Research-Based Programs Work for Any Area of Educational Need
By Heather M. Hulse, JD, MA, MS
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”) requires school districts to provide researched-based programs to students identified with special education needs wherever practicable. It is difficult to imagine a situation where it is not practicable to provide special education students with researched-based programming. In fact, such programs are easily accessible in virtually every area of education.
Research-based programs are programs that have been proven effective by being tested and demonstrating a record of success. This means that the program is objective, valid, reliable, systematic, and peer-reviewed.
- Objective means that the data would be described and evaluated the same by any evaluator.
- A program is considered valid if the data actually represent the task students must complete in order to be successful in the skills the program intends to address.
- Reliable data would not change merely by collection on a difference day or by a different evaluator.
- If the data for a program were collected according to a rigorous standard, it is considered systematic.
- Finally, a research-based program must also be peer-reviewed, which means the data have been approved for publication by a panel of independent reviewers.
It is also important to note that education is not just academics, but also includes social, emotional, behavioral, communication, physical, and developmental areas as well. Thus, school districts are required to provide research-based programs, wherever practicable, for special education students in all areas of identified need, including areas of academics, social skills, behavior, speech/language, occupational therapy, and physical therapy.
School districts can easily access research-based programs in all of these areas. Indeed, the Pennsylvania Department of Education provides a very informative website in order to access and search for research-based programs in every area of need:
whatworksclearinghouse.com. It is also important to further note that each research-based program sets forth the necessary instructional methods for success. Therefore, it is not enough for school districts to merely provide a research-based program. Such programs must be implemented with fidelity consistent with research.
School districts have all the information needed to provide appropriate research-based instruction to special education students in every area of need to ensure student success.