Jennifer King RiceThe University of Maryland College of Education’s special education program brings together faculty with a great depth of expertise in many facets of special education, from policy to early childhood to the development of literacy skills. 

Our faculty provide expert testimony in court and legislative hearings on special education issues, weighing in on education in juvenile detention centers and the adequacy of state programs for students with disabilities. We are working to develop and evaluate robust preschool curricula that meet the needs of students with disabilities during the critical early childhood period. Through innovative research, beftting our status as the flagship university in the state and our location just outside of Washington, D.C., our faculty are investigating ways to best support the development of literacy skills in PK 12 students, skills which are critical to academic achievement. 

Underscoring this work is the knowledge that supporting the academic and life skills of youth with disabilities benefts individuals, families and the broader society. In 2018, Maryland Governor Hogan and I announced the creation of the Center for Transition and Career Innovation, which will conduct research on how to best prepare high-school-aged youth with disabilities for college and careers—essential work for developing an  equitable and inclusive workforce.  From leveraging technology to developing strategic partnerships, COE researchers are advancing knowledge and helping to transform the feld of special education. 

Jennifer King Rice
Dean and Professor
UMD College of Education

Center for Transition and Career Innovation

Larry Hogan and Dean Jennifer Rice
At the 28th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan and Dean Rice announced the new Center for Transition and Career Innovation at UMD. Co-directed by COE Researchers Ellen S. Fabian and Richard Luecking, the Center will house existing and new programs that study how to most effectively prepare students with disabilities for college and careers. CTCI is designed to address the barriers to employment for individuals with disabilities. 


In one ongoing research study, funded with a $6.8M grant from Maryland State Department of Education, 400 students with disabilities from eight Maryland counties are either receiving standard or enhanced career and college planning services to help identify what factors help youth with disabilities successfully transition to higher education and careers. CTCI will foster partnerships amongst the university and government agencies, provide professional development opportunities, and develop a comprehensive transition services database on students with disabilities to advance high quality research and evaluation. 

[Photo, L-R: CTCI Co-Director Richard Luecking, Dean Jennifer King Rice, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, Maryland Department of Disabilities Secretary Carol A. Beatty. Photo: Tony Richards] 

Child in wheelchair
Early Childhood/Early Childhood Special Education

COE offers an early childhood/early childhood special education program, which enables our graduates to teach in classrooms that have children with and with disabilities. We also offer undergraduate and graduate programs that prepare candidates to obtain initial certification in elementary and middle school special education, and an endoresment that prepares them to teach youth who are working on alternative standards or who have intensive academic or behavioral needs.

Special Education Teacher Certification Program, B.S.

The B.S. Teacher Certification Program in Special Education prepares students through two rigorous tracks to develop the knowledge, skills, and dispositions necessary to support children with and without disabilities.  Track 1 prepares graduates to support children with mild to moderate and severe disabilities.  Track 2 provides dual certification in general and special education.  Depending upon the track, graduates are qualified to teach in different settings, such as inclusive classrooms for students with and without disabilities and/or self-contained classrooms for students with mild to moderate disabilities. 

Literacy and Special Education

Susan De La Paz

Susan De La Paz
Susan De La Paz
Dr. De La Paz identifes and develops writing interventions that benefit adolescents with and without disabilities in secondary science and social studies classrooms. She also conducts research on the use of cognitive apprenticeships with teachers and students to beneft all learners in academically and culturally diverse classrooms. 

Her research spans both learning to write and writing to learn—and is driven by the need for effective instructional strategies for teachers to facilitate students’ planning, translating ideas, and revising skills, as well as to support their use of writing to develop understanding in academic subjects. Given the diversity in today’s public school classrooms, a signifcant percentage of students are at-risk for school failure or limited post-secondary outcomes due to poor literacy skills, underscoring the importance of effective literacy interventions. 

Dr. De La Paz leads a $1.2M training program, funded by the US Offce of Special Education Program, which prepares practice-based researchers with expertise in language and literacy to support high-need students with disabilities.  Her new curriculum, Reading, Thinking and Writing about History for Ninth Grade United States History, a fully digitized suite of six historical investigations, is in use in a large local Maryland school system. It teaches disciplinary reading and writing skills and helps students to connect historical controversies to current societal upheaval in the U.S.

Ana Taboada Barber
Associate Professor

Taboada Barber
Dr. Taboada Barber researches reading comprehension and motivation, focusing mostly on English Learners who are at-risk for reading failure. Her work examines how cognitive strategies and practices that support student engagement help students comprehend text in content areas such as social studies and science. She is interested in struggling readers’ ability to monitor their own reading comprehension and apply appropriate strategies that help with self-regulated learning. 

In the US, beginning in middle childhood, there is a signifcant literacy achievement gap for students who are English Learners and speak Spanish at home. Dr. Taboada Barber is PI  of a recently funded federal grant,  Project CLIMB: Capturing Language Immersion Benefits. to investigate how Spanish-bilinguals leverage the benefits of bilingualism to advance their executive function capabilities. Her second research project on executive functioning skills, engagement and reading comprehension, funded by the Institute of Education Sciences, is exploring whether the diffculties for at-risk readers who are native English speakers follow similar or different patterns as those of Spanish-speaking English Learners. 

Dr. Taboada Barber’s work addresses an important knowledge gap in improving English Learners’ literacy development, which is essential for college and career readiness skills. 


Jason Chow, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor

Headshot of Dr. Jason Chow
Dr. Chow's research focuses on the co-development of child language and behavior, teacher-child interactions, and supporting educators’ implementation of evidence-based practices. Methodologically, he works to improve and disseminate high-quality and state-of-the-art designs in meta-analysis and adaptive interventions' designs. He is the PI on an IES-funded grant, "Developmental Relations Between Language Ability and Behavior Problems," and also pursues work to identify barriers and factors that facilitate the implementation of evidence-based behavior management practices that support speech-language pathologists and the diverse body of students they serve.

“One of the best parts of my job is the opportunity to teach and mentor future researchers and practitioners. It’s the most engaging and satisfying experience, and I probably learn more from my students than they do from me.”

Jade Wexler
Associate Professor

Jade Wexler
Jade Wexler
Dr. Wexler’s scholarship focuses on improving literacy instruction for adolescents with reading difficulties and disabilities through innovative teacher professional development and coaching.

As principal investigator of Project CALI (Content Area Literacy Instruction), funded by the U.S. Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Dr. Wexler and her colleagues at University of Connecticut and Vanderbilt University developed and evaluated a middle school co-teaching and literacy professional development model designed to improve collaboration between general (content-area) and special education teachers and enhance reading achievement and content-area knowledge of students with disabilities. 

The purpose of PACT Plus, a model demonstration project funded by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) to Dr. Wexler (co-PI) and her colleagues at The University of Texas at Austin, was to build a school-wide literacy model in four middle schools. Researchers worked closely with practitioners in the schools to provide intensive professional development and coaching to teachers. Eventually, the research team scaled back support in an effort to transition ownership of the model to the practitioners. During PACT Plus, it became clear that the field could benefit from a more systematic literacy coaching model designed to support teachers’ varying levels of skill and will. Therefore, the team began to develop such a model (i.e., AIM Coaching). 

Dr. Wexler and her colleagues at The University of Texas at Austin were just awarded two more federally funded grants to further the work on AIM Coaching. First, Dr. Wexler (PI) and her colleagues were awarded a $1.4M (2020-2024) Development and Innovation grant from IES to refine and rigorously evaluate the efficacy of AIM Coaching. Second, Dr. Wexler (PI) and her colleagues were awarded a $1.6M grant from OSEP (2020-2024) to answer questions related to implementation and sustainability of AIM Coaching under routine conditions. The OSEP project will include an administrator component, and researchers will also create a virtual version of AIM Coaching.

Kelli Cummings
Associate Professor

Kelli Cummings
Dr. Cummings focuses on improving the measurement technology that teachers and researchers use to assess student growth in language and literacy. She conducts studies to improve the accuracy, consistency, effciency, and utility of assessment. 

Students with or at-risk for disabilities tend to be assessed more frequently and with higher stake results, relative to their peers. Dr. Cummings researches universal screening measures in reading, which are used to assess all students in a school or grade level to determine learning disability risk. She examines the statistical methodology that underlies the selection of cut scores, which are used in screening decisions to determine who is at-risk and who is not, as well as comparing the cut scores for English profcient students and English language learners. 

She also collaborates with St. Mary’s County Public Schools, the National Center on Improving Literacy, and Decoding Dyslexia Maryland on the scale-up of a pilot study of universal screening in K-2. 

Young boy in classroom, writing

Gulnoza Yakubova
Assistant Professor

Dr. Yakubova’s scholarship focuses on best practices for teaching students with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), as well as the use of single-subject research designs in examining strategies and determining evidence-based strategies for students with ASD. 

She examines instructional strategies that integrate technology— particularly video-based instruction and mobile technology that support vocational and math skills—to teach students with ASD the skills they need to have a successful life after school. Her research incorporates the use of technologies while also increasing student participation and skill acquisition in school and community settings, using technology to level the playing feld between students with and without disabilities. 

Refecting her focus on the use of innovative technologies to improve teachers’ practice and support students’ learning, Dr. Yakubova is also exploring how virtual and augmented reality technologies are useful in teaching students with ASD. 

Joan Lieber

Joan Lieber
Dr. Lieber’s expertise is in the area of early childhood special education and her recent work focuses on preschool curriculum development. 

One of Dr. Lieber’s major projects, supported by funding from NIH and the Institute of Education Sciences, is developing a curriculum to improve academic and developmental outcomes for preschool children at risk for school failure. The Children’s School Success (CSS) curriculum is an integrated curriculum that includes activities related to science, math, literacy, and social skills development. CSS was implemented in diverse and inclusive preschool programs in Maryland, West Virginia, Kansas, Indiana, and California; CSS proved successful in improving student outcomes. The latest version of the curriculum, which is being implemented in several states, emphasizes using elements of Universal Design for Learning, curriculum modifcations, and embedding children’s IEP objectives into classroom activities so that preschool children with disabilities can successfully participate in the activities. 

Policy and Special Education

Margaret J. McLaughlin

Margaret McLaughlin
Dr. McLaughlin’s scholarship focuses on the intersection of special education and general education policies. 

She has served as principal investigator on a number of projects that have examined education reforms and students with disabilities. She has published extensively on curriculum access, standards, high stakes assessment and the inclusion of students with disabilities, including coauthoring “Access to the General Education Curriculum.” 

Dr. McLaughlin has served as a consultant for state, local, national and international organizations and agencies, including the World Bank and USAID. She has served as a special education expert in several state-level court cases on school funding. Among her many leadership positions, she has served as President of the Council of Exceptional Children and on several National Research Council committees, as well as on numerous task forces and advisory groups. 

Philip J. Burke
Professor; Director, Institute for the Study of Exceptional Youth

Phil Burke
Dr. Burke’s work focuses on major policy issues affecting individuals with disabilities. He has testifed before the US Congress House and Senate Committees and serves as the Political Action Liaison for the Higher Education Consortium in Special Education. He has served as a consultant to the Special Master for the US District Court in Baltimore in the historic Vaughn G. litigation, the Joseph P. Kennedy Foundation, the Offce for Economic Co-Operation and Development and as a Nominator for the MacArthur Fellows Program. 

Since 1992, Dr. Burke has directed graduate M.Ed. and Ed.D. programs in Europe coordinated with the US Defense Department Dependents schools and provided guidance to DOD overseas schools in their special education programs. 

Dr. Burke is the director of the Institute for the Study of Exceptional Children and Youth, which is dedicated to fostering research and programmatic excellence in special education. The Institute has generated over 40 million dollars to conduct research, policy analysis, training and program development.