2017/18 Institute on Community Integration Annual Report

Educational Assessment & Intervention

Drs. Jana Kratochvílová (center left) and Jarmila Bradová (center right) of Masaryk University in the Czech Republic traveled to Minnesota in 2017 as part of their ongoing collaboration with ICI’s GRC  and its directors (pictured) Renata Ticha and Brian Abery. The Czech faculty presented, "Inclusion in Czech Primary Schools – Opportunity or Threat to Quality of Teaching?" in a workshop at the University of Minnesota.

Global Resource Center for Inclusive Education Passes $1 Million in Funding

ICI's Global Resource Center for Inclusive Education (GRC) reached a milestone this year of over $1 million in current funding for its inclusive education work in seven countries. It works toward systemic improvement of education programs, practices, and policies that affect underserved and disadvantaged populations, including young people with disabilities. "Sharing experiences and expertise in inclusive education internationally is work that has the potential to benefit not only our colleagues from other countries, but also significantly enrich approaches to our work with children and youth with disabilities in the U.S.," says GRC director Renáta Tichá. Among the projects of the GRC during this past year were:

  • Enhancing the Inclusion of Children and Youth with Disabilities in Armenia, partnering with Armenian State Pedagogical University (ASPU) in work funded by UNICEF Armenia. This year that partnership developed a series of webinars and learning modules to support effective inclusive education practices in Armenia, and the first-ever Armenian-language textbook on strategies to support effective inclusive education in the Armenian system.
  • U.S.-Russia Peer-to-Peer Project: Developing Systems to Support the Employment and Community Inclusion of Young Adults with Disabilities, launched in October 2017 with funding from the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. This partnership between the Social Innovation Fund in Krasnoyarsk, Russia, and the GRC develops opportunities and strategies for inclusive community employment and living for young adults with disabilities in both countries. Partners from Russia traveled to Minnesota in early 2018, where they worked with GRC to prepare for the upcoming visit by the full Russian delegation.
  • The ADA Anniversary International Fellowship Program in Inclusive Education, a partnership of GRC and organizations in Armenia, India, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Minnesota, and Arizona in work funded by the U.S. Department of State. This year 15 U.S. mentors traveled to the four other countries to provide support for the Fellows in their grand challenge inclusive education projects, projects identified during the Fellows’ 5-week stay in the U.S. the previous year. Partners in this work with the GRC were Armenian State Pedagogical University and UNICEF Armenia; Bilim-Central Asia Educational Center and Nazarbayev University Graduate School of Education in Kazakhstan; Odessa Development Fund and Precarpathian National University in Ukraine; Tata Institute of Social Sciences in India; The Arc Minnesota, Osseo (MN) Area Schools, the Minnesota Department of Education, and Arizona Developmental Disabilities Planning Council in the U.S.

TIES Center Assistant Director Terri Vandercook introduced the University of Minnesota community to the new center during a poster session at the College of Education and Human Development Research Day.

NCEO Awarded $10 Million for New Center Supporting Educational Inclusion

ICI's National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO)  was awarded a five-year, $10 million grant in 2017 from the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Special Education Programs to be the lead partner in establishing a National Technical Assistance Center on Inclusive Practices and Policies. The new center – The TIES Center – is creating sustainable changes in school and district educational systems so that students with the most 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.

In addition to NCEO, the TIES Center partnership includes Arizona Department of Education, CAST, University of Cincinnati, University of Kentucky, University of North Carolina-Charlotte, and University of North Carolina-Greensboro. “This is a wonderful opportunity for NCEO and its partners to do important and exciting work on the inclusion of students with significant cognitive disabilities," says center director Sheryl Lazarus, who leads the project with assistant director, Terri Vandercook. The primary outcome of the work will be to improve the quality of instruction for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities in inclusive environments through the use of existing curriculum and instructional materials. The new center will also provide models and coaching to both general education and special education teachers to create more inclusive opportunities, and will support changes to inclusive practices and policies within partner state and local education agencies.

Darrell Peterson, Sheryl Lazarus, and Kristi Liu (left to right) of the DIAMOND project, review the resources released by the project to date.

NCEO’s DIAMOND Project Improves Educator Use of Assessments and Accommodations

For decades, ICI's National Center on Educational Outcomes  (NCEO) has been a national leader in addressing accessibility and accommodation needs of students with disabilities. "For students with disabilities and English learners, appropriate accessibility and accommodations are an important part of ensuring that students are able to show what they know and can do," says NCEO director Martha Thurlow.  NCEO’s DIAMOND project , a collaboration with nine state departments of education (Minnesota, Alabama, Connecticut, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Virgin Islands), is in its final year of developing guidelines and tools for educators to use in making informed decisions about accessibility features and accommodations on state assessments and in classroom instruction.

Funded by the Minnesota Department of Education through a U.S. Department of Education Enhanced Assessment Grant, DIAMOND (which stands for Data Informed Accessibility – Making Optimal Needs- based Decisions) has carried out research activities that are culminating in development of learning modules supporting educators’ understanding of accessibility features and accommodations, and of how to make good decisions about them. This year the activities included interviews with educators, and observation of educators and students to determine how they interacted with existing accessibility features and accommodations widely used and approved by state education policies. Based on these activities and earlier state data analyses, literature reviews, educator interviews, and input from the DIAMOND states and expert advisors, the project is developing modules and other training materials that will equip educators to better use classroom and test data to select and implement the accessibility features and accommodations that will yield valid results for students. When completed, the modules and other materials developed by DIAMOND will be made available to schools nationwide.


2017/18 Global Resource Center on Inclusive Education Collaborators

A world map with the caption; GRC collaborated with professionals from nine countries to improve education for students with disabilities. The nine countries are Czech Republic, Denmark, Ukraine, Armenia, India, Kazakhstan, Poland, Slovakia, and Russia (Siberia).


NCEO Outreach to Improve Participation of Students with Disabilities in Assessments and Accountability Systems in 2017/18

A United States map with the caption: 1000-plus hours of technical assistance and other outreach delivered to 20 national educational consortia, agencies, and associations, and 50 states and other entities that receive U.S. special education funding.



  • Alternate English Language Learning Assessment (ALTELLA). Martha Thurlow
  • Americans with Disabilities Act Anniversary Program Inclusive Education Fellowship. Renáta Tichá, Brian Abery
  • Assessments of Students with Significant Disabilities: A U.S. - Russia University Partnership. Brian Abery, Renáta Tichá
  • Data-Informed Accessibility: Making Optimal Needs-based Decisions Project (DIAMOND). Martha Thurlow, Sheryl Lazarus, Kristin Liu
  • Enhancing the Inclusion of Children and Youth with Disabilities in Armenia: University of Minnesota-Armenian State Pedagogical University Partnership.Renáta Tichá, Brian Abery
  • Global Resource Center for Inclusive Education (an ICI Center). Renáta Tichá, Brian Abery
  • Improving Instruction for English Learners Through Improved Accessibility Decisions. Sheryl Lazarus, Kristin Liu
  • International Institute on Progress Monitoring. Brian Abery, Renáta Tichá
  • Minnesota English Learner Companion to Reducing Bias in Special Education Evaluations. Kristin Liu, Martha Thurlow
  • Minnesota Para eLink. David R. Johnson
  • National Assessment Center. Martha Thurlow, Sheryl Lazarus
  • National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO) (an ICI Center). Martha Thurlow, Sheryl Lazarus, Kristin Liu
  • National Deaf Center on Postsecondary Outcomes. Martha Thurlow, Sheryl Lazarus, Linda Goldstone
  • National Technical Assistance Center to Increase the Participation and Improve the Performance of Students with Disabilities on State and Districtwide Assessments (NCEO). Martha Thurlow, Sheryl Lazarus, Kristin Liu
  • Project SPICES: Supporting Practices for Increased Inclusion in the Czech Republic Education System. Renáta Tichá, Brian Abery
  • TIES Center (Increasing Time, Instructional Effectiveness, Engagement, and State Support for Inclusive Practices for Students with Significant Cognitive Disabilities). Sheryl Lazarus, Terri Vandercook, Kristin Liu
  • U.S./Russia Peer-to-Peer Project: Developing Systems to Support the Employment and Community Inclusion of Young Adults with Disabilities. Renáta Tichá