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College of Education Gets $1.5 Million for Special Education

By: Brady W Moore   Published 10:19 am / October 9, 2015

Evelyn Johnson

Evelyn Johnson

Professor Evelyn Johnson in the Early and Special Education Department in Boise State’s College of Education is launching a four-year study called RESET to create a system to support and improve special education teacher practice.

Johnson received a $1.5 million grant from the Institute for Education Sciences (IES) to develop an observation tool to evaluate and improve special education teachers’ use of evidence-based instructional practices.

“The special education teacher evaluation system we are designing is focused on improving special education teachers’ ability to implement evidence-based practices” said Johnson, who is also the executive director for the Lee Pesky Learning Center. “Rather than reduce the evaluation of special education teaching to a test score, we wanted to create a system that would support improving teacher practice, inform professional development, and ultimately, lead to improved outcomes for students with disabilities.”

Teacher evaluation systems are an important part of providing feedback and support to improve instruction. However, most systems have not been designed to address the unique role required of special education teachers. Students who qualify for special education services comprise between 10 percent and 15 percent of the total student population. However, special education teachers provide instruction for students both in special education, as well as those students who require other additional support. This sometimes means that special education teachers are often serving up to 25 percent of a school’s student population, which emphasizes the importance of developing evaluation systems that address the unique roles and instructional expertise of special education teachers.