Deborah L. Speece began her appointment as Commissioner of the National Center for Special Education Research on August 23. Following a whirlwind first week that saw both a rare DC earthquake and a hurricane, the new Commissioner sat down with Education Research News to talk about what first got her involved in special education research and what she hopes to accomplish during her tenure at IES.
Tell us a little bit about your background before joining IES. What made you get involved in special education research?
I have been in special education for over 35 years as a teacher, teacher educator, and researcher. The bulk of my career has been at the University of Maryland, College Park. My interest in special education began quite early, however, as one of my childhood friends had Down Syndrome. My friendship with her spurred my interest in understanding individual differences in learning and development.
You have a very strong background as both a researcher and a practitioner. What factors influenced your decision to join IES?
As they say, timing is everything. My research projects were entering carry-over years so I could leave them in the hands of my colleagues without too much additional work on their part. I also was on sabbatical leave last spring and gave serious thought to new avenues to pursue. So, these factors, in addition to my sense that the Commissioner had the freedom to influence the national special education research agenda, served to make NCSER an exciting opportunity to pursue.
What is your vision for NCSER and what kind of goals do you hope to accomplish during your time here?
I am in the process of establishing our goals. The Commissioner has an obligation to consult with many groups to identify gaps in our knowledge and prepare a research agenda to address the needs of children and youth with disabilities. These activities are underway both inside and outside IES. My hope is that NCSER will continue to fund research of the highest caliber that will produce results to address the challenges faced by students with disabilities, parents, and teachers.
For more on the new Commissioner, please visit the National Center for Special Education Research website.