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The National Special Education Research Agenda: Inside the Matrix. The National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER) in the Institute of Education Sciences (IES): But… What exactly is the Institute of Education Sciences? (And, what happened to OSERS and OSEP?).

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The National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER) in the Institute of Education Sciences (IES): But…What exactly is the Institute of Education Sciences? (And, what happened to OSERS and OSEP?)

idea reauthorization in 2004
IDEA Reauthorization in 2004
  • Amended the The Education Sciences Reform Act of 2002 to establish the National Center for Special Education Research in the Institute of Education Sciences (IES)
  • Transferred responsibility for special education research and “Studies and Evaluations” (except for the Annual Report) from the Office of Special Education Programs to NCSER.
the charge legislative branch
The Charge: Legislative Branch

Research, statistical, and evaluation activities supported by the Institute shall “apply rigorous, systematic, and objective methodology to obtain reliable and valid knowledge … and present findings and make claims that are appropriate to and supported by the methods that have been employed.” (ESRA, 2002)

ies goals
IES Goals
  • develop or identify programs, practices, policies, and approaches that enhance academic achievement and that can be widely deployed
  • identify what does not work and what is problematic, and thereby encourage innovation and further research
  • gain fundamental understanding of the processes that underlie variations in the effectiveness of education programs
  • develop delivery systems for the results of education research that will be routinely used by practitioners and the public when making education decisions
organizational structure
Organizational Structure

Office of the Director

Grover J. Whitehurst, Director

National Board for Education Sciences

Robert C. Granger,


Sonia Chessen,

Executive Director

Office of Communication and Outreach

Mike Bowler,

Director of Communications and Outreach

Office of Administration and Policy

Sue Betka,

Deputy Director for Administration and Policy

Office of Science

Andrew White,

Deputy Director for Science

Office of Information Technology

Gerald Malitz,

Chief Information Technology Officer

organizational structure7
Organizational Structure

Office of the Director

Grover J. Whitehurst, Director

National Board for Education Sciences

Robert C. Granger,


Sonia Chessen,

Executive Director

National Center for Education Statistics

Mark Schneider,


National Center for Education Research

Lynn Okagaki,


National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance

Phoebe Cottingham,


National Center for Special Education Research

Edward J. Kame’enui,



The National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER) in The Institute of Education Sciences (IES):In Appreciation of Hartley’s First Law

hartley s first law

Hartley’s First Law

You can lead a horse to water,

but if you can get him to float on his back, you’ve got something.

Bloch, A. (1982). Murphy’s law and other reasons why things go wrong. LA: Price/Stern/Sloan Publishers, Inc.

five organizing principles

Five Organizing Principles


National Center for Special Education Research in the

Institute of Education Sciences

ncser organizing principles
NCSER Organizing Principles

1. The “science” must come first--


Ode to Feynman

This phenomenon of having a memory for the race, of having an accumulated knowledge passable from one generation to another, was new in the world. But it had a disease in it. It was possible to pass on mistaken ideas. It was possible to pass on ideas which were not profitable for the race… Then a way of avoiding the disease was discovered… And that is what science is: the result of the discovery that it is worthwhile rechecking by new direct experience, and not necessarily trusting the race experience from the past (p. 185).

Richard P. Feynman (1999). The pleasure of finding things out.

Cambridge, MA: Perseus Publishing.


“We’ve done well…now there’s an opportunity to really be amazing--to be amazing as a business, to be amazing in the positive impact that we have on society. But we have to do some things a little bit differently to be as amazing as we hope we can be.” Steve Ballmer, CEO, MicrosoftBusiness Week, June 17, 2002 (

Invoking the Ballmer Standard

ncser organizing principles14
NCSER Organizing Principles

1. The “science” must come first--and it must be the best, perhaps even “amazing.”

methodological statistical issues
Methodological & Statistical Issues
  • Traditional issues: Highly nested nature of student performance in complex systems that provoke complex interactions among range of variables (familial, social, pedagogical, curricular, organizational) compounded by heterogeneity of student characteristics/performance; comorbidity.
  • Quantitative synthesis (meta-analysis) of single-case research to identify effective educational interventions;
  • Statistical power for random assignment evaluations of programs and interventions; etc.
evidence based education
Evidence-based Education
  • Using the best available empirical evidence in making decisions about education

-- Particularly for students with disabilities

ies ncser practice ta d
IES NCSER + Practice (TA & D)

Simple Formula

1. R - TA & D = Irrelevant

2. TA & D - R = Irresponsible

3. R + TA & D = Relevant & Responsible

What Does This Mean?

  • Levels of evidence process & mechanisms
levels of evidence on what works
Levels of Evidence on What Works
  • Meta-analyses of high quality evidence
  • Experiments and well designed quasi-experiments using WWC standards (including small n designs)
  • Statistical modeling of correlational and longitudinal data
  • Best practice studies with matching and contrastive analysis
  • Expert opinion supported by conceptual models and generalizations from high quality research on related topics
  • Simple correlational studies, case studies, pre-post studies, and best practice studies w/o matching
what can cec do
What Can CEC Do?
  • Establish a “Scientific Advisory Council” to anchor the primacy of science in CEC
  • Advocate & insist upon rigorous scientific standards in special education research + TA & D (and within organization)
  • Adopt levels of evidence to adjudicate/promote research-to-practice translation
  • Launch a public awareness campaign to inform parents about importance of science
president s fy 2006 education final appropriations in millions of dollars
President’s FY 2006 Education Final Appropriations (in millions of dollars)
  • Title I Grants to LEAs = $12,713 million (largest portion of NCLB programs)
  • Reading First/Early Reading First = $1,132 million
  • Research in special education and studies and evaluation = $82 million (0.11% of total ED monies)
  • Total Education Appropriation = $71,545 million


comparison of fy2006 appropriations with other federal agencies millions of dollars
Comparison Agency

Defense Budget Authority = $419,341

Homeland Security Authority= $34,152

Secret Service Agency = $1,200

Environmental Protection Agency = $7,571

Total Federal Budget = $2,568 (in billions of dollars)

Comparative % for NCSER ($82 million):

0.02% monies authorized as compared to DOD

0.24% of monies authorized as compared to DHS

6.83% of monies authorized as compared to Secret Service Agency

1.08% of monies authorized as compared with the EPA

0.003% of total monies authorized

Comparison of FY2006 Appropriations with other Federal agencies (millions of dollars)


federal research and development spending proposed fy 2006
Federal Research and Development Spending (Proposed: FY 2006)
  • Total Across Federal Agencies = $132,304 million
  • Federal agencies include: DOD, HHS, NASA, DOE, NSF, USDA, DHS, DOC, DOT, DVA, DOI, EPA, and Other
  • “R&D” is characterized as “basic research, applied research, development, R& D equipment or R&D facilities”.
  • NCSER Appropriation = $81.7 million (0.06% of R&D monies)
  • Reference:
ncser organizing principles23
NCSER Organizing Principles

2. Because the special education “problem space” is infinitely broad and complex, we must invest wisely and strategically.

features of ncser research matrix
Features of NCSER Research Matrix

NCSER Statutory responsibilities: 18

Disability Statutory categories: 12+

Total Research Matrix cells: 18 x 12 = 216

ncser evidence map just one of 216 cells

Disability Category: Specific Learning Disabilities

Age—Growth & Development x Time









(4)-(6) Grades 1

through 3


Grades 4 through 12


School to post-school, post-secondary, etc.

Early Childhood

School Age


(1) Speech and Language Development

(2) Beginning Reading (Learning to Read)

(3) Content Reading

(Reading to Learn)

(4) Etc.

NCSER Evidence Map: Just One of 216 Cells
fy 2006 ncser research programs
FY 2006 NCSER Research Programs
  • Reading & Writing Special Education Research
  • Math & Science Special Education Research
  • Special Education Teacher Quality – Reading/Writing
  • Special Education Teacher Quality – Math/Science
  • Early Intervention and Assessment for Young Children with Disabilities
fy 2006 ncser programs cont d
FY 2006 NCSER Programs (cont’d)
  • Assessment for Accountability Special Education Research
  • Individualized Education Programs Research
  • Serious Behavior Disorders Special Education Research
  • Secondary and Post-Secondary Outcomes Special Education Research
  • Language and Vocabulary Development Special Education Research
fy 2007 grant competitions
FY 2007 Grant Competitions
  • Early Intervention, Early Childhood Special Education, and Assessment for Young Children with Disabilities
  • Mathematics and Science
  • Reading, Writing, and Language
  • Serious Behavior Disorders
  • Assessment for Accountability
fy 2007 grant competitions31
FY 2007 Grant Competitions
  • Individualized Education Programs and Individualized Family Service Plans
  • Secondary and Transition Services
  • Quality of Teacher and Other Service Providers for Students with Disabilities
  • Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • Response to Intervention
r esearch grant program goals
Research Grant Program Goals

Goals differ by topic area, and include:

  • Goal 1: Identifyingpromising practices.
  • Goal 2: Developing and testing new approaches.
  • Goal 3: Conducting efficacy and replication trials.
  • Goal 4: Conducting large scale evaluations.
  • Goal 5: Developing and validating assessments.
ncser organizing principles33
NCSER Organizing Principles

3. Research in “special education” is at the heart of the National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER) in IES.

public law 108 446 december 3 2004 118 stat 2647 108 th congress
Public Law 108-446—December 3, 2004 118 STAT. 2647 - 108th Congress

USC 1401 Sec. 602. DEFINITIONS

  • “(29) SPECIAL EDUCATION.—The term ‘special education’ means specially designed instruction, at no cost to parents, to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability, including—
    • “(A) instruction conducted in the classroom, in the home, in hospitals and institutions, and in other settings; and
    • “(b) instruction in physical education.
specially designed instruction

special institutions

teaching strategies

curricular programs

special support

special learning

general programs

Design = Architecture of information

Individualized Education Program (IEP)

AND “Related Services”


Specially Designed Instruction
ncser organizing principles36
NCSER Organizing Principles

4. Building the research capacity of the field is not a “Lone Ranger” endeavor: Collaboration and consultation are essential.

the charge customers
The Charge: Customers
  • Make research more practical
  • Fill gaps in knowledge
  • Provide digested and vetted findings
  • Consider products for end users
  • Consider expanding current IES research grammar and goal structure
office of special education and rehabilitative services osers

Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS)

Dr. Troy Justesen, Deputy Assistant Secretary

Dr. Alexa E. Posny, Director, Office of Special Education Programs


Dr. Lou Danielson, Director of Research to Practice


John Hager, Assistant Secretary

ode to boren s first law
Ode to Boren’s First Law

5. Good science is good “business” for everyone; but good science is not enough. Results must lead to the engineering of high quality performance and delivery systems.


“Why the Global Economy Is Here To Stay”

Jeffrey E. Garten, Dean, Yale School of Management

(Business Week, March 23, 1998, p. 21)

Delivering some 2.8 million packages in 210 countries each day, FedEx is pushing globalization faster and deeper…because it is using information technology to reengineer its clients’ worldwide supply and distribution systems…FedEx can…electronically track where any shipment is at any given moment, and it can guarantee on-time delivery.


“Cream of the Crop,” Alison Peacock.

Horizon Air, April, 1998, p. 12-17.

“A computerized system keeps track of how much milk each cow gives each time. Obrist can look up any cow on his computer and track her milking yields for weeks at a time, noting at a glance when she is at peak production or if her health is ailing” (p. 13).

engineering systems
Engineering Systems

IT Systems (including digital technology) that permit, for example:

  • the large scale, real time management of a range of student performance data at the district, school, and classroom levels, including the real time management of individualized education programs (e.g., FedEx; Dairy Farmers);
  • greater and faster accessibility to the full range of print materials;
  • accountability and information management systems linked to student performance and results
harsh realities
Harsh Realities
  • We have more cells than research dollars. Most cells are either empty or partially filled. None of the cells are completely filled. Where should NCSER make investments for the short and long term? What organizing principles and values should guide these decisions?
  • Space and time is at least three-dimensional: Investments must reflect a long-term horizontal view (breadth) with vertical short-term investments (depth) that vary over time, complimented with diagonal investments when possible/feasible (depending on quality of research from field).
harsh realities cont d
Harsh Realities (Cont’d)
  • What is the capacity of the field to deliver the research “goods”? The quality of the research infrastructure and capacity is essential to good science and research.

Needed: Short and long-term investments in building professional capacity that is interdisciplinary, rigorous, and content intensive in special education as a primary discipline.

harsh realities cont d46
Harsh Realities (cont’d)
  • What is the capacity of the U.S. Department of Education and the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) to deliver the goods?
  • What are the mechanisms for obtaining input from the field—individuals and parents/ caregivers of children and individuals with disabilities, professional organizations, stakeholders and the general public—on the research investments?
stockmayer s theorem

Stockmayer’s Theorem

If it looks easy, it’s tough.

If it looks tough, it’s damn well impossible.

Bloch, A. (1982). Murphy’s law and other reasons why things go wrong. LA: Price/Stern/Sloan Publishers, Inc.

the home of evidence based education
The home of

evidence-based education