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UW Professor Part of Nearly $1.4 Million Special Education Research Grant

July 30, 2018
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Martin Agran

University of Wyoming Professor Martin Agran is part of a research team that recently received a nearly $1.4 million grant to examine relationships between educational placement and outcomes of elementary students with significant cognitive disabilities (SCD).

Agran, who coordinates the Special Education Program in the College of Education, will serve as a co-principal investigator for the project, “Factors Contributing to Academic, Social/Communication, and Behavioral Outcomes for Elementary Students with the Most Significant Cognitive Disabilities.”

The three-year project is funded by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), the statistics, research and evaluation arm of the U.S. Department of Education. Jennifer Kurth, of the University of Kansas, will lead the project. The other team members are researchers from the University of Kansas, University of Utah, University of North Carolina-Greensboro and University of Northern Colorado.

Agran says his involvement with the project will enhance the College of Education’s visibility as a research center and as a leader in the preparation of special education professionals.

The research team will collect and analyze data from about 150 elementary school students with SCD in approximately 76 schools in Wyoming and across the nation to learn more about how classroom placement affects academic, social and behavioral outcomes.

In self-contained classrooms, students with disabilities are grouped together and separated from their peers to provide the students with specialized interventions and support. Inclusive classrooms educate students with and without disabilities together in hopes that the students with disabilities will benefit by being included in a classroom with their peers.

Existing research suggests that self-contained, restrictive classrooms do not produce better learning outcomes than more inclusive settings. It is thought that an inclusive classroom might provide a student with better opportunities to make friends, improve social and communication skills, and increase learning outcomes. An inclusive environment also could benefit others in the classroom by encouraging social acceptance for those with disabilities by peers, teachers and administrators, researchers say.

“In special education, we have been advocates for inclusion for a long time; however, our advocacy was largely based on civil rights and moral values,” Agran says. “This project will, hopefully, provide empirical evidence to support inclusive placements.”

The College of Education includes discussions about inclusion in the curriculum for special education certificate and endorsement programs. Agran believes this new study will provide more in-depth data to support the faculty recommendations on the subject.

“The findings of this project may have a significant impact on the quality of education students with severe disabilities receive,” Agran says. “With greater empirical evidence to support more inclusive classroom placements, we can potentially promote inclusion, affect state policy and improve educational outcomes for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities.”

About the Institute of Education Sciences

IES is an independent and nonpartisan group that strives to provide scientific evidence as a base to guide education practice and policy, and to share information with educators, parents, policymakers, researchers and the public. The group’s work addresses school readiness and education from infancy through adulthood and includes populations such as English learners and students with disabilities.

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