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College's National Center on Educational Outcomes receives grant of $45 million

Quenemoen_Rachel_140w_s.jpgThe U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) has awarded $45 million to the National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO) at the college's Institute on Community Integration to form a partnership that will develop innovative approaches to alternate assessments for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities in grades 3-12. The new National Center and State Collaborative (NCSC), funded by the Office of Special Education Programs in the USDOE, is a network of national centers and 19 states and is directed by NCEO senior research fellow Rachel Quenemoen and NCEO director Martha Thurlow.

Thurlow_2.jpgOver the next four years, NCSC will build a comprehensive assessment system based on the Common Core State Standards that includes project-developed tools and processes to support educators as they plan and provide appropriate instruction for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities. These supports will help Individualized Education Program teams accurately identify the learner characteristics and make appropriate decisions about how each student participates in the overall system of assessments.

In today's schools, all students with disabilities must be participating and making progress in a curriculum based on the academic content standards defined for all students, content that is age-appropriate, engaging, and challenging. Some educators have been concerned about instruction and assessments for such a highly varied group of students, since students with the most significant cognitive disabilities may learn and show what they know in different ways from their classmates. Quenemoen responds to these concerns saying, "Very early on in this work, we found startling evidence that students with the most significant cognitive disabilities were able to master and apply in meaningful ways the academic skills and knowledge that we never before had tried to teach them. We also know that development of new academic assessments cannot ensure improved outcomes for students without other high quality educational practices in place. That is why our project will develop not only a system of assessments to accurately reflect what the students have learned, but we will also build an integrated system of curriculum and instructional materials along with intensive professional development and support to build capacity in our schools to teach these students well."

The NCSC partners include NCEO as the host and fiscal agent, along with the National Center for the Improvement of Educational Assessment, the University of Kentucky's Human Development Institute, the College of Education at the University of North Carolina - Charlotte, and edCount. The 19 state partners are Alaska, Arizona, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Wyoming, and six U.S. entities in the Pacific Rim. Together they have 90,000 students with significant cognitive disabilities in grades 3-12.

For more information contact Rachel Quenemoen at quene003@umn.edu.

See the USDOE announcement.

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