The Catholic University of America

Oct. 8, 2010

Professors Win $1.1 Million Grant for Master’s Program

Funds Will Provide 30 Scholarships for Master’s Students in Early Childhood and Special Education

  From left, Shavaun Wall, professor of education, and Carole Williams Brown, research associate professor in education

Two CUA education scholars have been awarded a $1.1 million federal grant to develop a master’s program in early childhood education and special education that prepares teachers to serve young children with special needs from low-income, multicultural families. Over the course of four years, the U.S. Department of Education grant will provide free tuition to 30 master’s students.

“CUA’s Department of Education has particular strengths in teacher training for early childhood education and special education. This grant will help to bring a cohort of students into a program that takes advantage of both,” said L.R. Poos, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences. “It's a large grant in a particularly competitive competition and I congratulate the department on its success.”

The recipients of the grant are Shavaun Wall, a professor of education who has been at CUA since 1977, and Carole Williams Brown, a CUA research associate professor in education since 2002. Wall serves as the principal investigator of the grant, Brown as its project director.

At-risk infants, toddlers and preschoolers from multilingual families or those who have been identified with disabilities are the target population. Given the demographics of Washington, D.C., Brown expects many of the students enrolled in the master’s program will be Hispanic.

“Certainly we would welcome Hispanic students and will be encouraging Spanish-speaking students,” Brown said. She noted that students will work in practice sites in D.C. that are bilingual, such as Centro Nia, a bilingual, multicultural public charter school and early care provider.

“There’s a tremendous need in the District for early childhood intervention as well as special education,” Wall said. “This grant provides a significant opportunity for CUA to help strengthen services in our community for the youngest, most vulnerable children and their families through quality preparation of teachers.”

Thirteen students are expected to start the program this January, Wall said. In addition to attending classes, the master’s students will receive training in charter and public schools as well as early care, education settings and in the homes of multilingual families in D.C. They will be evaluated during and after they leave the program by the Center for Applied Linguistics, a D.C.-based education research and service firm.

Wall’s grant proposal was titled “Better Teaching for High Needs Young Children with Disabilities: M.A. Preparation of Early Childhood Special Educators.” It was one of 11 chosen from among 27 applications around the country, said Maryann McDermott, a competition manager for the Office of Special Education Programs at the U.S. Department of Education. Wall competed against larger state universities with more sizable budgets.

Wall was the principal author of “Early Head Start and Access to Early Intervention Services: A Qualitative Investigation” published in Topics in Early Childhood Special Education in 2005. One of her 40 published works, the article serves as a reference for education researchers and students. In addition, Wall has received continuous grant funding since 1996.

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