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    U of A and University of Oklahoma Teaming up to Establish Razorback-Sooner Scholars Program

    This article originally appeared on the University Of Arkansas website and is reprinted with permission.

    Across the country, there’s a critical need for teachers who know how to use evidence-based practices to improve the adult outcomes of students with disabilities.

    The University of Arkansas and University of Oklahoma have partnered to help meet that need with a unique program called Razorback-Sooner Scholars: Leaders for Transition.

    Leaders for Transition will provide a unique, funded doctoral experience for 10 students at the two universities who want to be special education assistant professors interested in transition services for youth with disabilities and their families.

    Recently, the universities were awarded a $2.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs to fund the program.

    Department of Education Seeks Your Comments on “Attracting, Preparing and Retaining” Effective Special Educators

    Attract, Prepare and Retain Effective Personnel graphicThe Office of Special Education Programs of the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) has developed an initiative called “Attract, Prepare and Retain Effective Personnel.” They have requested feedback from the field.  Specifically, the invitation states:

    “We invite you to share your thoughts on how we can best support States in their work to Attract, Prepare, and Retain Effective Personnel. Sharing your challenges and successes can make a difference for others facing similar challenges.” 

    The deadline for submitting comments is September 30, 2019.  Learn more.

    The Push to Get More Teachers of Color in Special Education Classrooms

    Teacher of color working with two students

    The excerpt below is taken from an article originally published in Ed Week and is reprinted with permission.

    It’s a constant struggle for school districts across the country to find qualified special education teachers. An extra challenge: finding special educators of color to help meet the needs of a student population that can be disproportionately nonwhite.

    Just over 82 percent of special education teachers in public schools are white, according to 2011-12 federal data, the most recent available. Meanwhile, only about half of students receiving special education services are white, according to 2017-18 data.

    Yet teacher diversity matters: Decades of research has shown that students often perform better academically when they are taught by teachers of the same race.

    “The special education field is really prime to recruit faculty of color,” said Jacqueline Rodriguez,

    Preparing Skilled Special Education Teachers

    Crayons

    This article and photo originally were originally published in SmartBrief Education and are reprinted with permission.

    We all know the numbers are sobering. A 2018 brief from the Council for Exceptional Children showed critical shortages of special education teachers in 48 states and the District of Columbia. Fifty-one percent of all school districts and 90% of high-poverty school districts report difficulty recruiting highly qualified special education teachers. The exit rate for special education teachers is nearly twice that of general education teachers and enrollment in teacher training programs has declined by 35% over the previous five years.

    It seems a dismal picture, but there is light at the end of the tunnel — one that prepares teachers to enter this dynamic field and equips them with tools to help them skillfully and confidently persist in the profession.

    Tips From PSU on Navigating an Inclusive Educator Prep Program

    Representatives from PSUAs the student population has diversified so has our understanding of the general education classroom, specifically who we serve in an inclusive setting. Our students with special education services are learning the majority of their grade level curriculum in general education classrooms. This paradigm shift requires effective collaboration between service providers and teachers as well as a deep understanding and application of differentiation to meet the needs of all students.

    For years, the two fields of general education and special education have been siloed. Persistence and partnership is how 

    Respond to the Needs of Immediate Communities, Advises BGSU

    Teacher in front of classroom of studentsThe key to developing the Bowling Green State University (BGSU) dual licensure program is reaching out to the local area to ensure the program is built with the local needs at the forefront. “The local data is how the university can drive change,” recalls a district leader. Faculty also believe collaboration with the district is central to their mission and their success with candidates. Making connections with the field office and the supervising teachers ensured faculty could relate what candidates were seeing in the field to what they were learning in their coursework.

    University systems must also be taken into consideration, especially when working across colleges and across departments. Two questions drove the BGSU program leadership as they developed their dual licensure program: What is best for our students in this program? An what is best for this program? One significant concern was finding strong clinical placements for each teacher candidate. The success of a program with hundreds of teacher candidates rested with strong clinical partnerships.

    Finally, serving all students that walk into the classroom was the priority when developing the dual licensure program at BGSU. “This wasn’t an experiment, this is the way BGSU does business,” reflected a faculty member. It was a choice to move away from single licensure that, over time, changes the makeup of the district teaching population, which is why district leaders were involved at every step in the program development.

    To learn more, watch the Advice to Others video highlighting BGSU’s Models of Inclusive Clinical Teacher Preparation, part of AACTE’s Research-to-Practice Spotlight Series.

    Students Discuss the Value of PSU’s Secondary Dual Education Program

    PSU students reflecting on their experienceA number of students in Portland State University’s (PSU) Secondary Dual Education Program (SPED) recently reflected on advice they were given before entering the graduate program. “I always want more education than less,” one teacher candidate was advised by a mentor in the field of medicine. The candidate now looks back on her experience in the program with appreciation. “I was ready. I had the resources. I had been in the classroom for two years; it felt natural. I didn’t have the same level of trepidation as some of my first year friends.”

    The students who complete the PSU program graduate with a dual endorsement in a secondary education content area and special education. Another candidate reflected on the importance of serving every student in the classroom. His decision to pursue a two-year graduate program in secondary English and special education was an obvious one; it ensured he would be prepared to meet the needs of all students with a range of abilities.

    The benefit of being profession-ready is not only valued by the teacher candidates. High school students also note the tremendous advantage they have when a teacher who understands the unique needs of students with IEPs is leading the classroom. In particular, college access traditionally has been stymied for students with significant disabilities. However, one high school student reflected that she has a mentor in her teacher, someone who has guided her toward college-ready curriculum. Learning from their students is another area of mutual benefit expressed by the candidates. The necessity to meet the needs of each student in the classroom is universally acknowledged by candidates, students, and administrators.

    To learn more, view the What’s in it for me? video highlighting PSU’s Secondary Dual Education program, part of AACTE’s Research-to-Practice Spotlight Series.

    BGSU Inclusive Early Childhood Program Builds Strong Partnerships with Local Schools

    Teacher working with two young girls in classroom. Developing and sustaining partnerships with local school districts are critical to the success of the Bowling Green State University (BGSU) Inclusive Early Childhood (IEC) program. Superintendents who work with BGSU assert that all parties need to understand the challenges each school district and university face and must be willing to bridge the gap between research and clinical practice together. BGSU’s teacher candidates are deployed for clinical practice in special education at local schools including in rural areas.

    “One of the pieces that works really well for us is that all of the people working in the education department at the university are parents themselves of students in our district so there’s a vested interest,” said Francis Scruci, superintendent of Bowling Green City Schools. “I think there’s a mutual respect. We certainly respect what the university does and I think they respect what we’re trying to do at the K-12 level and we understand the challenges that both of us face. We are willing to bridge that gap and try to help each other become successful.”

    BGSU’s overall objective is to prepare graduates of the IEC program to teach young children with and without disabilities in inclusive settings. The IEC program blends the best practices from early childhood education with early childhood special education. It addresses the knowledge, skills, and values necessary to meet the needs of each child. Graduates of the program are prepared to provide differentiated, evidence-based instruction to young children from birth through grade 3. 

    To learn more, watch the Developing and Sustaining Partnerships video highlighting BGSU’s Models of Inclusive Clinical Teacher Preparation, part of AACTE’s Research-to-Practice Spotlight Series.

    PSU Partners with Schools to Advance Inclusive Education

    Teacher working in classroom with students

    One of the key components of Portland State University’s (PSU) Secondary Dual Education Program is its success in developing and sustaining partnerships with local school districts.

    Marvin Lynn, dean of the Graduate School of Education at PSU, shares how the program prepares secondary education teacher candidates to bring content knowledge and “the knowledge that special education teachers have to bare about the learning process and about how to work with these unique populations” to local schools.

    Educators like Ana Capac, a special education teacher at Evergreen High School, specifically ask for student teachers from the PSU program because of the mindsets and approaches they bring to the classroom and community. “It is really important that I’m supporting both the student teachers I’m working with on how they are developing this mindset of inclusion, supporting all students, and working within the school to support their colleagues as well,” says Capac.

    Andrew Gilford, assistant principal at Clackamas High School, emphasizes this culture shift to more collegial relationships where the PSU teacher candidates and the classroom teachers “speak the same language” and can work together to serve students with disabilities and improve learning outcomes. “Coming from this kind of program and this kind of background, you are immediately an advocate,” adds Rob Parness, special education teacher and former academic coach at Tigard High School.

    In discussing the culture shift, Will Parnell, curriculum and instruction department chair at PSU, emphasizes that the program was built based on relationships with the community. “There were local districts that were saying ‘we want special ed teachers that can support students in general ed classrooms’ but they found out that teacher prep programs were not focused on that,” says Susan Bert, assistant professor of practice, special education at PSU.  “So there was a need.”

    To learn more, view the Developing and Sustaining Partnerships video featuring PSU’s Secondary Dual Education program.

    CCSSO’s Latest Report Offers Key Recommendations for Ensuring Equity for Students with Disabilities

    Ensuring an Equitable Opportunity

    The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) recently released Ensuring an Equitable Opportunity: Providing a High-Quality Education for Students with Disabilities, a report that details policy and practice considerations around individualized education plans chiefs and state education leaders can reflect upon and implement in ensuring all students, especially students with disabilities, have access to a high-quality education. Students with disabilities are provided with an individualized education program (IEP) to ensure they receive specially-designed instruction and related services. The IEP is the primary mechanism for ensuring students with disabilities receive the right educational content and rigor at the right moment in their education. 

    The Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 marked an historic win for civil rights when the doors to public education were opened for all students. For the first time, children with disabilities had access to a public education and the hope of a productive and fulfilling future. Today, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 (IDEA), the most recent iteration of that law, aims to deliver on that promise; namely, that all students with disabilities have equitable access to a free appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment.

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