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Doctoral Leadership Training


One important factor in improving outcomes for students with learning disabilities is well-prepared teachers who can apply scientifically-based practices. Well-prepared teachers consistently produce stronger student achievement gains than less well-prepared teachers. It is equally important that the breadth and depth of scientifically-based practices that teachers can draw upon is increased, as the number of these practices for teaching academic and other skills to students with disabilities is thin. The realization of both of these goals depends on college and university faculty in special education, because they play a significant role in (1) preparing new teachers and upgrading the skills of veteran teachers in special education, (2) identifying and testing new scientifically-based practices, and (3) disseminating such practices to the educational community at large. It is also important that future college and university faculty are knowledgeable about both the needs and scientifically-based practices (including developing such practices) for students with learning disabilities from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, as these students represent a significant proportion of students with this disability and there is rapidly increasing cultural and linguistic diversity within American society. Moreover, future college and university faculty need to be knowledgeable about effective practices (including developing such practices) that promote the success of students with learning disabilities in mastering the general education curriculum, as these students typically receive most (and in many cases all) of their education within the regular classroom.

The Leadership Preparation Program in LD: Scientifically-Based Academic Practices, Cultural Diversity, and the General Education Curriculum incorporates an innovative approach to preparing leadership personnel to address these needs. We will prepare 7 PhD doctoral students in the area of learning disabilities, focusing on scientifically-based practices for elementary, middle, and high school. Because individuals of color and people with disabilities are particularly lacking in the university and college hiring pool in special education, we will implement an aggressive recruitment campaign to secure applications from traditionally underrepresented groups.

The program is designed to prepare leadership personnel who: (a) are knowledgeable about scientifically-based practices for teaching academic skills to students with learning disabilities; (b) can conduct high quality intervention research as well as reviews of the literature to identify and develop new scientifically-based academic practices; (c) are ready to teach effectively preservice special education teachers how to apply scientifically-based academic interventions; and (d) can disseminate scientifically-based practices for students with learning disabilities to the educational community at large. For each of these goals, there will also be an emphasis on the general education curriculum and culturally/linguistically diverse students.

To address these needs, this program capitalizes on our existing strengths in preparing doctoral students in special education at Vanderbilt University (e.g., long history of conducting high quality intervention research, intensive preparation of doctoral students through integrated coursework and apprenticeships, as well as strong partnerships with local schools). It also is designed to improve an already strong doctoral preparation program by providing greater emphasis on the identification, development, and dissemination of scientifically-based academic practices within the general education curriculum for students with learning disabilities, including those from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds.