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Special Education Research and Development Centers





Principal Investigator:

Tindal, Gerald


University of Oregon


Special Education Research and Development Centers [Program Details]

Award Period:


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R&D Center

National Research and Development Center on Assessment and Accountability for Special Education

Purpose: The increased demand for accountability in education focused on improved student academic performance has led to many questions about the most accurate method for capturing individual student progress, particularly for students with disabilities. Although there is a substantial amount of existing research on the characteristics of students with disabilities and assessment of their abilities and skills for purposes of classification and intervention, far less is known about the natural developmental progress in achievement for students with disabilities. The primary aims of this project are to identify academic growth trajectories of students with disabilities and develop and test practical and relevant methods of accurately measuring academic growth for students with disabilities for use in accountability systems. The ultimate objective of the Center is to develop assessment methods that schools can use to (1) accurately assess the academic progress of students with disabilities and (2) improve the quality of education provided to students with disabilities, leading to improved student outcomes.

Projects: The Center's primary research will involve three simultaneous strands of research across Years 1–5: (1) Cornerstone Study; (2) Multi-State Extension Study; and (3) Interim Assessments Study.

Focused Program of Research

Cornerstone Study

The research team will use North Carolina statewide achievement data with approximately 90,000 elementary students without disabilities and 13,000 students with disabilities across 1,100 schools. The team will also examine approximately the same number of middle schools students with and without disabilities across 550 schools. They will compare strategies for characterizing students' achievement growth. The strategies will include multilevel modeling to model student growth and proficiency (2- and 3-level models); calculating grade-level growth and achievement gaps between students with disabilities and their peers using an effect size approach; and characterizing growth of students with disabilities with a growth percentiles approach. The team will test the generalizability of the findings across time, cohorts, and editions of the North Carolina test by replicating key analyses from the first year. They will also analyze the degree to which the reliability and validity of inferences about school effectiveness are affected by missing data or attrition.

Multi-State Extension Study

The research team will repeat the same overall analysis strategy in the Cornerstone Study to examine student growth and the validity and applicability of different options for measuring student growth and school effects. They will use datasets from Arizona, Oregon, and Pennsylvania—states that vary in terms of demographic characteristics, educational systems, content standards, assessments, and procedures related to identifying and serving students with disabilities.

Interim Assessments Study

The status, residual gain score, and multilevel growth models will be used to examine achievement growth within and across schools using interim assessments administered by the four partner states. The growth results will cover grades 1–8, be based on several measures of achievement per year, and be compared to the growth results based on statewide summative assessments. The team will also estimate the out-of-school changes in student achievement during the summer and examine whether changes are different for students with disabilities compared to their peers without disabilities. Finally, the team will examine how well growth on the state summative assessments can be predicted using interim assessments and other school context and characteristics variables.

Key Personnel: University of Oregon: Gerald Tindal, Joe Stephens, Gina Biancarose, Paul Yovanoff, Keith Zvoch; University of Arizona: Stephen Elliott, Joanna Gorin, Roy Levy, Alexander Kurz; North Carolina State University: Anne Schulte

Center Website:

IES Program Contact: Dr. Jacquelyn Buckley
Telephone: (202) 219-2130

Publications from this project:

Nese, J. F. T., Biancarosa, G., Anderson, D., Lai, C. F., & Tindal, G. (2012). Within-year oral reading fluency with CBM: A comparison of models. Reading and Writing, 25, 887–915. doi: 1007/s11145–011–9304–0.

Elliott, S.N., Kettler, R.J., Zigmond, N., & Kurz, A. (2013). Modified alternate assessment participant screening consortium: Lessons learned (pp. 87–124). In Thurlow, M., Lazarus, S. & Bechard, S. (Eds.), Lessons Learned in Federally Funded Projects That Can Improve the Instruction and Assessment of Low Performing Students with Disabilities, Minneapolis, MN:NCEO.

Elliott, S.N., & Kurz, A. (2013). MyiLOGS: Technology for optimizing teachers' instructional progress management. In R. Atkinson (Ed.), Learning environments: Technologies, challenges, and impact assessment. Hauppauge, NY: Nova Science Publishers.

Elliott, S.N., Rodriquez, M.C., Roach, A.T., Beddow, P.A., Kettler, R.J., & Kurz, A. (2013). Consortium for modified alternate assessment development and implementation: Lessons learned (pp. 167–204). In Thurlow, M., Lazarus, S. & Bechard, S. (Eds.), Lessons Learned in Federally Funded Projects That Can Improve the Instruction and Assessment of Low Performing Students with Disabilities, Minneapolis, MN: NCEO.

Kamata, A., Nese, J. F. T., Patarapichayatham, C., & Lai, C. F. (2013). Modeling nonlinear growth with three data points: Illustration with benchmarking data. Assessment for Effective Intervention, 38, 105–116.

McKevitt, B.C., Elliott, S.N., & Kettler, R.J. (2013). Testing accommodations for children with disabilities (722–734). In C.R. Reynolds (Ed.), Oxford Handbook of Psychological Assessment of Children and Adolescents, New York: Oxford University Press, Inc.

Nese, J. F. T., Biancarosa, G., Cummings, K., Kennedy, P., Alonzo, J., Tindal, G. (2013). In search of average growth: Describing within-year oral reading fluency growth for grades 1– 8. Journal of School Psychology. Advance online publication.

Elliott, S.N., Roach, R.T., & Kurz, A. (2014). Evaluating and advancing the effective teaching of special educators with a dynamic instructional practices portfolio. Assessment for Effective Intervention, 39(2), 83–98. DOI: 10.1177/1534508413511491.

Kurz, A., Elliott, S.N., Kettler, R.J., & Yel, N. (2014). Assessing students' opportunity to learn the intended curriculum using an online teacher log: Initial validity evidence. Educational Assessment, 19, 159–184. doi: 10.1080/10627197.2014.934606

Stevens, J. J., Schulte, A. C., Elliott, S. N., Nese, J. F. T., & Tindal, G. (2014). Mathematics achievement growth of students with and without disabilities on a statewide achievement test. Journal of School Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1177/0014402914563695

Nese, J. F. T., Tindal, G., Stevens, J. J., & Elliott, S. N. (2015). The Influence of multiple administrations of a state achievement test on passing rates for student groups. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 23 (79), 1–24.

Saven, J. L., Anderson, D., Nese, J. F. T., Farley, D., & Tindal, G. (2015). Patterns of statewide test participation for students with significant cognitive disabilities. Journal of Special Education. DOI: 10.1177/0022466915582213

Schulte, A. C., & Stevens, J. S. (2015). Once, sometimes, or always in special education: Mathematics growth and achievement gaps. Exceptional Children. Advanced online publication. doi: 10.1177/0014402974563695

Roach, A.T., Kurz, A., & Elliott, S.N. (in press). Using personalized instructional feedback data to facilitate opportunity to learn for students with disabilities. Preventing School Failure.

Elliott, S.N., (in press). Measuring opportunity to learn and achievement growth for students with disabilities: Future research needed. Remedial and Special Education.

Tindal, G., Nese, J. F. T., Farley, D., Saven, J. L., and Elliot, S. (in press). Documenting reading achievement and growth for students taking alternate assessments. Exceptional Children. doi: 10.1177/0014402915585492

Tindal, G., Nese, J. F. T., Stevens, J., & Alonzo, J. (in press). Growth on oral reading fluency measures as a function of special education and measurement sufficiency. Remedial and Special Education.

Zvoch, K., & Stevens, J. J. (in press). The graphic representation of findings from the National Center on Assessment and Accountability for Special Education. In M. McCrudden, G. Schraw, & C. Buckendahl (Eds.), Use of visual displays in research and testing: Coding, Interpreting, and Reporting Data. Charlotte, N. C.: Information Age Publishing.