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UST Awarded $1.25M Grant for Special Ed

UST Awarded $1.25M Grant for Special Ed

The U.S. Department of Education awarded University of St. Thomas School of Education a $1.25 million grant to help prepare graduate students for leadership positions in special education.


The Preparation of Special Education Leaders Program is a partnership between UST and the Houston Independent School District.  Over the five-year grant period, the University of St. Thomas will confront the shortage of special education leaders by developing a program of study that will award 80 Master of Education degrees with emphasis on special education leadership. UST and HISD are working together to recruit candidates.

"We are thrilled to partner with the University of St. Thomas on this initiative that will help Houston's schools better serve students in our special education program," HISD Superintendent Terry Grier said.  "In HISD, we believe that all students deserve to attend schools that are run by highly effective campus leaders, and that is especially true for students with special needs."

Dr. Randy Soffer, grant director and UST School of Education assistant professor, said it is widespread to train special educators and educational leaders.

"What is unique about this grant is training master-level students to become special education leaders," Soffer said. "The  Office of Special Education Services in HISD is very forward thinking, and we feel our collaboration on this grant project will be very productive."

Currently, 7.8 percent of the HISD school population receives special education service.

The program will make a positive effort to employ and advance qualified individuals with disabilities and from under-represented groups.

"There is a need to improve the quality of special education services," Soffer said. "Teaching special education students needs to go beyond just focusing on academic gain. The focus also needs to be on the big picture - mainly, post-secondary education and employment opportunities. This program addresses how we can create a higher quality leadership in special education programs that will result in better outcomes for children with high needs or disabilities."

Students with disabilities will be addressed in grades K-12. The focus will be on low-performing/high-poverty schools serving students with mild to moderate disabilities. Classes will be offered in a hybrid format - online and face-to-face.

At the end of the program, master's students are required to complete a practicum course to give them opportunities to apply what they have learned. A required service project connects students to types of work they can engage in after graduation. For every year the student receives a scholarship from the grant, he or she is required to give two years of service in a special education leadership role.

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The University of St. Thomas, dedicated to educating leaders of faith and character, is a private institution committed to the liberal arts and to the religious, ethical and intellectual tradition of Catholic higher education. St. Thomas is Houston's only Catholic University and was founded by the Basilian Fathers. "Like" us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter, @stthomashouston.

The Houston Independent School District is the largest school district in Texas and the seventh-largest in the United States with 279 schools and more than 200,000 students. The 301-square-mile district is one of the largest employers in the Houston metropolitan area with nearly 30,000 employees. For more information, visit the HISD Web site at www.houstonisd.org.

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The University of St. Thomas, dedicated to educating leaders of faith and character, is a private institution committed to the liberal arts and to the religious, ethical and intellectual tradition of Catholic higher education. St. Thomas is Houstonís only Catholic University and was founded by the Basilian Fathers.

Keywords: U.S. Department of Education, University of St. Thomas, UST, Special Education, Houston Independent School District, HISD, Master of Education, HISD Superintendent Terry Grier, Dr. Randy Soffer, K-12



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