The U.S. Department of Education awarded Fordham University professor of Childhood Special Education Su-Je Cho, Ph.D., a. $1.25M grant to lead a project titled “Developing Effective Leadership for Learners with Disabilities” (DELL). The grant will allow Project DELL to support the academic pursuits of 30 additional scholars who will study childhood special education and bilingual school psychology.
Project DELL provides financial supports to qualified students as they work to attain certification and a master’s degree in childhood special education or bilingual school psychology within three years. Project DELL operates as an interdisciplinary team, which reflects the interconnected nature of the school psychology, childhood general education, and childhood special education disciplines to best serve students with disabilities.
The scholars will participate in interdisciplinary courses, group assignments, reflective seminars, and a coordinated practicum. The first cohort will begin the program in the fall of 2023.
The goal of Project DELL is to support students who, upon graduation, plan to work with students with disabilities who have high-intensity intervention needs in urban elementary schools. Graduates will be trained to effectively collaborate with families and colleagues in other disciplines, including guiding general education teachers to design and implement the muti-tier classroom Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) for students with disabilities in inclusive classrooms.
The grant is the second that Cho has received. The first grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (U.S. DOE – OSEP) supported Project PACTS (Preparing Affirmative Collaborative Teachers and School Psychologists for Students with High-Intensity Intervention Needs in Elementary Schools).
Graduates of Project PACTS shared how their experiences with the program benefitted their studies. Samra Cekic, who earned a master’s degree in special education, named two significant “positives” of her participation: “Collaboration among teachers and psychology majors – these two groups best support students,” and “Being able to work on a research project and then present it a convention.” Cekic presented her work on an anti-racist curriculum with her interdisciplinary team members at the 2021 National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) Annual Convention in Boston.
Allison Kim, who earned a master’s degree in childhood education and special education, shared that participating in the project was a “fantastic experience” because of the “knowledge and resources it provided” and opportunity for “collaboration with school psychology and social workers.” Kim added that she “learned to navigate the collaborative relationship between the special education teachers and school psychologists.” Her advice to other educators of students with disabilities: “Make it be your passion. Enjoy the puzzle of what works for each student. Live for those lightbulb moments.”