Evidence-Based Practices


Both the No Child Left Behind legislation and Individuals With Disabilities Education Act encourage the use of evidence-based practices but do not define them. Researchers have attempted to develop evidence-based practice criteria, but conducting special education research is difficult due to:

  • Number of Individuals With Disabilities Education Act disability categories
  • Wide range of prevalence rates among disability categories
  • Variability of student needs
  • Variability of educational settings

Another challenge is creating guidelines for determining whether the research supporting a practice is sufficient. The Council for Exceptional Children and the What Works Clearinghouse have created widely-cited guidelines and lists of evidence-based practices.

Use of evidence-based practices

The extent to which evidence-based practices are being used in classrooms is unclear. One factor is whether evidence-based practices information and resources are readily available to teachers. Another is whether evidence-based practices materials (such as manuals and forms) are designed to allow teachers to implement evidence-based practices easily given their time constraints. To increase usage, many suggest evidence-based practice content must be further embedded into pre-service/in-service teacher preparation programs. Organizations such as the What Works Clearinghouse and the National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders have developed evidence-based practice training modules and supports to encourage usage.

Eclectic approach

Teachers often use some components of interventions to create a student's individualized education program. Critics suggest this eclectic approach results in no intervention being implemented as designed, which reduces its effectiveness. They further question whether school personnel have received sufficient training to implement multiple practices. Proponents suggest this approach allows school staff to create programs to meet each student's individual needs.

Secondary transition

The National Secondary Transition Technical Assistance Center rates secondary transition practices as being evidence-based, research-based, promising and unestablished in order of rigor. They have also organized evidence-based practices according to the skill level being emphasized such as functional life skills or community participation, many of which are functional and very specific (such as purchasing skills).