Marymount Collaborates to Debut First Graduate Level Special Education Training Program for Arlington Diocese Catholic Schools

The inaugural cohort of the Marymount University Graduate Special Education Program kicked off this semester with eleven K-8th grade teachers from Catholic schools in the Diocese of Arlington. The innovative training program, a collaboration between Marymount University’s School of Education and Human Services and the Arlington Diocese Catholic Schools (ADCS), is the only one of its kind in Northern Virginia. 
Marymount Assistant Professor of Special Education Dr. Clara Hauth worked closely with ADCS Special Services Coordinator Diane Elliott to develop the program. 
“Marymount has supported the Diocese with workshops for many years. Marymount Dean of Education and Human Services Lois Stover and our department faculty were all delighted we could customize an advanced program for their instructors,” said Hauth. 

Catholic schools have varied requirements in special education training and academic credentials. In order to more effectively address the learning differences and varying special needs that affect learning, dioceses across the country are turning to universities to offer advanced coursework and additional training for their teachers. 

Hauth explained the benefits of the teacher training cohort for the Diocese, its teachers and students: “It gives these teachers graduate level education and specialized training with Ph.D./Ed.D faculty that they can use immediately in the classroom to make a difference. It also gives  teachers the opportunity to jumpstart advancing their career with 12 credit hours toward their master’s degree in special education. Six out of 11 in the inaugural cohort expressed intent to complete their master’s degree (36 hours), and the other five are considering the option. A needs analysis of each member of the cohort gave program developers the opportunity to create a mix of coursework with research and evidence-based practices. 

Hauth noted all of the teachers in the debut cohort teach in grades K-8, so the development team customized lesson plans and processes specific to the Diocese school system for those age students. “We understand the many time demands and stresses of teachers – juggling classrooms, careers, extracurricular duties and families,” Hauth continued. “We collaborated with the cohort teachers to choose the most valuable coursework, even the location and the class timing.” The debut program will take 18 months to complete, from August 2016 to December 2017, utilizing a hybrid format, primarily in class, but also integrating online learning.

The four School of Education and Human Services’ courses that garner cohort members 12 graduate level credit hours are:

• Special Education: Foundations and Characteristics of the Exceptional Learner
• Psycho-educational Assessment and Instructional Programming
• Diagnostic and Corrective Literacy Instruction
• Collaboration and Consultation in the Special Education Setting

The program goal is to start one new cohort each year with twelve members. The first cohort ranges from teachers in their mid-20s to more experienced teachers in their late 40s. A Marymount student who graduated with her bachelor’s in special education this past May and had already completed the foundation course being taught this semester, will join the cohort in the spring, rounding out the 12-person group.

“People are contacting me, very excited for the program to expand, to see where it is going and the impact it can have in the lives of students across the Northern Virginia area,” Hauth said. “Part of Marymount’s mission is outreach within the University’s extended community, and we are well prepared to be the leader in this endeavor in the academic community in the D. C. area.” 

Photo caption: The first cohort of the Marymount Graduate Special Education Program for teachers in the Arlington Diocese Catholic Schools (ADCS)