NIU’s special ed. ranked 2nd nationally

By Katrina Kell

NIU’s special education program is ranked second in the nation, following a recent study based on the number of citations of research by special education faculty.

The rankings, published in the September/October issue of “Remedial and Special Education,” were composed from faculty citations for 81 doctoral-granting special education programs. Dr. Ray Dembinski, NIU faculty chairman for special education, attributed the department’s success to the ability to receive substantial grants.

“We are ranked high because we get good grants,” Dembinski said. “Conversely, we are able to get these grants partially because of our high ranking and excellent reputation. Because of our productivity in research, we continue to be recognized by our peers.”

University of Arizona placed first, with 326 citations, followed by NIU, recording 323 citations. The only other Illinois university in the top ten was the University of Illinois, ranking seventh with 226 faculty citations.

Laura Jordan, acting head of the special education department at U of I, said this study tells nothing about the teaching quality of the program. “Although it is based on objective criteria, it reflects a university’s library resources,” Jordan said.

“I don’t think that there is a single best way to rate an education program,” Jordan added. “You have to look at different facets of a program. When using a citation index, like this study did, it measures the faculty’s research base and their acceptance or non-acceptance by their peers,” she said.

NIU Dean of Education Charles Stegman emphasized the impact of this type of research on other school’s special education programs. “Important articles are quoted more often, and other school’s faculty often refer to them in their own work,” Stegman said.

The report was based on research by Paul Sindelar, head of the department of reading and special education at Florida State University, and Patrick Schloss, chair of the special education department at State University College at Buffalo, N.Y.

The authors explain in their study that citation analysis “yields an objective and replicable estimate of scholarly productivity and a reliable measure of program reputation.”