UD Gets $1 Million Grant for Special Education Training
U.S. Department of Education to fund Center for Disabilities Studies program
The Center for Disabilities Studies, in partnership with other education centers at the University of Delaware and the Delaware Department of Education (DDOE), will offer the state’s first special education-specific leadership training program starting in 2020. Called the Special Education Administrative Leadership (SEAL) program, it will be supported by a five-year, $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education. Applications are available beginning Monday, Jan. 6, and the training sessions will launch in August.
The Center for Disabilities Studies is part of UD’s College of Education and Human Development.
CDS will implement the SEAL program, designing and delivering special education coursework and handling the logistics of internships, single-day retreats and other opportunities available to participants. The 18-month curriculum will also include school leadership preparation designed by the UD Delaware Academy for School Leadership (DASL). DASL will draw from its Principal Preparation Program, which serves as an alternative route to assistant principal and principal certification in Delaware. UD’s Center for Research in Education and Social Policy will conduct regular program evaluations.
While Delaware currently offers a Special Education Director credential, it does not align with present standards for administrators because it does not specify the knowledge or skills that individuals must have in order to qualify for certification. Fewer than half of the state’s special education directors hold the credential.
CDS Director Beth Mineo said that SEAL will close this gap by imparting “a keen understanding of special education law and financing, evidence-based assessment and intervention practices, family collaboration, conflict resolution and a host of other topics. Our graduates will be in a position to navigate the complexities of special education with wisdom and grace.”
SEAL participants, expected to be a mix of special educators, school administrators and district leaders, will take courses such as “Leading for Learning and Results,” attend 12 additional intensive mini-retreats on relevant special education topics, conduct research on a real-world challenge that exists in their school or district and undertake multiple internships. Totaling at least 240 hours, the internships will immerse participants in day-to-day work at the school, district and state level as well as experiences tailored to students’ areas of interest.
“The biggest thing that participants are going to bring away from SEAL is experience,” said Michael Saylor, co-project director with Mary Ann Mieczkowski, the director of DDOE’s Exceptional Child Resources. “Seeing firsthand how special education policies are implemented at each level is going to help leaders make more informed, effective decisions in their jobs.”
Milford School District Director of Student Services Laura Manges said that immersion in multiple levels of special education administration may be particularly useful for professionals such as educational diagnosticians and coordinators, who spend most of their time in a single building—by necessity—even though their responsibilities extend across the district.
The federal grant will enable SEAL to enroll 55 participants over four years. However, plans are already in development to sustain the program after the grant concludes.
“One of the outstanding characteristics of this project is that DDOE is investing in it from day one,” Mineo said. “Discussions began during the proposal development period about the feasibility of continuing that investment.”
SEAL’s creation coincides with efforts by the state and individual school districts such as Milford to emphasize inclusion and student care in leadership training and professional standards. Manges, a member of the SEAL statewide planning committee, said the grant “comes at the perfect time.
“We didn’t have any choice but to move in this direction,” she said. “Now we have the opportunity to work with staff who are invested in growing as educators and leaders.”