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Martha Thurlow, Ph.D.


National Center on Educational Outcomes

Martha Thurlow is director of the National Center on Educational Outcomes. In this position, she addresses the implications of contemporary U.S. policy and practice for students with disabilities and English Language Learners, including national and statewide assessment policies and practices, standards-setting efforts, and graduation requirements. With a career that has spanned more than 35 years, Dr. Thurlow spent many of those years focused on students with learning disabilities, targeting both the assessment and instructional issues for these students in her research. Early childhood identification flowing into the K-12 school system, and student dropout as students moved through school rounded out a research portfolio devoted to the school careers of students.

During the past decade, Dr. Thurlow has been the principal investigator on more than 25 federal or state projects that have focused on the participation of students with special needs in large-scale accountability assessments. Particular emphasis has been given to how to obtain valid, reliable, and comparable measures of the knowledge and skills of these students while at the same time ensuring that the assessments are truly measuring their knowledge and skills rather than their disabilities or limited language when these are not the focus of the assessment. Studies have covered a range of topics, including participation decision making, accommodations, universal design, accessible reading assessments, computer-based testing, graduation exams, and alternate assessments. Dr. Thurlow has published extensively on these topics.