WestEd is pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Jose Blackorby as WestEd’s Research Director, Learner Variability and Impact, who significantly expands the expertise of the agency’s growing leadership and research teams. Jose will lead innovative studies designed to promote better learning conditions and outcomes for students with disabilities, initially prioritizing equitable learning acceleration for children and youth nationwide.

“We are at a critical juncture for understanding how the pandemic is continuing to affect students with disabilities and knowing what conditions are needed to ensure effective learning recovery,” says Senior Managing Director Rorie Fitzpatrick, who guides the agency’s Special Education Policy and Practice portfolio.

“It’s imperative that we accelerate systemic improvement that will result in better educational scenarios than those we left last spring. Jose is eminently qualified to lead in this arena.”

Jose is making the transition to WestEd from his leadership role at CAST, an education research and development organization. Both organizations will collaborate to ensure a smooth and collegial transition process through the end of June. At WestEd, Jose will lead efforts that yield new and deeper insights for the nation’s educators, students, and families who are seeking solutions to reduce barriers to learning, engagement, and opportunity.

With deep understanding of what works for students with disabilities and a foundation of research that intersects research with policy and practice, Jose brings expertise and results from a decades-long career shaping new models that aim to ensure inclusivity and improved outcomes for children and youth all over the world.

His work spans design and implementation of large-scale, national studies; development of novel approaches to assessment design; launch of new technology solutions related to Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and higher-order thinking skills; and leadership of innovative design and experimental research.

“The appointment of Jose Blackorby reflects WestEd’s commitment to the belief that all students have the capacity to succeed in our schools when systems are designed to support their unique needs,” says CEO Glen Harvey. “Jose’s work will be pivotal in guiding the field to understand what those conditions are.”

“Now more than ever, we recognize the need to expand the research foundations related to accelerating learning opportunities—and we look forward to new explorations and innovations that will support students with disabilities and their aspirations to grow and thrive in their communities.”

Most recently, Jose led several complex and cutting-edge studies related to next generation applications of UDL in technology-enhanced instruction and assessment, expanding the availability of meaningful solutions that positively shape learning experiences for students with disabilities, including:

  • A Google application, CORGI, to help students build higher-order thinking skills and become expert learners
  • Leading an efficacy study of an UDL-based inquiry science notebook, SNUDLE: Science Notebook Universal Design for Learning
  • Launching and developing an open source UDL player for digital content as part of the Center on Inclusive Software for Learning (CISL) suite of products
  • Development of a teacher dashboard for I-SMART, a next generation application of Dynamic Learning Maps (DLM) that seeks to “narrow the gap between the NGSS and existing learning models of science in order to increase science achievement in students with significant cognitive disabilities and students who are not meeting grade-level expectations in science”
  • Developing UDL resources to support educators’ efforts to include students with significant cognitive disabilities in general education through the TIES Center

A current member of the Technical Working Group for the National Education Technology Plan and a contributor to the field through publications, products, and membership on national advisory boards, Jose is also a lecturer for the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

He joins WestEd following recent announcements regarding expanded or new directorships: Susan Mundry, Ursula Wright, and Catherine Goins.