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Professor Julia White Awarded US Department of Education Grant to Help Recruit Diverse Special Education Teachers and School Counselors for High Needs Schools

Julia M. White, Associate Professor in the School of Education’s (SOE) Department of Teaching and Leadership and Director of the Atrocity Studies and the Practices of Social Justice minor, has been awarded a $1.14 million US Department of Education grant with the primary aim of recruiting, preparing, and retaining fully certified, diverse special education teachers and school counselors to work with students with disabilities with high-intensity needs.

Julia M. WhiteProject IMPRESS (Interdisciplinary Master’s Preparation of Urban and Rural Educators in Special Education and School Counseling) will focus on recruiting professionals for two high-needs school districts in Central New York: LaFayette Central School District (which includes the Onondaga Nation School) and Syracuse City School District.

Working with Principal Investigator White are Sultan Kilinc, Assistant Professor in SOE’s Department of Teaching and Leadership, and Yanhong Liu, Associate Professor in SOE’s Department of Counseling and Human Services.

“Project IMPRESS responds to the critical need to increase the number of special education teachers and school counselors prepared to work with students with disabilities with high-intensity needs in high-needs urban and rural schools,” explains White. “This cohort-based project will prepare highly effective, equity conscious professionals with the knowledge, skills, and disposition to serve these communities.”

To prepare and retain diverse (including Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color) master’s level scholars, Project IMPRESS will provide inclusive, culturally responsive training with the goal of improving learning, developmental, social, and transition outcomes for students with disabilities who have high-intensity needs. The professionals in training also will be encouraged to collaborate across disciplines through shared project experiences, including distance learning.

“This cohort-based project will prepare highly effective, equity conscious professionals with the knowledge, skills, and disposition to serve these communities.”

“This project represents an innovative partnership between our programs in inclusive special education and counseling, a key related service provider,” says Beth Ferri, Professor of Inclusive Education and Disability Studies and SOE Associate Dean for Research. “School of Education scholars will benefit from cross disciplinary training, particularly around supporting students’ social emotional learning and integrating high-intensity supports in inclusive and high needs settings. The project will have a lasting impact, addressing critical shortages of highly qualified teachers and counselors who are able to meet a range of student learning, social, and emotional needs in culturally responsive ways.”

Starting in May 2023, Project IMPRESS will prepare four cohorts of 12 special education (elementary and secondary) and school counseling (P-12) scholars per cohort over five years. To thoroughly prepare them to serve in high-needs schools, the students will be offered interdisciplinary collaborative experiences, including shared coursework, assignments, and mentored field experiences.

Upon program completion, graduates will be able to meet requirements for New York State certification in their respective fields, be prepared to work with students with disabilities who have high-intensity needs, and diversify the teacher population in school districts they serve.