General Curriculum Projects Overview

Based on our belief that all students should have the opportunity to learn academic skills like reading, science, and math which is supported by IDEA and NCLB legislation, the research team at the UNC Charlotte has undertaken a series of studies aimed at finding ways to teach academic skills to students with significant cognitive disabilities that are linked to grade-level content standards. Our purpose is to improve the educational programs of these students through research that opens new opportunities for learning. Our success is measured by the extent to which we increase expectations and positive outcomes for these students.

For students with significant cognitive disabilities to have full access to the general curriculum they must have opportunities and instructional support to learn the core academic content typical of their grade level. The purpose of the UNC Charlotte General Curriculum Projects is to research and develop evidence-based practices for assessing and teaching academic content that is aligned with grade-level standards.  To achieve this purpose we have assembled a team not only of researchers in severe disabilities, but also researchers from high incidence disabilities, reading, math, and science education and measurement and evaluation.

We have primarily partnered with the Charlotte Mecklenburg School System (CMS). Our primary partner within the school system is the Exceptional Children’s Division, but we also benefit from the expertise of researchers, measurement, and curriculum experts within this system. The teachers within CMS have also been our teachers as they work closely with us to implement and evaluate new ideas. By partnering with a large urban system we are also fortunate to have access to a large population of students with low incidence disabilities. We have also had the opportunity to partner with other local school systems: Rowan-Salisbury, Union, and Kannapolis City schools. Our goal is to serve students and their parents by implementing research that not only answers national questions but improves the educational program of each student who participates.

Our research has two major strands- alternate assessment and academic instruction. We are a partner with the National Center on Alternate Assessment (NAAC) at the University of Kentucky ( As a partner, our work focuses primarily on the alignment between assessment, curriculum, and instruction for students who participate in alternate assessments. Our second strand focuses on teaching literacy, math, and science. One of our projects, RAISE,  is one of the U.S. Department of Education’s national centers on reading for this population and involves longitudinal students on teaching reading to elementary-age students with emergent literacy skills. Additionally, Project MASTERY is a grant that focuses on providing professional development nationally for teachers of students with significant disabilities and focuses on training them to teach grade aligned Math and Science content. Our model demonstration project on Reading, Writing, Math, and Science also includes literacy research as well as math and science. This website also contains information from some of our earlier projects on alternate assessment and general curriculum access.

I hope that you will find the information contained in this website useful to your work on behalf of students with significant cognitive disabilities. We welcome your feedback which you can give us by clicking here. We also would be delighted to hear about your innovations, new ideas, resources, and questions for future research. Thank you for taking the time to visit us.


Diane M. Browder, PhD
Snyder Distinguished Professor of Special Education
General Curriculum Projects Director

2009 First Citizens Scholars Award Video Clip

Curriculum Project Office

Special Education & Child Development Department
College of Education Building
9201 University City Blvd
Charlotte, NC 28223-0001

Phone: (704) 687-8492
Fax: (704) 687-2916