About Us

The National Center on Improving Literacy (NCIL), operated by Boston University’s Wheelock College of Education and Human Development with funding from the United States Department of Education, is a partnership among literacy experts, university researchers, and technical assistance providers from the University of Oregon, Florida State University, and RMC Research Corporation.

Our Mission

To increase access to, and use of, evidence-based approaches to screen, identify, and teach students with literacy-related disabilities, including dyslexia.

To build individual and organizational capacity to assess students’ literacy-related skill, identify students with disabilities or those at risk of disabilities, and fully implement evidence-based literacy programs and professional development.

Our Team

Picture of Hank Fien
Hank Fien Ph.D.

Hank Fien, Ph.D., is the Director of NCIL and is a Professor in the Wheelock College of Education and Human Development at Boston University (BU). He also directs the BU TEACH research center at BU. His research is focused on the areas of early reading and early mathematics interventions for diverse learners in school settings. Dr. Fien’s most recent work is focused on scaling up evidence based practices in schools and to better understand the ecological factors that support or hinder the use of evidence.

Photo of Yaacov Petscher
Yaacov Petscher Ph.D.

Yaacov Petscher, Ph.D. is a Deputy Director of NCIL and leads the Screening and Identification Strand of the center. Dr. Petscher is an Associate Director at the Florida Center for Reading Research and the Director of the Quantitative Methodology and Innovative Division, at Florida State University. He is interested in the development and application of statistical models to data in order to understand why students differ in their reading skills, as well as creative disseminations of research through technology and alternative mediums.

Photo of Sarah Sayko
Sarah Sayko Ed.D.

Sarah Sayko, Ed.D., is a Deputy Director of NCIL, and leads the Parent and Family Strand of the center.  She is a Senior Research Associate at RMC Research Corporation in Arlington, VA. Sarah was previously a literacy content specialist with the Center on Instruction (COI) and a technical assistance provider with the National Reading Technical Assistance Center (NRTAC).  She was an elementary reading coach and literacy specialist in two Massachusetts public school districts and is a certified K-12 reading specialist.

Photo of Jessica Turtura
Jessica Turtura Ph.D.

Jessica Turtura, Ph.D., is a Deputy Director of NCIL and Co-Leads the dissemination strand. Dr. Turtura is a Senior Research Associate at the Center on Teaching and Learning at the University of Oregon. She has more than a decade of experience managing federally funded research projects. Dr. Turtura’s work focuses on the development and evaluation of reading and math interventions for grades K-3, factors that predict responsiveness to intervention, and translating research to practice through creative dissemination methods.

Nancy J. Nelson Fien, Ph.D.
Nancy J. Nelson Fien, Ph.D.

Nancy J. Nelson Fien, Ph.D., is the Leader of Professional Development for NCIL. She is an Assistant Professor of Special Education in Boston University’s Wheelock College of Education and Human Development. Dr. Nelson has more than a decade of experience leading federally funded research projects and providing technical assistance to state and local education agencies. Dr. Nelson’s work focuses on developing and evaluating reading and math interventions for students with or at risk for learning disabilities, the use of assessment in school settings, and the implementation of multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS). She is a nationally certified school psychologist and a former middle and high school special education teacher.

Lana Edwards Santoro, Ph.D
Lana Edwards Santoro, Ph.D

Lana Edwards Santoro, Ph.D., is the Co-Lead of Instruction and Intervention for NCIL. She is a Research Professor with the Wheelock College of Education and Human Development at Boston University. Dr. Santoro focuses on projects related to professional learning, technical assistance, and instructional intervention for students with literacy-related disabilities. Her research emphasizes literacy instruction for struggling readers and writers with a specific interest in supporting student development of oral and written language skills, vocabulary, and comprehension. She is also a former special education teacher.

Lakeisha Johnson, Ph.D.
Lakeisha Johnson, Ph.D.

Lakeisha Johnson, Ph.D., co-leads the Assessment Tools Strand of the center. She is an assistant professor in the School of Communication Sciences and Disorders at Florida State University and the director of The Village, the Florida Center for Reading Research’s community engagement and outreach division. Dr. Johnson’s primary research interests include language and literacy development in African American children and the use of diverse children's books in educational settings.

Brian Gearin, Ph.D
Brian Gearin, Ph.D

Brian Gearin, Ph.D. co-leads the Dissemination Strand. He is a research associate at the University of Oregon’s Center on Teaching and Learning. He is interested in reading development, and policies and products that aim to support student literacy acquisition. Brian was previously a high school English teacher in Delaware.

Our Collaborations

We work jointly with other organizations to support our mission. These collaborations help further our goals of promoting the use of evidence-based literacy practices.

Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ)

Our collaboration with DJJ focuses on a yearly comic book contest open to all students enrolled in the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) and Massachusetts Department of Youth Services (DYS) programs. Learn about the Clash of Heroes Contest.

HILL For Literacy

The HILL will partner with NCIL to deliver evidence-based technical assistance to State, Regional, and Local Education Agencies and other TA centers or agencies who request support.

Idaho Department of Education

Our work with Idaho focuses on supporting school systems to effectively teach essential literacy content to all students, including students with or at risk for literacy-related disabilities. Learn more about our Work in the Field with Idaho.

Maryland State Department of Education

Our collaboration with Maryland focuses on implementing universal screening for dyslexia and general reading risk. Learn more about our Work in the Field with Maryland.

Michigan Department of Education’s Office of Special Education through Michigan’s MTSS Technical Assistance Center (MiMTSS)

Our collaboration with MiMTSS focuses on intensification of instruction and intervention to comprehensively support the individual needs of students with or at risk for literacy-related disabilities, best practices for supporting students with dyslexia, and family engagement. Learn more about our Work in the Field with Michigan.

Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Network (PaTTAN)

Our collaboration with PaTTAN focuses on the implementation of a high-quality, effective model focused on using Response to Intervention (RTI) within the context of multi-tiered systems of support in reading (MTSS-R) and supporting school leaders to facilitate such systems. Learn more about our Work in the Field with Pennsylvania.

The National Center on Intensive Intervention (NCII)

NCII and NCIL have partnered to create resources that provide information about screening, including our Understanding Screening infographic series.

The National Comprehensive Center (NCC)

Our collaboration with NCC includes jointly disseminating evidence-based literacy information and resources to stakeholders. We partner with NCC on literacy-related projects and activities to increase stakeholder capacity to effectively support students at risk of not attaining full literacy skills due to a disability.

The Reading League Journal (TRLJ)

Our collaboration with TRLJ involves the dissemination of Educator Toolkits, infographics, and other resources to build knowledge and support teachers and other educators to implement the science of reading.

WETA and Reading Rockets

WETA and NCIL have partnered on many dissemination products including Tutorials and Ask an Expert videos.