at includes step-by-step guidance for preparing modular grants. Additional information on modular grants is available at USING THE RFA LABEL: The RFA label available in the PHS 398 (rev. 5/2001) application form must be affixed to the bottom of the face page of the application. Type the RFA number on the label. Failure to use this label could result in delayed processing of the application such that it may not reach the review committee in time for review. In addition, the RFA title and number must be typed on line 2 of the face page of the application form and the YES box must be marked. The RFA label is also available at: SENDING AN APPLICATION TO THE NIH: Submit a signed, typewritten original of the application, including the Checklist, and three signed, photocopies, in one package to: Center for Scientific Review National Institutes of Health 6701 Rockledge Drive, Room 1040, MSC 7710 Bethesda, MD 20892-7710 Bethesda, MD 20817 (for express/courier service) At the time of submission, two additional copies of the application must be sent to: Robert Stretch, Ph.D. Director, Division of Scientific Review National Institute of Child Health and Human Development 6100 Executive Boulevard, Room 5B01, MSC 7510 Bethesda, MD 20892-7510 Telephone: (301) 496-1485 FAX: (301) 402-4104 Email: APPLICATION PROCESSING: Applications must be received by the application receipt date listed in the heading of this RFA. If an application is received after that date, it will be returned to the applicant without review. The Center for Scientific Review (CSR) will not accept any application in response to this RFA that is essentially the same as one currently pending initial review, unless the applicant withdraws the pending application. The CSR will not accept any application that is essentially the same as one already reviewed. This does not preclude the submission of substantial revisions of applications already reviewed, but such applications must include an Introduction addressing the previous critique. PEER REVIEW PROCESS Upon receipt, applications will be reviewed for completeness by the CSR and responsiveness by the NICHD. Incomplete and/or non-responsive applications will be returned to the applicant without further consideration. Applications that are complete and responsive to the RFA will be evaluated for scientific and technical merit by an appropriate peer review group convened by the NICHD in accordance with the review criteria stated below. As part of the initial merit review, all applications will: o Receive a written critique o Undergo a process in which only those applications deemed to have the highest scientific merit, generally the top half of the applications under review, will be discussed and assigned a priority score o Receive a second level review by the National Advisory Child Health and Human Development Council. REVIEW CRITERIA The goals of NIH-supported research are to advance our understanding of biological systems, improve the control of disease, and enhance health. In the written comments, reviewers will be asked to discuss the following aspects of your application in order to judge the likelihood that the proposed research will have a substantial impact on the pursuit of these goals: o Significance o Approach o Innovation o Investigator o Environment The scientific review group will address and consider each of these criteria in assigning your application's overall score, weighting them as appropriate for each application. Your application does not need to be strong in all categories to be judged likely to have major scientific impact and thus deserve a high priority score. For example, you may propose to carry out important work that by its nature is not innovative but is essential to move a field forward. (1) SIGNIFICANCE: Does your study address an important problem? If the aims of your application are achieved, how do they advance scientific knowledge? What will be the effect of these studies on the concepts or methods that drive this field? (2) APPROACH: Are the conceptual framework, design, methods, and analyses adequately developed, well integrated, and appropriate to the aims of the project? Do you acknowledge potential problem areas and consider alternative tactics? (3) INNOVATION: Does your project employ novel concepts, approaches or methods? Are the aims original and innovative? Does your project challenge existing paradigms or develop new methodologies or technologies? (4) INVESTIGATOR: Are you appropriately trained and well suited to carry out this work? Is the work proposed appropriate to your experience level as the Principal Investigator and to that of other researchers (if any)? (5) ENVIRONMENT: Does the scientific environment in which your work will be done contribute to the probability of success? Do the proposed experiments take advantage of unique features of the scientific environment or employ useful collaborative arrangements? Is there evidence of institutional support? ADDITIONAL REVIEW CRITERIA: In addition to the above criteria, your application will also be reviewed with respect to the following: o PROTECTIONS: The adequacy of the proposed protection for humans, animals, or the environment, to the extent they may be adversely affected by the project proposed in the application. o INCLUSION: The adequacy of plans to include subjects from both genders, all racial and ethnic groups (and subgroups), and children as appropriate for the scientific goals of the research. Plans for the recruitment and retention of subjects will also be evaluated. (See Inclusion Criteria included in the section on Federal Citations, below.) o DATA SHARING: The adequacy of the proposed plan to share data. ( o BUDGET: The reasonableness of the proposed budget and the requested period of support in relation to the proposed research. RECEIPT AND REVIEW SCHEDULE Letter of Intent Receipt Date: February 26, 2003 Application Receipt Date: March 26, 2003 Peer Review Date: June-July 2003 Council Review: September 2003 Earliest Anticipated Start Date: October 1, 2003 or December 1, 2003 AWARD CRITERIA Criteria that will be used to make award decisions include: o Scientific merit (as determined by peer review) o Availability of funds o Programmatic priorities, including programmatic balance in funding a broad array of projects, geographic balance, socio-demographic balance in populations studied, and adherence to the goals and objectives of the RFA, and the specific missions of the co-funding agencies. REQUIRED FEDERAL CITATIONS INCLUSION OF WOMEN AND MINORITIES IN CLINICAL RESEARCH: It is the policy of the NIH that women and members of minority groups and their sub-populations must be included in all NIH-supported clinical research projects unless a clear and compelling justification is provided indicating that inclusion is inappropriate with respect to the health of the subjects or the purpose of the research. This policy results from the NIH Revitalization Act of 1993 (Section 492B of Public Law 103-43). All investigators proposing clinical research should read the AMENDMENT "NIH Guidelines for Inclusion of Women and Minorities as Subjects in Clinical Research - Amended, October, 2001," published in the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts on October 9, 2001 (; a complete copy of the updated Guidelines is available at The amended policy incorporates: the use of an NIH definition of clinical research; updated racial and ethnic categories in compliance with the new OMB standards; clarification of language governing NIH-defined Phase III clinical trials consistent with the new PHS Form 398; and updated roles and responsibilities of NIH staff and the extramural community. The policy continues to require for all NIH-defined Phase III clinical trials that: a) all applications or proposals and/or protocols must provide a description of plans to conduct analyses, as appropriate, to address differences by sex/gender and/or racial/ethnic groups, including subgroups if applicable; and b) investigators must report annual accrual and progress in conducting analyses, as appropriate, by sex/gender and/or racial/ethnic group differences. INCLUSION OF CHILDREN AS PARTICIPANTS IN RESEARCH INVOLVING HUMAN SUBJECTS: The NIH maintains a policy that children (i.e., individuals under the age of 21) must be included in all human subjects research, conducted or supported by the NIH, unless there are scientific and ethical reasons not to include them. This policy applies to all initial (Type 1) applications submitted for receipt dates after October 1, 1998. All investigators proposing research involving human subjects should read the "NIH Policy and Guidelines" on the inclusion of children as participants in research involving human subjects that is available at REQUIRED EDUCATION ON THE PROTECTION OF HUMAN SUBJECT PARTICIPANTS: NIH policy requires education on the protection of human subject participants for all investigators submitting NIH proposals for research involving human subjects. You will find this policy announcement in the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts Announcement, dated June 5, 2000, at PUBLIC ACCESS TO RESEARCH DATA THROUGH THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT: The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-110 has been revised to provide public access to research data through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) under some circumstances. Data that are (1) first produced in a project that is supported in whole or in part with Federal funds and (2) cited publicly and officially by a Federal agency in support of an action that has the force and effect of law (i.e., a regulation) may be accessed through FOIA. It is important for applicants to understand the basic scope of this amendment. NIH has provided guidance at Applicants may wish to place data collected under this RFA in a public archive, which can provide protections for the data and manage the distribution for an indefinite period of time. If so, the application should include a description of the archiving plan in the study design and include information about this in the budget justification section of the application. In addition, applicants should think about how to structure informed consent statements and other human subjects procedures given the potential for wider use of data collected under this award. URLs IN NIH GRANT APPLICATIONS OR APPENDICES: All applications and proposals for NIH funding must be self-contained within specified page limitations. Unless otherwise specified in an NIH solicitation, Internet addresses (URLs) should not be used to provide information necessary to the review because reviewers are under no obligation to view the Internet sites. Furthermore, we caution reviewers that their anonymity may be compromised when they directly access an Internet site. HEALTHY PEOPLE 2010: The Public Health Service (PHS) is committed to achieving the health promotion and disease prevention objectives of "Healthy People 2010," a PHS-led national activity for setting priority areas. This RFA is related to one or more of the priority areas. Potential applicants may obtain a copy of "Healthy People 2010" at AUTHORITY AND REGULATIONS: This program is described in the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance No. 93.865, 84.051B, 84.324 and 84.305P and is not subject to the intergovernmental review requirements of Executive Order 12372 or Health Systems Agency review. Awards are made under authorization of Sections 301 and 405 of the Public Health Service Act as amended (42 USC 241 and 284) and administered under NIH grants policies described at and under Federal Regulations 42 CFR 52 and 45 CFR Parts 74 and 92. The PHS strongly encourages all grant recipients to provide a smoke-free workplace and discourage the use of all tobacco products. In addition, Public Law 103-227, the Pro-Children Act of 1994, prohibits smoking in certain facilities (or in some cases, any portion of a facility) in which regular or routine education, library, day care, health care, or early childhood development services are provided to children. This is consistent with the PHS mission to protect and advance the physical and mental health of the American people.

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