Education

The University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville will share a $2.3 million grant to financially support more doctoral students in special education, in an effort to address a statewide shortage of special education teachers.

The U.S. Department of Education will fund the grant to provide tuition and living expenses for 10 doctoral students at UK and U of L, with 5 scholars at each university’s college of education. The two institutions offer the only doctoral programs in special education in the state.

Last school year, 8 out of 10 regions of Kentucky reported critical shortages of special education teachers to the state department of education. The previous year, every region of Kentucky reported a shortage in that specialty.

During the 2017-18 school year, the Kentucky Education Professional Standards Board issued 110 emergency teaching certificates in special education, meaning that 110 vacant teaching positions in Kentucky special education classrooms were filled with candidates who had not yet become fully licensed in the field.

Ginevra Courtade is the department chair of Special Education at U of L’s College of Education and Human Development. She says colleges of education are also facing a shortage of special education faculty.

Research has shown that the need for special education faculty is outpacing the number of doctoral degrees awarded in the field, and that directly affects the number of well-trained special education teachers serving in schools.

This grant is meant to help serve K-through-12 students across the Commonwealth, by training more future professors who will go on to train future teachers.

“It does ripple out,” Courtade said. “It’s a different way to affect special education students. You know that you’re training high quality teachers, who in turn, are teaching at so many of those schools.” 

The grant will allow more doctoral students to pursue their degrees full-time and to graduate sooner. Courtade said many education students struggle to afford to pursue graduate degrees full-time because they also work in schools at the same time.

“Typically, we have students who are going through and take 2 classes at a time, so it takes them a long time to get through their doctoral program,” Courtade said.

Past doctoral graduates at U of L have gone on to teach at colleges of education across the country or now serve in school districts as administrators.

The scholars supported by this grant will focus on preparing future teachers to serve in high needs areas, helping to lead professional development trainings in Jefferson and Fayette County Public Schools as well as rural areas.