CSUN Receives $1M Grant to Support Special Education Candidates – SCVNEWS.com | Team Cansler

California State University, Northridge, has received a five-year, $1.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to provide financial support to special education candidates for early childhood education.

Zhen Chai, Associate Professor of Special education in early childhoodsaid the grant also supports the creation of a “pipeline” to obtain teaching credentials for undergraduate students with a focus on child and youth development.

This scholarship helps remove a major obstacle, finance, that often stands in the way of so many of our students graduating, especially at a time when demand for qualified, certified teachers is increasing,” said Chai. “There is a particularly great need for qualified teachers who can help special needs children from underserved communities. This grant will help us meet that need.”

Specifically, she said, the grant supports the CREATE: Preparing Culturally Responsive Early Educators in Teacher Education project, housed at Department of Special Education in CSUNs University of Education Michael D. Eisner.

Chai said the scholarship would provide up to $20,000 in financial aid over the next five years to 30 students earning their Interim Education Specialist qualification. Educators with such a qualification can conduct assessments, provide instruction and special educational services to children from birth through kindergarten. Applications for the project are possible in spring 2023, the first year of study will start in autumn 2023.

“Study after study has shown that children learn better when taught by teachers who come from similar backgrounds,” Chai said. “There is a great need for teachers from different backgrounds. We are trying to increase the number of teacher candidates from traditionally underrepresented groups.”

Chai said the program will provide ongoing support for students, including experienced mentor teachers from participating community partners, including schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District, who will meet regularly with the teacher candidates.

Chai said she is particularly pleased that the grant will support the development of a pipeline between the university’s Department of Child and Adolescent Development at the College of Health and Human Development and the CREATE project.

In the past, she said, students specializing in child and adolescent development who were interested in earning an interim education specialist were required to complete their bachelor’s degree before they could apply to the qualification program.

The CREATE project, Chai said, will work with these students in their final year, helping them prepare for the standardized tests they must pass before they can apply to the qualification program.

“The CREATE project will also provide them with funds to maintain their qualification,” she said. “So they are already on the way to the testimony as seniors.”

Calling the scholarship timely, Chai noted that the current Infant Special Education card allows holders to provide services to infants from birth to age 5 in early intervention and preschool/preschool programs.

In August 2018, the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing approved new program standards and teaching achievement expectations (TPEs) for the Preliminary Special Education Teaching Credential, which entitles holders to also mentor students who are in transition kindergarten and kindergarten. For the first time, newly accredited ECSE teacher candidates are also eligible to teach together at these institutions.

“School districts across the state are scrambling to find teachers who meet these new requirements,” she said. “We are providing a whole new cohort of teachers who can serve these communities and who also have the skills to make them effective special education teachers.”

While the Department of Education grant is for five years, Chai said it provides important foundational support for a program that she and her colleagues hope will continue well beyond that time.

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