UC Irvine has received a five-year, $5 million grant from the federal government to establish the first national research and development program aimed at bolstering writing skills of students from middle school to high school, officials announced Tuesday.

The Writing Research to Improve Teaching and Evaluation Center for Secondary Students will create a program to help teachers improve writing skills, according to the university.

Researchers will initially analyze writing samples from students who participated in two previous literacy-intervention efforts and identify the most effective teaching strategies in those programs, officials said.

The researchers will also collect and compare essays from Tustin Unified School District eighth-graders in history, science and English classes. The researchers will also observe classrooms to assess teaching practices. The researchers will then create a program that middle school science and high school history teachers can use for field tests, university officials said.

“The WRITE Center will also engage in leadership and outreach activities to provide resources and training for researchers and teachers,” said principal investigator Carol Booth Olson, who is also an education professor and director of the UCI Writing Project. “We want to become a go-to research hub where teachers, researchers and policymakers can find information on the latest advances in improving the writing of secondary students. Preliminary findings, progress reports and methods — including instruments and measures — will be on our website, as well as a blog, annotated bibliographies, a research article of the month and book reviews.”

The center also plans to partner with the National Writing Project to offer summer programs for educators to learn about the center’s work. The center will also develop a series of videos for training and research partnerships at other universities.

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