Kent State’s special education program reviewed for improvements

Julia Sprowls

Outside reviewers assessed Kent State’s special education program this past week. Larry Maheady, Horace Mann Endowed Chair in Exceptional Education at Buffalo State College and Cynthia Vail, associate professor in the College of Education at the University of Georgia, were chosen by Kent State’s provost office to visit Kent for two days to interview administrators, faculty and students in the special education program. At the end of their review, the reviewers will generate a report based on the things they saw, whether commending them or suggesting improvements to the program.

The two reviewers come from within the field of education. Maheady received his master’s degree in school psychology from the University of West Florida and his special education doctorate from the University of Pittsburgh. He is currently involved in teaching and research at Buffalo State College in the exceptional education department.

Vail received her doctorate from Florida State University and has worked in the department of communication sciences and special education at the University of Georgia for 25 years. Along with being Associate Department Head and associate professor, she directs the Early Childhood Special Education graduate program.

Lyle Barton, professor emeritus in the lifespan development and educational sciences department, was one of the professors interviewed for the review. Before the reviewers come to the campus, faculty members from the program prepared a report. Barton said this year, the special education program gave the reviewers about 500 pages about their program before they came.

Sanna Harjusola-Webb, associate professor in the lifespan development and educational sciences department, works with the special education graduate program, which also underwent review.

“We look at our programs comprehensively, and then we have a group of external reviewers who come to campus talking to faculty and administration about the programming in special education,” Harjusola-Webb said.

“It’s just getting new eyes on it,” Barton said. “If you’ve been doing something with the same group of people all the time, sometimes you don’t recognize things that could change. So you bring in this outside review to take a peek at how things are going and it’s a way to maybe do things differently or better.”

The last outside review of the special education program at Kent State was done in 2006.

The program receives large grants each year. Last year, the program had $4 million dollars in grants.

“Usually it’s in the neighborhood of a million and a half to two million dollars a year in various grants,” Barton said. “Those grants typically go to personnel preparation, conducting research, and student training. We bring in a substantial amount of money for a program our size in terms of research.”

Harjusola-Webb has a grant within her program for personnel preparation funded by the U.S. Department of Education.

“Each year for the next five years I’m able to fully fund six students in this track,” she said.

This grant is specifically geared toward the early intervention of children with disabilities. Webb is currently recruiting students for the second cohort of this track.

In addition to receiving large grants, Kent State’s special education program is one of 26 programs in the United States that has a transition center to help students with intellectual disabilities transition to college level courses after high school.

The special education program at Kent contains 13 faculty members, 350 undergraduate students and 150 graduate students. Barton said all of their students get jobs, and that is not the case for all educators.

“Special educators always get jobs,” Barton said.

Contact Julia Sprowls at [email protected].