IRIS Center receives $7.5M grant

A five-year, $7.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs will continue funding of the IRIS Center at Peabody. The IRIS Center develops coursework and teacher training materials to help students with disabilities achieve their academic potential.

Director Naomi Tyler, associate professor of the practice of special education, says the IRIS Center bridges the research-to-practice gap through a free, interactive website that translates research about the education of students with disabilities into practice.

“There is a lot of excellent research that has validated many instructional practices, techniques and interventions, but teachers are exceptionally busy and are having more and more responsibilities placed on them, which makes it harder for them to keep up with the latest research findings,” Tyler says. “We are able to work with the top researchers in the country —many of whom are here at Peabody—to translate their research into engaging, interactive, online modules that teachers can access for free, at any time, to learn about the most effective practices to use with their students.

“Moreover, many of these instructional and behavioral practices and interventions are effective with all students,” Tyler says, “not just those with disabilities.”

Last year alone, 1.4 million people used the IRIS Center website to improve their knowledge and skills. Tyler says she hopes to be reaching 5 million people per year by the end of this new grant cycle, which will be accomplished in part through a partnership with Claremont Graduate University, whose team, led by IRIS co-director Deb Smith, is subcontracted by Vanderbilt to handle the training and dissemination components.

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