College of Education grants set to enhance Nevada’s special education workforce

Two University of Nevada, Reno programs target special education instruction needs in Nevada schools

The University of Nevada, Reno's College of Education recently received two grants that will help fund highly needed special education graduate degrees for early interventionists and special education teachers in Nevada. These degrees will better equip teachers working with individuals with disabilities throughout the state. Set to start in January 2014, both degree programs will have marked significance as one aims to increase the number of early interventionists/early childhood special educators and the other will add more Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA) in Nevada.

Early Childhood Hybrid Online Special Educator Education (ECHOSEE)
Infants, toddlers, and preschool-age children with disabilities greatly benefit from early intervention by a qualified early childhood special education professional. Studies have shown that children and families who receive early intervention before the age of seven, have better, long-term outcomes as a result.

The University's College of Education recently received $1.23 million throughout five years from the United States Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) for ECHOSEE, which will increase the number of early interventionists/early childhood special educators who hold appropriate licensure to serve young children with disabilities and their families. The project will support three cohorts, totaling 54 scholars throughout the five years of funding, with 65 percent of the funding going in direct support of the students. The benefit to Nevada will be immediately seen as each scholar will be required to work in early intervention or early childhood special education settings two years for each year of support provided by the grant.

This is a collaborative effort between the College of Education and the Nevada Center for Excellence in Disabilities, who will be providing personnel support. Upon completion of this new course sequence, participants will be eligible for both a master's degree in early childhood special education and state licensure to serve children birth through age seven with disabilities and their families.

"The goal with this program is to help meet a need throughout Nevada to get more highly qualified personnel providing services to young children with disabilities and their families in our local communities," Ann Bingham, principal investigator of the grant and associate professor of special education, said. "When we see services delivered to very young children early on we see better long-term outcomes."

Along with the course curriculum centered on early childhood special education, each program participant will complete three practicum experiences: one doing field work with the University Center for Autism and Neurodevelopment (UCAN), one with Early Head Start and one in a Title 1 preschool specifically serving children living in poverty, including those who are homeless. 

Certified Behavior Analysts in Nevada Schools (CBANS)
Often disabilities can present themselves with various behavior challenges. The University's College of Education received a grant of $991,000 from the United States Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) to assist Nevada schools in handling these behavior challenges within the classroom by offering a master's degree in education with a specialization in Behavioral Interventions. This program, known as CBANS, will provide rigorous preparation for teachers to support students, ages 3-22, with severe behavioral challenges in our state.

Offered in partnership between with the College of Liberal Arts Psychology Department Behavior Analysis Program, the College of Education Special Education Program, and the Nevada Center for Excellence in Disabilities, this program will start in January 2014 with three cohorts of seven teachers moving through the program. 

"Research suggests that there is a shortage of teachers who have the necessary skills to support students with behavioral difficulties," Shanon Taylor, associate professor and co-principal investigator on the CBANS project, said. "A majority of students with developmental disabilities engage in challenging behaviors and without adequate education and behavioral treatment, these challenging behaviors tend to be long lasting, require more intensive services and are likely to hinder future academic performance."

There are only 55 Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs) in Nevada today, few of whom are working in Nevada schools. This program is built on the premise that teachers remain teaching. Chosen participants must already be special education teachers with recommendations from their current school's principal and must demonstrate a clear understanding of the classroom and teaching environment. They are required to stay in teaching for three years.

"This is really going to help the quality of behavior interventions we can get for students and schools in Nevada," Taylor said. "Teachers have been looking for better ways to work with students and parents. We believe this may be an answer."

Nationally, approximately 50 percent of students who take the BCBA test do not pass. The University's Department of Psychology has a 100 percent pass rate, making it a well-recognized program throughout the country.

"The funding we've received allows us to put a program together where teachers can better understand the subtleties of student behaviors and the environmental contingencies," Scott Harrington, co-principal investigator, BCBA-D and the youth transition director at Nevada Center for Excellence in Disabilities (NCED), said. "It also puts more University resources out in the community as NCED faculty will be supervising the work of these CBANS students."

To reach more people throughout the state, both programs will be offered online with a few full-day Saturday classes. The grant money will pay for tuition and offer a stipend to offset travel expenses incurred by students. 

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