NCEO Projects

NCEO Projects

In addition to being the National Technical Assistance Center to Increase the Participation and Improve the Performance of Students with Disabilities on State and Districtwide Assessments, NCEO has projects that span the entire range of assessments (formative assessment processes, classroom-based tests, interim/benchmark assessments, state, and national assessments) that comprise a comprehensive assessment system. NCEO participates in a number of assessment projects and research studies that collect data on the participation and performance of students with disabilities, as well as English learners (ELs) and ELs with disabilities. Some projects assess accessibility, accommodations, and alternate assessment approaches that facilitate the participation of all students in state and district assessment programs.

The following are some of the current and former NCEO projects:

Current Projects

Completed Projects


Data Informed Accessibility - Making Optimal Needs-based Decisions (DIAMOND)
The DIAMOND project is a collaboration between Minnesota, Alabama, Connecticut, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and the Virgin Islands and the National Center on Educational Outcomes. The project’s goal is to improve the validity of assessment results and interpretations for students with documented needs by developing guidelines for making informed decisions about accessibility features and accommodations. It will promote a decision-making process that moves beyond the use of a checklist approach (which often results in identifying tools and accommodations that do not provide access to the student), to an approach that relies on the use of classroom progress data and other measures charted over time to evaluate individual student needs. All students who require accessibility and accommodations supports – general education students with documented accessibility needs, students with disabilities, English learners (ELs), ELs with disabilities – will be served by this project.

English Learner Companion
This project is revising the existing Minnesota Department of Education’s guidelines for special education for English learners (ELs) to ensure that the guidelines reflect recent federal and state policies for ELs with disabilities, are grounded in current research, and are aligned with the World-class Instructional Design and Assessment (WIDA) consortium. The updated EL Companion, with additional web-based materials, will delineate the special education referral process and eligibility decision making.

General Supervision Enhancement Grant Project on Behalf of Alabama State Department of Education (Alabama GSEG)
This project, funded by the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), worked with the state of Alabama to develop high-quality assessment and instructional systems for students with disabilities whose progress is such that they are not likely to reach grade-level proficiency in the same time frame as other students. Activities included the development of (a) online professional development materials on accommodations decision-making, and (b) a set of strategies/guidelines for universal design for alternate assessments based on modified achievement standards (AA-MAS).

IEP/LEP Large-Scale Assessment Project
This three-year project, funded by the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), was designed to better understand the performance and participation of students with disabilities and limited English proficiency (LEP; also called English learners or ELs) in large-scale assessments nationwide. After completing a comprehensive policy review of all 50 states' large-scale assessment policies written for LEP students with disabilities, research activities focused on understanding and analyzing states' large-scale assessment data collected and reported for these students.

IEP Quality Project
This project assisted the University of Illinois in its development and testing of a Web-based IEP Quality Tutorial to assist educators and parents in the development of Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) that go beyond meeting procedural requirements to reach the substantive components of IEPs. The project integrated College and Career Ready standards, social/emotional/behavioral goals and related service needs, content modules for formative assessment, and online training videos and user guidance for the tutorial website.

Improving Instruction for English Learners Through Improved Accessibility Decisions
This project, which is funded by the Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA) at the U.S. Department of Education, will develop two professional development modules on accessibility and accommodations decision making for instruction and assessment for English learners. One module is for educators and the other is for parents/guardians and families. NCEO is working with the West Virginia Department of Education on this project. The project will also examine the efficacy of these modules by conducting several pre- and post-module administration analyses.

Improving the Validity of Assessment Results for English Language Learners with Disabilities (IVARED)
IVARED represented  a consortium of states (Arizona, Minnesota, Maine, Michigan, and Washington) working in partnership with NCEO to address the validity of assessment results of English learners (ELs) with disabilities in statewide accountability assessments. The project, funded by the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE), examined the characteristics of the students and their performance. It sought to improve the process for making decisions about participation and accommodations via expert panel input and studies of decision making, and developed principles to guide the assessment of ELs with disabilities. Through these activities, states will be able to develop validity arguments for their assessments and assessment practices for ELs with disabilities, and by doing so will enhance the quality of their assessment systems for measuring the achievement of ELs with disabilities.

LEP/IEP Instruction Project
The goal of this project, funded by the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), was to investigate ways that limited English proficient (LEP) students (also called English learners or ELs) with disabilities can participate meaningfully in, and benefit from, grade-level, standards-based instruction. The results of this project promote effective practice for successful participation of students with disabilities who are ELs by improving the alignment of instructional interventions for these students with a standards-based curriculum.

LEP/IEP Strategies Project
The primary goal of this project, funded by the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP),   was to provide research-based knowledge to educators on the topic of instructional strategies that help middle school limited English proficient (LEP) students (also called English Learners or ELs) achieve in standards-based content classrooms. Specifically, this project examined instructional strategy use at the school level and the knowledge that teachers possess, placed within the context of specific state standards.

LEP Parents Project
Funded by the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), this project studied the participation of linguistically diverse parents in making informed large-scale assessment decisions for their children with disabilities. Three studies were implemented to: (a) descript the content of the Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) of students with disabilities and limited English proficiency (LEP) (also called English Learners or ELs); (b) develop principles that educators can use to support parents in making appropriate large-scale assessment decisions for their children; and (c) connect students’ large-scale assessment performance to their parents’ level of participation in making informed assessment decisions.

Minnesota Accommodations Project 
NCEO worked with the state department of education in Minnesota, through funding provided by an Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) grant to the state, to create training materials and processes on accommodations for instruction and assessment.

Multi-state GSEG Toward a Defensible AA-MAS
NCEO joined with five states (Alabama, Hawaii, South Dakota, Tennessee, Wisconsin) to form a consortium whose members share a common interest in investigating the characteristics of students who may qualify for an alternate assessment based on modified academic achievement standards (AA-MAS). This project, funded by the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), aimed to develop high-quality assessment and instructional systems that improve not only the accountability system, but also the learning of those students whose disability has precluded them from achieving grade-level proficiency and whose progress is such that they are not likely to reach grade-level proficiency in the same time frame as other students.

National Alternate Assessment Center (NAAC)
The National Alternate Assessment Center (NAAC) was a research center based at the University of Kentucky, in collaboration with the National Center on Educational Outcomes, the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, CAST, and state partners Connecticut, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, and South Carolina. The primary objectives of NAAC, which was funded by the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) were to: (a) bring together and build on the current research base on high quality, technically sound alternate assessments based on alternate achievement standards and alternate assessments based on grade-level achievement standards; (b) provide technical assistance to states as they endeavor to design or redesign their alternate assessments; and (c) demonstrate through the center’s partnerships with states high quality design and administration of alternate assessments.

National Center and State Collaborative (NCSC)
NCEO is leading a partnership of national centers and more that 20 states to develop innovative approaches to alternate assessments for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities in grades 3-12. Funded by the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), NCSC is building a comprehensive assessment system based on the Common Core State Standards. It also is developing instructional materials, tools, and processes to support educators as they plan and provide appropriate instruction for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities. NCSC partners included NCEO as the host and fiscal agent, the National Center for the Improvement of Educational Assessment, the University of Kentucky's Human Development Institute, the College of Education at the University of North Carolina - Charlotte, and edCount.

National Study on Alternate Assessments 
This study, conducted in collaboration with SRI and funded by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), described the status of the development and implementation of alternate assessments based on alternate achievement standards for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities in the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

New Hampshire Enhanced Assessment Initiative
The New Hampshire Collaborative Enhanced Assessment Grant was a consortium of nine states (Connecticut, Colorado, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and South Carolina) and four primary organizational partners (National Center on Educational Outcomes, National Center on Improvement of Educational Assessment, Inclusive Large Scale Standards and Assessment Center at the University of Kentucky, and Measured Progress). The project, funded by the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE), had three primary goals: (a) to address practical challenges each state faced in documenting of the technical adequacy of its alternate assessment; (b) to enhance fundamental knowledge of what the results of good teaching and learning look like for students with significant disabilities; and (c) to capture lessons learned that will help define areas for improvement of entire assessment systems.

Georgia Enhanced Assessment Grant
In the context of high expectations for all students and fully inclusive assessment and accountability systems, a consortium of States (Georgia, Hawaii, Kentucky), university partners, researchers, and advocates explored and documented effects of multiple methods of assessments that met identified student needs, to ensure all children are able to show what they know in the grade-level standards-based curriculum, based on appropriate and high achievement standards. Funded by the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE), the states partnered in three separate but related investigations of assessment options to include every student appropriately in state assessment and accountability systems. Each of the states learned from the others the potential utility of a range of formative and summative methods of determining what students know and are able to do, in response to identified student needs. Findings were disseminated nationally.

Partnership for Accessible Reading Assessment (PARA)
PARA, funded by the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) and the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), engaged in research on and development of accessible reading assessments that provide a valid demonstration of reading proficiency for increasingly diverse populations of students in public schools, and particularly for those students who have disabilities that affect reading. It was operated by a consortium consisting of NCEO; the National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST); and Westat. This project worked in collaboration with the Designing Accessible Reading Assessment (DARA) and the Technology Assisted Reading Assessments (TARA) projects at ETS through a collaboration known as the National Accessible Reading Assessment Projects (NARAP).

Technology Assisted Reading Assessments (TARA)
This project, funded by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), engaged in research and development to improve reading assessments for students with visual impairments or blindness. NCEO collaborated with Educational Testing Service (ETS) to examine the properties of existing assessments for these students and develop an assessment of reading with a particular focus on independent technology assisted reading.

TIES Center: Increasing Time, Instructional Effectiveness, Engagement, and State Support for Inclusive Practices for Students with Significant Cognitive Disabilities
TIES Center is a collaboration between the National Center on Educational Outcomes, Arizona Department of Education, CAST, University of Cincinnati, University of Kentucky, University of North Carolina–Charlotte, and University of North Carolina– Greensboro. The purpose of the TIES Center is to create sustainable changes in school and district educational systems so that students with significant cognitive disabilities can fully engage in the same instructional and non-instructional activities as their general education peers while being instructed in a way that meets individual learning needs. Project activities will support increased student engagement and improved learning outcomes for students with significant cognitive disabilities.

Universal Design Project 
This project, originally named “Development Techniques for Universally Designed Assessments, and funded by the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), conducted research on elements of universally designed assessments. The research was conducted in three parts: (a) protocol analysis of students with disabilities participating in state assessments; (b) item analysis of results of a state assessment; and (c) development of a guide for the development of universally designed assessments.