New literacy research office launches at Notre Dame

Author: Theo Helm

The James R. Squire Office of Policy Research in the English Language Arts will open this fall at the University of Notre Dame under the direction of the University’s Center for Literacy Education.

Headed by Ernest Morrell, the Coyle Professor of Literacy Education and director of the Notre Dame Center for Literacy Education, the office will create studies that advance knowledge and inform policy on teaching English language arts, such as incorporating media and digital literacies into teaching English and increasing the engagement of vulnerable youth by tapping into popular culture to improve literacy outcomes.

The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) established the Squire Office in 2003 in memory of James R. Squire, the executive director of the council from 1960 to 1967. The new office at Notre Dame will serve as a national clearinghouse for studies of English language arts education. The office will also conduct primary research about English language arts teachers, teaching conditions and student achievement. All research will be publicly available, and programming throughout the year will support its dissemination across the country.

“As language continues to evolve, along with our understanding of how people learn it, solid literacy education research is essential to turning what we know into what we do in classrooms,” said Morrell, a former president of NCTE. “Through the vast network of the National Council of Teachers of English, we will tap the expertise of exceptional researchers and practitioners and make the Squire Office a leading voice in moving literacy education forward.”

“Since ACE’s inception, we’ve been dedicated to the formation of effective teachers who grow to become leaders in their fields,” said John Staud, the executive director of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) and the acting director of the Institute for Educational Initiatives, which houses the Center for Literacy Education. “Our relationship with the Squire Office provides a unique opportunity to help develop the skills and understanding of effective practitioners across the country.”

From 2003 to 2014, the Squire Office was located at the University of Michigan under the direction of Anne Ruggles Gere, the Gertrude Buck Collegiate Professor of the School of Education. The Squire Office published several policy studies each year on key issues in the field, such as fostering high-quality formative assessment and teacher learning communities. The new office at Notre Dame will build on that work, conducting original research and creating white papers and other resources on topics such as:

  • Empowering of bilingual students to use their multiple linguistic repertoires and multilingualism in the English/English language arts classroom.
  • Uses of media and popular culture in classrooms.
  • Changes in the teaching of canonical and contemporary/multicultural literature and research into innovative practices.

“In a time when English and language arts teachers are under intense pressure to prepare students to meet the demands of 21st-century literacy, decision makers need access to strong research that can inform the development of effective policies and practices,” said Emily Kirkpatrick, the executive director of NCTE. “The National Council of Teachers of English is honored to enter into this partnership with the Center for Literacy Education at Notre Dame, which we believe will equip both educators and legislators with the studies they need to make informed decisions that support the growth of all students.”

The first studies out of the Squire Office at Notre Dame will include a study on racial literacy and an examination of the use of bilingual students’ multiple languages to help them succeed. Additional studies will be published at least once a quarter. Researchers and project leaders will share their findings at conferences and meetings throughout the year.

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