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National Center for Special Education Research


Joan McLaughlin, Acting Commissioner of the National Center for Special Education Research

Joan McLaughlin

Commissioner of the National Center for Special Education Research

IES Director John Q. Easton announced that Joan McLaughlin, who has served as Acting Commissioner of the National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER) since July 2013, has been named Commissioner.

"I am so pleased that Joan has agreed to become the Commissioner of the National Center for Special Education Research for a six-year term. Joan has demonstrated her true mettle for this position over the past several months," Easton said. "We are all delighted with the prospect of working with her to advance IES's mission to provide rigorous and relevant research aimed at improving education outcomes for all students."

McLaughlin said, "It is an honor to serve as the Commissioner for the National Center for Special Education Research. Since awarding our first grants in 2006, the Center has made great strides in funding research that addresses critical issues in early intervention through high school transition. I am committed to continuing building knowledge through high quality research, including the use of state of the art methodology and technology, to help us understand how best to improve education outcomes for children with or at risk for disabilities. I am equally committed to maintaining our research training efforts to build research capacity in the field. I look forward to the continued support and commitment of the special education community to successfully accomplish this work."

McLaughlin first joined the Institute of Education Sciences as Deputy Commissioner of the National Center for Special Education Research in February 2009. In addition to her role as Deputy Commissioner, McLaughlin served as NCSER's program officer for the Early Intervention and Early Learning in Special Education grant program.

Prior to joining IES, McLaughlin spent 16 years working in the Education and Family Services area of Abt Associates Inc., a research consulting firm. While there, she served as principal investigator or project director for numerous evaluations of federal education, food assistance, and early childhood programs. McLaughlin has also served as a program officer in the Office of Analysis and Evaluation at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Service, where she oversaw design, process, and implementation studies of programs and initiatives focused on maternal and child health and child nutrition issues. She also served as a program analyst in the Program Evaluation and Methodology Division of the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

McLaughlin received her bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Notre Dame and her master's and doctoral degrees in developmental psychology from Cornell University.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is the federal law established to ensure that children with disabilities and families of such children receive access to a free appropriate public education and to improve educational results for infants, toddlers, and children with disabilities.
PDF File View, download, and print IDEA (PL 108-446, 2004) as a PDF file (422 KB)

Established by the Education Sciences Reform Act of 2002, the Institute of Education Sciences is the research arm of the Department of Education. Its mission is to expand knowledge and provide information on the condition of education, practices that improve academic achievement, and the effectiveness of Federal and other education programs. Its goal is the transformation of education into an evidence-based field in which decision makers routinely seek out the best available research and data before adopting programs or practices that will affect significant numbers of students.
PDF File View, download, and print ESRA (PL 107-279, 2002) as a PDF file (165 KB)

NCSER Summary of Research Findings 2006–2012

This document highlights findings from NCSER's program of research that targets infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities or who are at risk for developing disabilities. Findings include the identification of efficacious interventions, validation of assessments to identify children for earlier intervention, and the development of technological innovation to provide support and instruction for children with disabilities and their families.
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