Alumni News

Steve Amendum (Ph.D. ’08) receives national recognition for his dissertation

Photo of Steve Amendum

Steve Amendum

Steve Amendum was recently named one of the 10 finalists for the International Reading Association’s (IRA) Outstanding Dissertation of the Year Award. Titled "Federal Funding Matters: Relationships Among Type of Reading Excellence Act Initiative, School Effectiveness, and Kindergarten Through Third Grade Students' Reading Growth," his dissertation examined various initiatives funded by the Reading Excellence Act (REA) and their impact on students’ reading performance in kindergarten through second grade.

The REA is a federal grant program that provides funds to low-income schools to improve classroom reading instruction. In his dissertation, Amendum examined students’ reading growth over a two-year period in 16 schools that were receiving REA funding for various types of REA initiatives.

In his research questions, he considered two dimensions of Type of REA Initiative: the degree of structure of the initiative and the level of support for teachers learning the initiative. He also considered the effectiveness of a school as another variable related to students’ reading growth. 

Amendum’s findings showed that students’ Instructional Reading Level growth did vary in relation to the Type of REA Initiative and the effectiveness of their school.

For students in schools with a high degree of effectiveness, students made the most progress in reading from REA initiatives with low structure.

For students in schools with a low degree of effectiveness, students made the most progress in reading when there was a high degree of support for teachers learning to use the initiative.

The findings have implications for today’s administrators and schools. “These findings suggest that school administrators and federal officials might contemplate funding efforts that invest in teachers and their professional development, rather than highly structured content delivery such as scripted lessons or highly structured frameworks, particularly for high-poverty schools demonstrating low school effectiveness,” said Amendum.

Amendum earned his Ph.D. in Education; Early Childhood, Famlies and Literacy and completed his dissertation under the guidance of Professor Jill Fitzgerald, who received the same award for her dissertation in 1980. “Steve was an exceptional doctoral student,” said Fitzgerald. “He participated with me on several research projects, and over time, assumed larger and larger roles. He has co-authored several pieces with me and presented to research and practitioner audiences with me."

“Every step of the way, Steve was the ultimate student,” she added. “He was always curious, always eager to learn, always dedicated to improving his understandings, and ever the professional practitioner committed to enhancing literacy for all students, especially for those in greatest need. He was a sheer joy to work with!”

Amendum is currently an assistant professor of education at N.C. State University in Raleigh, N.C.