UCOP Grant Funds New UC Multicampus Center: Science-Based Innovation in Learning (SIL)

The University of California Office of the President (UCOP) Multicampus Research Programs and Initiative (MRPI) has funded the proposal to develop the California Science-Based Innovation in Learning (SIL) Center.

PI/Host Campus: Fumiko Hoeft, UCSF, Neuro/Medical, Learning Disabilities


Silvia Bunge, UC Berkeley, Cognitive Neurology
Jamal Abedi, UC Davis, English Learner
Carol Connor, UC Irvine, Instruction
Marcelo Suarez-Orozco, UCLA, Education Policy, together with Susanna Loeb, Stanford University
Jeff Gilger, UC Merced, Training & Education

Additional Investigators:  

  • Roeland Hancock, Computation and Biostatistics
  • Elissa Epel /Nicki Bush, Health Disparity
  • Nancy Cushen White, Intervention /RD
  • MariLu Gorno Tempini, Language Processes
  • Bob Hendren, UCSF Dyslexia Center
  • Linda Siegel, University of British Columbia

Duration of Grant: 2017-2019


In the US, 9.2% of public school children are English language learners (ELLs), and ELL enrollment has grown 50% over the past decade, outpacing non-ELL enrollment. In California (CA), a quarter of the school-aged children in the public schools are ELLs. ELLs are twice as likely as non-ELLs to live in poverty and more likely to be misidentified than non-ELLs for learning disabilities (LDs) such as reading disorders (RD). Learning disabilities and their misidentification in ELLs further contributes to ELL inequality in English proficiency and educational attainment, leading to income and health disparity.

Reducing education-related risks for poor health outcomes in ELLs requires efforts to better understand the link between educational attainment and health disparity in this population, and early identification of LD in ELLs. Although there are good predictors of RD in English monolinguals, extending these to ELLs is complicated by variability in language experience, lack of English proficiency, variability in the native languages spoken by ELLs, and the lack of normed measures (except Spanish) and qualified practitioners. One third of all US ELLs are in CA, making these issues particularly significant for the state and UC, while at the same time providing the opportunity for UC to be a leader in addressing these issues.

Center Goals

The short-term goals of the Center are to: (1) setup an innovative, multicampus, cross-disciplinary collaboration bridging education, cognitive sciences, medicine, and policy, and (2) perform a series of pilot studies to examine the links between academic and health outcomes in ELLs and evaluate individualized prescription of reading interventions that will prepare Center investigatorsto compete for federal center and collaborative research grants in the near future.

The long-term goal is for the UC center to be a national leader in "Precision Ed-Health", and tackle issues associated with education and health disparity in underrepresented populations, with an initial emphasis on early identification and intervention of children at risk for learning challenges. The central mission includes performing high quality research and providing training, services, and advocacy. Such efforts will ultimately enhance the lives of children and families, while addressing major issues in CA and the US, including the cost of education, difficulties of educating diverse populations including ELLs, and the health consequences of poor school performance.