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Joan McLaughlin to Lead Federal Special Education Research Center

It's official: Joan McLaughlin has been named commissioner of the National Center for Special Education Research, cementing the role she has held as an acting commissioner since July, after former commissioner Deborah L. Speece left in June.

McLaughlin.jpg

McLaughlin previously led the Institute of Education Sciences' research programs in early intervention services—early education programs for young children at risk of being identified for special education—and, before coming to IES, headed evaluations of multiple federal education, early education, and food-aid programs for the research group Abt Associates Inc. She will serve a six-year term.

"I am committed to continuing building knowledge through high-quality research, including the use of state of the art methodology and technology, to help us understand how best to improve education outcomes for children with or at risk for disabilities," she said. "I am equally committed to maintaining our research training efforts to build research capacity in the field. I look forward to the continued support and commitment of the special education community to successfully accomplish this work."

McLaughlin gets early points for tenacity, coming into a center dealing a cut of $2.5 million to its $50 million budget in fiscal 2013 due to the sequester. The center was able to award grants to only 18 of its 45 highest-ratest proposals, even as submissions have been on the rise in recent years. Without the cut, the center would have been able to award three more grants. 

"Joan has demonstrated her true mettle for this position over the past several months," said IES Director John Easton in a statement. "We are all delighted with the prospect of working with her to advance IES's mission to provide rigorous and relevant research aimed at improving education outcomes for all students."

She will be joining the next meeting of the National Board for Education Sciences, IES' advisory board, in Washington on Friday, where she is expected to give an update on the center's research projects.

There's still no word yet on when John Easton will be able to hand over the reins of the National Center on Education Statistics, for which he has done double-duty as acting commissionere the departure of Jack Buckley at the end of last year.

Above: Joan McLaughlin will lead the National Center for Special Education Research. Source: Institute of Education Sciences

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