UF awarded $25 million to advance teaching of students with disabilities
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida’s College of Education will receive $25 million over the next five years to address a concern that has plagued American schools for more than two decades — inadequate teaching of children with disabilities.
UF officials said Monday the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs has granted the first of five annual, $5 million awards to the education college to establish a center to support the development of effective teachers — in general and special education classrooms –and education leaders to serve students with disabilities.
“This grant represents the Education Department’s largest investment ever in improving education for students with disabilities,” said co-principal investigator and UF special education professor Mary Brownell.
She said the new Collaboration for Educator Development and Accountability and Reform, also known as CEDAR Center, will open in January in Norman Hall, home of the College of Education. Other UF co-principal investigators are Paul Sindelar and Erica McCray, also in special education.
Brownell said the CEDAR Center will work with states in strengthening professional standards and reforming preparation and certification programs for general and special education teachers, and school and school district leaders who work with students with disabilities. The center also will help states revise their 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. “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,” she said. “Students with disabilities perform in school more poorly than any other subgroup of students. With truly effective instruction, though, many of these students have abilities that will allow them to advance and succeed in college, career and other postsecondary options.”
Through the CEDAR Center, the UF group is partnering 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 collaborators include the University of Kansas, the New Teacher Center (a national non-profit), the University of Washington at Bothell, the Council for Exceptional Children and several other national professional organizations.