Florida, commonly known as the “Sunshine State,” is proving sunny with a great chance of success. As one of the first states to receive CEEDAR technical assistance (TA), Florida is making remarkable progress. In order to maintain its current level of success, collaboration is key among Florida’s stakeholders such as the Florida Department of Education and partnering institutions of higher education (IHEs; i.e., St. Petersburg College [SPC], University of Central Florida [UCF], and University of West Florida [UWF]).
Bridging relationships between general education and special education is a focal point for many preparation programs participating in the initiative. To learn more about Florida’s involvement, we spoke with Dr. Mary Little, a professor in the Exceptional Education Program at UCF. She shared, “Teacher educators who serve in both general education and special education view this effort as an opportunity to collaborate and be involved in innovative and groundbreaking work by partnering with the CEEDAR Center.” Teacher educators are working together to ensure that all teachers are better prepared to teach all learners—including students with disabilities.
Many groundbreaking transformations are occurring, and CEEDAR Center professionals are assisting with staff and resources. An exciting enhancement emerging from the use of the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) innovation configuration (IC) is the development of an online professional learning summer institute at UCF, which will encompass general education teachers gaining knowledge about inclusive practices and UDL. In addition, the content of the IC will be included in modules to educate paraprofessionals and substitute teachers about this framework for instruction.
Dr. Little stated that there is a “passion about what we are honored to be able to do,” and this is evident in the changes occurring within the state. Her enthusiastic demeanor is contagious with stakeholders across the state as the state leadership team is taking a unified approach to reform, reflected in Florida’s goals and activities. As it helps to push the agenda of effective teachers and leaders, Florida is sure to be on the forefront of reform in ongoing educator development.