Equity & Inclusion Start Here

UW Haring Center Researchers Aim to Advance Racial Equality in Teacher Preparation


Two Haring Center researchers were awarded a two-year grant by the Professional Educator Standards Board to better prepare the teachers of tomorrow by providing a foundation in inclusive education and racial equity at the University of Washington.

“Our hope is to show our teaching candidates that inclusion is an ongoing, dynamic process that requires critical reflection,” said Maggie Beneke, Ph.D. “As well as to address the disproportional representation of children and youth of color across the state and country in special education classrooms.”

Beneke and Selma Powell, Ph.D., have begun work on the grant by revising curriculum in the special education teacher preparation program in the UW College of Education. The first step was to draft an inclusion and racial equity statement. Then all special education faculty reviewed their class syllabi to include sections in each course dedicated to a continued conversation about equity and diversity.

“Diversity classes are often standalone experiences,” said Powell. “Those types of experiences have not been as effective as when issues of equity are continuously integrated in every class.”

The future special education teacher preparation curriculum will focus on advancing racial equity inclusion. Specifically, courses will address how unexamined bias in systems can fail students, but also push teacher candidates to explore their own identities and biases, and to process how these contribute to who they are now and who they want to be as teachers.

Drs. Beneke and Powell have also connected with members of the Seattle community, inviting families of color who have children with disabilities to share their frustrations and successes in special education.

“It will be very powerful to hear local families of color as they share their experiences in special education and tell us the skills they think would help better our teachers and schools,” said Beneke.

This grant also bolsters an already existing partnership between Seattle Public Schools (SPS) and the University of Washington to target the recruitment and retention of teacher candidates of color. Powell will provide face-to-face information sessions to SPS instructional assistants with attention given to the location and timing of sessions to provide equitable opportunities for perspective students (nights, weekends, etc).

The $20,000 grant has allowed Beneke and Powell to pursue greater equity and inclusion at the UW College of Education, something they have been hoping to do since before receiving the grant.

“This grant has provided us the time we need to get started,” said Beneke. “We intend to keep doing this work after the grant’s two years are up.”

For more information about this project, you can contact Beneke at beneke@uw.edu or Selma Powell at selmap@uw.edu.