CSUN obtains federal grant for special education

Alexandra Brell

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CSUN’s College of Education and Humanities received a federal grant of $8.4 million for a new certification and master’s program.

The funding, which will be distributed over a five-year period, will be used to train special education teachers to better handle students with disabilities. The award was announced by Congressman Brad Sherman.

“Cal State Northridge is nationally recognized for its exemplary programs to prepare highly qualified teachers and develop partnerships with high-need schools,” Sherman said in a press release. “Once again, CSUN stands at the forefront in teacher preparation and training and improving student achievement in our local schools.”

The focus of the project is to address the Los Angeles Unified School District’s (LAUSD) lack of qualified special education teachers who serve in schools in poorer areas of the city, said Matthew Farrauto, senior adviser and communications director for Sherman.

The program will recruit 150 special education teachers from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and educate them to better serve children with disabilities in high-need schools.

“This grant is a partnership between CSUN and LAUSD,” said Dr. Nancy Burstein, chair of the department of special education. “Program participants will be placed for field work and student teaching with mentor teachers in LAUSD.”

Not only will students be working in LAUSD classrooms, they will also need to fulfill a commitment to the district upon graduation.

“Mentor teachers and their administrators will be participating in professional development activities that focus on serving learners with disabilities in high-need schools,” Burstein said.

Burstein added that graduates from the Accelerated Collaborative Teacher Residency program, which is a one-year, full-time credential program, will be required to teach in LAUSD for three years after completing the program.

The program is an accelerated credential and master’s program in which candidates will complete the credential in the first year and obtain a master’s the following semester, Burstein said. The program provides a concentration in language and literacy.

Recruitment for applicants to the new program will be done via outreach at CSUN and throughout the LAUSD. Applicants will need to meet university admission requirements for acceptance to the program.

Recruitment efforts will not only attempt to reach those who are interested in special education but also those who meet the diverse needs of the LAUSD, said Burstein.

“(There will be) an emphasis in recruiting students who reflect the personnel needs and culturally and linguistically diverse student population in LAUSD,” Burstein said. “In addition, we will target universities that serve large numbers of students of color, paraprofessionals working in urban schools, and older and second career graduate students.”

Despite the large amount of the grant, no additional CSUN staff will be hired in the department. Burstein said current faculty will replace some of their duties with recruitment, advisement, program coordination and professional development tasks.

The CSUN grant is one of 12 Teacher Quality Partnership grants awarded to universities across the country from $99.8 million funded from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The grants to the other schools ranged between approximately $2.2 million and $15 million, Farrauto said. All schools will collect and use student achievement data to determine the impact of participating teachers on student learning to obtain continuous program improvement, he said.

Sherman recently secured federal funding for teacher training at CSUN. In December 2009, Sherman supported the House of Representatives approval of $400,000 funding for teacher training.