Federal grant will increase the ranks of highly qualified teachers working with special-needs students
AUGUSTA – Current and future teachers of special-needs students in Maine will have access to improved training to help their students succeed academically and graduate on time.
The Maine Department of Education has won a five-year $3.35 million federal grant that will fund substantial investments in training opportunities to prepare teachers to work with students with autism and visual impairments.
The grant will make funds available to local school districts and organizations that are developing training programs that expand special education teachers’ knowledge of the Common Core State Standards for math and English language arts, and move more special education teachers toward obtaining full certification.
Currently, one out of eight Maine teachers who work with special-needs students is not fully certified.
The grant – which is meant to support training for special-needs teachers of students from birth to 20 – will also fund training to help special-education teachers develop plans that smooth their students’ transitions from early childhood to kindergarten and from high school to college and careers.
The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs awarded Maine the grant on a competitive basis as part of its State Personnel Development Grants program. Maine will contribute $27,000 in existing state and federal resources to fund the program.
With better-trained teachers, more special-needs children are expected to meet the goals laid out in their Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and graduate on time with their peers. In addition, more teachers will gain the skills needed to teach students with autism, visual impairments and other disabilities – increasing the likelihood that those students can spend more time in mainstream classrooms with their peers.
“Whether students have special needs or not, the most important thing a school system can do to advance their learning is put an effective teacher in the classroom,” said Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen. “This grant represents a critical investment in making sure that our special-needs students have access to some of the best teachers available.”
The Maine Department of Education will partner with the Department of Labor’s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Child and Family Services and the University of Maine’s Center for Research and Evaluation in implementing this grant.