The primary purpose for this grant is to prepare educators who are already certified and practicing in special education, general education, school administration, or related services areas to earn doctorates from George Mason University (GMU) with a major in Special Education and a minor in Special Education Leadership. Throughout this three-year (for full-time doctoral students) or four-year (for part-time doctoral students) doctoral program, participants will focus on how legislation, regulations, and policy at the federal and state levels impact the practices used in classrooms where elementary and secondary students with high-incidence disabilities (e.g., learning disabilities, emotional disturbance, high-functioning autism, mild intellectual disabilities) and who may also have cultural and linguistic backgrounds are served.
Ultimately, the grant's purpose is to prepare and support financially (and in other ways) doctoral students whose career goals include leadership and research that improve services and service delivery for elementary and secondary students with high-incidence disabilities who are found eligible for special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
Participants selected for this doctoral grant acquire knowledge and skills that ultimately lead toward their dissertation research. After graduating with their PhD, participants are obligated to continue in the field of education (whether at the college or university level, in state departments of education, in school systems, or other appropriate roles) for a specific period of time in leadership positions to:
- Disseminate their newly-acquired expertise in teaching elementary and secondary students with high-incidence disabilities.
- Continue to contribute to the research base in special education.
- Promote changes within organizational systems that increase capacity-building for improved services for elementary and secondary students with high-incidence disabilities
Participants will complete a rigorous and comprehensive doctoral curriculum that expands the 20-credit hour doctoral core curriculum (e.g., leadership seminars, quantitative and qualitative research courses) with a 21-credit hour professional specialization in a major area individualized for each participant selected for this project and a 12-credit hour minor area in a newly-developed Special Education Leadership concentration. Concluding with the 12-credit hours for dissertation research, this doctoral program consists of a total of 65 credits that participants will complete within three or four years.
We will select participants who have already demonstrated exceptional leadership skills and expertise in teaching elementary and secondary students with high-incidence disabilities. Participants selected for this grant must be committed to research on the design and delivery of specialized instruction for elementary and secondary students with high-incidence disabilities in the least restrictive environment and other requirements per the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Research may also focus on acquiring evidence of practices that promote students' success in the least restrictive environment of a general education setting and achievement in general education curriculum. Research may also focus on educational services provided to students at-risk and with cultural and language differences prior to referral for assessment to determine eligibility for special education services, provided there is also a focus on determining eligibility and identifying instructional practices that benefit students with high-incidence disabilities. Participants may also focus their research on Response to Intervention (RTI) models. Dissertation research may focus on increasing administrator's skills for supporting elementary and secondary students with high-incidence disabilities. Participants will have multiple opportunities during doctoral course assignments and doctoral grant seminars to acquire knowledge and skills that help them, in collaboration with the doctoral grant PIs, make decisions about their dissertation research topics and techniques.