Across the U.S., 95% of teachers have had students designated for special education services or accommodations in their classrooms. Many educators lack the knowledge and skills needed to design and assess learning for the wide range of students they teach. Meanwhile, 48 states report severe shortages of special educators. Compounding the lack of prepared teachers are systems that don’t talk to each other and research that doesn’t make it into practice. All of these factors contribute to dismal graduation rates and limited post‐secondary options for children with diverse needs. In turn, that translates to under‐employment and lifelong limitations.
Further, special education research has historically been siloed with minimal links to psychiatry, general education, neuroscience, learning sciences, technology, humanities, and policy. As a result, there is a shortage of innovative solutions that draw upon multiple disciplines, despite the catalytic potential of new technologies. Only a handful of major research universities are working on interdisciplinary discovery and development. At the same time, rapid advances in the learning sciences, educational implementation research, and growing agency from disability communities who are increasingly mobilizing is helping to frame a new agenda for the design and support of learning through infancy, childhood, and adolescence.