The School of Education has been awarded over $9 million in funding from the New York State Education Department’s Office of Special Education to provide technical support and professional development in dozens of school districts regionally, over the next five years.

The grant contracts will support the development of the Mid-State Regional Partnership Center and two Family and Community Engagement Centers (early childhood and school aged), and will be housed in the School of Education. The capacity-building projects will bring a community of practitioners together to support teachers, administrators, students and families in 51 school districts to improve graduation rates and post-school outcomes for students with disabilities.

Beth Myers, Christine Ashby, and Alan Foley, School of Education faculty members and directors of research and service centers dedicated to improving the lives of people with disabilities in schools and the community through inclusion, are the co-principal investigators on the grants.

“There are pockets of work occurring around the state to improve special education outcomes and facilitate better communication between parents, teachers and districts,” says Christy Ashby, associate professor of inclusive special education and disability. “This grant creates a unified strategy to support systems change in all schools,” she adds.“I am thrilled that the School of Education will play a part in developing and delivering that strategy.”

“Syracuse University’s School of Education is the ideal site for the Regional Partnership Center and the Family and Community and Engagement Centers,” says Joanna Masingila, dean of the School of Education. “These projects build on a strong foundation of comprehensive and cohesive expertise in disability research and practice, education and advocacy with the support and framework of a top-tier research institution. With several centers in the School focused on disability and inclusion and a rich history of leadership in this field, Syracuse is well positioned to develop and execute this next wave of systems improvement across the region.”

The School of Education’s pursuit to create equitable and inclusive schools has been supported by federal and state funding for almost three decades, with past contracts to operate the state’s early childhood and school aged assistance programs (Syracuse University Parent Assistance Center and the Early Childhood Direction Center), which completed in 2019. Currently, the Taishoff Center for Inclusive Higher Education/InclusiveU and the Fit Families program provide parents, students and professionals with resources to support communication strategies and trainings on inclusion in school and community.

The new NYSED funded centers will serve the Mid-State Region, including the Syracuse City School District and the BOCES regions of Onondaga-Cortland-Madison, Cayuga-Onondaga, CiTi Oswego, and Tompkins-Seneca-Tioga. The School of Education has hired new staff expertise in early childhood inclusive education, in addition to the directors from the former Syracuse University Parent Assistance Center and the Early Childhood Direction Center to facilitate the trainings and provide support to the broad network of partner districts.