The Iowa Assessment of Skills and Knowledge for Automatic Word Recognition and Decoding (iASK)

Research Team

Dr. Carolyn Brown and Dr. Jerry Zimmermann, Co-Principal Investigators, are the Co- Founders of Foundations in Learning (FIL) and adjunct professors in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at the University of Iowa. Dr. Brown is the President of FIL and Dr. Zimmermann is VP for Research. Over the past 30 years, they have researched and developed educational solutions based on learning theory. Through intensive work with children and teachers, they developed and implemented Breakthrough to Literacy, a literacy program for PreK-3, and Access Code, a reading intervention for elementary and middle students. iASK is an empirically-based derivative of Access Code. Dr. Brown will lead all aspects of the development and testing of iASK; Dr. Zimmermann will oversee the scientific research process.


Eric Soride, Chief Technology Officer for FIL, will supervise all technology development including project management of the engineering, acceptance testing, creation of hosting environment, and product deployment. He performed the same role in Phase I in which his team built a fully functional prototype in 3 months. Soride was the Senior Manager of Technology at Breakthrough to Literacy for 10+ years, and has deep experience in every aspect of managing the development process for educational software and curricula. He has a productive relationship with the contractors who will build the architecture of the commercialized iASK and a consistent record of producing quality educational software on time and within budget.


Amy VanHoosier is FIL’s Rapid Development Engineer. VanHoosier has over 20 years of experience in software development and specializes in rapid product prototyping, user interface and interaction design, and refining requirements for educational products. She worked as a Lead Producer, Multimedia Designer and Prototype Engineer for Breakthrough to Literacy, a McGraw-Hill Education company for 13 years. She has a long history of working closely with Soride to iteratively design and prototype products for testing and specification for production-ready development. This includes the fully functional iASK prototype developed in Phase I.


Patty Benzing will serve as the on-site research coordinator for the school based research. She has experience in interacting with students, teachers and administrators.


Dr. Bob McMurray, Co-Investigator, is an associate professor of psychology at the University of Iowa. His NIH and NSF funded research examines learning, language acquisition, reading, speech perception and word learning. He has a long-term collaboration with FIL and Hazeltine on learning and reading. He brings skills in experimental design, statistics, and the theoretical model that undergirds iASK. Much of his research examines individual differences including children with specific language impairment, cochlear implant users, and struggling readers. He has experience relating complex experimental measures to standardized assessments, and models of the interaction between real-time skills and knowledge. He will collaborate on the design of tasks and items, and design and implement the quantitative research.


Dr. Eliot Hazeltine, Co-Investigator, is an associate professor of psychology at the University of Iowa. He has expertise in the impact of task demands on learning, on the role of practice, and the impact of item similarity, and most importantly on complex skill acquisition. He has been collaborating with FIL and Dr. McMurray on learning and reading. He will inform the interpretation of results, and the tasks and items that comprise iASK and participate in the design and analysis of the quantitative research.


Dr. Deborah Reed, Co-Investigator, is the Director of the Iowa Reading Research Center.

Formerly, Dr. Reed was an Assistant Professor with the School of Teacher Education at Florida State University and the Florida Center for Reading Research. She has spent over 20 years in reading education as a teacher, technical assistance provider, and researcher. Dr. Reed served as PI of the Texas Adolescent Literacy Academies and the subsequent validation study (Texas Middle School Fluency Assessment). Dr. Reed served as co-PI on projects for the IES-funded Regional Educational Laboratory Southeast and as a Project Director for the NICHD funded Texas Center for Learning Disabilities. Dr. Reed will lead the feasibility and utility studies of iASK, and assist with the assessment development and validation.


Dr. Kristian Markon, psychometrics consultant, is an associate professor of psychology at the University of Iowa. He is an expert on test design, statistical analysis, psychometrics and dimensional models of individual differences. He will consult on psychometric issues with iASK and on the analysis of the reliability and validity data.

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