It’s encouraging to see a focus on research in special education and learning disabilities aligned to a Federal strategy. The National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) and the Learning Disabilities Association of America (LDA) submitted comments to the Institute for Education Sciences (IES) of the U.S. Department of Education on the future work of the National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER). NCSER solicited input from researchers, policymakers, and stakeholders as they determine what issues need specific attention and how best to communicate the results of research to practitioners. With the strong emphasis on evidence-based practices, LDA and NCLD felt it was of critical importance that IES and NCSER hear from families and practitioners with expertise in learning disabilities. Respondents were also asked what new topics NCSER should prioritize for future research. NCLD and LDA addressed the following:
- Systems issues that directly impact student outcomes, such as the impact of budget cuts and eligible services, reasons for the decreasing number of children identified as having a disability, impact of early intervention on educational outcomes, collaborative teaching models, knowledge translation to reach the classroom level, the role of specialized instructional support personnel and their impact on student achievement, and the impact of various education reform efforts (i.e., college and career ready standards and assessments) on students with disabilities.
- Elements that support success for students with learning disabilities, prioritizing research that provides a better understanding of the factors and interventions that support positive learning outcomes.
- Research to support accurate identification of specific learning disabilities, including more research on processes such as multi-tiered systems of support and other approaches as part of a comprehensive evaluation.
- Effectiveness of multi-tiered systems of services and supports on distinguishing students with specific learning disabilities from struggling learners.
- Examination of interventions addressing specific learning disabilities and co-occurring disabilities.
- Reinforcing the important role of cultural competency through the IES grant process by emphasizing diversity in the grant applications.
- Closer investigation of research questions that will assist both general and special educators to provide a high-quality education to students with learning disabilities.
- Research on improving educator preparation, including general and special education teachers and specialized instructional support personnel, to meet the needs of students with learning disabilities.
These are fantastic research topics that will hopefully result in positive programs and outcomes. As a parent and stakeholder, I would encourage active participation with these groups and initiatives and help make a real difference.