How can special education teachers be more effective? The federal Education Department is funding a new center to find out.
The department's office of special education said Thursday it will spend up to $5 million on the creation of the Center to Support the Development of Effective Educators to Serve Students with Disabilities.
The new center—applications are due Sep. 4—will provide technical assistance to state education departments that are reviewing and reforming certification and licensing standards for teacher preparation programs. It will be expected to work with school districts and colleges and universities.
The standards the groups collaborate on will have to be proven effective through research and help teachers work effectively in inclusive settings.
Notable, the announcement said, is that about 95 percent of the nearly 6 million students with disabilities in public schools spent part or all of the day in general education classrooms.
"As students with disabilities spend an increasing amount of time in general education classrooms, all teachers and leaders must have the knowledge and skills necessary to address their diverse needs," the application request says.
In an interesting contrast to this call for more investment and thought to be put into preparing teachers who work with students with disabilities, last week, U.S. House subcommittee spent a bit of time talking about allowing teachers who are still working on their certification to be considered "highly qualified" under the federal No Child Left Behind law. This is allowed now, but this provision expires soon. Its possible extension has been a source of angst in the special education community. Earlier in July, the House appropriations subcommittee approved extending the provision.
The extension has struck a chord in the special education community, because advocates say students with disabilities have more to lose if they are in a classroom with a teacher who isn't well-prepared to work with them from the start. They sent this letter to the House on Monday outlining their objections.
Those who favor the policy say that it provides teachers for districts experiencing shortages and gives teachers who wouldn't otherwise have one the opportunity to find a place in the classroom.