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Michael Kieffer

Professional Background

Educational Background

Ed.D. in Language & Literacy, Harvard Graduate School of Education
Ed.M. in Quantitative Methods in Developmental Research, Harvard Graduate School of Education
B.A. in English with Honors, Stanford University

Scholarly Interests

Michael J. Kieffer will be leaving Teachers College in September, 2012 to join the faculty of New York University as an Associate Professor of Literacy Education.  You can reach him at his new email address: 

Click here to watch Prof. Kieffer's keynote lecture at the 2010 New York State TESOL Applied Linguistics Conference.

Selected Publications


Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles

Kieffer, M.J. (in press). Before and after third grade: Longitudinal evidence for the shifting role of socioeconomic status in reading growth. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal.  Advanced online publication. DOI 10.1007/s11145-011-9339-2

Kieffer, M.J. (in press). Early Spanish and English language proficiency and later reading development among Spanish-speaking English language learners: Evidence from a nine-year longitudinal study. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology.

Kieffer, M.J., Biancarosa, G., & Mancilla-Martinez, J. (in press). Roles of morphological awareness in English reading comprehension for Spanish-speaking language minority learners: Exploring partial mediation by vocabulary and reading fluency.  Applied Psycholinguistics. Advanced online publication. DOI:10.1017/S0142716411000920

Kieffer, M.J. & Lesaux, N.K. (in press a). Direct and indirect roles of morphological awareness in the English reading comprehension of native Spanish, Filipino, Vietnamese, and English speakers.  Language Learning

Kieffer, M.J. & Lesaux, N.K. (in press b). Effects of academic language instruction on relational and syntactic aspects of morphological awareness for sixth graders from linguistically diverse backgrounds. Elementary School Journal. 

Kieffer, M.J. & Vukovic, R. (in press). Components and context: Exploring sources of reading difficulties for language minority learners and native English speakers in urban schools. Journal of Learning Disabilities. Advanced online publication. DOI: 10.1177/0022219411432683 

Kieffer, M.J. & Lesaux, N.K. (2012). Development of morphological awareness and vocabulary knowledge for Spanish-speaking language minority learners: A parallel process latent growth model.  Applied Psycholinguistics, 33, 23-54.

Kieffer, M.J. & Lesaux, N.K. (2012). Knowledge of words, knowledge about words: Dimensions of vocabulary in first and second language learners in sixth grade. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 25, 347-373.

Brasseur-Hock, I.F., Hock, M.F., Kieffer, M.J., Biancarosa, G., & Deshler, D.D. (2011). Adolescent struggling readers in urban schools: Results of a latent class analysis. Learning and Individual Differences, 21, 438-452.

Kieffer, M.J. (2011). Converging trajectories: Reading growth in language minority learners and their classmates, kindergarten to grade eight. American Educational Research Journal, 48, 1157-1186.

Mancilla-Martinez, J., Kieffer, M.J., Biancarosa, G., Christodoulou, J., & Snow, C.E. (2011). Investigating English reading comprehension growth in adolescent language minority learners: Some insights from the simple view. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 24, 339-354.

Kelley, J.G., Lesaux, N.K., Kieffer, M.J., & Faller, S.E. (2010). Effective academic vocabulary instruction in the urban middle school.  The Reading Teacher, 64, 5-14.

Kieffer, M.J. (2010).  English proficiency, socioeconomic status, and late-emerging reading difficulties. Educational Researcher, 39, 484-486.

Kieffer, M.J. & Lesaux, N.K. (2010). Morphing into adolescents: Active word learning for English language learners and their classmates in middle school. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 54, 47-56.

Lesaux, N.K., Crosson, A., Kieffer, M.J., & Pierce, M. (2010). Uneven profiles: Language minority learners' word reading, vocabulary, and reading comprehension skills. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 31, 475-483.

Lesaux, N.K. & Kieffer, M.J. (2010). Exploring sources of reading comprehension difficulties among language minority learners and their classmates in early adolescence. American Educational Research Journal, 47, 596-632.

Lesaux, N.K., Kieffer, M.J., Faller, E., & Kelley, J. (2010). The effectiveness and ease of implementation of an academic vocabulary intervention for linguistically diverse students in urban middle schools. Reading Research Quarterly, 45, 198-230.  [Highlighted as an Editors' Choice in Science, 328, 406.]

Mancilla-Martinez, J. & Kieffer, M.J. (2010). Language minority learners' home language use is dynamic. Educational Researcher, 39, 545-546.

Kieffer, M.J., Lesaux, N.K., Rivera, M., & Francis, D.J. (2009). Accommodations for English language learners on large-scale assessments: A meta-analysis on effectiveness and validity. Review of Educational Research, 79, 1168-1201.

Kieffer, M.J. (2008). Catching up or falling behind?  Initial English proficiency, concentrated poverty, and the reading growth of language minority learners in the United States. Journal of Educational Psychology, 100, 851-868.

Kieffer, M.J. & Lesaux, N.K. (2008). The role of derivational morphological awareness in the reading comprehension of Spanish-speaking English language learners. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 21, 783-804.  

Kieffer, M.J. & Lesaux, N.K. (2007). Breaking words down to build meaning: Vocabulary, morphology, and reading comprehension in the urban classroom. The Reading Teacher, 61, 134-144.  Reprinted in Graves, M. F. (ed.) (2009), Essential readings in vocabulary instruction.  Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

Policy & Practice Reports

Kieffer, M.J., Marinell, W.H., & Stephensen, N.S. (2011). Navigating the middle grades: Preliminary results from the middle grades transition study. Research Alliance for New York City Schools. Available from

Carnegie Council on Advancing Adolescent Literacy (2010).  Time to act: An agenda for advancing adolescent literacy for college and career success.  New York, NY: Carnegie Corporation of New York. Available from (Council coordinator and contributing author).

Morsy, L., Kieffer, M.J., & Snow, C. (2010). Measure for measure: A critical consumers' guide to reading comprehension assessments for adolescents.  New York, NY: Carnegie Corporation of New York.  Available from

Kieffer, M.J., Lesaux, N.K., & Snow, C.E. (2007). Promises and pitfalls: Implications of No Child Left Behind for identifying, assessing, and educating English language learners.  In Sunderman, G. (ed.), Holding NCLB accountable: Achieving accountability, equity, and school reform.  Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Francis, D.J., Lesaux, N.K., Rivera, M., Kieffer, M.J, & Rivera, H. (2006). Practical guidelines for the education of English language learners. Portsmouth, NH: Center on Instruction.  Available from

Manuscripts under Review

Jeffrey, J.V. & Kieffer, M.J. (under review). Defining writing proficiency: A comparative review of literature from the fields of TESOL and English education.   

Kieffer, M.J. (under review). Derivational morphological awareness, academic vocabulary, and reading comprehension in linguistically diverse sixth graders.

Kieffer, M.J. (under review). Reading and mathematics development during early adolescence: Do K-8 schools make a difference?

Kieffer, M.J. & Vukovic, R.K. (under review). Growth in reading-related skills of language minority learners and their classmates with and without reading difficulties.

Lesaux, N.K., Kieffer, M.J., & Kelley, J. (under review). Effects of academic vocabulary instruction for linguistically diverse adolescents: Evidence from a randomized field trial.

Vukovic, R.K., Bailey, S.P., Kieffer, M.J., & Harari, R.R. (under review). Mathematics anxiety in ethnically and linguistically diverse children in second grade. 

honors and awards

  • Semi-finalist, NAED/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship
  • Spencer Exemplary Dissertation Award
  • Spencer Dissertation Fellowship
  • International Reading Association Jeanne S. Chall Research Fellowship
  • National Academy of Education Adolescent Literacy Pre-doctoral Fellowship (funding declined)
  • Harvard University Presidential Fellowship
  • Harvard Graduate School of Education Jeanne S. Chall Research Travel Grant
  • Harvard Graduate School of Education Pre-doctoral Research Apprenticeship
  • Harvard Graduate School of Education Dean's Summer Fellowship
  • Stanford University President's Scholarship
  • Stanford University Booth Prize for Excellence in Writing

personal news



Principal Investigator (2011-2012). Exploring Heterogeneity in the Linguistic, Metalinguistic, and Reading Skill Profiles of Adolescent English Language Learners.  Funded by the Spencer Foundation.  $25,000.

An exploratory study describing heterogeneity in specific linguistic and metalinguistic strengths and weaknesses of English language learners in sixth grade classrooms.  This study aims to uncover subtypes of profiles that demonstrate hidden strengths to be leveraged and weaknesses to be addressed by reading instruction.      


Principal Investigator (2010-2012). English Language Learners' Growth in Mathematics and Reading during Early Adolescence: Do K-8 Schools Make A Difference?  Funded by the American Educational Research Association Grants Program with support from the National Science Foundation.  $35,000

A longitudinal, quasi-experimental study of the effects of transitioning to a middle school relative to remaining in a K-8 school on English language learners' growth trajectories in reading and mathematics, using public-use data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Cohort.  


Subproject Principal Investigator (2010-2011). Student Transitions through the Middle Grades. Subcontract in collaboration with the Research Alliance for New York City Schools with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (J. Kemple, PI).  $33,500.

A longitudinal study investigating change in students' attendance and achievement across transitions into, through, and beyond the middle grades as they predict probability of high school graduation, using administrative data from New York City Schools.    


Principal Investigator (2010). Academic Language and Disciplinary Reading Comprehension among Adolescent English Language Learners: An Exploratory Study. Seed funding provided by Teachers College Dean's Grant for Pretenured Faculty.  $7,500 

A pilot study to develop measures to investigate the roles of specific dimensions of academic language proficiency in reading comprehension of science and social studies texts for English language learners in the middle school grades.    

A&HT 4171: TESOL Methodologies for 7 - 12

Teaching ESL to secondary students, stressing content area ESL and second language literacy. Special fee: $15.

A&HL 4907: Research and independent study: Applied linguistics

Permission of instructor required. Research under the direction of a faculty member. Students work individually or with others. Course may be taken more than once.

A&HL 5207: Fieldwork in applied linguistics and TESOL

Permission of instructor required. Opportunity for qualified students, individually or in small groups, to develop and pursue projects, in consultation with an advisor, in schools, communities, and other field settings. Course may be taken more than once.

A&HL 6207: Advanced fieldwork in applied linguistics and TESOL

Permission of instructor required. Opportunity for qualified students, individually or in small groups, to develop and pursue projects, in consultation with an advisor, in schools, communities, and other field settings. Course may be taken more than once.

A&HL 6407: Internship:Applied linguistics/TESOL

A&HL 6907: Rsch/Indp St-Appl Ling/TESOL

A&HL 7505: Dissertation seminar in applied linguistics and TESOL

A&HL 8901: Dissertation advisement in applied linguistics

Dissertation advisement in applied linguistics