Diversity in Special Education [VIDEO]

An inadequate number of ethnically diverse individuals are entering and graduating from special education preparation programs, according to Mary Anne Prater, Chair of the Department of Counseling Psychology and Special Education (CPSE). At the Educational Inquiry, Measurement, and Evaluation (EIME) seminar held in December, Prater presented on a grant awarded to the CPSE department to increase diversity among special educators.

CPSE faculty members submitted a proposal for a grant to provide support for ethnically diverse students who would enter the program to become special educators. Prater said the department had to show a significant need for ethnically diverse special educators and provide evidence of critical personnel shortages. They were able to demonstrate that shortages in Utah are as severe as those nationwide--worse than in many areas.

The Hispanic population in Provo is growing rapidly, However, there are only seven Hispanic special educators within five local school districts. Prater said Utah County school districts need more Hispanic teachers to work with these Hispanic students. BYU is committed to assuming leadership in issues regarding diversity and equity.

The CPSE department’s objectives in requesting the grant were as follows: (1) To recruit qualified program applicants, (2) to implement faculty professional development from bilingual/ESL and multicultural experts, (3) to advise and support students, (4) to implement undergraduate and post-baccalaureate programs,  (5) to provide mentorship to students, (6) to assist graduates in obtaining employment, (7) to evaluate the undergraduate and post-baccalaureate programs, and (8) to administer the project.

Over a period of four years the CPSE department has used the grant money they received to increase ethnic diversity in the special education program. “We went from nearly 100% white students to 50%, “ Prater said. Many special education teacher educators lack the experience and expertise to prepare teacher candidates to work with culturally and linguistically diverse students. To address this issue, the faculty interviewed students in their homes to learn about the individuals and their cultures. “We think we really have changed the demographic of special educators,” Prater asserted.

8 February 2010