Campus News

Kentucky Joins $25 Million Federal Program to Develop Effective Educators

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Nov. 14, 2016) — State education leaders met during a summit Friday to develop plans for improving the effectiveness of teachers and public school principals who serve students with disabilities.

The summit, co-hosted by the University of Kentucky College of Education and University of Louisville College of Education and Human Development, is connected to Kentucky’s participation in a national program funded by the U.S. Department of Education known as the Collaboration for Effective Educator Development, Accountability and Reform (CEEDAR).

CEEDAR was established at the University of Florida (UF) in 2012 through a $25 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to lead major reforms in policy and educator preparation. The mission of the five-year grant is to help states increase academic success for students with disabilities by improving the training and practices of their teachers and school leaders.

Kentucky is one of five new states to round out a 20 state roster for this federally funded effort. Kentucky is among the final five states to join the “class of 2016,” which also includes Colorado, Mississippi, Nevada and Rhode Island. The center was charged to partner with education leaders, groups and agencies, and university teacher preparation programs from five states each year, from 2013 through 2016.

Friday’s summit included a keynote address from Roderick Lucero, vice president for member engagement and support at the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE). Guest speakers from Georgia State University shared their participation in CEEDAR funded initiatives in their state to improve educator preparation.

Participants in Friday’s summit represented education leaders from the Kentucky Department of Education, the Kentucky Education Professional Standards Board, the Council on Postsecondary Education, University of Louisville, Thomas More College, Northern Kentucky University, the University of Kentucky and representatives from local education agencies, including Jessamine County Schools and Jefferson County Public Schools.

The effort’s reach and scope extends beyond CEEDAR’s member states. Center leaders hope teaching strategies and standards proven successful in its federally supported project will be considered for adoption by all states.

Last year, the CEEDAR team joined forces with the Council of Chief State School Officers to distribute a nationwide report on “clear policy actions” and guidelines that education department leaders in every state can take to meet the needs of all their students, especially those with disabilities.

“Kentucky is known nationally for its ability to collaborate across education state agencies and institutions of higher education," UK College of Education Associate Dean Laurie Henry said. "This project is one more example of the state’s collaborative spirit. The individuals involved in this project care deeply about improving education for P-12 learners. That begins with a focus on ensuring high quality educator preparation programs across the state to train the best teachers and school leaders who will provide systemic impact on learning for our kids.”

Florida, the CEEDAR center’s home state, was one of the first five states to join in the first-year cycle, along with California, Connecticut, Illinois and South Dakota. Year two in 2014 saw Georgia, Montana, New Hampshire, Ohio and Utah come in. Last year, Arizona, Michigan, Missouri, Oregon and Tennessee were added.

“It is our intention that the 20 partnering state teams will benefit from the successes and lessons learned from each of the five-state cohorts before them,” said CEEDAR Center Director Mary Brownell, a UF special education professor. “The state teams will strengthen and initiate reform efforts to significantly improve the preparation, licensing and evaluation of teachers and administrators who educate students with disabilities, from kindergarten through high school.”

Brownell said between 60 to 80 percent of students with disabilities spend time in general education classrooms, underlying the need to improve teaching and leadership in all schools.

CEEDAR faculty and staff used a comprehensive vetting process to select the 20 partnering states, based on their needs and goals, level of commitment and engagement, collaborative spirit, level of support from state education officials, and other factors.

“Each state has their unique needs and solutions for raising the standard of teacher and principal preparation to advance inclusive education for students with disabilities,” Brownell said. “Connections and communication among the network of states and with the CEEDAR team are crucial to developing an effective, comprehensive course of action for each state.”

She said the CEEDAR strategy places heightened emphasis on exposing all students to high-quality instruction in reading, writing and mathematics. Instruction is based on two teaching frameworks that provide increasing levels of academic and behavioral support to any students who need it.

Brownell said educators in the 20 CEEDAR states gain access to a host of resources, including the consulting services of the CEEDAR faculty and staff and the center’s partnering support organizations. Those include the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, the Council for Exceptional Children, the Council for the Accreditation for Educator Preparation, the National Association of State Directors of Special Education and the Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps.

CEEDAR also stages webinars and workshops and has created a website with a Facebook-style “wall” for member networking and sharing ideas. The site also offers numerous multimedia resources to help state teams bolster their knowledge of best teaching practices, teacher prep regulations, program licensure requirements, and other pertinent topics.

Brownell said many states are already developing detailed action plans, strengthening collaborations between state education interests, expanding professional development programs for teachers, redesigning their teacher prep programs, and enacting new standards so all teachers and principals can work successfully with students with special needs.

With 20 states enrolling five at a time at one-year intervals, she said their progress varies from state to state, but “we’re seeing very encouraging results.”