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New Center Established to Develop Effective Special Educators

The University of Florida will spend the next five years supporting states so they can make general and special education classroom teachers more effective in their work with students with disabilities.

The U.S. Department of Education said earlier this year it would devote $25 million to this effort. UF will receive $5 million for each of the next five years to create the new Collaboration for Educator Development and Accountability and Reform.

UF special education professor Mary Brownell said the center will work with states to strengthen professional standards and reform preparation and certification programs for general and special education teachers, and with school and school district leaders who work with students with disabilities. The center also will help states revise teacher-evaluation systems to align with the higher professional standards.

"Studies establish that our current systems for licensing, preparing, developing, supporting, and evaluating teachers to effectively instruct students with unique needs are wholly inadequate," Brownell said in a written statement. "The CEDAR Center approach is to reform and align these areas with research-proven practices and professional standards. This grant will allow the special education field to take a giant step in improving the education of all students."

UF will partner with nine other organizations with plans to eventually roll out a special-education reform program to 20 states. The center's primary partner is the American Institutes for Research. Other partners include the University of Kansas, the New Teacher Center, the University of Washington at Bothell, and the Council for Exceptional Children.

The grant is one of a number the federal Education Department has announced in recent weeks that involve special education. Some of the others include:

  • $9 million to higher education institutions in 21 states and the District of Columbia for work on special education personnel-preparation programs. The agency issued 38 grants, each about $250,000, to train educators to improve the services and results for children with disabilities. Some grants will focus on infants and toddlers, some on low-incidence disabilities, and others on related services and adapted physical education.
  • $24 million in grants to 22 states to improve personnel training. These are part of the State Personnel Development Grants Program, part of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. You can learn more about these grants here.
  • $1.1 million to three projects that will support early intervention and preschool programs in the effective use of assistive technology with young children with disabilities.
  • $3.1 million in grants for universities and colleges to work on preparing graduate students for leadership positions in special education, early intervention, and related services. The grants are intended to fill the need for faculty positions in special education, among other things.
  • $1.2 million for the University of Connecticut to establish an early-childhood personnel center that will serve as a national resource for professionals serving infants, toddlers, and preschool children with disabilities and their families. Recent studies have shown the need to strengthen the skills of the early childhood workforce to improve developmental and learning outcomes for very young children with disabilities.
  • $3.7 million to the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill to establish an early-childhood technical assistance center, which will partner with states to provide a framework for high-quality, effective and efficient early childhood and preschool technical assistance and intervention services for young children with disabilities.
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