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Special Education--Personnel Development to Improve Services and Results for Children with Disabilities

Current Section  Purpose
 Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services Home

Program Office: 

Office of Special Education Programs

CFDA Number: 


Program Type: 

Cooperative Agreements, Discretionary/Competitive Grants

Also Known As: 

Special Education—National Activities—Personnel Preparation

Program Description

The Personnel Preparation program helps meet state-identified needs for adequate numbers of fully certified personnel to serve children with disabilities by supporting competitive awards to:

  • Provide research-based training and professional development to prepare special education, related services, early intervention, and regular education personnel to work with children with disabilities

  • Ensure that those personnel are fully qualified, and possess the skills and knowledge that are needed to serve children with disabilities; and

  • Ensure that those personnel are fully qualified, and possess the skills and knowledge that are needed to serve children with disabilities.

The Department is required to make competitive grants that support training activities in a few high priority areas, including:

  • general personnel development and preparing beginning special educators,

  • personnel serving children with low incidence disabilities, and

  • leadership personnel.

These grants are typically 5 years in length.

Personnel Development.

This broad authority requires the Department to support at least one of the following activities:

  1. promoting partnerships and collaborative personnel preparation and training between institutions of higher education (IHEs) and local educational agencies (LEAs),

  2. developing, evaluating, and disseminating innovative models for the recruitment, induction, retention, and assessment of teachers,

  3. providing continuous training and professional development to support special education and general education teachers and related services personnel,

  4. developing and improving programs for paraprofessionals to become special educators,

  5. promoting instructional leadership and improved collaboration between general and special education,

  6. supporting IHEs with minority enrollment of not less than 25 percent, and

  7. developing and improving programs to train special educators to develop expertise in autism spectrum disorders

Beginning Special Educators.

The Department also is required to provide support to beginning special educators. Specifically, the Department is required to make at least one award to:

  1. enhance and restructure existing teacher education programs or develop teacher education programs that prepare special education teachers by incorporating an extended clinical learning opportunity, field experience, or supervised practicum (e.g., an additional 5th year), or

  2. create and support teacher-faculty partnerships between LEAs and IHEs (e.g., professional development schools) that provide high-quality mentoring and induction opportunities with ongoing support for beginning special educators or in-service support and professional development opportunities.

Personnel to Serve Children with Low Incidence Disabilities.

Awards to support personnel to serve children with low incidence disabilities are designed to help ensure the availability of quality personnel in this area by providing financial aid as an incentive to the pursuit of careers in special education, related services, and early intervention. Under this authority, the term "low incidence disabilities" primarily refers to visual or hearing impairments and significant intellectual disabilities, however, beginning in fiscal year 2014, the Administration expanded the definition to also include persistent and severe learning and behavioral problems that need the most intensive individualized supports.

Leadership Personnel.

Leadership preparation activities focus on improving results for students with disabilities by ensuring that leadership personnel in both regular and special education have the skills and training to help students with disabilities achieve to high standards. Under this authority, leadership personnel may include a variety of different personnel, such as teacher preparation and related service faculty, administrators, researchers, supervisors, and principals. Authorized activities include preparing personnel at the graduate, postgraduate, and doctoral levels, and providing interdisciplinary training for various types of leadership personnel.

While individuals and students are not eligible for awards under the Personnel Preparation program, many grantees are required to use at least 65 percent of their award(s) for student support (e.g. tuition, stipends, and payment of fees). Students who receive financial assistance from projects funded under the program are required to pay back such assistance, either by working for a period of time after they complete their training in the area(s) for which they received training, or by making a cash repayment to the Federal Government. In recent years, approximately half of the program's total funding have been used to directly support student scholarships.

A large majority of grants awarded through this program goes to IHEs to provide scholarships to train additional special education and early intervention personnel. However, the Department also makes awards to centers under this program. Unlike awards that provide support for scholarships, which are designed primarily to increase the supply of personnel, center-based awards tend to focus on enhancing the quality of work in a particular topical area through such activities as professional development, technical assistance, partnerships, or the development of materials and best practices.

Last Modified: 02/11/2020