UofL student teaching in a classroom.
UofL student teaching in a classroom.

The University of Louisville has received funding to prepare special education personnel who are well-qualified for leadership positions in high-need, rural school systems. A grant awarded by the U.S. Office of Special Education Programs, will fund Project SPIDERS (School-university Partnerships Influencing, aDvocating and Engaging Rural Special Educators) to support doctoral students.

Ginevra Courtade
Ginevra Courtade

Ginevra Courtade, chair of the Department of Special Education, Early Childhood, and Prevention Science in the College of Education and Human Development, received the grant, along with colleagues from the University of North Florida and the University of Oklahoma. While the entire grant totals $3.5 million, UofL will support six scholars with $1.25 million.

“The part-time program is meant to allow administrators to stay within their respective districts, while building their skills to advance the field,” Courtade explained. “This could be individuals who are already working in administration, or those who are currently special education teachers who show potential to move into leadership roles.”   

Doctoral students will be supported through three existing degree programs at the University of Louisville, University of North Florida and University of Oklahoma that prepare special education personnel for rural school systems. These schools will work together to accomplish the project objectives of recruitment of diverse students, implementation of high-quality programming, preparation of scholars and support for communities through an enhanced network of special education leadership.  

The project will leverage the combined strengths of the faculties at all three schools to prepare and increase the number of personnel needed to address shortages of leadership personnel in high-need, rural areas.

“Each school presents unique strengths,” Courtade explained. “The University of North Florida is strong in special education policy, the University of Oklahoma is strong in research, and we here at UofL bring strength with our community partnerships.”

The curriculum of Project SPIDERS scholars will be enhanced through shared access and mentorship across faculty; joint seminars and coursework; and collaborative applied and disseminated scholar projects.

The need for increased leadership and support for special educators in rural districts is high.

“The SPIDERS grant affords the opportunity to address the personnel deficit in rural districts,” sad Larry Taylor, executive director of the Kentucky Autism Training Center. “Having worked in the rural areas of the Commonwealth, I know firsthand of the challenges for the recruitment and retention of qualified personnel, and it is critical that efforts are made to increase the availability of qualified personnel. SPIDERS is a great step toward addressing this personnel challenge.”

“Leadership skills afforded by an earned doctorate make a difference for those working in rural areas,” Taylor said. 

To learn more about the College of Education and Human Development and the Department of Special Education, Early Childhood, and Prevention Science, visit their website.