San Diego State Assistant Professor Jessica Suhrheinrich refers to a “misconception” she views as being apparent in the realm of special education. Namely, that is the widely held view that a skilled teacher can forge optimal classroom outcomes after receiving and subsequently applying “some initial training.”
That training is both coveted and valuable, but the “initial” tag denotes its limitations. Gifted teachers often do take circumscribed new learning and apply it in wondrous ways for their students, but newly imparted knowledge without additional and ongoing support will logically have only marginal utility.
Suhrheinrich has always wanted something more for California’s special ed teachers that supplements initial training with continuing coaching, the availability of relevant resources and strong ongoing leadership support. She stresses that it takes a complementary package of tools to continuously buoy and enhance special education outcomes for an already energized and top-quality educator.
The tools have now arrived.
A gift package earmarked specifically for Suhrheinrich’s stated prerogatives was recently delivered to her in the form of a $5.5. million grant award from the California Department of Education. An article discussing the grant notes its intent to “support the scale-up of evidence-based practices for students with autism.”
What that means is this: Suhrheinrich will now be the director of research and analysis for a team of professionals probing research-driven ways to improve autism education across the state. Teachers who have in the past received the above-cited initial training will now see it supplemented by a broad-based effort aimed at constantly improving mentoring/coaching and finetuning proven tools and processes to perform consistently better.
Suhrheinrich touts what she says will be a new learning-and-apply process in California special education. She calls it a “train the trainer” model and vows that the money allotted to it by the state grant will be “a huge game changer.”
Suhrheinrich’s special ed pedigree is proven, and her goals and enthusiasm infectious. Legions of supporters across California are understandably hoping that she and her team of educational researchers and professionals help engineer enhanced special education outcomes in a broad way.