URI College of Education Receives $1.1M Federal Grant for Special Education Programs

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The University of Rhode Island’s (URI) Feinstein College of Education has secured a $1.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to develop special education programs and enhance teacher diversity over the next five years.

Project SUSTAIN, which stands for Supporting Special Education Teachers toward Access & Inclusion Network, aims to train 30 professionals to obtain a URI master’s degree, special education certification, and a graduate certificate in dyslexia knowledge and practice.

Funded by the Education Department’s Office of Special Education and Programs, the grant is intended to address the shortage of special education teachers in the state. Since 2021, 19 percent of emergency teaching certificates have been issued in Rhode Island, according to a university news release. Among the districts seeking emergency certification for special education, 63 percent came from five urban districts: Providence, Pawtucket, Central Falls, Woonsocket, and Warwick.

Project SUSTAIN has established partnerships with the public schools of Providence, Woonsocket, and Central Falls, along with the Rhode Island Institute for Labor Studies and Research.

The project will place particular emphasis on recruiting, retaining, and supporting professionals from historically underrepresented backgrounds based on factors such as race, ethnicity, disability status, sexual orientation, and immigration status.

“URI’s College of Education collaborated on a vision that defines diversity and identifies the dispositions, knowledge, and skills our teacher candidates must possess to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse student population. It is with these tenets that Project SUSTAIN has been envisioned,” Danielle Dennis, dean of the College of Education and principal investigator on the grant, said in a statement.