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Research To Accelerate Pandemic Recovery in Special Education: Grantee Spotlight Blog Series Featuring Dr. Alyson Collins

Today, we would like to introduce Dr. Alyson Collins, associate professor of special education at Texas State University. Dr. Collins’ project, Turning the TIDE, aims to accelerate student outcomes by providing professional development in implementing text-based writing instruction to general and special education teachers working collaboratively in grades 3 and 4.

*Responses have been edited for brevity and clarity.

National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER): How would you describe your research project in a sentence?  

Headshot of Dr. Alyson Collins

Dr. Alyson Collins: Turning the TIDE aims to accelerate student outcomes by providing and evaluating professional development (PD) in text-based writing to general and special education teachers in grades 3 and 4.  

NCSER: What was the need that inspired you to conduct this research? 

Dr. Alyson Collins: One source of inspiration came from another ongoing exploration project (IES Award R324A180137; PI Stephen Ciullo), which examines how general and special education teachers deliver writing instruction to students with disabilities. As part of the project, our team administered a survey to fourth-grade general and special education teachers. The survey indicated fewer than 20% of special and general educators felt adequately prepared to teach writing to students with and at risk for disabilities (Graham et al., 2022). Therefore, our findings identified a need to provide special and general educators PD in writing to help them feel more prepared to address the needs of students with disabilities. Turning the TIDE will provide the necessary PD for these teachers to collaboratively deliver intensive intervention in text-based writing to students with and at risk for disabilities. PD and ongoing coaching for teachers will also alleviate the increasing pressure to address student learning loss resulting from pandemic-related service disruptions for students with disabilities.  

NCSER: What outcomes do you expect to change with this research? 

Dr. Alyson Collins: We anticipate changing student learning outcomes in writing, as well as teacher outcomes. We expect students who receive the intervention in self-regulated strategy development (SRSD) will demonstrate higher performance on literacy outcomes when compared to students who continue to receive typical classroom instruction (i.e., students in the control condition). Specifically, we will examine outcomes on student measures of text-based writing, writing without text, self-efficacy for writing, reading comprehension, and the new statewide integrated literacy assessment (State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness [STAAR®]). We expect the intervention will rapidly accelerate writing performance of students with and at risk for disabilities because SRSD is an established, evidence-based intervention for helping students plan and compose informative essays after reading texts. Moreover, a previous study conducted by our team measured positive student writing outcomes within a short time frame (approximately 16 weeks) when SRSD for text-based writing was implemented by general education teachers in grade 3 (Collins et al., 2021). In addition, we anticipate teachers who receive PD and ongoing coaching in SRSD will report higher self-efficacy and knowledge for teaching writing to students with disabilities, which addresses teachers’ expressed need for more preparation in how to teach writing and how to adapt instruction for their students. 

NCSER: What inspired you to do research in special education?   

Dr. Alyson Collins: Our team is inspired and committed to special education research because of our professional experiences as teachers. In addition, we all possess a curiosity about what works, with whom, and under what conditions. I spent 9 years as an elementary school teacher, and in 5 of those years, my primary teaching responsibility was to provide small-group intervention in reading and writing to students with and at risk for disabilities. Over the years, I had opportunities to lead PD within my district and mentor teachers as they learned new literacy interventions. Through these experiences, I discovered the joy it brought me to help other teachers grow in their profession, particularly when it also helped students learn to read and write. Stephen Ciullo (co-PI) was a special education teacher and observed the need for greater support in promoting effective co-teaching as well as equipping teachers with writing strategies. Karen Harris and Steve Graham (co-PIs) have committed more than 40 years of their careers to investigating writing processes and developing writing interventions (including the SRSD instructional framework) for students with disabilities. Collectively, our inspiration to do research in special education stems from our curiosity and experiences as teachers.  

NCSER: Why is this particular research project important to you?  

Dr. Alyson Collins: I began my career as a general education inclusion teacher in kindergarten. Each year, I had multiple students with disabilities in my class. At the time, I was fortunate to have an amazing team of special education teachers and paraprofessionals who partnered with me to ensure all students had opportunities to succeed in school. Therefore, I am particularly passionate about increasing communication and collaboration between general and special education teachers because I have observed firsthand how students make greater gains when these two groups of teachers work together. 

This project also provides more attention toward elementary students’ writing development and ensures teachers have the resources necessary to support students in learning to write. As a teacher, I had a wide range of reading interventions readily available, but I had far fewer interventions to support students in writing. Yet many of my students with disabilities were in dire need of intensive intervention in writing. Therefore, this project will make new resources available to teachers so they can support students with disabilities with the challenges they face when writing. 

NCSER: How do you think this grant will impact special education?  

Dr. Alyson Collins: We believe this project will make a positive impact on multiple aspects of special education. In recent years, educational standards have increasingly emphasized the integration of reading and writing instruction, and developing proficiency in writing from texts is critical for student success at the secondary level as well as college and career readiness. Our project aims to provide further evidence for using SRSD to accelerate text-based writing of students with and at risk for disabilities. Expanding the SRSD evidence base for text-based writing ensures teachers and students with disabilities have access to interventions that will ensure their future success.  

In addition, our project focuses on special and general educators participating in PD together and collaboratively delivering interventions to students with and at risk for disabilities. We aim to establish a model for intensifying and differentiating instruction through strategic planning and targeted instruction for students in need of intensive intervention in writing. Information on how general and special teachers work together to implement SRSD could help guide school districts in planning future PD programs. Turning the TIDE will also address the need to provide both general and special education teachers more PD in writing. 

Finally, our project will also examine the effectiveness of online, self-paced PD modules as an alternative to in-person PD for teachers. Findings could have great impact on special education if there is no difference in student and teacher outcomes when teachers receive PD through the online modules, because the online platform would provide education agencies with a more cost-effective and scalable approach to providing PD to large numbers of teachers. 

NCSER: How will this project address challenges related to the pandemic?  

Dr. Alyson Collins: Prior to the pandemic, national assessments of literacy consistently revealed achievement gaps between students with disabilities and students without disabilities in writing and reading skills. Unfortunately, school closures and changes to special education service delivery during the pandemic further underscored the need to provide additional support in writing for these students. Turning the TIDE aims to accelerate student learning by providing hands-on professional development for teachers and ongoing instructional coaching in a framework called self-regulated strategy development (SRSD). SRSD is an evidence-based practice, as recognized by the What Works Clearinghouse, with more than 40 years of research proving its effectiveness in improving students’ writing, making it an ideal framework to address the pandemic-induced gap in literacy skills of students with and at risk for disabilities. (For more on SRSD, see this blog.) In addition, the procedures and SRSD instruction that will be used by teachers holds great potential to rapidly accelerate the writing performance of students with and at risk for disabilities within a short time frame (approximately 16 weeks) because our prior study offers evidence of the intervention effectiveness when implemented by general education teachers in grade 3 (Collins et al., 2021). 

NCSER: What are some of the biggest challenges in special education research today? 

Dr. Alyson Collins: One of the biggest challenges in special education research is recruitment. Teachers consistently report “having too much on their plate” or “feeling overburdened with new initiatives and time-consuming paperwork.” Consequently, even if research activities require minimal time commitments, teachers are hesitant to participate in research because they do not have the capacity to take on one more thing. Moreover, more teachers are leaving the profession each day. Therefore, recruitment is a huge challenge because research cannot be conducted in schools without teachers supporting the activities.

Now more than ever, special education researchers need to find new ways to support our nation’s teachers and clearly demonstrate how special education research positively impacts school practice. We also need to ensure we are designing research projects that will yield findings with practical importance and can make meaningful changes to what happens in public schools. 

NCSER: What’s one thing you wish more people knew about children and youth with or at risk for disabilities?  

Dr. Alyson Collins: Student with and at risk for disabilities are capable of great achievements when their teachers, parents, and peers believe in them and empower them to become independent learners. If you support students with setting reasonable and attainable goals, students will rise to the challenge. If you model a process for students, they will have the knowledge to replicate the same procedures. If you validate that writing is hard, they will make a powerful personal connection with you. Students with and at risk for disabilities need someone to believe they can succeed and the strategies to do so. 

“If you validate that writing is hard, they will make a powerful personal connection with you. Students with and at risk for disabilities need someone to believe they can succeed and the strategies to do so.” 

NCSER: What are some of the most exciting news/innovations/stories that give you hope for the future of special education research?  

Dr. Alyson Collins: The time we have spent with teachers during the PD in our Turning the TIDE project has renewed our passion for partnering with general and special education teachers. Several teachers shared how they rarely have opportunities to sit down and plan with their co-teacher because general and special education teachers are often required to attend different PDs. This ignited my excitement because it hits home as to why we set out to implement this project. I am hopeful because there are teachers in the field who welcome opportunities to bridge communication and collaboration between general and special education instruction. More importantly, many teachers still care about making a difference in their students’ lives and seek effective interventions for facilitating their students’ academic progress. This desire gives me hope we can all make meaningful and impactful changes in students’ lives when we all work together.  

NCSER: What are some of the future goals for you and your team? 

Dr. Alyson Collins: One of our future goals is to identify models of PD with potential to reach a wide range of teachers and students across the U.S. PD models must be supported by research evidence as being effective, but they also need to be feasible and cost-effective for public schools. Our team aims to continue to support efforts that increase access and sustainability of evidence-based writing interventions.  

Another goal of our team is to continue to explore current, everyday teacher practices. We often make assumptions about what PD should be provided to teachers, yet we rarely consider sources of information such as observations of current practice or expressed needs in surveys to strategically plan teacher PD. Therefore, we plan to pair our exploration research with information collected in the current project to help education agencies develop PD models that align with identified teacher needs and support sustained long-term implementation. 

Finally, our team is also engaged in an ongoing, comprehensive meta-analysis of empirical research of writing interventions in grade K to 5 (IES Award R305A200363, PI Alyson Collins). Synthesizing existing research alongside innovative investigations of evidence-based instruction (i.e., the current Turning the TIDE project) will help the field of education identify for whom and under what conditions writing interventions are most effective. Ultimately, our goal across both projects is to ensure students receive effective instruction to support their development into proficient writers. 

Thank you for reading our conversation with Dr. Alyson Collins! Come back tomorrow for our next grantee spotlight!  

Research To Accelerate Pandemic Recovery in Special Education: Grantee Spotlight Blog Series Featuring Dr. Sarah Powell

Today, we’ll take you through our conversation with Dr. Sarah Powell, associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Powell’s project, Math SPIRAL: Specialized Intervention to Reach All Learners, evaluates an educator-provided mathematics intervention for students in grades 4 and 5. We hope you enjoy this conversation as much as we did!

*Responses have been edited for brevity and clarity.

National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER): How would you describe your research project in a sentence?  

Headshot of Dr. Sarah Powell

Dr. Sarah Powell: We work collaboratively with teachers and support them, through professional development, in providing math tutoring to students in grades 4 and 5. 

NCSER: What was the need that inspired you to conduct this research?  

Dr. Sarah Powell: There are too many students who are not meeting minimum levels of math proficiency, and the state of Texas passed legislation to help these students by requiring that they receive small-group instruction. Our project provides support to the teachers who do this small-group instruction and tests the impact of this support on student math outcomes.  

NCSER: What outcomes do you expect to change with this research?  

Dr. Sarah Powell: We expect teacher instructional practices to improve, especially around the use of evidence-based practices to teach math. We would also expect student math outcomes to improve when those students receive tutoring from the teachers in our project.  

NCSER: What inspired you to do research in special education?   

Dr. Sarah Powell: In middle school, I struggled with math and received poor math grades. In ninth grade, I had a math teacher who explained math in a way that helped me understand. As I spent time in schools as a teacher, I saw other students struggle with math like I did. When I learned how research can help improve math outcomes for students, I was in! 

NCSER: Why is this particular research project important to you?  

Dr. Sarah Powell: Prior to this project, most of my research was on intervention design and the testing of those interventions. It was very focused on the student. With SPIRAL, we are working with teachers and trying to improve teaching practices without a specific curriculum in place.  

NCSER: How do you think this grant will impact special education?  

Dr. Sarah Powell: This grant has the opportunity to impact what we know about best practice for providing math professional learning and coaching to math teachers. This grant also has the potential to determine if student math outcomes can improve when teachers participate in collaborative learning about best practices for the teaching and learning of math. Researchers may also learn more about conducting studies using regression discontinuity design in schools.  

NCSER: How will this project address challenges related to the pandemic?  

Dr. Sarah Powell: In Texas, the majority of students, including students with disabilities, did not meet minimum levels of math proficiency in 2021. This project addresses a challenge that more students than usual are experiencing difficulty with math, and many math teachers are providing small-group instruction who have not provided such support before.  

“Children with or at risk for disabilities start to enjoy math when they start to see small successes with their learning. Math can be for all!

NCSER: What are some of the biggest challenges in special education research today?  

Dr. Sarah Powell: Collaborating with school partners has become more difficult when schools have more and more students who experience difficulty with reading and math. Many schools feel overwhelmed, so finding the time to collaborate with researchers is not necessarily a priority.

NCSER: What’s one thing you wish more people knew about children and youth with or at risk for disabilities?  

Dr. Sarah Powell: Children with or at risk for disabilities start to enjoy math when they start to see small successes with their learning. Math can be for all! 

NCSER: What are some of the most exciting news/innovations/stories that give you hope for the future of special education research?  

Dr. Sarah Powell: I am enthralled in all the conversations about the “science of reading” and the recognition that many schools have been teaching reading according to beliefs instead of evidence. The math story is the same–and I am hopeful we can start to focus on the teaching and learning of math in order to improve math outcomes for all students.  

NCSER: What are some of the future goals for you and your team?  

Dr. Sarah Powell: Continue to develop strong partnerships with our local school districts and continue to respond to their needs–SPIRAL is an example of that. We all work hard and want to continue to improve the math outcomes of students and ensure all students have access to evidence-based math instruction.  

Thank you for reading our conversation with Dr. Sarah Powell! Come back tomorrow for our next grantee spotlight!  

 

ED/IES SBIR: Highlights from 2022 & Announcing the New 2023 Program

The Department of Education’s Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR), which IES administers, funds the research, development, and evaluation of new, commercially viable education technology products. Known as ED/IES SBIR, the program’s goal is to grow a portfolio of products that are research-based and ready to be widely deployed to address pressing educational needs.

Over the past decade, the program has become known for investing in new entrepreneurial innovations, such as products by Future Engineers and Schell Games, as well as for supporting the transfer of evidence-based research into products that can be used in practice at scale, such as projects by Learning Ovations and Analytic Measures.

ED/IES SBIR: A Look Back at 2022

ED/IES SBIR products were used by millions of students, educators, and administrators to support remote and in-person learning.  Many companies, including MidSchoolMath, Education Modified, Sirius Thinking with partner Success For All, and PocketLab, earned new district contracts and licensing agreements to adopt their technologies at scale. Many companies also won industry awards for innovations on the basis of their ED/IES SBIR products.

With its 2022 awards, ED/IES SBIR continued to invest in emerging areas of education technology, funding projects that use artificial intelligence to personalize learning and generate real-time insights for educators to inform instruction, facilitate real-world learning, and support integrating arts in education and learning. Also in 2022, ED/IES SBIR launched a new “Direct to Phase II” program to support the scale up of existing evidence-based researcher developed innovations through the development of new education technology products. One award was made through this program.

Checkout the IES/ED SBIR News Archive for more information about our 2022 highlights.

ED/IES SBIR Releases Three 2023 Program Solicitations

On January 12, 2023, ED/IES SBIR released three solicitations, requesting proposals for Phase IA, Phase IB, or Direct to Phase II projects. The submission deadline for all three solicitations is March 13, 2023. The URL links to each solicitation on SAM.gov can be found on this page.

This year’s Phase I program introduces a new, two-track approach to stimulating innovation and research.

  • A “Phase IA” solicitation requests proposals for projects to develop a prototype of an entirely new education technology product, where no previous technological development has occurred. The goal of the Phase IA track is to stimulate novel approaches to solve pressing problems in education.
  • A “Phase IB” solicitation requests proposals for projects to develop a prototype of a new component to be added to an existing education technology prototype or product. The goal of the Phase IB track is to strengthen existing research-based prototypes or products in addressing pressing problems in education. Offerors interested in submitting a proposal for Phase IB must demonstrate that the existing prototype or product is research-based and that an additional investment in a new component to be integrated with what already exists is warranted. All Phase IA and IB proposals are for projects lasting 8 months for $250,000. All successful 2023 Phase I awardees will be eligible to submit a Phase II proposal in 2024 for $1M for full-scale development and evaluation.

A “Direct to Phase II” solicitation requests proposals for 2-year projects for $1,000,000 for the full-scale R&D and evaluation of new education technology products to ready existing evidence-based innovations (products, programs, or practices) for use at scale in education settings, and to plan for commercialization.  The existing education innovation is required to have originally been created by researchers at either universities (or other academic institutions) or non-profit education research organizations. Proposals must be submitted by a for-profit small business per the eligibility requirements of the SBIR program.


Stay tuned for updates on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn as IES continues to support innovative technology and research.

Edward Metz (Edward.Metz@ed.gov) is a research scientist and the program manager for the Small Business Innovation Research Program at the US Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences.

Research To Accelerate Pandemic Recovery in Special Education: Grantee Spotlight Blog Series Featuring Dr. Megan York Roberts

Today, we present you with Dr. Megan York Roberts, associate professor at Northwestern University. Dr. Megan York Roberts’ project, Reducing Time to Autism Diagnosis for Toddlers Enrolled in Early Intervention, tests a virtual process for diagnosing autism spectrum disorder to support earlier access to autism-specific intervention services in Illinois. 

*Responses have been edited for brevity and clarity.

National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER): How would you describe your research project in a sentence?  

Headshot of Dr. Megan York Roberts

Dr. Megan York Roberts: This research project aims to test a new autism diagnostic pathway that will ultimately reduce time to diagnosis.  

NCSER: What was the need that inspired you to conduct this research?  

Dr. Megan York Roberts: As an intervention researcher, I was frustrated by the barriers families face in accessing timely specialized intervention services (which requires an autism diagnosis). For example, families often have to navigate an entirely new system to access an autism evaluation in Illinois. First, they have to find where they can get an evaluation; then they have to wait for several months for the appointment, and then they must figure out how to access additional services. This lift is just too much for caregivers, especially those who aren’t familiar with the early intervention (EI) or medical system and what services may be available to them. Each of these barriers increases the length of time a child and their family go without services and supports.

NCSER: What outcomes do you expect to change with this research?  

Dr. Megan York Roberts: I hope that children will be able to receive an autism evaluation sooner, which will lead to quicker access to specialized intervention services. An autism diagnosis is often referred to as the “golden ticket” to additional specialized services. I want all families who need this ticket to get it as soon as they want it. I also want families to have a positive experience with the diagnostic process. I want them to feel heard and I want them to feel like we have seen their whole child. At the end of this grant, I want to have a new autism diagnostic pathway that: (a) allows families to receive a timely, culturally responsive, and neurodiversity-affirming evaluation, and (b) includes open-access training materials to support EI clinicians’ widespread implementation of this diagnostic approach.

NCSER: What inspired you to do research in early intervention?   

Dr. Megan York Roberts: I was an early-intervention clinician in upstate New York for several years and realized that the period from birth to three years of age is also one of the most important developmental periods; there is so much potential to impact a child’s long-term outcomes when intervention is implemented during this period of heighted neuroplasticity.  

NCSER: Why is this particular research project important to you?  

Dr. Megan York Roberts: This is the first research project that will have an immediate, real-world impact for 1,200 children in Illinois who will be able to access an autism diagnostic evaluation sooner, while simultaneously providing the necessary data to potentially change how we diagnose autism across the U.S. and in the future.  

NCSER: How do you think this grant will impact early intervention?  

Dr. Megan York Roberts: I hope that the data from this grant will lead to a new autism diagnostic pathway that exists within EI systems, as opposed to the current medical model. Right now, the primary option for toddlers enrolled in EI in Illinois is to receive an autism evaluation by a physician. This is problematic because there are very few physicians who provide these evaluations as part of the EI medical diagnostic process. If EI clinicians (with appropriate training) were allowed to diagnose autism, this would drastically increase the number of evaluation slots, thereby reducing the time to diagnosis.

NCSER: How will this project address challenges related to the pandemic?  

Dr. Megan York Roberts: The pandemic drastically increased the waitlists for autism diagnostic evaluations; in some cases, the wait is 24 months. I hope that this project drastically reduces or eliminates this wait for children enrolled in EI in Illinois.  

NCSER: What are some of the biggest challenges in early intervention research today?  

Dr. Megan York Roberts: I think there are two big challenges. First, we struggle to recruit study samples that represent all children enrolled in early intervention. Second, implementation in real-world settings continues to be challenging. For example, despite decades of research supporting the use of caregiver coaching, most caregivers do not receive coaching.  

NCSER: What’s one thing you wish more people knew about children and youth with or at risk for disabilities?  

Dr. Megan York Roberts: Early intervention should not be about “fixing” a child, but rather thinking about how we can change the context such that the child is better able to learn, develop, and thrive. 

“Early intervention should not be about ‘fixing’ a child, but rather thinking about how we can change the context such that the child is better able to learn, develop, and thrive.

NCSER: What are some of the most exciting news/innovations/stories that give you hope for the future of early intervention research?  

Dr. Megan York Roberts: When we applied for this grant, we posted about our need for letters of support on Instagram. We received hundreds of responses from clinicians saying that they were so excited for the project and that they would be willing to participate. This gives me such hope that all of us (caregivers, clinicians, researchers) can work together to solve really important problems.  

NCSER: What are some of the future goals for you and your team?   

Dr. Megan York Roberts: We want to do more community-based participatory work in which we engage stakeholders (caregivers, EI clinicians) in all parts of the research process, from designing the study to interpreting the results.  

Thank you for reading our conversation with Dr. Megan York Roberts! Check back in next week!

Research To Accelerate Pandemic Recovery in Special Education: Grantee Spotlight Blog Series Featuring Dr. Jeong Hoon Choi

Today, we want to present to you Dr. Jeong Hoon Choi, assistant research professor at the University of Kansas. Dr. Choi’s work focuses on testing whether Resources Aligned and Integrated for Student Equity (RAISE)—a systematic, data-informed decision-making process—improves the academic and behavioral outcomes of elementary school students with or at risk for disabilities. We hope you enjoy learning more about Dr. Choi’s work as much as we did! 

*Responses have been edited for brevity and clarity.

National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER): How would you describe your research project in a sentence? 

Dr. Jeong Hoon Choi: The project is designed to examine the efficacy of a decision-making procedure (called RAISE) that integrates and aligns general and special education resources at all levels of an equity-based, multi-tiered system of support (MTSS) with inclusive instructional strategies and family and community engagement to enhance instruction for students with or at risk for disabilities in general education settings. 

NCSER: What was the need that inspired you to conduct this research? 

Dr. Jeong Hoon Choi: Equity-based MTSS can be a powerful way to provide equitable and inclusive education; however, the most intensive level (tier) of support of the equity-based MTSS is still often considered the same as special education, and thus not all students who need the support have access to available resources offered within the prevention and instruction system. It is also expected that all students with or at risk for disabilities—regardless of their cultural, gender, and socioeconomic backgrounds—can more effectively learn when educators are making decisions that include all available resources and instructional strategies, regardless of tier level. My colleagues and I agreed that proper responses to this issue can accelerate the recovery from the pandemic and minimize the likelihood of overidentification of disability. 

NCSER: What outcomes do you expect to change with this research? 

Dr. Jeong Hoon Choi: The RAISE model provides tools and guidance for grade-level and school-wide teams to review data and make instructional decisions for students with or at risk for disabilities. The research investigates the impact of the implementation on student academic scores, measured by benchmark assessments, and behavior, measured by the major office discipline referrals (ODRs). In the meantime, changes in the adult problem-solving behavior at the grade-level/school-wide team meeting will be examined. 

NCSER: What inspired you to do research in special education? 

Dr. Jeong Hoon Choi: The education of students with or at risk for disabilities seems to be the most complicated issue. It is highly associated with other social and educational issues, such as racial equity, poverty, cultural diversity, social class, ableism, and so on. Our previous special education research studies regarding school reform, system change, and school leadership led us to apply to NCSER’s pandemic-recovery competition for support to conduct this study. 

NCSER: Why is this particular research project important to you? 

Dr. Jeong Hoon Choi: The impact of the pandemic is huge, especially for those who may have experienced or are experiencing learning regression as a result. Students with or at risk for disabilities may experience its impact more acutely and for a longer time. We have observed outcome improvements for this population with equity-based MTSS implementation in other projects. The current research’s rigorous design will contribute to understanding how to address such regression in academic and social skills.

NCSER: How do you think this grant will impact special education? 

Dr. Jeong Hoon Choi: The findings of the current project, if successful, will provide a practice model for special and general educators to work together within grade-level and school-wide teams to use data to align and integrate general and special education resources to better support students with or at risk for disabilities. The project will produce knowledge of the usable and feasible implementation of RAISE in authentic conditions on valued student outcomes. The products of this research will be a set of support resources to strengthen routine data practices to intensify support for students to engage with the general education curriculum. 

NCSER: How will this project address challenges related to the pandemic? 

Dr. Jeong Hoon Choi: The pandemic not only caused some students to experience regression in academic learning and social and behavioral skills, but also a high level of educator burnout. The project is designed to provide guidance to use data and plan academic, social, and behavior instruction. In addition, RAISE encourages school teams to routinely work as a team with special educators, utilize students’ strengths and needs when making decisions, and connect and share progress with various stakeholders. The teaming, collaborative decision-making, and resource mapping embedded in this data-use routine will provide educators with emotional support and solutions that work for their classrooms and students. 

“The concept of disability is socially and historically constructed. Education ought to be able to deal with diverse academic, behavior, and social-emotional learning needs without applying labels to students that may limit the expectations of the educators who instruct them.

NCSER: What are some of the biggest challenges in special education research today? 

Dr. Jeong Hoon Choi: Special education, as it is known, is a multi- and cross-disciplinary field that integrates education, health, mental health, policy, community and family services, and so on. No doubt the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) has led to improved results for students with disabilities. The next level of research in special education should be large-scale and longitudinal studies to investigate the impact of special education or related practices, such as inclusive education, in the community with other multidisciplinary group members. The biggest barriers would include limited data access, disconnected data-based communication among general and special education, and inconsistent data collection across SEAs/LEAs and over time. 

NCSER: What’s one thing you wish more people knew about children and youth with or at risk for disabilities? 

Dr. Jeong Hoon Choi: The concept of disability is socially and historically constructed. Education ought to be able to deal with diverse academic, behavior, and social-emotional learning needs without applying labels to students that may limit the expectations of the educators who instruct them. 

NCSER: What are some of the most exciting news/innovations/stories that give you hope for the future of special education research? 

Dr. Jeong Hoon Choi: The most exciting part since I started working on special education research is that more research funding has been available to study system change, school climate, and multidisciplinary collaboration (especially between general and special education). I personally hope to see joint funding opportunities between general and special education research agencies in the future. 

NCSER: What are some of the future goals for you and your team? 

Dr. Jeong Hoon Choi: We at SWIFT Education Center received three federal awards from the Department of Education this year. These awards support the following projects: 1) National Center on Inclusion toward Rightful Presence (from the Office of Special Education Programs), 2) Supporting Effective School Leaders through Professional Learning and Resources for Equity Leadership and Educator Well-Being (from the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education), and 3) Resources Aligned and Integrated for Student Equity (RAISE): A Protocol for Grade-Level Teams to Intensify Instruction for Students with or at Risk for Disabilities (from IES). Although these projects have methodological differences, all three include research components. Findings from those research activities will allow us to build knowledge regarding how equity-based MTSS works for various populations, including students with or at risk for disabilities and economically, culturally, and socially disadvantaged students. We will continue to work on equity and excellence in education. 

Thank you for reading our conversation with Dr. Jeong Hoon Choi! Come back tomorrow for our next grantee spotlight!