Lisa Fitton is Improving Childhood Literacy

Lisa Fitton, Ph.D., recently earned her doctorate degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders at Florida State University this spring. She first began her involvement in research while attending Michigan State University, working under family therapy professor, Dr. José Rubén Parra-Cardona. Fitton’s role in the research project was helping develop an English instructional program for Spanish-speaking immigrant families. This is where Fitton began to discover the wealth of knowledge and insight that research brings, which thereafter improves people’s lives. From there on, she was motivated to attain a Ph.D. so she could one day conduct her own significant research.

Throughout her time at FSU, Fitton was often recognized for her devotion to the field of Communication Sciences and Disorders and excellence in research. She spent time working as a Speech Language Pathologist, treating and assessing both English and Spanish speaking children (bilingual and monolingual). She also served as a Project Coordinator for Project BLOOM   a plan to enhance vocabulary knowledge for Spanish-speaking ELLs (English Language Learners) through the use of electronic books.

Fitton currently works as a researcher at the Florida Center for Reading Research. More specifically, she works on the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Reach Every Reader   a five-year initiative made possible by the collaboration of Harvard, MIT, and FSU that aims to help children thrive as readers. Priscilla Chan, one of the co-founders of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative describes Reach Every Reader as “a unique combination of cutting-edge education and neuroscience research to better understand how we can help how every kid stay on track to reading on grade level by the end of third grade.”

Fitton works under Dr.Yaacov Petscher, the Director of Research at the Florida Center for Reading Research, and Dr. Hugh Catts, CCI’s very own Director of the School of Communication Sciences and Disorders. They work to develop elements to assess reading. Fitton shared, “It’s a wonderful experience because it’s a very iterative process – a lot of thought goes into each and every test item.” Fitton claims that their goal is to make the test as valid as possible for as many children as possible, including children from different backgrounds. She said, “Limiting bias in testing requires a lot of attention, critical thinking, and careful analysis. I have the opportunity to do what I can on the front end to limit the likelihood of overt bias in the test items.”

Fitton was able to work with children from linguistically diverse backgrounds during her time at FSU as an Institute of Education Sciences fellow and Office of Special Education Programs scholar, which gave her experience and thorough understanding to take on her current role. She stated, “I am incredibly grateful for the mentorship and learning opportunities I received while at FSU that have helped me contribute to the Reach Every Reader project.”

Using the experience that the Florida Center for Reading Research and FSU CCI have in literacy screening and evaluation, Harvard’s expertise in early childhood education, and the proficiency in engineering and science provided by MIT; Fitton is a part of a team of experts working to improve childhood literacy.