As part of a national effort to improve instruction for children with learning, behavioral, physical and other disabilities, the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing has been awarded a $200,000 federal grant for an intensive review of training for the state’s teachers and administrators – in both general and special education settings.
Funded by the U.S. Department of Education, the grant is part of a $25 million, five-year push by the federal Office for Special Education to roll out special education reforms in 20 states, including this newly announced effort in California. The federal push began in 2012 with the creation of the Collaboration for Effective Educator Development, Accountability and Reform, a University of Florida-based technical assistance center that awarded the grant to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing and will work closely with the state effort. The collaboration group’s primary partner is the American Institutes for Research.
Among the items for review in the California collaboration, which will extend through 2017, are curricula at the colleges of education, credentialing standards for teachers and administrators in both general and special education, and measurements of successful educator training programs, said Mary Brownell, professor of special education at the University of Florida and director of the Collaboration for Effective Educator Development, Accountability and Reform.
Because many students with disabilities spend most of their day in a general education classroom, Brownell said that all teachers need to be familiar with research-based techniques used to teach reading to students with learning disabilities and to manage the behavior of students with mental health issues. Those teaching methods will be useful in dealing with all students, she said.
Crucial to improving educational outcomes of students with disabilities are school leaders who share that goal, Brownell said. “We need to create supportive instructors, and school leaders are absolutely essential” in this process, she said.
In California, the commission will bring together education faculty and administrators from Loyola Marymount University, Brandman University and the California State University campuses in Fresno, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Long Beach, as well as representatives from the Los Angeles and San Francisco unified school districts and the California Department of Education. The educators will form workgroups to tackle the various issues.
The review effort aligns with the focus of the Statewide Special Education Task Force, a newly formed initiative of the State Board of Education charged with reviewing all aspects of special education services, including teacher preparation and credentialing. “We will be sharing what we have found with the task force,” said Bob Loux, a consultant with the commission who will work on the review.
Over a four-year period, the goal of the statewide team is to develop strategies to ensure that students with disabilities achieve college and career readiness, the commission said. In a statement, Mary Vixie Sandy, executive director of the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, said, “As a statewide leadership team, we have a great group of individuals working together to ensure California continues to lead the way in this important endeavor.”