New $1.25 million grant addresses diversity in special education

PSU_FlagThe Special Education Department at PSU has obtained a new grant that will fund special education training focused on diversity. The Diverse Special Educator (DiSE) Project will prepare 35 special educators to work with culturally and linguistically diverse students who have severe learning and behavioral needs.

GSE faculty members Julie Esparza Brown and Sheldon Loman, both professors in the Special Education Department, are co-principal investigators leading the project. The five-year grant, funded by the US Department of Education Office of Special Education, is designed to bring culturally and linguistically responsive practices into special education classrooms and create partnerships among universities, schools, and diverse families.

The DiSE Project will provide scholarships for students working toward licensure in special education. Courses will be delivered face-to-face and online over one year (full-time) or two years (part-time). After completing the program, graduates are required to work in the field for a minimum of three years.

“There are few programs nationally that prepare teachers to work with students who are both English learners and that have low-incidence disabilities,” Brown said.

The DiSE Project was conceived and built upon previous successful grant-funded projects in the Graduate School of Education (GSE): the Futures Project and the BiSped Project. The Futures Project (2012) identified diverse bilingual paraprofessionals working in school districts and provided them with scholarships to complete teaching licenses for general classrooms. The BiSped Project (2013) was a nationally award–winning program that prepared almost 30 bilingual special education teachers who now are uniquely skilled to differentiate English learners who may be struggling due to language differences rather than a disability. The new DiSE Project is the logical next step that brings together these efforts to better serve Oregon’s emerging diverse student population.

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