(BOWIE, Md.) – Bowie State University continues to invest in diversifying the education pipeline with three new grants from the Department of Education for almost $3.5 million that support scholarships for future teachers and leaders focusing on special education.
The grants cover three different degree levels. PULSE (Preparing Urban Leaders in Special Education) is designed to support 15 students pursuing a doctoral degree with a focus in leadership in special education. RESET (Responsive, Effective Special Education Teachers) focuses on 36 master’s students who are training to become culturally and linguistically diverse special education teachers. CREED (Culturally Responsive Early Educator Development) is focused on supporting 30 students pursuing a bachelor’s degree specializing in early childhood education. Each grant is worth just under $250,000 a year and renewable for five years.
Dr. William Drakeford, an associate professor in the Department of Teaching, Learning and Professional Development, serves as the director for all three grant programs. He considers it a dream come true to have the resources that add to the College of Education’s ability to produce the next generation of teacher’s and administrators concentrating on special education.
“One of the things I dreamed about was simultaneously having a bachelor’s, master’s and Ph. D. grants going on,” said Dr. Drakeford. “Now with these three, we’ll have five programs that are going on simultaneously.”
There is a widening gap between the demographic of special education teachers and the students they teach. The overall demographics of public school students with disabilities has substantially increased within a span of 20 years. In 2000, 63% were white, 20% Black and 14% were Hispanic. In 2020, 47% were white, 18% were Black and 26% were Hispanic. Teachers from diverse backgrounds make up only 21% of the teaching profession.
Studies also suggests that up to 30% of students from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and lower economic status are identified as having disabilities in their early years as they enter school, yet it is generally teachers who work with these students that report the least expertise on how to effectively target the specific issues that these students face. Research has found that students instructed by teachers with similar backgrounds tend to have higher achievement, graduation rates and decreased suspension.
“It helps with the success rate of kids of color when they have people in education that they can identify with, said Dr. Drakeford. “When you have teachers you can identify with, that’s going to make a world of difference, in terms of students wanting to be involved and the amount of effort they put forward.”