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Article

One of the largest reforms in the school systems of European countries is inclusive schooling. All over Europe enrollment of students with special educational needs (SEN) in regular classrooms is rising and at the same time the proportion of students with SEN in segregated school settings is declining (in most European countries). Despite a significant push to implement inclusive education across the countries of the European Union, its practical implementation is limited in most of the countries. There are huge variations across the countries in the way they are attempting to implement inclusion as well as unique challenges that each country faces. For example, the decision of whether a child with SEN will attend inclusive or special education is made by different stakeholders in different countries. While in some countries this choice is mainly made by parents, in other countries professionals decide which school is most appropriate for students with SEN. Moreover, the resources available to implement inclusive education differ widely across Europe.

Article

Rather than being viewed as incompatible or polar opposites, special education and inclusive education can be seen as equally important components of effective education systems that produce optimal outcomes for all learners. The same can be said for equity and excellence, as a focus on equity should be combined with measures to promote excellence for all learners in order to optimize overall outcomes. Alternatively, emphasizing either special education or inclusive education, to the exclusion of the other, within education systems will jeopardize both equity and excellence and lead to less than optimal educational achievement. Having an education system with a balance of both special education and inclusive education, however, within a comprehensive service delivery model, will result in superior educational outcomes. Clearly, there needs to be a synthesis of key components of special education and inclusive education in order to provide an equitable and excellent education for all learners, including those with special educational needs and disabilities.

Article

Altering a dual system of education (special and ordinary) in South Africa to an inclusive system requires substantial change in terms of thinking and practice. After almost 20 years of implementing Education White Paper 6 (published by South Africa’s Department of Education in 2001), it is very important that theories, assumptions, practices, models, and tools are put under intense scrutiny for such an inclusive policy to work. Such a single system of education should develop the capacity to address barriers to learning if it wants to include all learners into the system. What are the main barriers that deprive learners from access to a single system of education and what changes should take place so that a truly inclusive system can be created? South Africa introduced seven white papers in education but all of them were implemented in ways that were not entirely influenced by the theory and practice of inclusive education. Inclusive education requires the system to change at a structural level so that mainstream education takes ownership of the ideology and practice of inclusive education. This change should bring about consistency in relation to other white papers; for example, curriculum development, early childhood education, and adult education. In implementing inclusive education, South Africa did not take seriously the various barriers to inclusion, such as curriculum, in providing access to learners who experience difficulties. Thus, an in-depth analysis of the history of special education is provided, with a view toward specifying recommendations for attempts to create the right conditions for a truly inclusive system of education in South Africa.

Article

Christopher Boyle and Joanna Anderson

Since 1994 the Salamanca Statement has been pivotal in encouraging nations to move toward inclusive education. Much progress has been made, yet the question must be asked if inclusive education has now plateaued. Inclusive education can be compared to a bicycle, where momentum powers it forward and it must continually move in order to stay upright. Along with movement, there also needs to be a clear direction of travel. Movement for the sake of movement will not bode well. If full inclusion is to succeed as a universal reality, not just an admirable goal, then it must become clear how to push the majority of countries forward, thus achieving full inclusion for most rather than a few. In many countries the reality of the principles of inclusive education are not reflected in everyday schooling. There have been many successes in inclusive education over many years in many countries, and these should be celebrated. Many consider full inclusion to be an over-reach by inclusivists, with most countries not achieving full inclusion; however, others argue that it is still attainable. From this point, where can the inclusion movement go? Has it, in effect, reached the end of its journey—like a bicycle with no rider, which eventually will fall over?

Article

Chris Forlin and Dianne Chambers

Special education has undergone continued transformation since societies began to provide an increasing number of specialized, segregated facilities for children with like needs during the 20th century. Since then, there has been a worldwide movement against a segregated approach and toward greater inclusion of students with disabilities into regular schools. The provision of a dual special education and regular school system, nevertheless, remains in existence, even though there has been a strong emphasis on a more inclusive approach since the latter half of the 20th century. As regular schools become more inclusive and teachers more capable of providing appropriate modifications for most students with learning needs, simultaneously there has been an increase in the number of students whose needs are so severe that schools have not been able to accommodate them. While these children and youth have special needs, they are invariably not related to an identified disability but fall more into a category of diversity. In particular, students who are excluded from schools due to severe infringements, those who are disenfranchised from school and refuse to attend, and those with severe emotional, behavioral, or mental health issues are not being serviced by the existing dual system. For these students neither existing special schools that cater to students with disabilities nor regular inclusive schools provide an appropriate education. The provision of a complementary and alternatively focused education to cater to the specific needs of these marginalized students seems to be developing to ensure sustainability of education and to prepare these new groups of students for inclusion into society upon leaving school. This tripartite approach highlights a new era in the movement toward a sustainable, inclusive education system that caters to the needs of all students and specifically those with the most challenging and diverse requirements.

Article

Africa is associated with Ubuntu values such as inclusiveness and treating others with fairness and human dignity. Such values align with human rights and social justice principles and are also integral to a social approach to inclusive education. However, there are several contextual and interconnected dynamics—environmental, cultural, and systemic—which impact on education systems and must be acknowledged when considering inclusive and special education. Several global developments have been endorsed and ratified by most African countries, such as the Education for All campaign, the Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action on Special Needs Education, the Millennium Development Goals, Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4, the Education 2030 Incheon Declaration and Framework for Action for the implementation of the SDG 4 framework, and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Furthermore, due to an African renaissance in the building of human capital since the 19th century, education policies and practices are also transforming to address the specific needs of the African context. Human rights and social justice are sanctioned as basic principles of education by the majority of African countries. Great strides have consequently been made in the development of education policies to address the inclusive education drive. However, the emphasis in these education policies seems to be on integrating students with special needs or disabilities into public education, mainly by placing them in separate units or classes attached to mainstream schools, or in special schools. It is therefore essential that, within the Ubuntu approach of everyone belonging to a greater community, both local communities and wider society make a commitment wherein interactive political, cultural, social, environmental, and systemic dynamics influencing learning, as well as causing learning breakdown, are acknowledged and addressed. A focus on the individual child as a problem to be remediated and segregated from mainstream society and education should therefore be rejected. Consequently, The education community (including governments, education departments, local education offices, schools, teachers, parents, and learners) must regularly come together to reflect and develop in-depth understanding of the philosophy, theory, terminology, and practice of inclusive education within the African context, which should then reflect in specific developed policies and consequent practices.

Article

The implementation of inclusive education in school systems creates new working conditions for all professionals. As a consequence, roles and responsibilities need to be redefined between general education teachers and special educators, and teacher education must be reformed to prepare professionals for the working environment they face in the 21st century. Three theoretical approaches guide the current discourse on teacher education. The competence theory approach focuses on the identification and acquisition of specific competencies. The structural theory approach stresses the importance of dealing with uncertainties and antinomies in the teaching profession. The professional biographical approach highlights the ongoing process of individual professionalization and includes biographical research. Taking the changing working environment into account, a three-pillar model is suggested for teacher education of future primary and secondary teachers, primary and secondary teachers with a focus on special education, and special educators as external support for schools.

Article

In the last decade, inclusive education policies have been one of the priorities within the pedagogical and social agendas of different South American countries. However, the great complexity and enormous diversity of both concepts (inclusive education and South America) demand a detailed analysis of what it means to strive for educational progress throughout such an extensive territory. On the one hand, inclusive education encompasses both traditional special education as well as other key issues that are closely linked: equity, quality, diversity, universality, access, participation, intersectionality, rights, individualization, and so on. On the other hand, South America is a real, complex, multifaceted territory in which different countries with very different political, economic, and social situations coexist (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, and Venezuela). As such, it is necessary to begin with comparative education and educational policy in order to understand the different educational priorities of each region as well as the organizations and stakeholders that have an impact. The development of inclusive education has not been uniform. Indeed, because there is no consensus regarding what inclusion means and represents, though there have been correlations, its evolution has been unequal throughout different countries. A study of both national and transnational inclusive educational policies will allow us to better understand and approximate this complex reality, as well as to anticipate forthcoming educational challenges.

Article

Inclusive education is a widely accepted pedagogical and policy principle, but its genesis has been long and, at times, difficult. For example, in 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights included statements about rights and freedoms that have, over the decades, been used to promote inclusive educational practices. Article 26 of the Declaration stated that parents “have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.” This declaration later helped some parent groups and educators to advocate for equal access to schooling in regular settings, and for parental choice about where their child would be educated. Following the widespread influence of the human rights-based principle of normalization, the concept of inclusive education received major impetus from the Education of All Handicapped Children Act in the United States in 1975, the United Nations (UN) International Year of Disabled Persons in 1981, and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2006. A major focus of the UN initiatives has been the right of people with a disability to participate fully in society. This focus has obvious consequences for the way education is provided to students with a disability or other additional educational needs. For many years, up to the last quarter of the 20th century, the major focus for such students was on the provision of separate specialized services, with limited attention to the concept of full participation in society. Toward the end of the 20th century and into the 21st century, there has been increasing acceptance, through parental action, systemic policy, and government legislation, of inclusivity as a basic philosophical principle. Both the type of instruction that should be provided to students with a disability and the location of that instruction in regular or specialized settings have been topics for advocacy and research, sometimes with mixed and/or controversial conclusions.

Article

Efforts to support education for all students have increasingly become priorities for governments around the world. Key international agreements, including the Sustainable Development Goals and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, have provided foundational direction to jurisdictions in implementing policies to engage all students including those with special education needs. As initiatives to support equitable and inclusive education for all become more widespread globally, it is important to consider how these efforts affect economically wealthy countries. Using the example of Canada, and specifically the province of Ontario, implications of supporting education for all through the framework of inclusive education are examined. These implications include funding, teaching commitment and training, resources, and privatization. Inclusive education refers to the ability of all students, regardless of gender, socioeconomic background, sexual orientation, or ability, to attend their neighborhood community school and be in classes with similar aged peers. Students with special education needs, whether these be learning disabilities, visual or hearing disorders, or mental health disorders, among many other conditions, are key stakeholders in inclusive education. The conclusion raises important questions for future research to examine inclusive education and the parallel implications not only in economically wealthy countries but for all jurisdictions that are trying to initiate and support educational programs for all students.

Article

Nickie Coomer and Chelsea Stinson

Historically, Western hegemonic order has been established through cultivating and legitimating social categories of difference. Schools, among other institutions, reinforce difference through marking ability, race, and gender to signify which bodies are productive, deficient, or dangerous and therefore in need of control. This process of differentiation and control is evident in the social, political, and education contexts of disabled youth whose race, gender, and sexuality are read, controlled, and resisted through policy and pedagogy. Through the processes of hypervisiblity, pathologization, and underserving of Black girls in schools, and especially within special education, this animates the nexus of gender, race, and disability. Parallels are drawn to paradigms of the female body and femininity, where difference is constructed as inferior to the normative male body. Similarly, special education policy, practice, and literature conceptualize disability as subtractive difference, wherein what is considered a “deficit” relies on a subtractive interpretation of a normative body or a normative way of being. In this regard, disability, gender—and, crucially, race—are often thought of as a negative departure from a normalized embodiment. In special education, such normalized, essentialist approaches to gender, race, and disability contribute to the disproportionate overidentification of some social identities and the underidentification of others, most often along raced and gendered lines. Importantly, disabling processes are institutionalized in education through the mechanism of special education, which not only serves as an instructional and academic response to a student’s disability but also acts as an institutional process that determines a student as disabled. The determination of a student having a disability is mediated through law, policy, and interpersonal interaction between school professionals and parents and caregivers. Disproportionate identification has been the focus of research, and studies show that overidentification occurs most often in disability categories that are considered “subjective”: for instance, specific learning disabilities and emotional disturbances. Such identification has an impact on students’ learning; opportunities to interact with their peers in general education settings; access to high quality, challenging curriculum; and opportunities to engage critical thinking in educational activities that go beyond direct instruction. Disabling processes in schools related to the intersection of disability, gender, and race, in particular, are mediated by the local, cultural interactions of school personnel and are evident in the ways in which Black girls, in particular, are disabled in school.

Article

Can inclusion and special education achieve education for all? The answer: It depends. What has been called “special education” began its rounds in schools as early as the late 19th century. Inclusive education first appeared in policy documents and mission statements nearly a century later, most notably and possibly most influentially in UNESCO documents and goals of Education For All, beginning in 2002. Both vary extensively in terms of approaches to instruction, service location, vocational background and training for teachers and support personnel, and in terms of who gets included and who gets excluded, to name a few variables. The views of both also often vary by roles; for example, parents, teachers, administrators, government officials. Both also evince major differences depending on the cultural contexts, economic resources, and historical traditions and views regarding education writ large. Exploring these variations and conditions provides insights for addressing the difficulties that face collaboration or merger of special education and inclusive education in order to achieve education for all. After these difficulties have been acknowledged, an essential starting point for change in the direction of education for all entails finding common ground between special education and inclusive education in terms of purposes and end-goals. A human rights approach to common ground, purposes, and end goals provides an essential framework.

Article

Michelle Parker-Katz and Joseph Passi

Special education curriculum is often viewed as an effort to provide ways for students with disabilities to meet specific academic and socio-/behavioral goals and is also heavily influenced by compliance with multiple legislative policies. Critical paths forward are needed to reshape a special education curriculum by using a humanizing approach in which students’ lived experiences and relatedness to self and others is at the core of study. Intentional study of how students and their families draw upon, develop, and help shape local supports and services that are provided through schools, along with community and governmental agencies and organizations, would become a major part of the new curricular narrative. However, the field of special education has been in large part derived from an epistemology rooted in science, positivism, and the medical model. The dominance of these coalescing epistemologies in educational systems has produced a myriad of structures and processes that implicitly dictate the ways special educators instruct, gather data, and practice. Core among those is a view that disability is synonymous with deficit and abnormality. What emerges is an entrenched and often implicit view that the person with disabilities must be fixed. In adopting a humanistic approach in which we value relationships, the funds of knowledge families have helped develop in their children and the identities individuals shape, and the linkages of persons with multiple community networks, the groundwork could be laid for a new curricular narrative to form. In so doing, the field could get closer to the grounding principle of helping all students with disabilities to thrive. For it is in communities that people can thrive and choose to participate in numerous life opportunities. In such a way curriculum is integral to lived experience, to the fullness and richness of lived experiences—lived experiences that include the study of academic subject matter along with the development of social and emotional learning.

Article

The early integration of disabled pupils in Italian schools and the parallel disbanding of special schools have given this country a pivotal role as an example of total inclusion, to be studied and imitated or criticized for its weak points. A better understanding of the singularity of the Italian case can be gained from studying the history of this process. In the 1970s, Italy arrived at revolutionary legislation that was driven by democratic values but also by a utopian, as well as courageous, spirit. The Italian state had long ignored the rights of disabled children and adults, recognizing the rights of only the war disabled. In the first decades of the republican state, after World War II, segregation and exclusion dominated the seducational and psychiatric scenarios. But researching the history of Italian special education leads to the discovery of a tradition of excellent special schools and institutes and of pedagogical and medical theories and practices, quite advanced for their time, that respected the dignity of the person and aimed to integrate them through work. In spite of the great names of doctors and educationalists, both Catholic and secular, such as De Sanctis, Montessori, Montesano, and Gemelli to name just a few, and their high level of specialization, society struggled to keep pace. The state did not support special education, leaving it to priests and doctors. Rich northern cities were able to provide better structures for disabled children. Moreover, children with sensory and physical disabilities, who were considered clever and therefore educable, received attention and had highly specialized schools in the 19th century. Only at the beginning of the 20th century were the needs of children with mental disabilities properly addressed through a pedagogical and medical approach. The great scientific advancements, however, got partially lost in common practice, and after World War II the school and welfare systems struggled to cope with a rising number of institutionalized children. The changes brought about by a new generation of psychiatrists, led by F. Basaglia, and educationalists who were antifascist and could not tolerate the segregation and exclusion of institutes; the radical spirit of 1968; and a new widespread consciousness of the shame of segregation for a democratic state produced revolutionary legislation that aimed at genuine inclusion. The history of Italian special education is quite recent; hence, it still draws on local and national studies. But the work done so far allows us to reconstruct the path of this process, which has not been linear, and shows the tensions, the continuity, and the innovation, as well as the steps backward. An inclusion policy concerns universal anti-discriminatory legislative measures, but this article, while refererring when necessary to other categories, focusses on disabled persons and their educational inclusion.

Article

Jayanthi Narayan and Nibedita Patnaik

Education is a fundamental right of all children, including those with special educational needs. Efforts to achieve education for all has resulted in the focused attention of governments around the world, thereby improving the quality of education in schools and leading to dignified social status for students previously marginalized and/or denied admission to schools. This worldwide movement following various international conventions and mandates has resulted in local efforts to reach rural remote areas, with education provided by the government in most countries. Though there has been significant progress in reaching children, it has not been uniform. There are still many barriers for children in rural and tribal areas or in remote parts of the country that prevent them from receiving equitable education. The essence of inclusive education is to build the capacity to reach out to all children, thereby promoting equity. In the 1990s, special needs education was a focus, and integrating it into the overall educational system led to reforms in mainstream schools which resulted in inclusive education that addressed the diverse learning needs of children. How successful have we been in these efforts particularly in the remote and rural areas? There are various models and practices for special and inclusive education in rural and remote areas, but reaching children with special educational needs in such areas is still a challenge. Though there are schools in these areas, not all are sufficiently equipped to address the education of children with special needs. Furthermore, teachers working in rural areas in many countries are not adequately trained to teach those with special needs, nor are there the technological support systems that we find available in urban areas. Yet, interestingly, in some rural/tribal communities, the teachers are naturally at ease with children with diverse needs. The schools in such areas tend to have heterogeneous classes with one teacher providing instruction to combined groups at different grade levels. Evidence shows that rural teachers are less resistant to including children with special needs compared to urban teachers. Because of their homogeneous lifestyle, community supports in rural areas offer another supportive factor toward smooth inclusion. Though primary education is ensured in most rural and remote areas, children have to travel long distances to semi-urban/urban areas for secondary and higher education; such travel is further complicated when the child has a disability. In many rural areas, children with special needs tend to learn the traditional job skills naturally associated with that area, though such skills are not always blended into the school curriculum. Preparing teachers to provide education in rural areas with the latest technological developments and a focus on vocation is bound to make that education more meaningful and naturally inclusive.

Article

The United States and other developed countries have acknowledged and supported the rights of students with disabilities to receive an appropriate education for decades. The role of the principal and school leader in overseeing educational programs and ensuring these entitlements become a reality for students with disabilities has taken center stage. Discussions related to principals and school leaders fulfilling the roles of leader and manager on behalf of students with disabilities linked the complementary disciplines of general and special education leadership. The leadership approach they adopted led to debates surrounding the concept of inclusion and the provision of an inclusive education on behalf of students with disabilities. Current definitions of inclusive education are typically linked to concepts of equity, social justice, and recognition of the student’s civil right to be granted full membership in all aspects of the educational enterprise. The processes involved in creating an inclusive school environment require principals and school leaders to examine the values and beliefs that influence their own thinking and behaviors before they can communicate a vision of inclusion. Principals and school leaders must be willing to act in concert with others to create the type of school culture that unanimously and positively responds to difference so every student can achieve full membership and feel welcomed and valued.

Article

Fraser Lauchlan and Christopher Boyle

The use of labels in inclusive education is a complex issue. Some have argued that labels are a necessary evil in the allocation of limited resources in order to support children with specific additional support needs, and others argue that they bring comfort and relief for children and their families and lead to an intervention program that will improve children’s educational opportunities. Further arguments about the use of labels have included that they lead to a wider and better understanding of certain needs that children may have, and thus there is more tolerance and less stigmatization among the general public. However, counterarguments can be made for each of these issues as to whether the use of labels can truly be considered a valuable practice in the sphere of inclusive education.

Article

Chris Forlin and Kuen Fung Sin

Following the UNESCO initial statement in 1994 that inclusive schools were the most effective way to counter discriminatory approaches and attitudes toward students with a disability, international legislation and policy has evolved to challenge exclusionary practices and focus attention on equal opportunities for all learners. Inclusion in education is now accepted as a basic right and the foundation for a fairer and equal society. In opposition to earlier dual systems of regular and special education, inclusive education presents a changed paradigm in the way that learners with diverse needs are educated. Specifically, generalist teachers are now required to be able to cater to the needs of the most diverse student populations both academically and socially within regular classrooms. In most regions, there has been a rather slow and lagging change in teacher preparation to support these new developments. It is frequently documented that new graduates and in-service teachers are not well prepared for managing inclusive classrooms and understanding differences among students. Many teachers will say that they require more professional learning opportunities about inclusive education than they currently receive. When teachers are appropriately trained, have positive attitudes toward including students with diverse abilities, and have access to appropriate resources and support, there are many good practices that become evident. Conversely, inadequate teacher education and a lack of suitable resources often inhibit teachers from developing the appropriate beliefs or attitudes necessary for becoming inclusive practitioners. As the demand for better training of teachers about the inclusion of students with diverse abilities increases, the question that arises is what constitutes best-practice professional learning for upskilling teachers about inclusive education? While a variety of existing practices ranging from in-school support to system-wide approaches are employed globally, identifying which to use must be grounded in the context and specific needs of individual teachers and schools. This article provides a review of the range of models of whole-school methods, including focusing on teacher competencies, developing school and university links, engaging in collaborative scholarship, and establishing professional learning communities. System support is also examined, as this is critical to effective training. The Hong Kong model is cited as a good example of a collaborative government system/university partnership toward upskilling teachers about inclusive education. This model provides a realistic approach to addressing this issue when a longitudinal plan has been implemented to upskill regular class teachers in inclusive education, using initially an off-site training program followed by a school-based whole-school approach that may be of interest to many other systems. Consideration is also given to the training needs of education assistants who work in inclusive classrooms and their roles in supporting students. The importance of lifelong professional learning should underpin decisions regarding what model or approach to adopt, as student and teacher needs will undoubtedly change over time.

Article

Christopher Boyle, George Koutsouris, Anna Salla Mateu, and Joanna Anderson

Understanding how best to support all learners to achieve their goals is a key aspect of education. Ensuring that educators are able to be provided with the best programs and knowledge to do this is perfectly respectable. But what is “evidence” in education, and at what point is it useful and informative in inclusive education? The need exists for a better understanding of what should constitute evidence-based inclusive education. Research with a focus on evidence-based practices in special and inclusive education has been increasing in recent years. Education intervention, by its very definition, should be tailored to suit individuals or groups of learners. However, immediately this is at odds with the gold standard of research intervention, that of randomized control trials; however, there are many advocates for evidence-based practice confirming to the highest form of research methodology. This seems laudable, and who could argue with wanting the best approaches to inform programs and teaching in all facets of education? Nevertheless, the requirements for research rigor mean that it is not practically possible to measure interventions in inclusive education so that they are generalizable across the many students who need support, because the interventions must be specific to individual need and therefore are not generalizable, nor are they intended to be. A narrow approach to what is evidence-based practice in education is unhelpful and does not take into consideration the nuances of inclusive education. Evidence of appropriate practice in inclusive education entails much more than robust scientific methodologies can measure, and this should be remembered. “Good” education is inclusive education that may or may not be recognized as evidence-based practice.

Article

Mark Carter, Jennifer Stephenson, and Sarah Carlon

The term data-based decision-making can refer to a wide range of practices from formative classroom use of monitoring in order to improve instruction to system-wide use of “big” data to guide educational policy. Within the context of special education, a primary focus has been on the formative classroom use of data to guide teachers in improving instruction for individual students. For teachers, this typically involves the capacity to (1) determine what data need to be collected to appropriately monitor the skill being taught, (2) collect that data, (3) interpret the data and make appropriate decisions, and (4) implement changes as needed. A number of approaches to such data-based decision-making have evolved, including precision teaching, curriculum-based assessment, and curriculum-based measurement. Evidence from systematic reviews and meta-analyses indicates instruction incorporating data-based decision-making has positive effects on outcomes for students with special education needs although the size of these effects has been variable. While the extent of the research base is modest, there are indications that some specific factors may be related to this variability. For example, the use of decision-making rules and graphic display of data appears to improve student outcomes and the frequency of data collection may differentially affect improvement. The presence and frequency of support offered to teachers may also be important to student outcomes. There is a need to increase our research base examining data-based decision-making and, more specifically, a need to more clearly define and characterize moderators that contribute to its effectiveness. In addition, there is a case for research on the wider use of data on student outcomes to inform broader policy and practice.