Aided by a $1.5-million federal grant, the University of Florida has announced plans to restructure the College of Education’s special education teacher-preparation program to meet increasingly higher national standards for new teachers.
Co-researchers McLeskey and Cox
Like many American education colleges, UF is revamping its teacher-education programs to include more practical teaching experience. UF special education professors James McLeskey and Penny Cox are leading the effort.
Politicians, federal education officials and policymakers are holding U.S. colleges of education accountable for teacher education—and ultimately for student learning—as never before. Many cite the need for more hands-on classroom and field experience in teacher preparation programs.
Students in UF’s unified elementary ProTeach program complete a five-year blend of coursework and hands-on teaching experiences, resulting in a master’s degree in elementary education and the option of dual certification in K-12 special education.
McLeskey said UF’s special education program, ranked fourth in the nation by U.S. News & World Report’s annual survey of America’s Best Graduate Schools, already integrates its theoretical and real-world teaching experiences. Under the grant, though, the researchers are working to relate the two more closely by applying research on effective instructional practices with work being done in real-world classrooms.
The UF effort, funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs, is called Project RITE—short for Restructuring and Improving Teacher Education. McLeskey and Cox will collaborate with special education professionals across the nation to ensure UF’s ProTeach graduates will be well prepared to improve educational outcomes for students with disabilities.
The researchers will develop a statewide mentoring program that pairs each new special education graduate at UF with an experienced classroom teacher who will provide support and feedback in their first year of teaching. Mentor teachers will be selected in collaboration with local school district administrators for their knowledge of effective teaching methods, experience, and effectiveness in improving outcomes for students who struggle learning basic skills. The program emphasizes high-need schools to better prepare students for Florida’s diverse classrooms.
“Florida is a ‘majority minority’ now,” McLeskey said. “Wherever you go, you’re going to get students from different cultural backgrounds.” McLeskey is UF’s former chair of special education and also directs the college’s Center on Disability and Policy Practice.
“Increasingly, our student-teachers need to learn things in natural contexts, which means they need to spend more time in schools,” he said. “We’re moving teacher preparation much further in the direction of building everything into what they’re doing in the classroom.”
Cox said UF ProTeach students will begin to see the instructional changes next fall.
SOURCES: James McLeskey, professor of special education, UF College Education; firstname.lastname@example.org; 352-273-4278
MEDIA RELATIONS: Larry Lansford, director, news and communications, UF College of Education; 352-273-4137; email@example.com
WRITER: Jessica Bradley, communications intern, UF College of Education.
https://education.ufl.edu/news/files/2019/07/News-1-300x65.png00https://education.ufl.edu/news/files/2019/07/News-1-300x65.png2012-01-24 09:19:112012-03-02 16:28:30UF launches $1.5 million effort to restructure teacher-preparation programs