National Effort Provides Insight on Improving Performance of Students with Disabilities

The National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO) was established in 1990 to provide national leadership in designing and building educational assessments and accountability systems that appropriately monitor educational results for all students, including students with disabilities and English Language Learners (ELLs). NCEO is supported primarily through Cooperative Agreements (#H326G050007, #H326G11002) with the Research to Practice Division, Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Department of Education. Visit for more information.

The National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO) supported a national initiative called Moving Your Numbers: Improving Learning for Students with Disabilities as Part of District-wide Reform, an examination of how 10 school districts with vastly different demographics increased the performance of students with disabilities as part of ongoing system-wide improvement efforts.

The work, coordinated and implemented by the University of Dayton School of Education and Allied Professions Grant Center, was designed to provide real-time information on what districts are doing to improve instructional practice and student learning on a district-wide basis. These districts don’t view students with disabilities as unable to learn. Instead, their attention is focused on the implementation gap— spurring adults at all levels of the system to consistently implement agreed on practices that elevated the quality of instruction for all students.

Moving Your Numbers examined the collective use of six essential practices that must be in place to improve the performance of students with disabilities. Evidence suggests that these six practices, when used in an aligned and coherent manner, are associated with higher student achievement. These practices, which build on the work of McNulty and Besser (2011), are: use data well, focus your goals, select and implement shared instructional practices, implement deeply, monitor and provide feedback and support, and inquire and learn.

In releasing the initial Moving Your Numbers report, Dr. Martha Thurlow, Director of NCEO, stated “these districts have adopted certain practices that, when coupled with hard work, dedication, and the absolute refusal to give up on any child, have contributed to their capacity to move their numbers on behalf of all children. We thank the featured districts for their willingness to share their work so others might benefit.”

In addition to studying the work of the featured districts, Moving Your Numbers also examined the role of state education agencies, regional/intermediate unit providers, higher education, and parents/families in supporting district-wide implementation and continuous improvement. Read A Synthesis of Lessons Learned (PDF) for a summary.

The Moving Your Numbers website provides access to downloadable copies of all publications and reports, including a district self-assessment guide and district-specific resources, as well as an opportunity to submit success stories.
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