This five year grant from the U.S. Department of Education (2011-17) will result in the redesign and restructuring of UWM’s special education teacher preparation program at the elementary and middle school level. Presently our teaching candidates complete a one or two year program (depending on background) with evening and summer coursework and extensive field work. Many of our candidates complete the fieldwork requirement “on-the-job” as a UWM-MPS Intern. This Internship Program was designed in 1997 to help address the critical shortage of special educators.

Our program is guided by UWM’s Urban Mission and emphasizes the essentials needed by an initial special educator including: literacy and math curriculum expertise; a positive and effective behavioral support system; well-designed assessment and progress monitoring systems; the ability to plan, teach lessons, schedule, develop IEPs and accommodations; and a collaborative approach with parents and educators to achieve meaningful student outcomes.

The initiatives of this project will further extend our work in these important ways:

Multiple Pathways to Teaching
In this first initiative, we seek to maintain multiple pathways to teaching and responsive program options. In recent years we have built a strong “alternative” pathway to teaching at the Post-baccalaureate level. In addition, we have a long-standing collaborative relationship with the Department of Curriculum & Instruction and a “5th Year Dual Certification Program.” A large, diverse, and committed pool of applicants requires attention to multiple pathways. Thus, this initiative involves strengthening and maintaining these pathways in response to district needs:

  • Regular education teachers enrolling in our “One-Year, Post-baccalaureate Program”.
  • Career changers enrolling in our “Two-Year Post-baccalaureate Program”.
  • An “Undergraduate 5th Year Dual Certification Program”. A particular focus of this project is to work with our partners in Curriculum & Instruction to reinvigorate our dual-certification program, while simultaneously ensuring core competency development in special education for all regular educators.
Essential Content and Practices
In this second initiative, we join the field in calling for an emphasis on “evidence-based” and “high-leverage” practices that make a truly make a difference in the academic achievement and lives of students with disabilities. Our task is to carefully and collaboratively review the practices that should be prominent in program and “named” and justified by our teacher candidates.

  • Essential Special Education Practices in Urban Schools. The challenge for teacher education lies in arriving at a process where research underpinnings are continuously reviewed and decisions are made about which core evidence-based practices should receive sustained attention. A curriculum mapping process around essential practices is being implemented with the first stage being the identification of the Essential Practices. We define Essential Practices as being high leverage (“…at the heart of teaching and most likely to affect student learning” [Ball & Forzani, 2010, p. 43]), having an evidence base, being critical to student success, and small enough to be observed but yet having broad applicability. Our teacher candidates will be responsible for identifying the practices, justifying them, and demonstrating them in the field. Essential Special Education Practices will be the focus of our observations, will drive our courses, and will inform the benchmarks for program advancement.
  • Content Essentials & Technology Use. Special educators need to have a strong, working knowledge of essential content in core subjects. We are in the process of developing a self-assessment tool that will help Post-baccalaureate students understand their strengths and needs related to content knowledge. In addition, we will engage in a curriculum mapping process to identify the courses in which essential content will be more strategically integrated and assessed. Finally, our plan is to strengthen the integration of technology, including the design and implementation of a semester-long “iPad Project” to investigate how to best facilitate meaningful access to content for the students in their field placements.
Clinical Accountability
In this third initiative, our plan is to add further strength to the “On-the-job” component of our program. We are a field-based program and have a long-standing paid, UWM-MPS Internship model that makes extensive mentoring to help candidates address the considerable teaching challenges that arise from learning “on-the-job. With this project, our goal is to restructure the Internship in the following ways:

  • The UWM-MPS Internship assignment will only be an option for candidates admitted with regular education certification. These candidates will do a special summer field experience with a skilled special educator, plus coursework/workshops, and will receive extensive mentoring as they “add-on” their new special education teacher role. Some special education teaching assignments might require more extensive support and mentoring in the first weeks of schools. Thus, we are creating an Early Teaching Success support system to ensure that classroom routines and structures are working as much as possible “ON DAY ONE.”
  • A newly created, UWM-MPS Pre-Internship will use a co-teaching approach and involves cooperating teachers as “Professional Practice Partners” and Early Teaching Success supports for interns and others.

Early Teaching Success

We, in partnership with a network of schools, seek to hold ourselves more accountable for the “Readiness on Day 1” of Interns, Permit-licensed teachers, and first year teachers. Using a team approach (including District Mentors), with the intern or new teacher in a co-lead role, a focused and hands-on support effort is being made during the first weeks of school to ensure early success.

Pre-Internship Co-Teaching Model

Shortages in special education have resulted in interns and Permit-licensed teachers entering the classroom without sufficient readiness; the Pre-Internship provides a year-long guided experience in teaching students with disabilities prior to their becoming an MPS intern teacher. They work as paraprofessionals in MPS and are assigned to a lead teacher. The lead teacher arrangers for the pre-intern to co-teach and to assume planning responsibilities. Additionally, s/he provides guidance and feedback to the pre-intern and works closely with UWM faculty and supervisors to develop and implement the pre-internship experience. Upon successful completion of the Pre-internship, the pre-intern becomes a candidate for an MPS internship in the second year of the certification program.

For the 2014-2015 school year, the Pre-internship is being piloted in the following MPS schools:

  • Luther Burbank Elementary School
  • Pierce Elementary School
  • Brown St. Academy
  • Milwaukee Parkside School for the Arts
  • Fairview School
  • U.S. Grant School
  • Hamilton High School

We have developed clinical benchmarks which will be used to determine readiness of the pre-intern to assume an intern teacher role.

Connections with our Graduates, Parents
and the Community
In this fourth initiative, we seek to make stronger connections with critical resources:our graduates, local parents of children with disabilities, and the community. To do this, we plan to add several new features to our program.

Promising Practices Videos

Ongoing teacher development is helped by seeing good teachers in action; thus a component of the Exchange, involves working with teachers to demonstrate a practice (e.g., differentiated math instruction) through video and posting the video on our website. This is a collaborative effort with the Milwaukee Public Schools.

To learn more, visit the Promising Practices Videos – Library 1  and Promising Practices Videos – Library 2 webpages.

Parent and Community Advisory Group

Our program has not had a more formalized way to connect with the community and the parents whose children are served by our graduates. Our plan is to develop a “Parent and Community Advisory Group”, with one of the first agenda items – finding more meaningful ways for parents and key community members to have a presence in our programs (e.g., co-teaching a class session; participating in case studies, etc.). This group will be constituted in Year II of the project.

Integrated Candidate and Program Assessments
In this fifth, and final initiative, that demonstrates our candidates’ effectiveness in using essential practices and achieving positive student results, our goal is to integrate assessments (state-mandated and program-developed) within a balanced and understandable framework. “Measures of effectiveness” will drive self-evaluation at all levels (candidate, course and program levels), but we need to make the manageable to ensure their ongoing used beyond the years of the project.

Project Briefs & Products

Essential Special Education Practices. (2012). Winn, J. & Ford, A. (PDF)

The edTPA for Elementary/Middle Educators: Expectations for Meeting the Needs of Students with Disabilities. (2013). Pugach, M., Mukhopadhyay, A., Ford, A., Rigoni, K., Winn, J. (PDF)

Identifying & Integrating Essential Special Education Practices for Urban Special Education Teachers. (2013). Winn, J. & Ford, A. (PPT)

Project Staff

Project Co-Directors

Judy Winn, Ph.D.

Alison Ford, Ph.D.

Project Assistant

Libby Hladik

Contact Us

2400 E. Hartford Ave
Enderis Hall Room 665
Milwaukee, WI 53211
(414) 229-6767