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Universal Design for Learning proving valuable in advancing education reform nationwide

Growing number of states and school districts report using UDL principles to improve classroom instruction

May 18, 2012
Contact: Michal Miller
michal [dot] miller [at] widmeyer [dot] com
Tel: 202-884-7337



Wakefield, MA, May 18, 2012 — Universal Design for Learning (UDL), a research-based educational approach meant to include students with physical and cognitive disabilities in general education settings, has emerged as a popular and flexible framework for teaching all students. Across the country, many educators, school districts and states have discovered that UDL is not only a great way to improve daily classroom instruction while personalizing learning for each student, but also an effective way to implement Common Core State Standards, Race to the Top-funded initiatives and other education reforms.

The UDL framework has been implemented in schools and districts across the country. All states now have UDL initiatives and more than 150 school districts report using federal funding for UDL activities. At the federal level, UDL was incorporated into the Higher Education Opportunity Act and National Education Technology Plan, legislation to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and language around the standards, Race to the Top (RTTT), and American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). A new two-part study conducted with the support of the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation, Universal Design for Learning (UDL): Initiatives on the Move represented the first comprehensive examination of UDL implementation at the state and local school district levels.

The study examined the ways in which state and local policies and initiatives address UDL, and whether RTTT and ARRA funds have been effective in supporting UDL initiatives at the state and district levels. The conclusion: UDL is "becoming more widely accepted as an educational framework within the national policy landscape."

"We know that students have a wide range of strengths and needs, but when they are given a variety of flexible ways to meet high expectations, they can," said David Rose, co-founder and Chief Education Officer of the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST), one of two independent research teams that conducted the study, along with Thomas Hehir and Associates. "This report reaffirms the growing recognition among educators, school officials and policymakers that the UDL approach can guide them in using new technologies and innovative methods to help all students reach their full potential."

Some specific findings of the report include:

  • All 50 states plus D.C. reference UDL in PK-12 or postsecondary activities, and a growing number of school districts and states are infusing UDL principles into all of their instructional practices and their Common Core State Standards implementation work.
  • Education leaders from states that mentioned UDL in their RTTT applications reported a high familiarity with UDL principles; perceived a strong connection between UDL and the use of technology, teaching 21st century skills, and standards-based education initiatives; and reported using RTTT funds for a wide variety of activities that support UDL implementation.
  • Local leaders also reported familiarity with UDL principles and said their ARRA funds had been used to purchase computers and curricular materials, support professional development for general and special education teachers, and purchase technology for UDL implementation.

Despite the growing implementation of UDL, however, the study also revealed that there is still much work to be done to spread the word about what UDL is, how it differs from other general education initiatives such as differentiated instruction and Response to Intervention, and how it can benefit students, educators and schools. In addition, several obstacles to effective implementation of UDL by districts were identified, including insufficient staffing, time for implementation and funding for the purchase of technology.

"Many state and local personnel as well as educators on the ground have yet to be provided the necessary information to fully understand the UDL approach and its enormous advantages, or the guidance and training to implement it effectively," said Ricki Sabia, Associate Director of the National Down Syndrome Society Policy Center and chair of the National UDL Task Force. "Educators and policymakers in Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Kentucky, Ohio and other states are leading the way in demonstrating that UDL can actually make schools and districts smarter and more efficient about what technology they purchase and how they use it in the classroom."

Rose and Sabia today joined with other UDL experts and advocates as well as state and local education officials in a webinar discussion about UDL’s benefits and how schools, districts and states are applying UDL principles to instruction and education reform. They also discussed a number of ways federal, state and district-level policymakers and school officials, educators, parents and others can help spread the UDL movement to more classrooms and schools, including:

  • Promoting better funding for UDL initiatives and research
  • Providing high quality professional development on UDL
  • Asking school leaders how school districts are encouraging the inclusion of UDL in curriculum and instruction.

Join the UDL Movement. To view the report or learn more about UDL and various state and local initiatives around UDL implementation, visit the National Center on UDL. To interview the report authors and/or educators or officials who are implementing UDL in schools in your area, contact Michal Miller, 202-884-7337, michal [dot] miller [at] widmeyer [dot] com.

About the National Center on UDL
The National Center on Universal Design for Learning ( was launched in October 2009 with support from the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation. The Center aims to advance the field of UDL by supporting effective implementation of UDL in schools nationwide through information dissemination, sharing of best practices, convening key stakeholder organizations in education policy and advocacy, and sharing research that validates UDL approaches.

About CAST
Founded in 1984 as the Center for Applied Special Technology, CAST has earned international recognition for its development of innovative learning resources and for articulating the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL), a framework for creating inclusive educational environments. For more information, go to

Last Updated: 05/25/2012

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