How to read research

I sometimes note how much I’d like to help policy makers learn to discriminate between evidence- and bologna-based educational programs. Apparently, I’m not alone.

The US Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy, a non-profit promoting excellence in government, is offering a workshop for public-sector administrators on understanding research that should form the basis of public policy. Because I couldn’t find a page about the workshop on the Web site, I’m taking the unusual action of reprinting the Coalition’s announcement of the workshop.

How to Read Research Findings to Distinguish Evidence-Based Programs from Everything Else

Tools for Public Officials and Other Stakeholders to Become Independent Experts,

Offered by Recognized Leaders in Evidence-Based Reform

Washington DC, April 8, 2008

Evidence-based policy reform is an important new development in American government, requiring new skills of public officials, staff, and other stakeholders. Requirements for rigorous evaluation and the use of evidence-based programs now appear in Congressional legislation, Office and Management and Budget (OMB) guidance, and federal agency grant solicitations in many diverse areas of policy. These developments offer the potential to bring rapid, evidence-driven progress to areas such as education, employment and training, crime and justice, early childhood programs, substance abuse prevention, and international development assistance. Key precedents include medicine, where evidence-based policy has produced remarkable advances in human health over the past half-century; and welfare, where rigorous evaluations built actionable knowledge about “what works,” setting the stage for the successful, bipartisan welfare reforms of the 1980s and 90s.

Our workshop teaches the core skill needed to be an effective practitioner of evidence-based policy: The ability to read a study and readily assess whether it produced valid evidence of a program’s effectiveness.

This core skill is needed, for example, to –

  • Distinguish the few programs in your policy area that are truly backed by valid evidence from everything else that claims to be, without having to rely on outside “experts” whose biases and capabilities are unknown;
  • Sponsor a study that is capable of generating valid evidence about a program’s effectiveness; and
  • Explain research results to key colleagues and stakeholders in a clear and persuasive way, so as to enlist them as partners in your efforts.

Acquiring this core skill is straightforward: A one-day workshop on key principles, followed by weekly “brown-bag” conference calls providing hands-on, coached experience in reviewing actual studies.

The workshop will take place on Tuesday, April 8, 2008 at the Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy from 9:00 to 4:00, with lunch provided. The weekly follow-up sessions will be held over a 12-week period, via 45-minute conference calls at the noon hour. In these sessions, participants will gain hands-on experience reviewing actual studies in a small-group setting facilitated by Coalition staff, with the goal of becoming independent experts. Participants are encouraged to suggest studies to review in these sessions.

Our background: A nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, we’ve played a leadership role in advancing evidence-based reforms through our work with top Congressional and federal agency policymakers:

Our work with Congress and OMB helped create a new evidence-based home visitation program at HHS in the FY 08 Appropriations Act (Public Law 110-161).
We helped OMB develop new guidance for the federal agencies on What Constitutes Strong Evidence of a Program’s Effectiveness.
Our work with Congress has yielded important advances in Congressional support for rigorous – preferably randomized – evaluations in education, crime prevention, and other areas.
We’ve conducted previous workshops on evidence-based policy for OMB, the Departments of Education and Labor, the Congressionally-established Academic Competitiveness Council, and others.
We developed and manage one of the leading U.S. websites of evidence-based programs – Social Programs That Work (
A recent independent assessment of our work found we’ve been “instrumental in transforming a theoretical advocacy of evidence-based policy among certain [federal] agencies into an operational reality.”
Logistics and Cost

When: Tuesday, April 8, 2008, 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., with lunch provided. 12 follow-up sessions via conference call each Tuesday thereafter, starting at noon.

Where: The April 8th session will be held at the Council for Excellence in Government (1301 K Street, NW, Suite 450 West, Washington DC 20005)

Who: Public officials and staff, policy analysts, program providers, and other stakeholders. A research background is not required.

Cost: $520 for the one-day workshop and 12 follow-up sessions. As a nonprofit organization, we price our workshops as inexpensively as we can to reach the widest possible audience.

Deadlines: The deadline for registration and payment is Tuesday, April 1st. Space is limited, and our previous workshops have filled up quickly.

How to register: Please register via our website at

Payment Information: Credit card payments are preferred; we also accept checks (payable to the Council for Excellence in Government) and purchase orders. To process your payment, please contact David Anderson at (, 202-530-3284).

Questions?: Please contact David Anderson (, 202-530-3284).

Development of the workshop curriculum is funded through a grant from the William T. Grant Foundation.

JANE 4 sped?

Given the proliferation of professional journals in special education, it might seem difficult to determine appropriate places to publish one’s work. Of course, we surely don’t have as much difficulty as those in biological sciences, where journals focused on sub-sub-specialities exist. To help folks in those disciplines, perhaps a dose of artificial intelligence would be helpful.

In “Reducing the cost of facilitating peer review,” Peter Suber described and commented on a script that recommends journals that would be suitable outlets for one’s writings. Mr. Suber’s post, which appeared in Nature Network, referred to a Martijn J. Schuemie and Jan A. Kors’ “Jane: Suggesting Journals, Finding Experts” from Bioinformatics. Here’s a snippet from Mr. Steel:

Abstract: With an exponentially growing number of articles being published every year, scientists can use some help in determining which journal is most appropriate for publishing their results, and which other scientists can be called upon to review their work.

Jane (Journal/Author Name Estimator) is a freely available web-based application that, on the basis of a sample text (e.g., the title and abstract of a manuscript), can suggest journals and experts who have published similar articles.

I recall the advice of a writing professor with whom I studied as an undergraduate. He told me I should submit a piece of short fiction to a magazine and then, in preparation for receiving a rejection, address envelopes to other magazine editors where I would hope it would be published and stuff each envelope with a submission letter. I should then stack those envelopes in the order of my estimate of their magazines’ prestige. If it was rejected by one I was simply to put a copy of the ms. in the next envelope in the stack and mail it in the next day’s mail.

I also recall the sage comment of my colleague Mike E., who said something similar. He finished his recommendation with a maxim: “John, for every manuscript, there is a journal.”

More about JANE:
Mr. Schuemie and Mr. Kors’ original. “Jane: Suggesting Journals, Finding Experts
Mr. Suber’s Reducing the cost of facilitating peer review
Savvy comment from Nature blog by Maxine Clarke (here) and an unsigned note here and >.

Politics and ed research

In “‘Scientific Research’ and Policymaking: A Tool, Not a Crutch,” Frederick M. Hess and Jeffrey R. Henig present concerns about how research affects educational policies and how public policymakers use educational research.

These are heady times for education researchers. The No Child Left Behind Act famously endorses the use of “scientifically based research,” the federal Institute of Education Sciences has elevated the profile of rigorous scholarship, and presidential candidates tout studies on teacher quality, testing, and school choice. Advocates market favorable social science evidence and enlist sympathetic researchers as spokespersons. This attention can tempt researchers to oversell their findings and policymakers to overinterpret them—confusing our understanding of what “scientific research” can and cannot teach us when it comes to education policy.

We write as two individuals housed in very different institutions and frequently on opposing sides in polarized policy debates, both having just published books plumbing the impact of research on education policy. One sits in a school of education; the other in a Washington think tank typically described as “conservative.” Despite our differences, we share the concern that undisciplined claims about the power of research can stand in for careful thinking, foster cynicism, and undermine the long-term contribution of the research community.

Link (subscription may be required): Education Week, 27(22), 26, 36.

Consortium to Prevent School Violence

Dear Colleagues,

The new Consortium to Prevent School Violence website is up and running at: (alternate URL:

Consortium Mission: The Consortium to Prevent School Violence is committed to assisting educators and schools in the reduction of school violence.

Consortium Goals: The Consortium seeks to foster high quality research on school violence prevention; communication among researchers, practitioners and policy makers; dissemination of research-based information regarding effective school violence reduction programs; technical assistance and professional development that aid in implementing effective school violence reduction practices; and advocacy of effective research-based solutions to policy makers.

Consortium History: The Consortium grew out of efforts that followed the tragic Amish school shootings of Fall, 2006. A group of 20 researchers and practitioners in the field of school violence prevention collaborated on the creation of a nationally disseminated position statement on the school shootings. In the process, it became apparent that an alliance of researchers and practitioners in school violence prevention to further the common goal of reducing school violence would be highly valuable.

Current Consortium projects include:

  • Brief and practical fact sheets for use by teachers, school administrators, parents, and others working in schoolrelated settings, offering concise, understandable, and usable research-based recommendations for practice. Topics will include: screening and referring at-risk students for help; bullying prevention; gangs in schools; threat assessment in schools; working with students with a history of academic failure and behavioral problems; school-family partnerships to address behavioral problems; mentoring programs for at-risk youth; and others as needs are identified.
  • Usable research briefs by leading researchers, targeting critical topic areas, such as bullying prevention, zero tolerance, school-accessible evidence-based interventions, youth gun access and guns in schools, and school resource officers. The briefs, which summarize extant knowledge of the topic, will be designed for an end-user audience of school staff, local school and school district administrators, professional training personnel, and policymakers and legislators at the state and federal level.
  • Staff training PowerPoints for school violence prevention which include speaker notes and support resources, for use in schools, local youth service agencies, and other organizations concerned with school violence. The PowerPoints will be designed for use by professional trainers who may have general but not highly specific knowledge of school violence prevention. The PowerPoints will be geared to support training sessions for use in in-service programs, workshops, and other professional training venues.
  • Effective practices video in which national experts share key lessons learned from school violence prevention research and practice. The video, as envisioned, approximately 35-40 minutes in length, will feature approximately 15 national experts, each briefly highlighting important bottom line findings. The video will be developed along critical themes such as school wide programming, early intervention, fostering connectedness, providing mental health and other supports, threat assessment, and crisis management.

All research-based materials posted on the Consortium website are evaluated and approved by the Consortium’s expert review panel of distinguished scholars.

Please share the URL with colleagues. Thank you.

Matthew Mayer
Rutgers University

Vouchers and special education

A news story from the Salt Lake (UT, US)Tribune that ran prior to the defeat of the Utah initiative to implement a system of vouchers for K-12 education mentioned concern about private schools refusing to accept students with disabilities.

One thing Utah vouchers foes fear is that private schools will refuse to take expensive special education students, leaving them in public schools with less money to educate them.

This got me thinking (often a dangerous process): What do we really know about implementation of voucher systems? Do schools operating under voucher policies dis- or mis-serve students with disabilities? I searched quickly and found an article by Susan Etscheidt, but little more (abstract appended).

Do any ‘pros know of unpublished studies about this matter?

Etscheidt, S. (2005). Vouchers and students with disabilities: A multidimensional analysis. Journal of Disability Policy Studies, 16, 156-168.

School choice initiatives such as open enrollment, magnet schools, charter schools, and voucher plans have been offered as methods of school reform. A publicly funded voucher plan in Florida targeting students with disabilities was considered as a possible model for the reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Although the model was not adopted in the reauthorized law, the potential impact of such voucher plans must be examined. The empirical evidence regarding the impact of vouchers on parent choice, student achievement, and fiscal school management is inconclusive and incomplete. Further, the impact of voucher plans on educational programs for students with disabilities has not been thoroughly studied. Such an examination requires a multiparadigmatic analysis of legal, economic, academic, sociological, and political dimensions.

Link to the Tribune article.

DLD dissertation award

DLD Dissertation Award for Outstanding Doctoral Level Research

(Deadline January 15, 2008)

The Division for Learning Disabilities (DLD) within the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) announces its annual competition for outstanding doctoral-level research in the field of learning disabilities. The purposes of the award are to encourage excellence in doctoral level research and to recognize quality research that contributes to the field of learning disabilities. Refer to for additional information.

The Award consists of:

a) A $500 cash award;
b) Up to an additional $500 for travel to receive the award at the CEC Annual Convention;
c) Free one-year membership in CEC and DLD;
d) An opportunity to present the research at the CEC Annual Convention;
e) An invitation to submit the research for publication in the Division journal, Learning Disabilities Research & Practice.


Applications for the award must be received no later than January 15, 2008. The recipient will be selected and notified by March 15, 2008.


The competition is open to individuals who have met the eligibility requirements during the two-year period preceding October 1st of each application year. Eligibility will be verified through the applicant’s degree granting institution to protect all applicants, the universities, and DLD. To be eligible, the applicant must have received the doctoral degree between the dates specified, or have received approval by the dissertation committee of the final written form of the dissertation between the dates specified

The competition is intended to recognize doctoral students who have focused their research on learning disabilities or who have conducted related research having clear implications for the field of learning disabilities. Studies employing any research methodology appropriate to the research question(s) addressed are encouraged (e.g., experimental, ethnographic, historical, or survey).


Each applicant must submit an application including:

  • an appropriate title page including the dissertation title, author, date of dissertation, approval or awarding of degree, degree-granting institution, name and dissertation committee chair, and applicant’s current address and phone number.
  • four copies of a dissertation abstract, not to exceed 150 words, and
  • four copies of a manuscript not to exceed 25 manuscript pages (not including references, tables and figures) outlining and summarizing the research, using APA guidelines. Manuscripts submitted for this competition may already have been submitted/accepted for publication. If submitted or accepted, appropriate referencing must be provided.
  • Electronic copies of all of the above.

Send applications to:

Dr. Margo A. Mastropieri
College of Education and Human Development
Graduate School of Education
Mail Stop Number 6B2
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030-4444


The European Unified Approach for Assisted Lifelong Learning (EU4ALL), which is a group of educators and others working on the problems of learners who are atypical, has a survey soliciting people’s views of learning environments. I thought some folks might be interested in participating. Here’s a snippet from the announcement; it includes a link.

The EU4ALL Project is investigating how to better support people with disabilities and older people in education, particularly higher education, using virtual learning environments and other information and communication technologies.
>>snip< < Surveys for both staff and students are available in English, German, Greek, Italian and Spanish and can be accessed online at

Characteristics of elementary students receiving special education

Late in July 2007, the National Center for Education Statistics of the US Department of Education released a report by William L. Herring, Daniel McGrath, Jacquelyn Buckley that describes the students who receive special education services during the elementary years. Following a longitudinal cohort across the elementary grades, the report provides data about the disabilities by which students are identified, their ethnicity and socio-economic status, and some characteristics of their schools (school poverty, urbanicity, and geographic location).

Demographic and School Characteristics of Students Receiving Special Education in the Elementary Grades

This Issue Brief provides a detailed description of the proportion of elementary school students receiving special education in kindergarten, first grade, third grade, and fifth grade; the primary disabilities of these students; and the variation in these measures across a range of demographic and school characteristics. Data for this analysis are drawn from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 1998-99 (ECLS-K). Findings from the analysis indicate that for the cohort of students beginning kindergarten in 1998, specific learning disabilities and speech or language impairments were the most prevalent primary disabilities over the grades studied. The percentage of the student cohort receiving special education grew from 4.1 percent in kindergarten to 11.9 percent of students in fifth grade. The results also indicate that higher percentages of boys than girls and of poor students than nonpoor students received special education.

Special education advocates are almost certain to spin these data in different ways. Some will say it illustrates the wait-to-fail criticism of special education. Others will point to the overlap between poverty, ethnicity, and disabilities as an illustration of the need for more systemic efforts to address problems. Still others may develop an argument against public schooling from the data.

Regardless of the interpretation, it is important to have these data available.

Link to the source of the description I’ve quoted, to the PDF of the report, and to another PDF document that provides the data in tabular form.

RTI presentations

For those who missed the series of talks about response to intervention at the 2007 meeting of the Council for Exceptional Children, the presenters’ slides are available from Teach Effectively. The presenters included

  • Dixie Huefner (University of Utah) and Perry Zirkel (Lehigh University)
  • Yvonne Bui (University of San Francisco), Jose Luis Alvarado (San Diego State University), & Rosalind Simpson (University of San Francisco)
  • Diane Pedrotty Bryant (University of Texas) and Brian R. Bryant (Psycho-Educational Services, Austin, TX)
  • Charles Hughes (Penn State University) and Donald Deshler (Kansas University)
  • Kathleen Lane (Vanderbilt University)
  • Lynn S. Fuchs (Vanderbilt University) and Douglas Fuchs (Vanderbilt University)

Kame’enui’s term expires

Here is the content of a statement by Grover J. Whitehurst, Director of the Institute of Education Sciences, announcing the expiration of Ed Kame’enui’s term as Commissioner of Special Education Research.

Dr. Kame’enui joined the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) from the University of Oregon in July 2005 under the provisions of the Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA). IPA agreements allow employees of educational institutions to be assigned to work in a Federal agency for terms up to two years. Dr. Kame’enui’s two-year IPA assignment expires at the end of June 2007, at which point he will return to his faculty position at the University of Oregon.

Upon arriving at IES in 2005, Dr. Kame’enui assumed leadership of National Center for Special Education Research, which had just been created within IES under provisions of the reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. During Commissioner Kame’enui’s period of leadership, the National Center for Special Education Research was organized and staffed, engaged in extensive outreach to the special education community, fielded successful grant competitions in 11 different topics, and managed two major national longitudinal studies of the experiences of children with disabilities and the services they receive. These are significant accomplishments. I thank Dr. Kame’enui for his public service at IES and wish him well as he returns to his academic career.

RF inquiry

On 22 September 2006 the U.S. Department of Education (ED) published a document entitled “The Reading First Program’s Grant Application Process: Final Inspection Report” (3.3 Mb PDF) in which the Office of the Inspector General reports the results of an audit of certain aspects of the Reading First program. Reading First is a central piece of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation. According to the report, the OIG audit of the grant award process indicates that

  1. FINDING 1A— The Department Did Not Select the Expert Review Panel in Compliance With the Requirements of NCLB.
  2. FINDING 1B— While Not Required to Screen for Conflicts of Interest, the Screening Process the Department Created Was Not Effective
  3. FINDING 2A— The Department Did Not Follow Its Own Guidance For the Peer Review Process
  4. FINDING 2B— The Department Awarded Grants to States Without Documentation That the Subpanels Approved All Criteria
  5. FINDING 3— The Department Included Requirements in the Criteria Used by the Expert Review Panels That Were Not Specifically Addressed in NCLB
  6. FINDING 4— In Implementing the Reading First Program, Department Officials Obscured the Statutory Requirements of the ESEA; Acted in Contravention of the GAO Standards for Internal Control in the Federal Government; and Took Actions That Call Into Question Whether They Violated the Prohibitions Included in the DEOA

My observations (numbered to correspond with the OIG findings):

  1. FINDING 1A— Having been chair of one of the subpanels, I was a bit surprised by the concern about the review panels; it’s a pretty august group (a list of the panelists follows). One OIG concern is that the subpanels, each composed of five members, did not include someone nominated by each of the legally stipulated entities (the Secretary of Education, the National Institute for Literacy, the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences; and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development). As the report notes, ED created a 12-member panel that did fit the criteria; as I recall, this was composed of the subpanel chairs.
  2. FINDING 1B— The conflict reported is that OIG’s review of 25 panel members’ vitae reveals that 6 panel members had “significant professional connections” (undefined) to Direct Instruction. I don’t know whether my vita was reviewed (it’s available here for those who want to examine it). Fortunately, about 72 of 72 panelist appear to have had significant connections to evidence-based practice. I do not recall reviewing any application that expressly recommended what I suspect the OIG report identified as a DI program.
  3. TFINDING 2A— he critique of the process is that ED Reading First employees sent summaries of the panel reviews to the applicants rather than sending them the longer report of the panel chair. As a panel chair, I know my co-panelists and I labored over our individual reports and that I put a lot of work into summarizing everyone’s concerns when I prepared our summaries of our meetings. I’m sorry the applicants didn’t get to see them.
  4. FINDING 2B— Here the problem OIG reports is that some applications were funded even though the subpanel reviewing them had not determined that the proposal met standards on all the criteria. As I recall, this could not have been the case for any of the proposals reviewed by our subpanel, as we reviewed them all until all criteria met standards.
  5. FINDING 3— [Begin correction based on comment] The finding refers to the fact that some of the language used to describe the minimal standards to which panels held applications went beyond the criteria specified in the law. I do not remember whether any of the proposals our panel reviewed would have been funded after fewer reviews had the standards reflected the law rather than the revisions included in the review criteria.
  6. FINDING 4 [End correction]— This is a multi-part finding. (a) OIG’s concern here is that the development of documents providing guidance to applicants and reviewers were more stringent than the actual law; as I recall, reviewers’ packets include both the criteria and the law itself. (b) Reading First folks acted to publish a report for which NIFL had contracted. It’s the same report that, earlier in the OIG’s report, the Inspector General identified as a product a representative of Nevada applicant said would have been helpful in developing Nevada’s application. (c) Reading First folks indirectly encouraged consultants to one of the applicants to include Reading Mastery on it’s list of approved core reading programs. (d) The Reading First administrators recommended to another ED employee that the employee discourage local education agencies from using reading materials that would not pass muster as scientifically based and discouraged others themselves. Apparently this was not an appropriate exercise of oversight or monitoring of state and local education agencies’ compliance with the Reading First process.

For those who are interested in the composition of the panel, a list of the members’ names and affiliations follows.

  • Maria Elena Arguelles, Ph.D., Research Assistant Professor, University of Miami
  • Janet Sloand-Armstrong, Ed.D. Managing Director, Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Network
  • Rebecca Barr, Ph.D., Professor of Education, National Louis University
  • Donald Bear, Ph.D., Professor of Curriculum & Instruction, College of Education; Director, E.L. Cord Foundation Center for Learning and Literacy, University of Nevada-Reno
  • Marsha Berger, Former Deputy Director of the Educational Issues Department at the American Federation of Teachers
  • Muriel Berkeley, President, Baltimore Curriculum Project
  • Frances Bessellieu, M.Ed., Director of Reading and Reading Excellence Act Coordinator, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS)
  • Pauline Bigby-Jenkins, Ph.D., Title I and ESL coordinator for Ann Arbor Public Schools, Michigan Reading Association Board of Directors
  • Carmel Borders, M.A., President, Tapestry Foundation; Presidential Nominee, National Institute for Literacy,
  • Susan Brady, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, University of Rhode Island
  • Kathleen Brown, Ph.D., Director and Clinical Assistant Professor at the Reading Center in the Graduate School of Education, University of Utah
  • Joanne Carlisle, Ph.D., Professor, Educational Studies, Research Scientist, Communicative Disorders Clinic, University of Michigan
  • Margaret Carnes, R.N., Managing Director, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Education Foundation
  • Mary Cirillo, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of OPCENTER, L.L.C, Hudson Ventures
  • Carl Cole, Ph.D., Director of Special Services, Bethel School District
  • Anne Cunningham, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Graduate School of Education and Director, Joint Doctoral Program in Special Education, University of California-Berkeley
  • Shirley Dickson, Director, Statewide Curriculum Initiatives and Director of Reading, Texas Education Agency
  • Jan Dole, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Teaching and Learning, University of Utah
  • Rebecca Felton, Ph.D., Educational Consultant
  • Jack Fletcher, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Pediatrics and Associate Director of the Center for Academic and Reading Skills at the University of Texas, Houston Health Science Center
  • Barbara Foorman, Ph.D., Professor and Director of the Center for Academic and Reading Skills
  • Anne Fowler, Ph.D., Senior Scientist, Haskins Laboratories
  • Catherine Froggatt, R.N., Michigan State Director, The National Right to Read Foundation
  • Alice Furry, Ph.D., Chief Administrative Officer; Project Director, UCLA Extension/Los Angeles Unified School District, Governor’s Reading Initiative PreK-6, California Professional Development Reading Institutes
  • Norma Garza, Director, United Way of Southern Cameron County “Success by Six” Initiative; Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans Commission
  • Russell Gersten, Ph.D., Professor, College of Education and Director, Eugene Research Institute, University of Oregon
  • Diane Haager, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Special Education, California State University, Los Angeles
  • Susan Hall, M.B.A., Consultant, International Dyslexia Association; Member, State of Illinois Reading Committees
  • Karen Harris, Ed.D., Professor, Department of Special Education, University of Maryland
  • Marlene Henriques, Ed.D., Teacher in Residence in Assessment Development, National Board for Professional Teaching Standards
  • Janie Hodge, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Special Education, Clemson University
  • Estella Holliday, Director, South Carolina Reading Initiative and Assistant Director, Office of Early Childhood Education, South Carolina Department of Education
  • Stephen Hooper, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Departments. of Psychiatry and Psychology, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
  • Mark Hopper, Ph.D., Vice President, Accountability Initiatives; Partner and Vice-President, Henderson, Hjermstad, Hopper, L.L.C
  • Kathy Howe, Academic Collaborative Planner, St. Croix River Education District (Minnesota)
  • Dawn Hubbard-Miller, Ph.D., Educational Trainer and Consultant, Northeast Kansas Education Service Center
  • Joseph Jenkins, Ph.D., Professor, Special Education, College of Education, University of Washington
  • Linda Jenkins, Assistant Superintendent for K-12 Curriculum Development and Implementation, Bremerton School District (Washington)
  • Ellin Keene, M.A., Director of Literacy and Professional Development, University of Pennsylvania
  • Martin Kozloff, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Specialty Studies, University of North Carolina-Wilmington
  • Sharon Kurns, Supervisor Instructional Services, Special Education Division, Heartland Area Educational Agency (Iowa)
  • Zoee Larose, M.A., Reading Connections Specialist, Alabama State Department of Education
  • John Lloyd, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Curriculum, Instruction and Special Education and Chief Technology Officer at the Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
  • Marie Mancuso, Director, Arizona Reading Initiative, Arizona Department of Education; Co-chair, Arizona Reading Initiative Leadership Advisory Board
  • Robert Marino, Baltimore City Public Schools
  • Patricia Mathes, Ph.D., Associate Professor at the Medical School, Principal Investigator, Center for Academic and Reading Skills, University of Texas-Houston
  • Michael McKenna, Ph.D., Professor of Education and Coordinator of Graduate Reading Programs, Georgia Southern University
  • Leslie McPeak, M.Ed., Director of Literacy and School Support, Stanislaus County Office of Education, Modesto, California
  • Katherine Mitchell, Ph.D., Director, Alabama Reading Initiative, Alabama Department of Education
  • Darryl Morris, Ph.D., Professor of Language and Reading and Reading Clinic Director, Appalachian State University
  • Kelly Mueller, M.Ed., Teacher, Jackson Park Elementary School, St. Louis, Missouri
  • Laura Murphy, Teacher and Consultant
  • Caroline Novak, Co-founder and President, A+ Education Foundation
  • Jean Osborn, M.Ed., Consultant, Center for the Study of Reading, University of Illinois (retired)
  • Stan Paine, Ph.D., Elementary School Principal, Springfield School District (Oregon)
  • Charles Perfetti, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology and Linguistics and Director of the Laboratory for Reading and Language, University of Pittsburgh
  • Kristen Powell, Ed.D., Administrator for School and Community Services, Orange County Department of Education, California
  • Craig Ramey, Ph.D., Professor and Co-director, School of Nursing and Health Studies, Georgetown University
  • Sally Shaywitz, M.D., Professor of Pediatrics and Director of Yale Center for Learning and Attention, Yale University
  • Mary Siano, M.A., Certified ETS Trainer and Associate Developer, Educational Testing Service
  • Tim Slocum, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department. of Special Education, Utah State University
  • Susan Smartt, Ph.D., Reading Specialist and Consultant, Smartt Johnson and Associates
  • Janet Spector, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, College of Education and Human Development, University of Maine-Orono
  • Pam Stecker, Ph.D., Associate Professor, School of Education and Acting Director of the Learning with Disabilities Program, Clemson University
  • John Stevens, Texas Business and Education Coalition
  • Joseph Torgesen, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Psychology, Florida State University
  • Lucia Townsend, Human Resource Development Specialist, Florida Diagnostic and Learning Resource System
  • Fran Warkomski, Director, Bureau of Special Education, Pennsylvania Department of Education
  • Ann Watanabe, M.S., State Reading Resource Teacher, Pihana na Mamo Project, Maui District Office, Hawaii Department of Education
  • Joanna Williams, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology and Education, Teachers College, Columbia University
  • Rhonda Wolter, Title I Reading Specialist and Reading Coordinator, Bethel School District (Eugene, Oregon)
  • Elaine Zimmerman, Executive Director, Connecticut Commission on Children

Here are links to the news coverage. (Note that the International Reading Association promptly issued a press release about the story).



Down-Alzheimer’s link

In “New Clues to Down Syndrome-Alzheimer’s Link,” Greg Miller of ScienceNOW Daily News reports about progress made in understanding the how one of the extra genes present among people with Down Syndrome may be involved in the development of plaque and other signs of Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s disease, a dreaded specter for many elderly, is far more likely to strike individuals with Down syndrome. Now, a study with a mouse model of Down syndrome may explain why. The work hints at potential targets for future drugs that fend off dementia–in people with Down syndrome and in the general population too.

Link to Mr. Miller’s story.

Dismay over Syracuse Appointment of Dean


29 October 2005

We, the undersigned, are fully aware that Syracuse University and its School of Education do not depend on our approval for making administrative decisions. However, we also recognize the responsibilities of academic institutions in making leadership appointments in their departments, colleges, and schools of education. Now, as never before, research and training in education are being scrutinized and typically found culpable for the poor learning outcomes of many students. Selection of a dean, therefore, constitutes an important and very public signal of how seriously a university views its responsibilities towards public education. By selecting someone whose record constitutes an argument against rigorous science in research involving individuals with disabilities, Syracuse University has sent a public message of disregard for education that undermines not only its own standing among academic institutions but also, by negative example, threatens the credibility of all educators engaged in rigorous research addressing critical problems in teaching and learning.

In our opinion, it is essential that both individuals and institutions adhere to the highest standards of scientific rigor in their professional conduct. We therefore express our strong disapproval of the appointment of Douglas Biklen as Dean of Education at Syracuse University for reasons that we explain.

Since the early 1990s, Professor Biklen has persistently and, in our view inadvisably, promoted training in and the use of facilitated communication (FC), an ostensible means of communication that has been resoundingly and thoroughly discredited by many scientific studies. The American Psychological Association, American Psychiatric Association, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, American Association on Mental Retardation, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, Association for Behavior Analysis, American Academy of Pediatrics, and the New York State Department of Health have all gone on record advising against the use of FC. Furthermore, the Commission for Scientific Medicine and Mental Health has expressed its criticism of Professor Biklen’s appointment, with which we concur.

As researchers and members of the teacher education communities in special education, we are deeply concerned by the harm to individuals with disabilities, their families, therapists, and teachers resulting from the use of FC. The harm to which we refer includes the false hopes, false accusations of abuse, wasted learning opportunities, and miseducation of teachers fostered by FC and training in its use.

Many controlled investigations by scientists who study communication, education, and mental health have led to a consensus that FC is, if not a hoax, an unreliable and discredited means of communication. We find it disturbing that Professor Biklen has ignored this evidence and continued to insist that the scientific studies revealing the illegitimacy of FC are themselves unreliable. Professor Biklen may have good intentions, but his unrelenting advocacy of FC in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence that it typically results in counterfeit messages (produced unwittingly by the “facilitator”) does not serve the cause of science or of social justice or of individuals with disabilities. We wish to disassociate ourselves from the fraudulent claims of FC and the non-scientific methods used by Professor Biklen and his colleagues in their attempts to validate the technique.

Our statement is not based on ad hominem toward Professor Biklen. In our opinion, the decision of Syracuse University to appoint Professor Biklen as Dean of its School of Education brings discredit to the university precisely and solely because it reflects disrespect for educational and psychological research as well as teacher preparation, given Professor Biklen’s disregard for scientific evidence. Certainly, Professor Biklen is free to believe and teach whatever he wants. However, we believe that university administrators have a larger commitment to select as leaders of academic units, including education, those individuals who demonstrate a clear commitment to the principles of scientific research.

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