Campus News

UGA COE professor receives $1.23 million grant for Birth through Five teacher education

Athens, Ga. – University of Georgia College of Education professor Cynthia Vail has received a $1.23 million U.S. Department of Education grant to continue and expand the Birth through Five teacher preparation program she has pioneered during the last five years.

Research shows that high quality early learning and development programs lay the foundation for social and academic skills that facilitate children’s later success in school. There also is mounting evidence that close relationships between teachers and children are an important part of creating high quality care environments and positive child outcomes, said Vail, an associate professor and director of special education programs.
Vail developed the undergraduate Birth through Five program at UGA with an initial $790,597 DOE grant in 2008 in response to a critical need in Georgia to prepare highly qualified personnel to work with infants, toddlers and young children, both typically developing and those with disabilities, along with their families.

“The purpose of this project is to support a newly revised undergraduate program and to develop a new graduate emphasis area,” said Vail. “These programs will prepare responsive, early education and care providers for a relatively new Georgia teaching certification in Birth through Five. We promote an inclusion model in which teachers are prepared to meet the individual needs of all children in their classrooms and programs.”

The Responsive Early Education for Diversity program is a joint effort between the college’s department of communication sciences and special education, the Clarke County School’s Office of Early Learning (high-need urban), and Madison County School’s preschool special education program (high-need rural).
During the course of the five-year funding, a total of 47 professionals will be prepared to work with high-need infants, toddlers and young children and their families. These graduates will be eligible for Georgia’s Birth through Five and Preschool Special Education certification that is based on standards set forth by both the Division for Early Childhood and the National Association for Education of Young Children, said Vail.

Undergraduate students will earn a B.S.Ed. in special education with an emphasis in Birth through Five, while graduate students will add the Birth through Five endorsement onto masters or Ed.S. degrees in special education or related areas, such as speech language therapy or social work. All students will be prepared and certified to take positions in Early Intervention (Babies Can’t Wait), Early Head Start, Head Start, pre-k, preschool special education and kindergarten.
Grant funds will support students who commit to provide two to four years of teaching service to programs that include infants, toddlers or preschoolers with disabilities.  Special recruitment efforts will target bilingual students and those who represent diverse populations.
Along with the new Birth through Five personnel preparation curriculum, the project also will target such focus areas as:

meeting the needs of young learners and families who live in poverty, including English language learners, and specifically, the growing Latino population;
early literacy for diverse learners;
early social emotional development and positive behavior support; and,
These focus areas, grounded in evidence-based practices, will be threaded throughout the curriculum along with the principle of teaming and partnering with families and other professionals. The REED seminar series also will target these focus areas. Seminars will be open for students, university faculty, community early care teachers, providers and families.
Field placements with Clarke and Madison County schools and Babies Can’t Wait (Georgia’s Part C program) will be tied to coursework. These schools include children and families from high-poverty, rural and urban communities. These intensive context-based experiences will be followed by an induction year as graduates enter their first year of teaching.  This will include site-based mentorship, web-based community of learner support and a mini-conference to be held in the spring of their induction year.

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