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UF scholar doubles up on national honors for advancing learning disabilities field

Prof. Mary Brownell is feted twice for leading reform efforts in Special Education teacher preparation.

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States unite to boost teaching of students with disabilities

The UF-led effort to help 20 states across the nation vastly improve teaching and school leadership for students with disabilities has received a $21 million boost to strengthen the program add more states.

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20 states join UF’s sweeping reform effort to boost teaching of students with disabilities

Mary Brownell

Mary Brownell

The recent addition of five new states rounds out a 20-state roster for a federally funded effort, led by the University of Florida, to help states vastly improve the effectiveness of teachers and public school principals who serve students with disabilities.

Supported by $25 million from the U.S. Department of Education, the UF College of Education has created a national center that is in the midst of a five-year, project to lead major reforms in policy and educator preparation. Their mission: to help states increase academic success for students with disabilities by improving the training and practices of their teachers and school leaders.

A team of faculty scholars from UF’s nationally ranked special education program heads the CEEDAR Center, based at the College of Education. CEEDAR is short for Collaboration for Effective Educator Development, Accountability and Reform.

Guidelines to meet needs of all students

The UF CEEDAR Center’s reach and scope extends beyond its 20 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.

The CEEDAR Center was charged to partner with education leaders, groups and agencies, and university teacher prep programs from five states each year, from 2013 through 2016.

The latest and final five states to join—the “class of 2016”—are Kentucky, Mississippi, Colorado, Nevada and Rhode Island.

“We are thrilled to be part of the cutting-edge CEEDAR consortium and the technical assistance it offers,” said Ann Elisabeth Larson, dean of education and human development at the University of Kentucky. “Thls is an opportunity for the state of Kentucky to ensure that our teachers and school leaders are well prepared to provide the highest-quality instruction for all learners.”

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 Hampsire, 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.

The CEEDAR leadership team (clockwise from bottom left), : Erica McCray, Mary Brownell, Paul Sindelar, Meg Kamman (center coordinator)

The CEEDAR leadership team (clockwise from bottom left): Erica McCray, Mary Brownell, Paul Sindelar, Meg Kamman (center coordinator)

Brownell’s co-directors of CEEDAR are fellow UF special education professors Paul Sindelar and Erica McCray.

Each state CEEDAR team comprises general and special education faculty experts and administrators from state universities and teacher prep programs, and state education agency leaders and regulatory officials. The teams each have a designated leader and facilitator chosen from one of four participating national groups—the UF CEEDAR Center, the American Institutes for Research, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and the University of Kansas.

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 multi-media 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.”

 


CONTACTS
   SOURCE: Mary Brownell, UF College of Education; 352-273-4261
   WRITER: Larry Lansford, communications director, UF College of Education; 352-273-4137

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UF center partners with states’ school system chiefs to boost teaching of students with disabilities

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Stronger licensure standards for teachers and principals, identification of skills educators need from their first day in the classroom, and more rigorous preparation programs for teachers and school leaders are among the steps state education chiefs can take to meet the needs of all students, especially those with disabilities, according to a new report issued jointly by a center for educator preparation reform at the University of Florida and the Council of Chief State School Officers.

Mary Brownell

Mary Brownell

The recommendations are the result of a partnership between UF’s Collaboration for Effective Educator Development, Accountability and Reform, or CEEDAR Center, and the private, nonprofit professional organization that serves leaders of every state’s department of elementary and secondary education.

The two groups recently convened an advisory group of state education agency leaders, higher education faculty, national professional organizations and teachers to develop the guidelines, released in a report “Promises to Keep: Transforming Educator Preparation to Better Serve a Diverse Range of Learners.”

The Council of Chief State School Officers is distributing the report to all state education department leaders and national organizations that serve individuals and organizations invested in teacher and principal preparation.

Other recommendations outlined in the report include:

·        Making personalized learning and student achievement and outcomes, including those for students with disabilities, an integral part of preparation and evaluation programs for teachers and school leaders in training

·       Designing preparation programs that promote collaboration and teamwork among all educators for all of their students

·       Maintaining effective monitoring and evaluation systems that hold teacher preparation programs accountable and providing the programs with adequate feedback for continued improvement in how they prepare teacher and administrator candidates to support diverse learners in the classroom

The report, which outlines a comprehensive set of clear policy actions state agencies can take, is the first of its kind, said CEEDAR Center director Mary Brownell.

“Students with disabilities can make remarkable progress when their teachers have the knowledge and skills needed to serve them effectively,” said Brownell, a special education professor at UF’s College of Education. “Improving preparation of all future teachers and school leaders is one way to ensure they have the knowledge and skills needed to help a diverse range of students.”

The report builds on a well-publicized policy document the Council of Chief State School Officers published in 2012 that included recommendations for transforming teacher and leader preparation policies.

“State education chiefs want effective teachers in the classroom on Day 1,” said Chris Minnich, the council’s executive director. “It is essential that schools continually seek the most effective ways to reach their most diverse learners.”

UF’s CEEDAR Center, with assistance from a federal grant, is partnering with the council to implement many of the guidelines in 15 states. The hope is that state education departments, colleges of education and school districts will work together to incorporate the recommendations into efforts already underway to improve teacher quality and leader preparation, Brownell said.

CEEDAR Center is in the midst of a five-year, $25 million technical assistance project to help the 15 participating states strengthen their standards and methods for preparing, licensing and evaluating teachers and school leaders. Funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs, the center began its work in Florida and four other states – California, Connecticut, Illinois and South Dakota – in 2013. Five additional states are expected to join the project in 2016, with the “Promises to Keep” report guiding much of the work in these states.

The report is available at http://ceedar.education.ufl.edu/portfolio/promises-to-keep/ or www.ccsso.org.


Sources:
Mary Brownell, project director, UF CEEDAR Center; 352-273-4529; mbrownell@coe.ufl.edu
   Larry Lansford, UF College of Education News & Communications, 352-273-4449; skindland@coe.ufl.edu
   University of Florida News Center http://www.news.ufl.edu |  News@ufl.edu |  352-846-3903

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The University of Florida is one of the nation’s largest public universities. A member of the Association of American Universities, UF posted research expenditures totaling $696 million in 2013. Through its research and other activities, UF contributes more than $8.76 billion a year to Florida’s economy and has a total employment impact of more than 100,000 jobs statewide. Find us at www.ufl.edu, on YouTube at www.youtube.com/UniversityofFlorida, and learn about UF’s plan to become one of the nation’s top public research universities at ufpreeminence.org.

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Paul Sindelar joins select group as UF Distinguished Professor

Special education Professor Paul Sindelar has been named a University of Florida Distinguished Professor, making him just the sixth College of Education faculty member to be awarded the coveted title.

Paul Sindelar8

UF Distinguished Professor Paul Sindelar

Sindelar’s new title “acknowledges an exceptional record of achievement in the areas of teaching, research and publication and professional and public service that is recognized both nationally and internationally,” according to Joseph Glover, UF provost and senior vice president for academic affairs.

Sindelar said there have been times when he wasn’t sure his credentials would measure up to the lofty standards set by his predecessors.

“I knew that Cecil Mercer and Paul George were both Distinguished Professors,” Sindelar said. “We were contemporaries before they retired, and I had a great deal of respect for their work.

“In fact, I was on a bird watching trip in the Yucatan when a guy we ran into asked where I was from and what I did,” he added. “After I told him I worked at the University of Florida, he asked me if I knew Paul George. I mean, what are the odds of that happening?

“Paul was one of the founding fathers of middle school education, and his work reached a lot of people,” Sindelar said. “I don’t suppose I’ve had that kind of impact, but then, not many people have.”

The same could be said of the late Cecil Mercer, a giant in his field during his 31-year tenure on the COE special education faculty. Three other former faculty members – all deceased — were granted distinguished professorships during their tenures. Joe Wittmer came to UF in 1968 and chaired the Counselor Education department for 18 of his 37 years with the COE; James Wattenbarger was known widely as the “father of Florida’s community college system” after his dissertation was used as a system blueprint in the late 1950s; and Mary Budd Rowe, a science education professor who spent 24 years on the COE faculty, was a former UF Teacher of the Year.

Sindelar said he learned about his new title while attending a conference in Arlington, Va., when COE Dean Glenn Good sent him an email message containing a letter from UF President Kent Fuchs.

“I was a bit surprised, but thrilled to death,” Sindelar said. “It’s an honor, of course, and utterly humbling.”

Sindelar, who is co-director of UF’s federally funded CEEDAR Center, has been conducting research focusing on change in the special education teacher labor market and its implications for policy makers and teacher educators. CEEDAR is an acronym for Collaboration for Effective Educator Development, Accountability and Reform.

He and his colleagues have established that fewer education teachers are employed in U.S. public schools today than were on the job 10 years ago. The reasons for the decline are unclear, although reductions in the number of students identified with learning disabilities, changes in service delivery, and the economic impact of the Great Recession all appear to play roles, their research indicates.

Mary Brownell, Sindelar’s co-director at the CEEDAR Center, says she knows her colleague will make the most of whatever opportunities his new title may bring.

“Paul has been my mentor and a close friend for 25 years,” Brownell said. “He hired me, and we’ve had a tremendous journey together as teacher education scholars. We’ve directed three centers together, four doctoral leadership grants and one research grant from the U. S. Department of Education. We’ve co-authored countless papers, presentations, and book chapters. I can’t imagine my career being what it has been without my trusted friend and wise colleague.

“He’s one of the finest teacher education researchers in our field, and he’s respected by all of his colleagues at UF and across the nation,” she added. “No one could be more deserving of the title Distinguished Professor.”

Honors and recognition aren’t new for Sindelar, He won the Teacher Education Division of the Council for Exceptional Children, TED Publication Award in 1997 and 2009, as well as the University of Illinois College of Education Alumni Association’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 2007 and the UF Faculty Achievement Recognition Award in 2007.

Most notably, though, Sindelar and Brownell won the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education’s prestigious David G. Imig Award in 2015 for making significant, lasting contributions to educator development and teacher education policy and research.

Sindelar received an undergraduate degree in history at Dartmouth before earning a master’s in special education at the University of Illinois in 1974 and his Ph.D. in educational psychology at the University of Minnesota three years later. He entered the UF College of Education in 1988 as department chair and special education professor. He remained chair until 1996, when he became director of the UF Center for School Improvement and went on to serve as director of the UF Center on Personnel Studies in Special Education (2000-2005) and associate dean for research in the Office of Educational Research (2005-2008).


Contacts
    Media Liaison: Larry Lansford, director, College of Education Office of News and Communications; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; phone 352-273-4137.

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5 more states join UF’s $25M effort to improve teaching of students with disabilities

Five states have been added to the list of 10 already taking part in a $25 million UF College of Education project aimed at improving the effectiveness of teachers and public school leaders who serve students with disabilities.

Images taken by Kristen Bartlett Grace Copyright the UF News Bureau College of Education October 1, 2007 D-1319

Mary Brownell

Arizona, Michigan, Missouri, Oregon and Tennessee are the latest additions to the five-year program being implemented by the college’s CEEDAR Center through a record-setting grant from the U.S. Department of Education. CEEDAR is an acronym for Collaboration for Effective Educator Development, Accountability and Reform.

Center director Mary Brownell, a UF special education professor, said the center and its state partners are engaged in work that could have a “dramatic impact” on improving education for students with disabilities and other struggling learners.

“If we can prepare teachers and leaders to implement the best evidence we have about effective instruction and classroom management, then we can help to improve student achievement and proficiency levels,” Brownell said.

The $25 million project represents the largest single grant ever awarded to the UF College of Education, and the figure could increase by another $10 million if the U.S. DOE exercises two optional years.

Five more states are expected to be added before the project completes its fourth-year cycle in 2016, bringing to 20 the total number of states – including Florida – whose school districts will have revised standards and significantly improved methods for preparing, licensing and evaluating teachers and administrators who educate students with disabilities in K through 12 schools.

The center is working with the American Institutes for Research, the University of Kansas, the Council of Chief State School Officers and several other national organizations to reach its objectives, including 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.

The five states initially taking part in the CEEDAR center project were Florida, California, Connecticut, Illinois, South Dakota. Five others — Georgia, Montana, New Hampshire, Ohio and Utah – were added in 2014.

Contacts
Liaison: Larry Lansford, director, College of Education Office of News and Communications; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; phone 352-273-4137.
Writer: Stephen Kindland, College of Education Office of News and Communications; skindland@coe.ufl.edu; phone 352-273-3449.

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Special ed. colleagues share national honor for teacher education achievements

The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) honored University of Florida special education professors Mary Brownell and Paul Sindelar with its 2015 David G. Imig Award for distinguished achievement in teacher education on March 1 at the group’s annual meeting in Atlanta.

Paul Sindelar

Brownell and Sindelar were cited for making significant, lasting contributions to educator development and teacher education policy and research, both individually and working together. The Imig Award is named for the AACTE president emeritus.

In 2013, following decades of successful collaborations on several national projects studying and supporting special education teachers, Brownell and Sindelar co-founded the Collaboration for Effective Educator Development, Accountability, and Reform (CEEDAR) Center. Erica McCray in UF special education also is a co-investigator.

The groundbreaking center, based at UF’s College of Education and funded through an unprecedented five-year, $25 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs, is helping multiple states strengthen their standards and methods for preparing, licensing and evaluating their teachers and school leaders who serve students with disabilities.

BROWNELL, Mary (2-2015)

Mary Brownell

AACTE is one of several national organizations and advocacy groups in special education and teacher preparation partnering on the CEEDAR Center project.

“Mary and Paul’s impressive contributions to research and leadership in special education teacher quality have influenced teacher education policies and practices, and doctoral scholarship, nationally and globally,” said Jean Crockett, professor and director of the college’s School of Special Education, School Psychology and Early Childhood Studies. “What is especially impressive is their deep engagement with the cultivation of the next generation of teacher educators and researchers.”

Past collaborations for the two colleagues include co-directing two other federally funded national centers at UF—the National Center to Inform Policy and Practice in Special Education Professional Development (NCIPP) and the Center on Personnel Studies in Special Education (COPPSE). They also have worked together advising congressional education committees on proposed bills concerning the preparation and assessment of special education teachers.


CONTACTS
   SOURCE: Mary Brownell, professor of special education, UF College of Education; 352-273-273-4261; mbrownell@coe.ufl.edu;
   SOURCE: Paul Sindelar, professor of special education, UF College of Education; 352-273-273-4266; mbrownell@coe.ufl.edu;
   WRITER: Larry Lansford, news and communications director, UF College of Education; 352-273-4137; llansford@coe.ufl.edu;

 

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Benedict joins growing list of special ed. students to win prestigious CEC research award

Amber Benedict1

Amber Benedict

College of Education alumna Amber Benedict (PhD ‘14,
special education) will head for San Diego this spring to receive the prestigious Student Research Award for Qualitative Design from the Council for Exceptional Children’s Division for Research.

The council is the world’s largest organization of special education professionals and educators.

Benedict, who has been serving as a post-doctoral associate in special education for the COE and its Collaboration for Effective Educator Development, Accountability and Reform (CEEDAR Center) since earning her doctorate last August, is the fourth student of COE doctoral faculty adviser Mary Brownell to receive the award in the past six years. Previous recipients and their current institutions were Melinda Leko (University of Kansas), Mary Theresa Kiely (St. Johns University), and Alexandra Lauterbach (University of Massachusetts, Amherst).

“It’s no accident that Dr. Brownell’s students repeatedly win this award,” Benedict said. “She works tirelessly to ensure that multiple grants operate concurrently, and she has modeled for us relentlessly while pursuing funding and support for large-scale research and technical assistance.”

“Her positive leadership has altered my life’s trajectory,” Benedict added. “Because of her high expectations, I’ve developed the knowledge and skills to be a strong teacher educator. And now I’m carving out a path for myself as a special education researcher.”

Benedict’s award is based on her dissertation, Learning Together: Teachers’ Evolving Understandings During Ongoing Collaborative Professional Development, and will be presented during the CEC’s national conference in April.

“I want to focus on ensuring that students with learning disabilities and other struggling learners have access to high-quality instruction,” Benedict said. “One way to do that is to demonstrate that teachers’ professional learning opportunities can increase student achievement in the area of literacy.”

Contacts
Liaison: Larry Lansford, director, College of Education Office of News and Communications; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; phone 352-273-4137.
Writer: Stephen Kindland, College of Education Office of News and Communications; skindland@coe.ufl.edu; phone 352-273-3449

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Five more states join UF center’s $25 million effort to transform special education teaching

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Five states have been added to a list of five others already taking part in a $25 million University of Florida College of Education project that will improve the preparation of teachers and public school leaders who serve students with disabilities. Montana, Utah, Georgia, Ohio and New Hampshire are the latest states […]

Alligator — CEEDAR Center receives $5 million grant

The Independent Florida Alligator
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CEEDAR Center grant
The Independent Florida Alligator quoted Mary Brownell, director of the UF Collaboration for Effective Educator Development, Accountability and Reform (CEEDAR) Center, in an article about the CEEDAR Center receiving a $5 million grant each year for the next three years to improve preparation of special education teachers, general education teachers and school principals in dealing with students with disabilities.

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Florida among 5 states partnering with new UF center to transform teaching of students with disabilities

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — School districts and special education interests in five states—Florida, California, Connecticut, Illinois and South Dakota—are partnering with a new, federally funded center at the University of Florida on an ambitious effort to transform their preparation of effective teachers and leaders serving students with disabilities.

The CEEDAR Center at UF’s College of Education is funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs. “CEEDAR” stands for Collaboration for Effective Educator Development, Accountability and Reform. The center is receiving $5 million annually over the next three years, with a possible extension for two additional years, to help states strengthen their standards and methods for preparing, licensing and evaluating their teachers and school leaders.

CEEDAR leaders_0046

CEEDAR Center leaders, from left: Co-director Erica McCray, director Mary Brownell, co-director Paul Sindelar, and project manager Meg Kamman.

“This collaborative effort will allow the special education field to take a giant step in improving the education of students with disabilities,” said CEEDAR Center Director Mary Brownell, a UF professor of special education. “Our partnering states recognize this need and want to ensure that their general and special educators have the necessary skills and support to improve the achievement of students with special needs.”

The five states launching the effort are receiving what the CEEDAR team refers to as “intensive technical assistance.” Center faculty are organizing research-proven professional development and networking programs for teachers and school leaders, offering instructional support and online teaching resources, and helping the states align their teacher preparation and evaluation systems with the highest professional standards. Each year through 2017, five additional states will be selected to receive this highest level of support and instruction, eventually benefitting tens of thousands of children in 20 states.

The CEEDAR Center has created a website (http://www.ceedar.org) offering resources for any educators or groups interested in revising state licensure and certification standards, reforming teacher and leader preparation, and evaluating educator preparation programs using student data. 

The CEEDAR Center’s national partners include the American Institutes for Research, Council of Chief State School Officers, University of Kansas, American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, Council for Exceptional Children, Council for the Accreditation for Educator Preparation, National Association of State Directors of Special Education, and TASH.

“Providing students with disabilities with effective, research-based instruction is the best way to ensure they achieve college and career readiness—a goal we have for all students. We are looking forward to being able to contribute to this agenda with our intensive and targeted technical-assistance partners,” Brownell said.

SOURCE: Mary Brownell, UF professor of special education & CEEDAR Center director; mbrownell@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4261
WRITER: Larry Lansford, communications director, UF College of Education; 
llansford@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4137

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International group honors Special Ed researcher for 2nd straight year

Mary Brownell

Mary Brownell

GAINESVILLE, Fla.—For the second consecutive year, University of Florida special education professor Mary Brownell has been chosen to receive a top honor from the Council for Exceptional Children, the world’s largest advocacy organization for students with special needs.

Brownell will receive the Kauffman-Hallahan Distinguished Researcher Award, to be presented by the CEC’s Division for Research at the council’s annual conference April 11 in Philadelphia. The award, which includes a $1,000 stipend, recognizes special education researchers whose work yields more effective services or education for exceptional individuals.

Brownell is recognized internationally as a leading scholar and policy expert in special education and teacher preparation. While the CEC honors her this year for her research, the council’s Teacher Education Division last year gave her its Pearson Excellence in Teacher Education Award. The CEC is the largest international professional organization for special educators, with more than 30,000 members.

“Mary is the premier scholar of teacher quality issues in special education,” wrote top special education researchers Donald Deshler of the University of Kansas and David Houchins of Georgia State University in jointly nominating Brownell for the CEC honor. “Her work has had enormous impact on the way teacher educators think about educating special education teachers and state policy and practice in educating teachers for students with disabilities.”

Brownell’s research has focused on improving the quality of teachers serving students with disabilities, including the advancement of literacy instruction among special education teachers, and studies on the induction and mentoring of beginning special educators.

She is the UF College of Education’s top-funded researcher. After more than two decades at UF, her scholarly productivity and international reputation have helped the University of Florida consistently rank among the top 10 special education programs in the nation. 

“Developing a serious research agenda focused on teacher quality issues and engaging other scholars and doctoral students in that agenda is of great important to me,” Brownell said.

In 2013, Brownell, with UF co-researchers Paul Sindelar and Erica McCray, received a federal award worth $25 million—the college’s largest grant ever—to create and lead a national  CEEDAR Center (Collaboration for Effective Educator Development, Accountability and Reform) at UF. The researchers are working with multiple states in restructuring and improving their teacher preparation programs and policies in special education.

Funded with $800,000 by the federal Office of Special Education Programs, Brownell and colleagues also are addressing the scarcity of research on teacher quality issues in special education. Their grant has supported four doctoral students over four years in their pursuit of new innovations for preparing special educators.

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CONTACTS 

   SOURCE: Mary Brownell, professor of special education, UF College of Education, mbrownelle@coe.ufl.edu, 352-273-4261

   WRITER: Larry Lansford, director, news and communications, UF College of Education; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4137

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COE researchers out in force at AERA’s massive annual meeting

(Click here for PDF listing of UFCOE presentations)

For years, the massive annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association has been a hotbed of the latest research and new ideas about teaching-and-learning practices and policies. This year, some 65 UF College of Education faculty and students participated in the 2013 meeting April 27-May 1 in San Francisco, joining 14,000 other education scholars from 75 nations. 

This year’s meeting theme focused on the relationships of education and poverty—how education theory, research, policy and praxis contribute to alleviating economic, intellectual and moral poverty.

Mirka Koro-Ljungberg...4 AERA presentations

Mirka Koro-Ljungberg              …4 AERA presentations

More UF education scholars, from multiple disciplines, attend AERA’s annual meeting than any other professional gathering. The EduGator contingent in San Francisco included 34 college faculty and 31 graduate students participating in presentations, panel discussions and association-related business meetings.

The UF presentations included hot education topics such as:

  • The effect of charter schools on student achievement
  • How neighborhoods contribute to children’s language and literacy development
  • Games and simulation courses in education technology
  • Analyzing the urban middle school transition and persistently disciplined students
  • Does teacher preparation for English Language Learners matter?
  • Leadership standards and accountability in Florida: Do they address poverty and social justice issues?
  • Supply and demand context for special-education teacher preparation reform
  • Writing instruction: What do preservice teachers know?

The busiest COE faculty attendees were Walter Leite and Mirka Koro-Ljungberg (both from research and evaluation methods), with four presentations each. Mary Brownell (special education), Ester de Jong (ESOL/bilingual education), Bernie Oliver (education leadership) and Albert Ritzhaupt (education technology) each made three presentations.

The complete AERA annual meeting program is available online at www.aera.net

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WRITER: Larry Lansford, director, news and communications, UF College of Education; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4137

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Professor receives international honor for impact in special education

GAINESVILLE, Fla.—University of Florida education professor Mary Brownell, a leading scholar and policy expert in special education and teacher preparation, has received a top honor from the world’s largest advocacy organization for students with special needs.

Mary BrownellThe Teacher Education Division (TED) of the Council for Exceptional Children presented Brownell with the 2013 TED/Pearson Excellence in Teacher Education Award at the council’s annual meeting in San Antonio, April 3-6. The council is the largest international professional organization in special education with more than 30,000 members.

The annual award goes to an individual who has demonstrated an exemplary commitment to teacher preparation in special education, the cultivation of future leaders in the field, or leadership in scholarly work and legislative advocacy.

Brownell, who joined UF’s College of Education in 1991, has made a significant impact in all three areas. She has received numerous university and college honors for teaching and student mentoring, has held an endowed professorship, has co-directed three national centers addressing special education personnel policies and practices, and has advised national law and policy makers on improving the standards and practices of teacher preparation in special education.

She is the college’s top-funded researcher, with phenomenal success in attracting major federal grants on some of the most vital issues in education. She has generated more than $36 million in federal funding from the Education Department’s Office of Special Education Programs and its Institute of Education Sciences. Last fall, OSEP awarded $25 million—its largest grant ever—to Brownell and her UF co-researchers Paul Sindelar and Erica McCray. The funding supports their effort to create a national CEEDAR Center (Collaboration for Effective Educator Development, Accountability and Reform) at UF, charged with restructuring and improving teacher preparation in special education in 20 states.

Brownell is just as prolific in disseminating her researching findings, to the benefit of her peers, as evidenced by her authorship of three books and dozens of book chapters and articles in refereed journals, and countless conference presentations and invited addresses. She recently collaborated on editing a handbook of research on special education teacher preparation.

“Mary is the most important contemporary scholar of special education and teacher education,” Sindelar said. “She is a brilliant scholar, an accomplished researcher, a demanding teacher and a gifted and committed mentor. The full measure of her impact on classroom and special education teachers, students with disabilities and other struggling learners will not be known for years to come.”

After more than two decades at UF, Brownell’s scholarly productivity and international reputation have helped the University of Florida join the top-tier of American special-education teacher preparation programs. Special education perennially leads all College of Education program areas in research funding and currently rates sixth nationally in its specialty in the U.S. News & World Report rankings of America’s Best Graduate Schools.

Brownell’s sterling research record may be her most measurable accounting, but her students, past and present, might argue that her teaching and mentorship deserve equal billing. At UF, Brownell has directed multiple research and training projects that provided funding for more than 40 doctoral students not only in special education, but also in curriculum and instruction, school psychology and educational psychology. In 2010, she received a university-wide, doctoral-student mentoring award.

“Developing a serious research agenda focused on teacher quality issues and engaging other scholars in that agenda is of great importance to me,” Brownell said after the CEC award ceremony. “I hope others see me not only as an individual researcher but as a scholar who encourages and helps others to become engaged in this work.“

It’s obvious how her students see her: In award nomination letters, Brownell’s first doctoral student, now a teacher educator, refers to Brownell’s “ability to inspire with deep-rooted passion for her career.” Another recent graduate credits Brownell’s support for her success in winning two nationally recognized dissertation awards and helping her land a highly competitive, tenure-track teaching position.

Sean Smith, associate professor in special education at the University of Kansas, writes in his letter: “As a scholar, I recognize (Dr. Brownell’s) critical work, and as a parent of a school-aged child with a disability I rely on her work when I engage educators working with my son.”

Brownell is the fourth UF special education faculty member to receive the Excellence in Teacher Education Award. Previous recipients were current faculty James McLeskey in 2010 and Paul Sindelar in 2001, and former faculty member Vivian Correa in 2006. Last’s year’s recipient, Fred Spooner of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, also has UF ties: he worked and studied at the College of Education for three years in the late 1970s as a doctoral research fellow and research assistant.


CONTACT
   SOURCE: Mary Brownell, professor, special education, UF College of Education, mbrownell@coe.ufl.edu, 352-273-4261
   WRITER: Larry Lansford, director, news and communications, UF College of Education; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4137

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Special Education team awarded $25 million to advance teaching of students with disabilities

The University of Florida’s College of Education will receive $25 million over the next five years to address a concern that has plagued American schools for more than two decades—inadequate teaching of children with disabilities.

Mary Brownell

Paul Sindelar

Erica McCray

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs in December granted the first of five annual, $5 million awards to the education college to establish a center to support the development of effective teachers—in general and special education classrooms–and education leaders to serve students with disabilities.

“This grant represents the (Education Department’s) largest investment ever in improving education for students with disabilities,” said co-principal investigator and UF special education professor Mary Brownell.

She said the new Collaboration for Effective Educator Development and Accountability and Reform, also known as CEEDAR Center, will open in January in Norman Hall, home of the College of Education. Other UF co-principal investigators are Paul Sindelar and Erica McCray, also in special education.

Brownell said the CEEDAR Center will work with states in strengthening professional standards and reforming preparation and certification programs for general and special education teachers, and school and school district leaders who work with students with disabilities. The center also will help states revise their teacher evaluation systems to align with the higher professional standards.

“Studies establish that our current systems for licensing, preparing, developing, supporting and evaluating teachers to effectively instruct students with unique needs are wholly inadequate,” Brownell said. “The CEEDAR Center approach is to reform and align these areas with research-proven practices and professional standards.”

“This grant will allow the special education field to take a giant step in improving the education of all students,” she said. “Students with disabilities perform in school more poorly than any other subgroup of students. With truly effective instruction, though, many of these students have abilities that will allow them to advance and succeed in college, career and other postsecondary options.”

Through the CEEDAR Center, the UF group is partnering with nine other organizations in plans to eventually roll out a special-education reform program to 20 states. The center’s primary partner is the American Institutes for Research. Other collaborators include the University of Kansas, the New Teacher Center (a national non-profit), the University of Washington at Bothell, the Council for Exceptional Children and several other national professional organizations.


CONTACTS
SOURCE: Mary Brownell, UF professor of special education, mbrownell@coe.ufl.edu; (c) 352-273-4261; (h) 352-331-2404
SOURCE: Paul Sindelar, UF professor of special education, pts@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4266
SOURCE: Erica McCray, UF assistant professor of special education, edm@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4264
WRITER: Larry Lansford, director, news and communications, UF College of Education; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4137

 

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Incentive grants support promising studies likely to draw additional funding

The College of Education has awarded internal College Research Incentive Fund (CRIF) grants to faculty members Mary Brownell, Sondra Smith and Kelly Whalon to study vital education concerns such as literacy skills and parental involvement in education. The individual grants go mainly to faculty members with research projects that are likely to attract additional funding in the future.The one-year stipends can be worth up to $15,000 each.

Recipients are selected for their proposals by a college faculty review committee. This year’s winning projects are:

Mary Brownell (Special Education)

Brownell’s funding will lead to studies on how elementary school students learn to read, spell and understand words with multiple syllables. She is pursuing a better understanding of the cognitive and language abilities that predict students’ abilities to respond to instruction in this area. More specifically, she is exploring how students become “morphologically aware” so they can learn to decode and understand the smaller units of meaning in our language, such as prefixes, suffixes and root words. Her research is expected to aid the development of better teaching methods for students with reading disabilities and help target struggling students earlier for intensive intervention that will improve their vocabulary, decoding, spelling and reading comprehension.

Sondra Smith (Counselor Education)
Smith, the principal investigator, plans to address the question, “What can parents do to help their children succeed in school?” The research will provide an in-depth look at how parents can influence their children’s success by being more involved at home as well as at school. The study addresses a lack of meaningful research in the literature about how parent’s goals, aspirations and values for their children are transmitted through their interactions at home. Smith will work with co-PIs Ellen Amatea (counselor education) and Walter Leite (research and evaluation methods).

Kelly Whalon (Early Childhood Studies)
Whalon’s CRIF research will examine the effect that a promising intervention strategy, called Project RECALL, has on building literacy skills for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). RECALL is an adaptation of an approach used to teach young children emergent literacy skills. The adapted RECALL strategy was developed by Whalon and two professors at Florida State University and the University of Louisville. Her findings in the CRIF study are expected to provide evidence that children with ASD can improve certain language and emergent literary skills that contribute to growth in vocabulary and comprehension. With her new data, Whalon hopes to launch pilot studies of the program at all three universities.


CONTACTS
WRITER:
Jessica Bradley, communications intern, UF College of Education, 352-273-4449; jessica.bradley@ufl.edu
MEDIA RELATIONS:
Larry Lansford, director, news & communications, UF College of Education, 352-273-4137; llansford@coe.ufl.edu