Dr. Akilah Nelson
The Special Education Policy, Finance, and Systems (Policy/Systems) topic supports research that contributes to the identification of systemic processes, procedures, and programs that improve the education outcomes for students with or at risk for disabilities from kindergarten through Grade 12. Rather than focusing on improving student outcomes by changing curricula or student-level intervention approaches, projects in this topic area include research on systems-level practices and policies (e.g., organizational strategies, financial and management practices) that are intended to improve the management, coordination, and implementation of systemic programs and services in ways that directly enhance the overall intervention or education environment and indirectly improve student outcomes.
Intervention and education for students with disabilities typically require the coordination of a variety of programs and services. Systems-level factors – including organizational resources and priorities at the school, district, and state levels (e.g., training, leadership, policies) – play a key role in supporting the implementation and sustainability of such interventions. However, little rigorous research has examined either direct causal relations or indirect associations between various systemic or organizational strategies and student outcomes. Originally three separate topics (Individualized Education Programs (IEP), Response to Intervention (RtI), and Assessment for Accountability), NCSER consolidated these topics in 2008 into the Policy/Systems program to support research more broadly on systemic processes, procedures, and programs that may be directly or indirectly linked to student outcomes. Research projects funded by this program have made contributions to our understanding of the accessibility and validity of standardized and alternate assessments for students with disabilities, the efficacy of RtI models in early childhood and elementary school, and professional development programs that improve IEP quality and implementation and student outcomes.
Since 2006, NCSER has invested over $37 million in the Policy/Systems program to support research projects across four research goals.
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