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

Joan McLaughlin

Commissioner of the National Center for Special Education Research

Joan McLaughlin has served as the Commissioner of the Institute of Education Sciences National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER) since 2013. As Commissioner, Dr. McLaughlin has worked to strengthen the research grant and research training activities of the Center as well as efforts to disseminate the results of funded projects. She also initiated competitions in special education targeting research-practitioner partnerships to address issues of importance to States and local education agencies; a network of research teams focused on critical problems of policy and practice; systematic replication research; and analyses of NAEP process data to improve the administration of digital learning assessments and help identify needed enhancements to instruction. From 2009 to 2013, Dr. McLaughlin served as Deputy Commissioner of NCSER, as well as Program Officer for the Early Intervention and Early Learning in Special Education grant program. Prior to joining NCSER, Dr. McLaughlin spent 16 years working in the Education and Family Services area of Abt Associates Inc., a research consulting firm, where she led numerous evaluations of Federal education, food assistance, and early childhood programs. Dr. 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 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. Dr. 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.

About Us

The National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER), one of the four Centers within the Institute of Education Sciences, supports rigorous research on infants, toddlers, children, and youth with and at risk for disabilities through advancing the understanding of and practices for teaching, learning, and organizing education systems. NCSER supports such research through its research grants program to identify existing practices, programs, or policies that may be associated with student outcomes; develop new, or modify existing, interventions; evaluate the efficacy and effectiveness of fully developed interventions; and develop and validate measures and assessments. NCSER-supported Research and Development Centers aim to address important issues in special education by implementing large-scale but focused programs of research and leadership activities. Through its research training programs, NCSER supports institutions to train postdoctoral fellows, individual early career scientists, and methodology training institutes to develop the research skills in our next generation of special education researchers.

NCSER Program Officers

Sarah Brasiel
Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM)
Reading, Writing, and Language
Technology for Special Education
Research Grants Focused on NAEP Process Data for Learners with Disabilities

Jacquelyn Buckley
Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Competence

Akilah Nelson
Transition to Postsecondary Education, Career, and/or Independent Living
Families of Children with Disabilities
Systems, Policy, and Finance

Amy Sussman
Early Intervention and Early Learning

Katherine Taylor
Educators and School-Based Service Providers
Research Training Programs in Special Education
Research Grants Focused on Systematic Replication

Emily Weaver
Cognition and Student Learning
Autism Spectrum Disorders

Britta Bresina
Competitions related to Pandemic Recovery:
- Research to Accelerate Pandemic Recovery in Special Education grants program (324X)
- AI Institute collaboration with the National Science Foundation
- Math Learning Challenge