Aug. 10, 2009 -- The College of Education has been selected to receive a five-year, $500,000 grant funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs. It is designed to improve the training and qualifications of its graduates as they earn certification in special education.
The grant focuses on the improvement of the College of Education’s uniquely merged special and general education teacher preparation program, as well as the quality of field placements within rural school systems. The grant activities should also translate to strategic improvements in course syllabi, more realistic field experiences and, ultimately, in greater and more attractive job opportunities for Fredonia graduates.
“There are many more special education jobs than general education jobs out there right now. The need for special educators is much greater,” said Dr. Kathleen Magiera, an associate professor within the College of Education. Dr. Magiera is the project director of the grant entitled, “Project RAISE-UP” (Redesigning and Improving Special Education — Undergraduate Program).
The project addresses the U.S. Secretary of Education’s priority to improve the quality of K-12 special education teacher preparation programs. The grant, which began on July 1, was one of just 12 to be funded nationally this year, and the first of two to have ever been funded in New York State. In addition to Dr. Magiera, it was co-written by Dr. Rhea Simmons, her colleague in the College of Education, in collaboration with its dean, Dr. Christine Givner.
Fredonia’s Childhood Inclusive Education major will be redesigned to better meet the needs of school-age children with disabilities, particularly in rural school districts and in high-poverty schools struggling with low student achievement within the region. College of Education graduates will receive certification in both special and general education — a point of difference that, according to Dr. Magiera, will help Fredonia alumni truly stand out in the market following graduation.
“When I go to conferences nationally, I see school districts lining up in rows to get at prospective teachers that have these kinds of credentials,” she confirmed. “They’re offering to cover moving expenses, special incentives…you name it.”
Over the next five years, Fredonia faculty and staff will collaborate with rural school districts to improve the quality of its teacher preparation program. The program will focus on revising the teacher preparation curriculum by embedding specific special education content within courses and enhancing the skills of Fredonia undergraduates in the field to work with families, educational professionals, and community-based agencies.
“In addition, professional development opportunities will be provided to practicing teachers on how to better mentor our teacher candidates in areas of inclusive special education,” Dr. Magiera added.
“This is a significant accomplishment for the SUNY Fredonia College of Education,” Dean Givner confirmed. “It truly demonstrates the quality of our programs and faculty, and will only serve to heighten the caché associated with a SUNY Fredonia degree in our field. The grant will increase the number of highly qualified special educators in the region and state.”
Fredonia began offering Special Education certification in 2007 and has positioned itself uniquely within the state, with six faculty members who have doctoral degrees in special education, including Dean Givner. Dr. Magiera believes that this, coupled with Fredonia’s relatively rural location and its focus on inclusive teacher preparation, helped the university stand out in the minds of the grant reviewers.
“Many larger universities are more research-focused and produce very small numbers of teachers per year,” she confirmed. SUNY Fredonia certifies close to 500 teachers each and every year. Teacher preparation is our primary focus, and I think that made a big difference as to why we were selected.”