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$1.2 Million Grant to Prepare Early Childhood Special Education Teachers

‘Project Camino’ Addresses Teacher Shortage, Need for Diverse Educators
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Cal State Fullerton has been awarded a $1.25 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to address the shortage of diverse and multilingual early childhood special education teachers in local classrooms.

The grant supports “Project Camino: Early Childhood Special Education,” directed by Janice Myck-Wayne, professor of special education, and the university’s 2023 Outstanding Professor. Aja McKee, associate professor of special education, is co-director of the project. The university has received $250,000 in first-year funding.

Due to the state and nationwide shortage of special education teachers, Project Camino provides financial incentives and support for teacher candidates to enter the special education field. 

Two-thirds of grant funds will go toward scholarships — up to $13,000 — to pay for tuition, books, conference attendance and stipends to assist students in completing their early childhood special education credential.

“Project Camino scholars will be able to earn their credential without incurring debt,” Myck-Wayne said.

Project Camino focuses on training future teachers to support and instruct young children with disabilities — from birth to kindergarten — including children with multiple disabilities, significant physical, emotional, sensory and cognitive disabilities, and autism.

“This project will prepare teachers to provide equitable, evidence-based, culturally and linguistically responsive instruction, intervention and service to students and their families,” Myck-Wayne said. “The purpose is to increase the number of multilingual teachers from racially and ethnically diverse backgrounds to serve children with disabilities.”

Nine students will be selected this summer from the College of Education’s early childhood special education credential program, with the project beginning in the fall. A total of 45 credential students will be recruited over the five-year project.

Project Camino strives to ensure equal access and education for all students, with an emphasis on young students who are members of groups that are historically underrepresented. 

The goals for the project include improving equitable student outcomes for young children with disabilities, particularly in the areas of literacy and mathematics skills. Coursework and in-classroom training for credential students include inclusion, diversity and multilingualism instruction.

The grant funding gives credential students the opportunity to learn from diverse faculty members from across college departments through monthly seminars and other activities. For their classroom training, students will be placed in high-need, local school districts, guided by veteran educators who are CSUF alumni.

Credential students will participate in professional education conferences and receive training in areas such as working with culturally and ethnically diverse families. 

“In California, there is an alarming shortage of special educators that has largely resulted in underqualified teachers providing a substandard service,” Myck-Wayne said. 

“This shortage deprives our students with disabilities of being educated by highly qualified teachers, which affects their learning outcomes. Project Camino is addressing this shortage and filling the need to prepare well-trained teachers.”

This latest funding is the fourth U.S. Department of Education-Office of Special Education Programs grant awarded to CSUF and directed by Myck-Wayne to prepare early childhood special education teachers. Previous grants over the past 15 years, totaling $3.3 million, are Project ABC, Project STAR and I:DREEAM. 

Debra Cano Ramos