Four boys at computers with researcher

About the Center

The Center was funded from 2011-2016. The Center leverages emergent technology in the service of reading comprehension, skill development, and improved motivation for reading, so that whenever students are reading they will be able to practice and grow their reading comprehension skills through “just-right” reading challenges.


The Center’s mission is to substantially address the problem of middle school literacy by improving the reading comprehension skills and motivation for reading of all students who struggle with reading, though our primary focus is on students with learning disabilities.

The Center is conducting research and development that explores how emerging technologies can be leveraged to accelerate reading skill development; enhance student motivation, engagement, and self-efficacy related to literacy learning; and improve efficiency in the use of educational resources (e.g., through the use of open educational resources to increase academic learning time via text).

Project Goals

To achieve our mission and vision, the Center is leveraging the capabilities of the Web itself to create a more distributed ecosystem for adolescent literacy.  The goals are to foster a passionate interest and investment in reading for students who have traditionally been uninterested in, or disenfranchised by, traditional classroom literacy practices; and substantially improve the reading comprehension skills of middle school students who have experienced recurrent failure in the domain of reading.


The National Center on the Use of Emerging Technologies to Improve Literacy Achievement for Students with Disabilities in Middle School is led by CAST in collaboration with Vanderbilt University, and represents a large system of partnerships meant to leverage and connect the most current knowledge from the learning sciences about reading development in students with disabilities, best practices within education, and innovation at the leading edge of education technology.

Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST)

CAST is a nonprofit research and development organization that works to expand learning opportunities for all individuals, especially those with disabilities, through Universal Design for Learning.  In 1984, a small band of education researchers founded CAST, the Center for Applied Special Technology, to explore ways of using new technologies to provide better educational experiences to students with disabilities. As CAST researchers tested and refined their principles, priorities, and vision over that first decade, they came to a new understanding of how to improve education using flexible methods and materials. They called this approach Universal Design for Learning (UDL).

Vanderbilt University

Vanderbilt University, located in Nashville, Tennessee, is a private research university whose mission is to educate all students in all respects, including intellectually, socially, ethically, spiritually, and emotionally. It is committed to diversity and collaboration, and Vanderbilt faculty, students, and staff work as intellectual partners, with mentoring and support always accompanying academic engagement. Faculty from Vanderbilt’s Peabody School of Education are partners in the Center for Emerging Technology project, and further the University’s mission as the Center works to support the widest range of learners in engaging with text and building reading comprehension skills.

Evergreen Evaluation & Consulting (EEC)

EEC has been contracted by CAST to be responsible for and to conduct all aspects of the Center’s external evaluation in alignment with OSEP guidelines.

Arizona State University

Stephen Graham, Ed.D. and Karen Harris, Ed.D. are advising on project design and research activities and contributing their expertise in the areas of literacy development, writing to support reading comprehension, teacher development, and self-regulated learning.

Boston College

Patrick Proctor, Ed.D. is providing expertise in literacy development for marginalized learners.  He is contributing to the project data analysis and dissemination efforts and advising the project on design and development efforts.