Research and evaluation are critical components of our work at CELL. Research informs our work with schools and allows us to offer solutions that have been validated by the experiences of teachers across the nation. In turn, our work with schools allows us to "keep it real" and to test the practicality and validity of theory generated by research.
Evaluation helps teachers and schools to gain a more complete picture of the fruits of their labor. Below are descriptions of some of our most recent research and evaluation projects.
Program EvaluationsEvaluation is defined as the systematic investigation of the worth or merit of an object (e.g. a program, school activity or instructional material). The most important purpose of an evaluation is not to prove, but to improve. Program evaluations provide an opportunity for feedback over a span of time that can be used to improve the quality and effectiveness of services and activities. It is meant to be a functional activity; one in which evaluation results can be used in making decisions and earning credibility for stakeholders and others with an interest and need to know.
At CELL, we are committed to a process in which the evaluation outcomes represent meaningful constructions that individual stakeholders form to "make sense" of the current program and services. This type of program evaluation rests on two elements: the first is determining what questions are to be asked and what information is to be collected on the basis of stakeholders input. The second element unites the evaluator and the stakeholders in an interaction that creates the product of the evaluation. The questions and information to be gathered are determined at the initial meeting or interview; the product will emerge from the interviews, observations, and review of other documents and data.
CELL has provided program evaluations in the areas of curriculum, school structures and cultures, special services, and small learning communities initiatives. The evaluations are designed in collaboration with school district personnel in order to ensure that their interests and needs are met.
Download a two page fact sheet on our Collaborative Program Review 67.2 K pdf
Indiana Inclusion StudyThis research project investigated the effects of inclusive programs for students without disabilities and students identified with mild disabilities in Indiana school corporations over a three-year period. During years one and two, students' academic progress in reading and mathematics was compared using a curriculum-based measure, the Basic Academic Skills Sample (BASS). Year three of the project focused on describing the teaching practices and school structures existing within three inclusive elementary schools that had participated in years one and two of the study.
The results of our first two years of investigation suggest that students without disabilities who are educated in inclusive settings made significantly greater academic progress in mathematics. Their progress in reading for years one and two was not significantly different from students without disabilities who were educated in traditional settings. While a significant difference was not noted, further analysis of progress scores and group means demonstrated a consistent pattern in favor of inclusive settings. For students with disabilities, there were no significant differences in reading and math achievement across the comparison groups in either year. However, a review of group means and the percentage of students making comparable or greater than average academic progress when compared to students without disabilities indicates a pattern in favor of inclusive settings for year one. This finding was also supported when considering the academic progress of students with specific disability labels, namely learning disabilities and mild mental handicaps. For year two, this pattern favors the traditional setting.
For year three, we employed a descriptive case study design that provides a detailed portrayal of the teaching practices and school structures in three elementary schools that consider themselves to be inclusive. From this study comes a working definition of inclusion-one that recognizes that inclusion is more than simply physically placing students together in the same classroom. Our analysis, and the conclusions drawn from our time in these schools, ultimately focuses on the practices in the three schools that:
1. Develop and sustain classrooms that are responsive to diverse social/emotional needs;
2. Develop and sustain classrooms that are responsive to diverse academic needs, and;
3. Empower all educators to take responsibility for teaching all students.
We also acknowledge that isolated classrooms featuring inclusive practices do not make an inclusive school and that an inclusive school is a culture in which everyone in the school community honors diversity and shares the responsibility for teaching all students. Through this study, we have come to understand that two of the biggest challenges for inclusive schools are sustaining inclusive practices and ensuring that systems are adaptable to new and complex challenges.
The complete report detailing findings from year three of the project is available for free download.