ICI and Avinashilingam University for Women in Coimbatore, India, organized a milestone gathering this year. The first International Summit on Inclusion and Response to Intervention. Funded by the Obama-Singh 21st Century Knowledge Initiative and held at Avinashilingam University, the summit was attended by over 250 education leaders from seven nations who gathered to learn about and discuss engaging all children, including those with disabilities, within their schools and communities.
The organizers – ICI’s Brian Abery and Renáta Tichá , and Avinashilingam University’s Premavathy Vijayan and G. Victoria Naomi – have collaborated for the past three years on a project between India and the U.S. fostering use of the Response to Intervention (RtI) education framework. A culmination of that project, the summit equipped participants to take back to their organizations a wealth of information about these approaches to education, and stimulate lasting systemic change in how children with disabilities are educated.
ICI’s National Center on Educational Outcomes marked its 25th anniversary this year by continuing to provide leadership to ensure inclusion of all students in large-scale educational assessments in the U.S. NCEO, which is directed by Martha Thurlow , provided guidance for the accessibility and accommodations work of consortia and organizations nationwide that are developing general assessments, English language proficiency assessments, and assessments for students with significant cognitive disabilities. In addition to continuing its long-standing work with collaborators such as the English Language Proficiency Assessment for the 21st Century consortium (ELPA21), Council of Chief State School Officers, and State Collaborative on Student Standards (SCASS), NCEO launched two new assessment projects with states: ALTELLA (Alternate English Language Learning Assessment), and DIAMOND (Data Informed Accessibility - Making Optimal Needs-based Decisions). Most English language learners (ELLs) with the most significant cognitive disabilities are not included in assessments of English language proficiency. As a result, there is little evidence of how ELLs are progressing toward English mastery to ensure their success in school and path to college, career, and community readiness. This year ALTELLA , which is funded by the U.S. Department of Education through a subcontract from the Arizona Department of Education, began establishing a foundational knowledge base to support the development of an alternate assessment of English language development.
It applies the lessons learned from the past decade of research on assessing ELLs and students with significant cognitive disabilities – as separate groups – to develop an English Language Proficiency assessment based on alternate performance standards for ELLs with significant cognitive disabilities. DIAMOND , which is funded by the U.S. Department of Education through a subcontract from the Minnesota Department of Education, is improving the validity of assessment results and interpretations for general education students with documented needs, students with disabilities, English learners (ELs), and ELs with disabilities. This year it began developing guidelines for educators to use in making informed decisions about accessibility features and accommodations, promoting a decision-making process that moves beyond the use of a checklist to one that relies on the use of classroom progress data and other measures charted over time to evaluate individual student needs. DIAMOND is a collaboration between NCEO and the state departments of education in Minnesota (lead), Alabama, Connecticut, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and the Virgin Islands, where its guidelines will be pilot-tested.
ICI’s Global Resource Center for Inclusive Education , directed by Renáta Tichá and Brian Abery, worked with partners around the world this year to improve educational services and practices for students with disabilities. Among the many highlights were the launch of two new projects, one in Armenia and one in Siberia. In Armenia, ICI and Armenian State Pedagogical University (ASPU) began a new partnership funded by UNICEF Armenia to support inclusive education. ASPU is the only university in Armenia that trains both general and special education personnel, and as the country is making education more inclusive, there is a critical need for training, knowledge dissemination, and technical assistance to assist with this endeavor. This has paved the way for the new collaboration, which is identifying, testing, sharing, and implementing inclusive education practices that can be adapted to Armenia.
Tichá and Abery received new funds this year to expand an existing collaboration with Krasnoyarsk State Pedagogical University (KSPU) in Siberia that resulted in establishment of the International Institute on Progress Monitoring (IIPM) in Fall 2014. Since 2014 the IIPM has developed and implemented progress monitoring tools and strategies for students with significant cognitive disabilities in Russia and the U.S., including an app for tablet computers that measures student performance on outcome measures to be used with students with the most significant cognitive disabilities. The new funding through the Eurasia Foundation’s U.S.–Russia University Partnership Program will support ongoing academic and cultural exchange of research, priorities, and policies between educators from the two universities, and sustain the work of IIPM longer term.