Who we are:
On December 3, 2004, Congress reauthorized the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and in doing so, established the National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER) as part of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). As the U.S. Department of Education's primary research arm, IES advances the rigor, relevance, and usefulness of education research.
The nation needs relevant and useable research that employs the same rigorous methodologies as in health care and other fields where questions of "what works" are of paramount importance. These answers are important for general education, but they are critical for special education and early intervention.
IDEA requires that children with unique individual needs receive specially designed instruction. NCSER meets this promise by systematically exploring how to best design instruction to meet the needs of each child with a disability.
Through rigorous, scientifically valid research, NCSER fulfills the Department of Education's pledge to promote the highest levels of achievement for all children.
As specified in the law, the mission of the National Center for Special Education Research is:
What we do:
NCSER funds programs of research that address its statutory mission. Nearly 7 million infants, toddlers, and children with disabilities through the age of 21 receive special education and early intervention services, which play a vital role in their academic achievement and social-emotional development. These interventions and services are delivered in a variety of forms, from a vocabulary program designed to increase a 4th grader's knowledge of difficult words, to a specific lesson on the Constitution, and a communication program that fosters interaction with peers and the world at large.
In order to determine which of these programs work, as well as how, why and in what settings, NCSER sponsors research on the needs of infants, toddlers, and children with disabilities and evaluates the effectiveness of services provided through IDEA. Therefore, NCSER funds comprehensive programs of research designed explicitly and deliberately to: (a) improve educational outcomes and quality of life for infants, toddlers, and children with disabilities; (b) evaluate the implementation and effectiveness of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act; and (c) examine empirically the full range of issues facing children with disabilities, parents of children with disabilities, school personnel, and others. As one would expect, the funded grants support a range of activities, including for example:
In addition to meeting the statutory requirements, NCSER is also, by virtue of its mission to "sponsor research," responsible for building and sustaining the knowledge capacity in special education and related fields, as well as the capacity of the field to conduct high quality, rigorous, and useable programs of research. Therefore, the Center is actively studying a number of statistical and methodological issues that hold important consequences for the future of special education research.
Furthermore, NCSER is charged with promoting research initiatives to develop and disseminate evidence-based educational programs, strategies, and approaches that inform parents, teachers, early interventionists, administrators, and others. One such initiative involves strategic coordination and collaboration with the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) to promote technical assistance and dissemination practices derived from the most rigorous research available.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is the federal law established to ensure that children with disabilities and families of such children receive access to a free appropriate public education and to improve educational results for infants, toddlers, and children with disabilities.
View, download, and print IDEA (PL 108-446, 2004) as a PDF file (422 KB)
Established by the Education Sciences Reform Act of 2002, the Institute of Education Sciences is the research arm of the Department of Education. Its mission is to expand knowledge and provide information on the condition of education, practices that improve academic achievement, and the effectiveness of Federal and other education programs. Its goal is the transformation of education into an evidence-based field in which decision makers routinely seek out the best available research and data before adopting programs or practices that will affect significant numbers of students.
View, download, and print ESRA (PL 107-279, 2002) as a PDF file (165 KB)
Content on Proposed Regulations:
The U.S. Department of Education has published regulations to implement the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA). The official version of this notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) is published in the Federal Register.
View, download, and print as a PDF file (597 KB)