U.Va. Offers New Award for Early Childhood Special Education Students

September 17, 2008 — The federal Office of Special Education Programs has awarded an $800,000 grant to the University of Virginia's Curry School of Education to support students in its Early Childhood Special Education Program.

The grant, awarded last month, will offset tuition and prepare more students to serve in the growing fields of early intervention and early childhood special education.

With funding becoming available Jan. 1, Curry is now screening students who qualify for the grant. Those who receive the grant will get one year's tuition and a stipend in exchange for agreeing to teach two years in either early intervention or early childhood special education.

Students can elect to take funding for one or two years; if they accept the funds for two years, they agree to teach in these fields for four years. To qualify, students must currently be enrolled in the Early Childhood Special Education Program or apply for admission to the program and have a 3.0 GPA.

The Early Childhood Special Education program at Curry offers two programs in which students can study under the grant.

The first option is the five-year BA/MT program designed for U.Va. undergraduates in a partnership between the Curry School and the College of Arts & Sciences. After five years of study students receive both a U.Va. bachelor's degree from the College and a master of teaching degree from Curry.

The second option is Curry's regular master of teaching or master of education program. 

The need for early-intervention and early-childhood special ed teachers is growing because more children are being identified with disabilities at younger ages, said Tina Stanton-Chapman, an assistant professor of education.

"In addition, states are expanding their preschool programs to serve more 3- and 4-year-old children, and there is an increased focus on providing services to young children and their families," she said. With this grant, she added, "We can fund 12 students each year."

Stanton-Chapman's co-applicants for the grant included Curry professor Martha Snell, research scientist Mary Voorhees and research associate D. Sarah Hadden.