The University is leading a consortium of universities and urban school districts that will use a $2.6 million federal grant to train 300 new bilingual and special educators over the next five years.
For its part in Project CUE (Consortium for Urban Education), BGSU, in collaboration with Toledo and Sandusky schools and selected charter schools within both districts, will recruit and educate 75 nontraditional students to become special education teachers. Cleveland State University and Cleveland Municipal Schools will train a like number of special educators “because that is a critical shortage in the state of Ohio,” said project director Dr. Rich Wilson, intervention services.
Wayne State University is teaming with Detroit Public Schools, as well as nearby Highland Park and Pontiac schools, to train 150 new teachers in special and bilingual education—two critical teaching shortage areas identified by the Michigan Department of Education.
The educators-to-be will be sought among recent college graduates wishing to teach in the targeted content areas, plus mid-career professionals interested in changing careers. “Word of mouth tends to help you most” in the recruitment effort, according to Wilson. In addition, school districts’ substitute teacher pools generally include those who would like a classroom full time and, often, long-term substitutes whose undergraduate degrees are in something other than education. They will be recruited as well.
In Ohio, Alternative Licensure for teaching only exists in critical shortage areas such as special education. The Ohio Department of Education designates the content areas for the courses and the number of credit hours needed for licensure in those areas, Wilson explained. “BGSU then chooses our courses that match those content areas,” he continued, adding that BGSU will offer the Alternative Licensure courses in Toledo with University faculty and “master teachers” from participating school districts as instructors.
Under terms of the grant, awarded through the U.S. Department of Education’s Transition to Teaching program, the participants must have a bachelor’s degree in an area outside education and complete their required coursework in special or bilingual education in about two years on a part-time basis. The participating districts will then apply for Alternative Licensure for the students.
In Project CUE, the grant will pay roughly one-third of students’ tuition, up to $5,000 per student. The remaining two-thirds of the tuition cost will be divided equally between BGSU and the students, at least half of whom will be either African American, Hispanic American, Native American, Asian American or persons with disabilities. The students, in turn, must agree to teach for at least three years in a school district defined under federal guidelines as high need—at least 20 percent or 10,000 of its students are living below the poverty line, or at least 1.8 percent of its teachers are working with temporary or no licensure.
Dr. Eric Jones, director of the School of Intervention Services, and Dr. Stacey Rychener of BGSU’s Center for Evaluation Services are also primary personnel on the grant, which will provide about $506,000 during the project’s first year. It comes on the heels of a project called CLOSE the Gaps, which addressed similar critical shortage needs in special education and mathematics in some of the same schools. That program’s funding ends this year.