The College of Education & Integrative Studies has received a $1.1 million federal grant to help alleviate the shortage of special education teachers in Southern California.
The U.S. Department of Education grant will offer full-tuition scholarships for new post-baccalaureate students wishing to pursue their first teaching credential in moderate/severe special education or adapted physical education authorization and their master’s degrees in special education or adapted physical education. The grant will potentially fund 63 scholarships over the course of five years.
“This award will enable Cal Poly Pomona to provide much needed scholarships to students pursuing careers in education, specifically those wanting to work with youths with special needs,” University President Soraya M. Coley said. “The funding also will give the university an opportunity to assist with a persistent problem that has had a significant impact across the state — the shortage of special education teachers.”
Students also will receive funding for textbooks, professional conference attendance and technology for use in the program and future use in their classrooms. In addition, the experience will be transdisciplinary for students and include work across the education and adapted physical education programs to mimic the professional collaboration they will experience once they are teachers.
“Currently, 49 of 50 states in the U.S. report special education teacher shortages, including California,” said Heather Wizikowski, project director and assistant professor in CEIS. “Fifty-one percent of districts nationally and 90 percent of high-poverty area districts report having difficulty attracting quality special education teachers. In addition, special education teachers leave the profession at almost double the rate of general education teachers after just a few years of teaching. California desperately needs quality teachers to teach students with disabilities.”
According to the California Department of Education, teacher education enrollment in special education has rapidly declined over the past several years. Enrollment went from 36,577 in 2009 to 18,894 in 2014.
“Special education teacher shortages compounded by declining enrollment in credential programs have been a pressing issue in our region over the past few years,” said Joanne Van Boxtel, co-director and assistant professor in CEIS. “I am very excited to be working with a dedicated team of colleagues on a project that will be of such benefit to future special education teachers and our regional district partners.”
In addition to increasing the number of new special education teachers, the project also seeks to prepare fully credentialed adapted physical educators to teach physical education to students with disabilities. According to California law, physical education must be accessible to students with disabilities who qualify for special education services.
“Adapted physical education services are needed to assist students with disabilities,” said Beth Foster, co-director and assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology & Health Promotion. “Successful inclusion is far more complicated than placing the students in that setting. The placement and service of physical education must be based on the students’ unique needs.”
The new grant coincides with a previous grant obtained by Van Boxtel and Wizikowski, along with Christina Chavez-Reyes, liberal studies department chair, to design a new undergraduate program called the Integrated Teacher Education Program (ITEP). ITEP offers a combined bachelor’s degree and credential program for students desiring an education specialist credential. According to Van Boxtel, the program will feature inclusive practices for students with disabilities, innovative technology and tools, and early field experiences. Students can graduate with their degrees and teaching credential in only four years. ITEP enrollment begins Fall 2018.
“I am thrilled that CEIS will be able to better serve the children and families of this region who deserve the very best educational experiences that address the needs of students with disabilities,” said CEIS Dean Jeff Passe.