New Grant Funds Preparation of Special Ed Researchers

October 8, 2014

Chicago Public Schools certainly has its challenges related to special education:  more than 240 special education teacher positions remain unfilled, charter schools are accepting a smaller percentage of students with special education needs than the general student population and Black and Latina/o students remain overrepresented among the special education population.

Chicago is no different in facing these hurdles than other urban districts.  And Chicago is no different in confronting another immutable truth:  students with behavioral disabilities tend to have the worst short term academic outcomes, long-term employment challenges and higher rates of incarceration than any other category of students with disabilities.

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Thanks to a grant from the Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs, the UIC College of Education is taking the lead determining why students with behavioral disabilities struggle the most and generating solutions for the classroom.  The National Center for Leadership in Intensive Interventions (NCLII), which includes UIC, will prepare doctoral level scholars to be experts in the development and evaluation of interventions for these students with the greatest academic and behavioral needs.

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“We are not quite there in terms of whether we need more intensive interventions or different types of interventions,” said Daniel Maggin (right), PhD, assistant professor of special education.  “We don’t know what it is about these kids causing them to not respond to programs that tend to work for most kids, even the most struggling readers.”

Students with the most severe behavioral disabilities are called non-responders, and these youngsters are a central focus of the NCLII’s efforts in 12 school districts across the country implementing intensive interventions.  The new grant will prepare new leaders in special education research at UIC, Vanderbilt University, Southern Methodist University, University of Connecticut, University of Texas at Austin and Virginia Commonwealth University.

Doctoral scholars will focus their research on developing new methods for interventions; studies may include examining amount of time spent with a student with reading problems, targeting particular areas of the way a student learns, building intensive behavioral interventions and experimenting with combinations of interventions.  Scholars will also examine how content-specific curricula in reading, math and science impacts the learning needs of non-responder students.

“This is something we have all been trying to figure out, why working with non-responders is so difficult in urban areas,” Maggin said. “I have to think there is more of a community aspect that might be making things more challenging in these urban contexts.”