Research Center Reports

Improving Student Learning By Supporting Quality Teaching: Key Issues, Effective Strategies

December 2011

This special report from the EPE Research Center examines teaching quality and student learning. It summarizes the state of research on teaching quality, the links to student learning, and the contextual factors that play an intermediating role in teaching and learning. It focuses on literature from both the K-12 system and the early-childhood arena that discusses teacher professional qualifications, models to improve and gauge quality instruction, and examples from the field. These findings are complemented by an overview of promising strategies for improving teaching quality and an original environmental scan of the investments made by major foundations in the area of teaching quality, including a list of the most influential actors in this area.

In conjunction with this release, the EPE Research Center and Education Week will be hosting a monthlong series of online chats in which leading experts in the field will engage in a lively, in-depth dialogue on critical issues facing special education today.

Schedule – Each Monday in November at 3-4 pm Eastern:
• November 3 – State of Special Education in the U.S.
• November 10 – Special Education and High School Reform
• November 17 – High School Completion and Transitions
• November 24 – Designing and Delivering Quality Special Education

Chat 1: The State of Special Education in the U.S.

11/3/2008 – 3-4pm Eastern

The nation’s schools educate more than 6 million students with disabilities, about nine percent of the school-age population. Nearly one-third of those disabled students are of traditional high school age. A new report from the EPE Research Center examines a variety of challenges central to understanding special education in the nation’s high schools, including the types of educational settings in which services are provided, the diagnosis of disabilities, overrepresentation of particular student groups, school discipline, academic achievement, high school completion and transitions into adulthood.

Please join EPE Research Center director and study author Christopher Swanson as he moderates a lively and wide-ranging discussion among leading experts on critical issues shaping special education in the nation’s schools.

About the Guests:

Patricia Guard is the deputy director of the Office of Special Education Programs, the division of the U.S. Department of Education serving the needs of children and youth with disabilities.

Candace Cortiella is director of the Advocacy Institute, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of people with disabilities.

Patti Ralabate is the Interim Associate Director for the Education Policy and Practice Department at the National Education Association, the nation’s largest professional employee organization.

Chat 2: Special Education and High School Reform

11/10/2008 – 3-4pm Eastern

High school reform has taken the nation by storm in recent years. High-profile initiatives have included efforts to raise standards and academic rigor, provide a more relevant educational experience, prepare students for college and the workplace, and recreate the American high school as an institution devoted to meeting the needs of each student on a more personalized level. How can these schools meet all of these general goals while also effectively serving student populations with distinct educational needs, such as students with disabilities?

Please join Education Week reporter Christina Samuels as she moderates a lively discussion with leading experts on the challenges of delivering high-quality special education services in the context of a reforming high school.

About the Guests:

Kim Sweet is executive director of Advocates for Children of New York, an organization working to secure quality and equal public education services for New York City’s most impoverished and vulnerable families.

David Bloomfield, an expert on special education and school district reform, is a professor and head of the Educational Leadership program at Brooklyn College and former president of New York’s Citywide Council on High Schools.

Laura Schulz, an experienced educator and organizational facilitator, is assistant principal of the ACCE Academy high school in Baltimore, where she managed the special education program.

Chat 3: High School Completion and Transitions

11/17/2008 – 3-4pm Eastern

Finishing high school and transitioning into adulthood represent a critical stage of life for all young people. Students with disabilities, like their peers, aspire to take part in a wide range of activities as they leave high school and enter adult life, including earning a diploma, going on to college, finding and holding down a job, engaging in civic life, living independently and starting a family. Yet, research shows that students with disabilities graduate from high school at lower rates than their peers and may face particular challenges when moving into adult roles.

Please join EPE Research Center director Christopher Swanson as he moderates a lively discussion examining the challenges facing students with disabilities in completing high school and preparing for the transition to adult life.

About the Guests:

David R. Johnson is a professor and associate dean at the University of Minnesota, where he serves as director of the National Center on Secondary Education and Transition.

Mary Wagner is director of Center for Education and Human Services at SRI International, a non-profit research organization, where she is principal investigator of the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 (NLTS2).

Chat 4: Designing and Delivering Quality Special Education

11/24/2008 – 3-4pm Eastern

Students with disabilities are served by a system of policy and practice that extends from expansive federal laws such as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) all the way down to the interactions between a single special education teacher and a single student within one classroom. Actors along this entire continuum – federal and state officials, school district administrators, and school-level educators – all play critical roles in designing and delivering a quality schooling experience for students with disabilities.

Please join Education Week reporter Christina Samuels as she moderates a lively discussion about challenges associated with developing, implementing, and managing special education programs at different levels of the nation’s education system.

About the Guests:

Nancy Reder is director of Government Affairs for the National Association of State Directors of Special Education, an organization working with states to improve outcomes for students with disabilities.

George Theoharis, a former teacher and principal, is a professor in the Department of Teaching and Leadership at Syracuse University, where he studies classroom inclusion practices and other special education issues.

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