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Leadership Preparation Program in LD: Scientifically-Based Academic Practices, Cultural Diversity, and the General Education Curriculum

Assessment Intervention Learning Policy Training

Abstract

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.

Unfortunately, special education faces an increasing shortage of university faculty, a situation predicted to worsen over the next decade. This situation is particularly alarming in the area of learning disabilities, as these children and youth represent almost one-half of all students with disabilities. Just increasing the number of university faculty in learning disabilities, however, does not adequately address the concerns noted above. Newly prepared faculty need to develop expertise in identifying, developing, testing, and disseminating scientifically-based practices for teaching students with learning disabilities. This includes an emphasis on effectively teaching students from diverse and linguistic backgrounds as well as promoting the success of students with learning disabilities in the general education curriculum.  A substantial need exists to increase the number of faculty in learning disabilities who can conduct high quality intervention research, prepare teachers to apply scientifically-based practices (including in the general education curriculum and with culturally and linguistically diverse students), and disseminate such professional practices to others.

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 needs. This project 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, the project will implement an aggressive recruitment campaign to secure applications from traditionally underrepresented groups. Over the four years of the proposed program, 81% of the direct cost funds will support trainees as full-time students (ranging from 88% to 77% depending upon the year).

Primary apprenticeships will take place at Vanderbilt University (Teaching Apprenticeship, Clinic Apprenticeship, and Dissemination Apprenticeship with IRIS Center for Training Enhancements - a federally funded project that develops interactive teaching modules and other online resources to college faculty and educational professionals); local urban, suburban, or rural schools (Practicum Supervision Apprenticeship); and within the context of faculties on-going funded intervention research projects (Scientifically-Based Research Apprenticeship).

The proposed 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 project capitalizes on the 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.


 
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