The University of Minnesota’s National Center on Educational Outcomes has been awarded $45 million from the U.S. Department of Education to help students with severe cognitive disabilities.
The NCEO will partner with 19 states, researchers and teachers to develop a common assessment for students with severe cognitive disabilities, said Rachel Quenemoen, a senior research fellow working on the project.
The project will focus on K-12 students, Michael Moore, with NCEO, said.
Each state already has assessments in place that tell the public and the federal government how well kids are doing in public schools, Quenemoen said. Standards differ from state to state.
Before the new system was put in place, states had no way to compare assessment scores with each other, Quenemoen said. "All you could do was say, ‘How is this state doing compared to itself?’ "
Last week, the University was one of two groups awarded grants to develop assessments for students with cognitive disabilities.
Over four years, researchers at NCEO will work with 19 states to develop a common assessment to be used in many states so officials will be able to measure and compare how well students perform across states.
"We’ll have a common assessment based on common standards across the states, and those states will be able to use that in their assessments," Quenemoen said.
NCEO will also be building resources to develop curriculum and instructional material to help students perform.
"Just assessing kids without supporting public educators in schools to understand how to teach them better when they’re not doing so well isn’t particularly productive," Quenemoen said.
An attractive feature for researchers is that they will be able to work one-on-one with teachers.
"This grant is truly a research to practice partnership … and that’s really an opportunity," Quenemoen said. "Often university-based researchers don’t have the luxury of really sitting down and thinking together with practitioners … and come up with something that ultimately will improve outcomes for kids."