Ashland University Awarded Ohio Department of Education Grant

1/20/11 ASHLAND, OH -- Ashland University has been awarded an Ohio Department of Education grant in the amount of $77,295 for 2010-2011.

Dr. Crystal Kaiser, associate professor and intervention specialist in the Department of Early Childhood within the Dwight Schar College of Education, is the project director for the grant, which will support enhanced relationships and collaborations between the university and local elementary schools who serve young children with disabilities, preschools and child care centers, as well as early intervention services for infants and toddlers with special needs.

"Ashland University's 'Project RISE: Redesigning Intervention Specialist Education,' is expected to provide new resources and community partnership opportunities to better support the early childhood intervention specialist teacher preparation programs at the Ashland main campus as well as at the University's Elyria Center and the Columbus Center," said Kaiser, who teaches at the Columbus Center.

Included among Project RISE's 10 project goals, through collaboration with Prevent Blindness Ohio, is the innovative incorporation of a Prevent Blindness America national certification program in preschool vision screening, which is scheduled to be included within the programs for all new teachers preparing to be early childhood intervention specialists at Ashland University.

This certification is currently required in the state of Ohio to identify young children who may be at risk for serious vision loss without early intervention before age 6.

According to Kaiser, another project goal is to develop a new dual licensure pathway for university teacher education students in early childhood education to enable them to graduate as state-qualified to teach all children from pre-K through grade three, including both typically developing children and those with special needs.

"As more schools move to inclusion models, where both typically developing children and those with special needs are all 'included' in the same classrooms, such dual licensure is expected to become increasingly important, and may add to the employability of future early childhood education teacher preparation graduates," she said.

Kaiser said Project RISE is expected to draw favorable statewide attention to the high quality of Ashland University's programs in preparing state licensed early childhood intervention specialists who can effectively serve children aged 3 through 8 with a wide range of special learning and behavioral needs.

"Early developmental and educational intervention has made significant positive differences in the lives of children with disabilities as well as in the lives of their families," she said. "Teacher education students in Ashland's preparation programs learn to effectively support not only the children themselves, but the families of these young children, who may need both support and instruction to coordinate and provide the specialized developmental care their children may require."

Dr. Mary Rycik, Early Childhood Department chair, and Dr. Maria Sargent and Tanzeah Sharpe, members of the Early Childhood Intervention Specialist faculty, will play important roles in meeting all project goals, as will representatives from multiple departments and schools within the university, including the new Schar College of Nursing.

In addition, community professionals representing all three geographic regions of Ashland University's early childhood education program, which includes Ashland, Elyria and Columbus, will be engaged to work in partnership with university faculty on project goals.

According to Kaiser, the Office of Exceptional Children of the Ohio Department of Education requested competitive proposals from universities throughout the state who are preparing teachers for careers as intervention specialists to respond with a specific plan "to improve professional teacher education...through collaborative university and community partnerships ...toward highly qualified teacher graduates and their enhanced employability."

Ashland University (<>) is a mid-sized, private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Ashland University values the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong, applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students.