In the mid-1970s, passage of a federal education law required that special education services be delivered to all students who needed them from kindergarten through high school. That law changed the education landscape and planted the seed for what is now the Center for Research on Learning.
CRL Director Don Deshler remembers the time well:
“Up to that point, while there may have been a stated expectation, the reality was services really were provided up to only grade six.
“We were working like crazy to certify teachers at this other level. We were trying to set up demonstration
projects in schools so we’d have practicum sites for teachers, but we had no research to back it up.
“I remember Gordon Alley and Gary Clark and I were presenting, in 1976, at the CEC convention in Chicago. We were going to do a presentation on secondary LD. I remember the morning before we were scheduled to present, we were sitting in our hotel room literally creating overheads on the spot. We anticipated maybe 30 people might be at this presentation. There were 300, which indicated how desperate people were to get answers for this huge need. The impression that is still in my mind today, very visibly, is teachers frantically taking notes on anything we said.
“We left the presentation. We were standing at the elevator in the Palmer House in Chicago, and teachers were still asking us questions. When we got in the elevator, Gordon turned to me and said, ‘That’s the last time I’m selling swamp water.’
“We recognized that we had the formulation of some ideas in our minds, but we had no data behind it. So we resolved that we had to capture funding to do research to go along with the teacher preparation we were doing.
“That gave birth to the Center. That put us on the search to find funding for research. Fortunately, the following summer, an RFP was released and we asked Ed Meyen to help us write the proposal for an institute focusing on adolescents.”
Today, the Center for Research on Learning encompasses six divisions, each with a slightly different research emphasis. We study problems in education and work to place solutions that make a difference into the hands of educators, learners, employers, and policy makers.