Overview and Vision
Reform efforts in general and special education have often followed parallel
but separate tracks. Unfortunately, the reforms in general education had
limited attention given to students with disabilities and special educators
have not entered or been invited into the dialogue generated by these reforms.
Special education and other programs addressing the needs of young people with
disabilities cannot evolve in isolation from broader national policy interests
and reforms. Together, special and general educators must seek to redefine
what they do and the results they will achieve for students with disabilities
and their families.
The Research Institute was developed out of the need to enhance the dialogue
between general and special educators and to identify practices that appear to
be effective with all students. Building on the extant research in secondary
special education, authentically based achievement standards, and school
restructuring processes, the Research Institute developed and implemented a
strategic program of research. The mission of the institute is to expand the
current knowledge base related to practices and policies in secondary schools
that enhance learning, achievement, and related post-school outcomes for
students with disabilities.
The elaboration of a vision of high quality learning for youth with
disabilities is central to all efforts to improve educational policy,
practice, and research. Developed through school-based action research
programs, this vision integrates the elements of authentic pedagogy (Newmann
& Wehlage, 1995) with the essential attributes of learning experienced by
youth that learn differently and in diverse ways. This elaborated vision of
learning, which we refer to as Schools of Authentic Inclusive Learning (SAIL),
will illustrate the potential for learning by all students in diverse and
inclusive classrooms. In developing a full understanding of authentic
inclusive learning, the Institute will be guided by two principles: Schools
and educators from a diverse set of organizational and demographic settings
must be full partners in the discovery, development, replication, and
dissemination of effective practices that enable youth with disabilities to
achieve high standards for academic learning.
Research programs and designs must enable participating schools and
universities to enhance their capacities for action research, continuous
professional learning, redesigning preservice teacher preparation, and
improving the educational outcomes for students in participating schools.
Over the five-year Institute several key activities are being undertaken:
recruiting and training graduate students and teacher-researcher teams at
participating schools, designing and conducting action research programs for
five integrated strands of inquiry, documenting the progress of the Institute
in informing the vision of authentic inclusive pedagogy, and disseminating
findings to key audiences using information technologies and a network of
outreach and dissemination partners.
The field studies undertaken at each action research site will examine
interventions and practices affecting youth with the full range of
disabilities, disruptive youth, youth with multiple and severe disabilities,
and other students who are served outside of regular classrooms. Figure
1 provides a conceptual framework that aligns the Institute’s research
agenda with the model of successful school restructuring.
Newmann, F. M., & Wehlage, G. G. (1995). Successful
school restructuring: A report to the public and educators by the Center on
Organization and Restructuring of Schools. Washington, DC: Association for
Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Research Institute on Secondary Education Reform for Youth with
File last updated: February 7, 2003
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