Roberts Academy and Dyslexia Center

A visionary philanthropic gift from Hal and Marjorie Roberts will establish the pathbreaking Roberts Academy and Dyslexia Center at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College of education and human development, greatly impacting generations of children and the future of dyslexia research.

Roberts Academy

The Roberts Academy, on Vanderbilt's historic Nashville campus, will provide high-quality educational services for young children (kindergarten to grade 1) identified as at risk for dyslexia and for older children (grades 2-5) with diagnosed dyslexia. The school will provide practicum experiences and a student teaching site for students and educators studying dyslexia, including literacy development, assessment and instruction.  

Roberts Dyslexia Center

The Roberts Dyslexia Center will expand upon the work already happening at Vanderbilt and in Middle Tennessee by providing assessment and clinical services, including reading clinics and other enrichment activities, professional training, and disseminating knowledge to become the preeminent center on dyslexia in the United States. The center will serve as a vibrant interdisciplinary hub, fostering collaboration among scholars from the university and beyond to advance groundbreaking dyslexia research and best-in-class services in an on-campus facility with the latest technologies. 

About Marjorie and Hal Roberts

Marjorie and Hal Roberts of Lakeland, Florida, are passionate about supporting children with dyslexia and their families. Through generous gifts they have established two other transitional schools to help students with dyslexia excel: the Roberts Academy at Florida Southern College in Lakeland, Florida, and the Roberts Academy at Mercer University in Macon, Georgia. Though they have not been previously affiliated with Vanderbilt University, the Robertses recognized Peabody College-with its outstanding reputation and capacity to transform education and research-as the ideal home to establish a new academy and dyslexia center. 

Photo image of members of the Roberts family with Chancellor Daniel Diermeier planting a ceremonial tree at the announcement of the new Roberts Academy and Dyslexia Center.
“We will plant a tree symbolizing the power and beauty of growth...the growth of our university, the growth of the Roberts Academy and Center, and, most important, the growth of the children whose lives will be so profoundly shaped by the work we officially begin here today. Let us now dare to grow, together, as One Vanderbilt, into this exciting new chapter, courageously continuing to better ourselves for the betterment of our world.” – Chancellor Daniel Diermeier

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Roberts Academy FAQ

  • When will the Roberts Academy open?

    We plan to have a tiered opening of the Roberts Academy, initially welcoming third and fourth grades in fall 2024. In fall 2025, we plan to add second and fifth grades, and finally, in fall 2026, we plan to add a kindergarten class as well as first grade classrooms. The academy will operate using existing space at Vanderbilt until construction of a new building on the Peabody College campus is complete.  

  • What is the tuition? Will the school offer scholarships and/or financial aid?

    Tuition details are being finalized and will be available soon. Please sign up for our mailing list to receive enrollment and tuition details when they are announced. The Roberts Academy is committed to making tuition affordable. Need-based financial aid and scholarships will be available.  

  • What is the application process?

    Applications are not yet open for the Roberts Academy. We anticipate we will begin to accept applications for rising 3rd and 4th grade students in early 2024. Please sign up for our mailing list to be notified as soon as applications are open. We will also post an update on the Roberts Academy and Dyslexia Center website.

  • What is the curriculum/approach?

    The Roberts Academy aims to become the model transitional school for students with dyslexia. It will drive innovation by enabling students to receive early diagnosis and assessment services beginning at age 4, as well as research-backed interventions and instruction throughout their educational journeys. The academy will feature small class sizes, state-of-the-art classrooms and indoor and outdoor spaces to inspire collaboration, physical activity and community engagement. Enrichment programs within and outside of the school day will be a hallmark of our Roberts Academy, fostering curiosity and confidence in children as students and as leaders. 

    The academy will provide foundational literacy skills, tiered interventions and supports, and a dedicated community committed to cultivating each student's talents and creativity for success in life. The academy will use the Orton-Gillingham approach as a foundation for literacy instruction and will supplement it with evidence-based interventions to target specific needs of individual students.   

  • How many students will the Roberts Academy serve?

    The Roberts Academy will feature small class sizes, with a 12:1 student-to-teacher ratio, and two classrooms per grade, resulting in approximately 24 students per grade. Once the academy is serving kindergarten through fifth grade, we anticipate a total enrollment of about 144 students. 

  • How can my child be screened for dyslexia?

    The Roberts Academy and Dyslexia Center will offer screening and other assessment services to the community beginning in 2024. 

    If you suspect your child might have dyslexia, contact your child's teacher, principal, special education administrator and/or physician about screening options. Federal and Tennessee state laws require school districts to "identify, locate, and evaluate all children with disabilities from birth through age twenty-one (21), regardless of the severity of their disabilities" (Source: TN.gov). In Tennessee, all students are required "to participate in a universal screening process to identify those who may need additional support and/or other types of instruction," per the Say Dyslexia law passed in 2016.  

    Families in Tennessee with children 2.5 years old and younger who have disabilities or developmental delays should contact the Tennessee Early Intervention System at 800-535-9725 for more information about no-cost services.  

  • What are the common characteristics of dyslexia? How do I find out more about dyslexia?

    Dyslexia resources

    Understanding Dyslexia: A Guide for Tennessee Parents and Educators 

    ImprovingLiteracy.org 

    International Dyslexia Association - The IDA's Fact Sheet "Is My Child Dyslexic?" provides an overview of the common characteristics of dyslexia.  

  • Employment opportunities

    The Roberts Academy and Dyslexia Center will post all positions on Vanderbilt University’s “Work at Vanderbilt” website and on the Roberts Academy and Dyslexia Center website as they become available. Please sign up for our mailing list to be notified about employment opportunities.

    Currently, we have one position posted—the Director of the Roberts Academy. You may find the application here. More openings, including for teachers, administrative staff, researchers and more, will be posted in early 2024.

Roberts Dyslexia Center FAQ

  • When will the Roberts Dyslexia Center open?

    The Roberts Dyslexia Center will launch in phases, with the initial phase occurring in fall 2024 to coincide with the opening of the Roberts Academy. The initial phase will include the rollout of the center's reading clinics and other enrichment programs for children in the community with dyslexia. 

  • What kind of research will be conducted?

    The Roberts Dyslexia Center will serve as a vibrant hub of interdisciplinary research, fostering collaboration among scholars from the university and beyond, to advance knowledge and test innovative solutions. In addition to overseeing research support and piloting research programs, the center will provide assessment and clinical services, as well as professional training for educators.  

    The Roberts Dyslexia Center will organize a collaborative structure to support faculty working in dyslexia, individually and collectively, on innovative interventions and assessments to improve the lives of children, youth and adults who struggle with reading and literacy. The center will provide opportunities to not only "fine tune" existing research, but to also create opportunities to study lesser-known aspects of dyslexia and to conduct novel research in areas such as: early identification of dyslexia/dyslexia risk; addressing the needs of older children and adults with persistent reading difficulties; curriculum development; and practices to address some of the social, emotional and behavioral issues associated with dyslexia. 

    Peabody faculty have been recognized by national and international organizations for their groundbreaking contributions to research in this area.  

    • For example, professor Laurie Cutting's Education and Brain Science Research Lab focuses on understanding the neurological underpinnings of dyslexia and exploring methods for identifying students at risk for dyslexia. Cutting is currently investigating whether brain scans can be used to identify those who may struggle long before they try to learn to read, so that early preventive measures can be implemented.  
    • Additionally, professors Douglas Fuchs and Lynn Fuchs develop and study intensive supplemental interventions that improve the academic outcomes of students with dyslexia across grade spans.  
    • These and other Peabody faculty involved in dyslexia research-including Marcia Barnes and Jeanne Wanzek-are some of the esteemed leaders in their fields who will advance research through the Roberts Dyslexia Center. These examples are just a glimpse of our renowned faculty's innovative work. 
  • Will the research be publicly available?

    Yes, the Roberts Dyslexia Center will widely disseminate up-to-date information about discoveries and innovations to other researchers, educators, families and policymakers. We also plan to organize an annual dyslexia conference at the center to serve as an international nexus for dyslexia research. 

  • What kind of direct services will be provided?

    The center will provide direct clinical services not only to children enrolled at the Roberts Academy, but at other local schools as well. The types of clinical services we will provide include after-school tutoring, a reading clinic and other enrichment activities. In collaboration with campus partners, including the Vanderbilt Programs for Talented Youth (PTY) and the Blair School of Music, we plan to offer science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics (STEAM) classes for children that challenge them intellectually and build on their strengths and creativity. 

  • How can I find out about professional development opportunities?

    Please sign up for our mailing list to receive information about professional development opportunities when they are available.  

    In concert with the college's nationally recognized Ed.D. and Independent School Leadership programs, and its top-ranked Department of Special Education, Peabody will provide educators across the country with professional development opportunities to serve students with dyslexia, including continuing education credits and certification courses. The center will collaborate with Peabody's IRIS Center to create web-based learning modules about evidence-based instructional and behavioral practices to support students with dyslexia. These trainings will be available to educators around the world. 

  • Employment opportunities

    The Roberts Academy and Dyslexia Center will post all positions on Vanderbilt University’s “Work at Vanderbilt” website and on the Roberts Academy and Dyslexia Center website as they become available. Please sign up for our mailing list to be notified about employment opportunities.

    Currently, we have one position posted—the Director of the Roberts Academy. You may find the application here. More openings, including for teachers, administrative staff, researchers and more, will be posted in early 2024.

     

  • About Peabody College

    Learn more about Vanderbilt University's Peabody College of education and human development here.

Giving

Join the Roberts family in supporting children with dyslexia and be a part of this historic moment in Vanderbilt history.

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