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New $1.2 Million Grant Prepares Early Childhood Educators, Applied Behavior Analysts

Dr. Jennifer Grisham-Brown

The University of Kentucky College of Education has received a $1.2 million grant to uniquely prepare school personnel who are in high demand – preschool teachers and applied behavior analysts.

The grant will cover tuition for two cohorts of master’s students in the college’s Interdisciplinary Early Childhood Education and Applied Behavior Analysis programs in the Department of Early Childhood, Special Education and Rehabilitation Counseling. Over the course of the five-year grant, funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs, 16 masters students will be trained together in an interdisciplinary program.

“Through studying in a combined program, they will learn to collaborate with one another,” said Dr. Jennifer Grisham-Brown, professor of interdisciplinary early childhood education and the

Dr. Collin Shepley

grant’s project director. “The students will complete their practicum in a school together, where they will learn to work with one another to address issues. The applied behavior analysts will work with teachers to address challenging behaviors children may exhibit in preschool programs. At the same time, they will learn from teachers about best practices in early childhood education, and how to implement interventions in a classroom setting, as opposed to a clinic.”

Early childhood accounts for one of the largest teacher shortages in Kentucky right now, Grisham-Brown said. Entrance testing shows more than half of Kentucky students are not prepared for kindergarten, so schools are expanding pre-school programming as a result.

photo of Sarah Hawkins-Lear
Dr. Sarah Hawkins-Lear

“The opioid crisis in Kentucky is another factor as to why we need more early childhood teachers. Children who have been exposed to drugs are qualifying for special education services, which can start at age 3,” Grisham-Brown said.

The applied behavior analysis field is growing, too, with the national demand more than doubling in recent years. Behavior analysts provide behavioral consultation, support, and training to teachers, staff, parents, and individuals with challenging behaviors and/or intensive training needs.

UK’s grant-funded program will focus on evidence-based practices and services provided in

school and home environments. The master’s scholars will learn how to provide assessments, instruction, and progress monitoring for children with high-intensity needs. Early childhood master’s students will finish the program eligible for a Rank II teaching certification and applied behavior analysis scholars will finish having met all requirements to sit for the Board Certified Behavior Analyst examination.

UK College of Education faculty members Dr. Collin Shepley, Dr. Sarah Hawkins-Lear, and Dr. Justin Lane are co-

Dr. Justin Lane

principal investigators on the grant with Grisham-Brown.

To apply to earn a master’s degree in the grant-funded program, contact Dr. Jennifer Grisham-Brown at jennifer.grisham-brown@nulluky.eduor call 859-257-8943.