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ASU, Oregon researchers measure academic growth of students with disabilities

January 09, 2012

Editor's Note: Arizona State University men’s basketball will take on the University of Oregon at 8:30 p.m., Jan. 12, in Tempe. The women’s teams play at 2 p.m., Jan. 14, in Eugene, Ore. Read more about ASU's collaborations with Pac-12 schools.

Measuring the academic growth in reading and mathematics for students with disabilities is the focus of a five-year research project underway at the University of Oregon, in partnership with Arizona State University.

Researchers at the schools have received a $11.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Educational Sciences to develop and test various approaches for measuring these students’ achievement growth. ASU’s portion of the grant is almost three and a half million dollars.

Stephen N. Elliott, Mickelson Foundation Professor of Education and the founding director of the Learning Sciences Institute at ASU, is a co-primary investigator on the grant.

The Learning Science Institute (LSI) is designed as a university-wide initiative to foster interdisciplinary collaboration among ASU researchers and to provide support for investigators who conduct externally-funded research on learning, the conditions and behaviors that influence it, and innovations that can maximize it.

Other co-primary investigators on the grant are Gerald Tindal and Joseph Stevens of the University of Oregon and Ann Schulte of North Carolina State University.

The work will be conducted through the National Research and Development Center on Assessment and Accountability for Special Education, headquartered at the University of Oregon.

The LSI hosted the first meeting in December to kick-off the grant work.  Attending were three PIOs, representatives from the Arizona Department of Education; and Joanna Gorin, Roy Levy and Alexander Kurz, all of ASU. 

“In this project we will conduct five major longitudinal studies of the growth in academic achievement of all students, with a keen focus on students with disabilities” says Elliott.  “We’ll study nearly a million students with disabilities in grades 3 to 8 from four states – Arizona, North Carolina, Oregon and Pennsylvania.

“Most of these students with disabilities are receiving the majority of their reading and math instruction in general education classrooms and are being held to the same achievement standards as their non-disabled peers.  Yet we know from the last 10 to 11 years of achievement data that fewer than 40 percent of students with disabilities are proficient in reading and math, according to their home state’s achievement standards.

“Educational leaders, parents and educators want to know why this is happening and what are reasonable achievement growth expectations for students with a wide variety of disabilities.  Our studies will address these questions and also provide other researchers and educational stakeholders technical advice on how best to measure and characterize the academic growth of these students.

“These studies have the potential to significantly influence educational policies and practices.”

Written by Sarah Auffret