OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Oklahoma State Department of Education’s (OSDE) Special Education Services team has received a $5.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to support Oklahoma school districts and early career teachers in serving children with disabilities.

The U.S. Department of Education’s State Personnel Development Grants program provides funding to help state educational agencies reform and improve their systems for personnel preparation and professional development for those providing early intervention, educational and transition services to improve results for children with disabilities.

OSDE officials say this is the fourth time the department has been awarded the State Personnel Development Grant. Each grant provides five years of support.

OSDE officials say the new grant will allow the department to add a professional development component for special education teachers who are in the first few years of their career.

“We get a lot of requests for professional development,” Perez-Rickels said. “We feel like working with educators early in their careers is one way we can help special education teachers feel supported and stay in their roles longer.”

The department currently is working with educators at Sand Springs Public Schools and Dickson Public Schools to provide professional development opportunities and help the districts implement multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS) to provide academic and behavioral help to students with a variety of needs.

“We’ve seen reduced risks in reading remediation and a decline in the number of discipline referrals,” said Kristen Perez-Rickels, State Personnel Development Grant director for the OSDE.

In 2023, the OSDE will select two new districts that want to implement MTSS for grant support. Two additional districts will be selected in 2025.

Oklahoma school districts can apply in February to partner with the OSDE for MTSS development.