Penn State Harrisburg awarded grants to help address special ed teacher shortage

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MIDDLETOWN, Pa. — Penn State Harrisburg has been awarded $120,000 in grants from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, through the Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Network, to assist in efforts to address the special education teacher shortage.

“The shortage of special education teachers is real," said Linda Rhen, principal investigator on both grants and associate teaching professor of special education at Penn State Harrisburg. "Overall, there are only a third of applicants than there were 10 years ago. We need new models of preparation that will accelerate the preparation time and provide real support and mentoring to help new special education teachers remain in the profession. We are grateful that the Pennsylvania Department of Education has recognized our efforts to help lead the way in addressing this very serious issue. These grants will go a long way to help us recruit, prepare and retain special education teachers in Pennsylvania.”

The grants will fund two programs:

"Attracting Special Educators," funded with $20,000, includes outreach to school districts and their high school students to become peer mentors to students with disabilities in their high schools. The grant also supports outreach to high school students and undecided undergraduate students to help them learn about becoming a special education teacher.

"Accelerating the Preparation of Special Education Teachers," funded with $100,000, provides support to create a pathway to special education certification within 18 months and includes coursework that connects to the teacher's work in the classroom, along with "new and innovative preparation strategies," according to Rhen. The program also supports an enhanced model of mentoring and supervision for candidates completing their clinical practice/student teaching in school district programs.