LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas has secured a grant that will help working and future teachers improve inclusion in classrooms across the state and region. The grant will provide education and training on methods and practices to advocate for systems changes and implement inclusive instruction — making sure all students learn together in general education classrooms — which has shown to boost improvement for all students.
The five-year, $1.25 million grant from the Office of Special Education Programs will provide funding for 42 teachers to gain an endorsement in low-incidence special education or work toward a master’s degree in special education. Both teachers already working with students with a range of disabilities such as cognitive disability, multiple disabilities, autism and others and pre-service teachers will be eligible for the program. Jennifer Kurth, assistant professor, and Mary Morningstar, associate professor of special education at KU, are co-principal investigators of the grant. They said the program will help address the too-common practice of segregating students with low-incidence disabilities from general education classrooms.
“Our focus on ending segregation and advancing the skills of teachers toward inclusive practices for students with disabilities is exciting,” Kurth said. “This is where the leaders in the field agree education is going. We’re interested in working with anyone dedicated to inclusive practices.”
KU’s No. 1 nationally ranked Department of Special Education has long been a leader in conducting research and providing practices for schools to implement inclusive practices. Teachers who take part in the program will receive funding to cover tuition, books and expenses while working toward their endorsement and master’s degree. In addition to learning from KU’s faculty experts, participants will receive funding to attend national education conferences by prestigious educational organizations such as the Council for Exceptional Children and TASH.
“We think that is a unique aspect of this program,” Kurth said of the conference component. “Just getting a chance to talk to some of the leading experts in the field as a master’s student or teacher is invaluable.”
Special education, disability and inclusion experts from KU and universities across the country will also lead summer sessions as part of the program. The experts will share their expertise with participants in areas such as legal aspects of inclusive education, literacy for students with disabilities, access to college and others.
The first cohort of students will begin in fall 2016. It is open to teachers who will continue to work in their schools or others who will be or are enrolled at KU full time. Application materials are still being completed, but anyone with interest in the program can contact Kurth at firstname.lastname@example.org or Morningstar at email@example.com.
Teachers who take part in the program will be supported to advocate for and implement inclusive practices in their schools, improve their own skillsets and provide better education for their students, while ultimately becoming mentors to their fellow teachers and implementing systems-level practices that will benefit students, schools, families and communities.
“We really hope we can be the start of a change in Kansas and beyond,” Kurth said.