The 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
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]
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.
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.
Susan De La Paz
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
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
Margaret J. McLaughlin
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
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.