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Press Release: UMass Boston M.Ed. in Special Education, Teacher of Visual Impairments Track Accredited by the Massachusetts Dept. of Education

Region's only training program for educating teachers in the field of Visual Impairments works to address the critical national shortage of Teachers of the Visually Impaired

By:

Originally published: 10/2005

Contact: Joshua Shea, Northeast Regional Center for Vision Education

Boston, MA, October 3, 2005-- The University of Massachusetts Boston has officially received notification of full accreditation from the Massachusetts Department of Education for its Masters in Special Education degree, Teacher of Visual Impairments track.

There is a severe national and regional shortage of Teachers of the Visually Impaired. The National Plan for Training Personnel to Serve Children with Blindness and Low Vision recommends a teacher-to-student ratio of 8:1 as most realistic to offer a quality educational program to a child with a visual impairment. In New England the estimated caseload for one Teacher of the Visually Impaired is twenty-six students, based on a recent study by the Northeast Regional Center for Vision Education program at UMass Boston.

UMass Boston is New England's only academic center for preparing Teachers of Students with Visual Impairments and Orientation and Mobility Specialists, two key specialties that help people with visual impairments learn, find jobs, and travel.

Through the efforts of the Northeast Regional Center for Vision Education (NERCVE), the UMass Boston Graduate College of Education has received two five-year federal grants totaling $2.75 million to prepare personnel to serve children with visual impairments, specifically Teachers of the Visually Impaired and Orientation and Mobility Specialists.

"Children with visual impairments are currently being underserved within the educational system, and it is crucial that the severe national shortage of personnel serving children with visual impairments is addressed," said William Kiernan, director of the Institute for Community Inclusion. "The Massachusetts Department of Education's accreditation of the UMass Boston masters degree track is highly important because it brings us one step closer to providing children with visual impairments a quality education with a proper student/teacher ratio in accordance with nationally recognized standards and practice."

"Perkins School for the Blind is proud of our affiliation with UMass Boston, and we are thrilled to hear of the recent accreditation of the graduate degree in Special Education, Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments track," said Beth Caruso, supervisor of outreach services at Perkins School for the Blind. "Perkins Outreach was able to hire two recent graduates from the TVI program at UMass Boston to work in public schools in Western Massachusetts. One of the positions had been vacant for over two years. The caseload of the other new position was immediately filled. We look forward to continued collaboration with NERCVE and UMass Boston to provide students who are blind or visually impaired with a quality education and highly qualified teachers."

NERCVE is an established center within the Institute for Community Inclusion and is academically affiliated with the Graduate College of Education at UMass Boston. NERCVE is dedicated to improving the quality of education and rehabilitation services to children and adults with visual impairments by supporting regionally accessible educational opportunities throughout New England. A primary mission of NERCVE is to support a regionally accessible, high-quality distance education program to address this shortage.

"It is amazing to reflect on all that has been accomplished in a relatively short timeframe," said Robert McCulley, director of NERCVE. "In just three years, NERCVE has built a network to obtain federal, state, and private resources, designed an entirely new graduate curriculum, prepared faculty to teach online, enrolled over sixty matriculated students with representation from each New England state, and completed the process toward accreditation that ultimately resulted in the approval for state licensure."

"NERCVE's support to the UMass Boston Graduate College of Education has allowed the opportunity to add a new state teacher licensure program that meets an area of critical need," said Jonathan Chu, associate dean of the Graduate College of Education.

The first six graduates of the UMass Boston M.Ed. in Special Education, Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments program have officially been endorsed by the university for state licensure from the State of Massachusetts Department of Education on September 24, 2005.

The Institute for Community Inclusion (ICI) promotes the inclusion of people with disabilities in their communities through training, consultation, clinical and employment services, and research. ICI is based at the University of Massachusetts Boston and Children's Hospital Boston. www.communityinclusion.org

ICI: promoting inclusion for people with disabilities