Federal grant helps UIC address state shortage of special ed teachers

young studentPublic schools in Illinois face a shortage of special education teachers, in part because not enough university professors are qualified to train them, according to researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The researchers cite national survey data showing 50 percent to 60 percent of faculty intend to retire within five years.

Marie Tejero Hughes, UIC associate professor of special education, and Michelle Parker-Katz, clinical professor, will use a five-year, $1.14 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to recruit and prepare seven doctoral students who will train special education teachers and study students with disabilities in urban schools.

The grant is the second of its kind to UIC in the past seven years. The seven graduates of the first group are now doing research and training special education teachers at five Chicago-area universities, Parker-Katz said.

“For Congress to continue funding like this, the need is extreme,” she said. “Chicago has huge vacancies in elementary and high school special education, and there are only two special-education doctoral programs in Illinois.”

The program emphasizes teaching children with disabilities in inclusive settings.  It will recruit diverse students with at least two years experience teaching children in urban schools who are interested in addressing various types of disability, including learning, intellectual, behavioral, emotional, social and multiple disabilities and autism.

Several features make UIC’s program unusual, said Hughes, including its urban context, in which students will work with culturally and linguistically diverse families; its partnership with the Chicago Public Schools; its requirement for multiple residencies in research and teacher education; and its early career support.

The students will do three research residencies and one teaching residency, all with “top national researchers,” Hughes said.

Those connections, said Parker-Katz, “will lead them to build communities of inquiry in universities and contribute to research about students with disabilities, schooling, and community involvement.”

The program will begin next summer. The deadline for application is Dec. 16.

Information is online at https://sites.google.com/a/uic.edu/specialeducation/.

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