University of California, Riverside

Faculty Profile System

Rollanda O'Connor

Rollanda O'Connor

Professor, Eady/Hendrick Chair

Graduate School of Education
Sproul Hall
(951) 827-6052

Research Areas

My research centers on reading acquisition and reading difficulties of students from kindergarten through 8th grade.  Most of my work involves development and testing of interventions that can be used in public school to improve the reading skills and comprehension of struggling learners, including students who are English Language Learners and students with disabilities.  We monitor what works and for whom, and how to increase the intensity of instruction for students who need learning support.

BRIDGES (Building Reading Interventions Designed for General Education Subjects)

How do poor readers in middle school master the concepts of United States History, which requires reading multisyllabic words, learning new vocabulary, and analyzing history texts and historical documents?  The answer has seemed to be: they don’t, or at least not very well. 

Faculty in the GSOE, Riverside Unified School District staff and administrators, and UCR doctoral and postdoctoral students are working collaboratively over the next few years to find a way.  In our first year, we are teaching 38 eighth grade students who read below a 5th grade equivalent level  to break apart multisyllabic words and read them accurately (e.g., constitution, legislative, revolutionary), and to read historical materials that contain these words.  We meet weekly with the school’s history teacher experts to identify key concepts and relationships, and develop graphic organizers to display, discuss, and learn history.  It’s hard work: our team teaches five small instructional groups daily, 4 days a week from 7:30-2:30 to improve students’ reading skills alongside their learning of history.  After school we coordinate with history teachers and then return to the drawing board at the university to improve our instructional methods and prepare materials for the next instructional cycle.  Our sample student population is heterogeneous, with approximately half receiving special education services, English Language Learner services, or both.

The research is funded through a 3-year grant from the Institute of Education Sciences and includes Drs. Rollanda O’Connor, Kathleen Bocian, John Wills, Tori Sanchez, and Kristen Beach at UCR, along with Dr. Lindsay Flynn (University of North Carolina) and UCR graduate students Olivia Chan, Sarana Roberts, and Christy Liao.


  • Ph.D. Education, Special Education and Reading 1992, University of Washington
  • M.Ed. Special Education, High Incidence Disabilities 1978, University of Washington
  • B.A. English & Library Science 1971, University of Washington


Rollanda E. O'Connor is Professor and Eady/Hendrick Chair in Learning Disabilities in the Graduate School of Education. Her research focuses on increasing the responsiveness of children to reading interventions in Grades K-4 including the effects of Tier 2 intervention for English Learners across the first five years of reading development, and interventions to improve reading skills of 8th graders with LD and other disabilities.

Current Curriculum Vitae



Research Articles:

  • Sanchez, V. & O’Connor, R.E. (2015). Building Tier 3 Intervention for Long-term Slow Growers in Grades 3-4: A Pilot Study. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice.
  • Beach, K.D., Sanchez, V., Flynn, L., & O’Connor, R.E. (2015). Teaching academic vocabulary to adolescents with learning disabilities. Teaching Exceptional Children, 48, 36-44.
  • O’Connor, R.E., Beach, K., Sanchez, V. Bocian, K., & Flynn, L. (2015). Building BRIDGES: A Design Experiment to Improve Reading and United States History Knowledge of Poor Readers in 8th Grade. Exceptional Children, 81, 399-425.
  • Beach, K.D., & O’Connor, R.E. (2015). Early Response-to-Intervention Measures and Criteria as Predictors of Reading Disability in the Beginning of Third Grade. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 48, 196-223.
  • Beach, K.D., & O’Connor, R.E. (2014). Developing and strengthening reading fluency and comprehension of poor readers in elementary school: A focused review of research. Perspectives on Language and Literacy. Summer, 2014, 17- 19.
  • Orosco, M. J., & O’Connor, R. (2014). Culturally responsive instruction for English language learners with learning disabilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 47, 515-531.
  • Connor, C., Compton, D., Alberto, P., & O’Connor, R.E. (2014). Improving Reading Outcomes for Students With or at Risk for Reading Disabilities: A Synthesis of the Contributions from the Institute of Education Sciences Research Centers. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education. 
  • O’Connor, R.E., Bocian, K., Beach, K., & Sanchez, T.  (2014). Access to a Responsiveness to Intervention model: Does beginning intervention in kindergarten matter? Journal of Learning Disabilities,
  • Ayala, S., & O’Connor, R.E. (2013).  The Effects of Video Self-modeling on the Decoding Skills of Children.  Learning Disabilities Research  & Practice, 28, 142-154.
  • O’Connor, R.E., Bocian, K.M., Sanchez, V., Beach, K.D., & Flynn, L.J. (2013). Special education in a four-year response to intervention (RtI) environment: Characteristics of students with learning disability and grade of identification.  Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 28, 98-112.
  • O’Connor, R.E., Gutierrez, G., Knight-Teague, K., Checca, C.J., Sun, J., & Ho, T. (2013). Variations in practice time reading aloud: 10 versus 20 minutes.  Scientific Studies of Reading17, 134-162.
  • O'Connor, R.E., & Klingner, J.K. (2010). Poor Responders in Responsiveness to Intervention Models. Theory into Practice, 49, 297-304.
  • O'Connor, R.E., Swanson, H.L., & Geraghty (2010). Improvement in reading rate under independent and difficult text levels: Influences on word and comprehension skills. Journal of Educational Psychology, 102, 1-19.
  • O'Connor, R.E., Bocian, K., Beebe-Frankenberger, M., & Linklater,D. (2010). Responsiveness of students with language difficulties to early intervention in reading.  Journal of Special Education, 43, 220-235.

  • Institute of Education Sciences 
    • Title: Vocabulary CHAAOS: Creating Habits that Accelerate Academic language Of Students 
    • Topic: Reading, Writing, and Language Development 
    • Goal: Development and
    • Purpose: Adolescents with disabilities have great difficulty with academic content in middle and high school, and their teachers have difficulty teaching them to understand and use academic language.  We plan to extend our current work in academic language with 8th graders to include 6th, 7th, and 8th graders in a longitudinal study of accumulation of academic vocabulary with 1, 2, or 3 years of ongoing intervention. 
    • Setting: Special education (SpEd) classes in 3 middle schools in California and N. Carolina 
      Sample: 65 SpEd students and 5 SpEd teachers in 6th grade (Year 1); up to 130 SpEd students and 10 teachers per years in 7th (Year 2), and 8th (Year 3) grades.  Students come predominantly from low-income areas, in which representation of traditional minorities is high, with over half of students in the CA schools from Hispanic households and over half in the North Carolina school African American. 
    • Intervention: In a series of 12-week cycles, we will develop, refine, and field test scripts that teach a set of 48 key academic words per cycle and that incorporate, extend, and add an additional set of 48 key words per year. Instruction with intact groups of students with disabilities (mainly Learning Disabilities) will begin with researcher modeling and the classroom teacher observing and participating in instruction. Instructional responsibility shifts across weeks to gradually allow teachers to acquire skills to implement instruction independently.  Instruction includes adolescent-friendly definitions, illustrated example contexts, student practice, partner work, partner writing, and independent writing. 
    • Control Condition: Business-as-usual (BAU) 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students and their special education teachers. Some teachers in their first year as BAU will become implementing teachers the following year; thus we have two levels of controls for the pilot studies. 
    • Research Design and Method: Quasi-experimental: Each year we develop and refine instructional routines and lessons and vocabulary assessment tools at one grade level, and compare student growth and outcomes and teachers’ vocabulary instruction between experimental and BAU conditions. Year 3 integrates instruction for 8th graders from our current grant (BRIDGES) and incorporates field tests to determine relative effects of 1, 2, and 3 years of participation in a stimulating language environment on vocabulary and writing skills of adolescents with disabilities. 
    • Key Measures: Students: Standardized receptive/expressive vocabulary; researcher-designed tests of vocabulary learning and usage. SpEd Teachers: Fidelity and instructional change. 
    • Data Analytic Strategy: Qualitative indicators of teacher change and student response; quantitative comparisons of student growth and outcomes, moderators of growth, and teacher maintenance between experimental and BAU conditions annually and across years. 

More Information 

General Campus Information

University of California, Riverside
900 University Ave.
Riverside, CA 92521
Tel: (951) 827-1012

Department Information

Graduate School of Education
1207 Sproul Hall

Tel: (951) 827-5234
Fax: (951) 827-3942


Last Modified: 5/5/16