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Academic Language of Primary Students (ALPS)


Trina D. Spencer, PhD, BCBA-D

Principal Investigators:

  • Trina Spencer, PhD, BCBA-D

Funding Source:

Institute of Education Sciences (IES)

Dr. Trina D. Spencer was recently awarded a new grant from the Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences for $1,323,166. This exploratory project will leverage the expertise of education researchers (Trina Spencer, University of South Florida) and corpus linguists (Randy Reppen and Doug Biber, Northern Arizona University) to create a large database of K-3 students’ academic language. Researchers have partneredwith Hillsborough County Public Schools HOST program to complete this research.Academic language is the pivotal skill repertoire for closing the achievement gap and attention to it is nearly absent in primary grades. Dr. Spencer’slong-term goalis to elevate reading and writing achievement by promoting a sustained focus on academic language beginning as soon as students enter school. This necessitates detailed knowledge of children’s academic language.The ALPS research team is committed tocollectingnarrative and expository language samples from 3,000 K-3 students. Once collectedand transcribed, the ALPS teamwillanalyze the samples to createcomprehensive linguistic profiles of students’vocabulary and grammarfocusing especially on the differences between studentswith above average and below average skills. Thesedifferences(or gaps) indicatewhere intervention should be directed.Because the overarching aim of this effort is to reduce the language-based achievement gap, the results will inform the future development of academic language educational materials. Researchers will also produce grade level sequences of vocabulary and grammatical features that educators can address during core instruction.


A socioeconomically and geographically diverse sample of 3,000 children ages 5 to 10 years old.

Non USF Co-Investigators:

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