CPD gains new Research and Evaluation Division Director

Mark Innocenti

The CPD has a new Research and Evaluation Division Director. Dr. Mark Innocenti replaces Dr. Richard Roberts, who retired this month.

Innocenti’s new assignment begins August 2. It marks the latest step in a journey that that has started at the CPD in 1978, when he began work as a graduate student. He has remained here ever since, building connections within the center, the university, the community and professional organizations along the way.

He will lead a division that has long focused not only on interventions for children and supporting their families, but on finding the most effective, evidence-based ways to do it. Common themes that run through much of the division’s work include finding techniques that make the greatest difference in stimulating development, language and literacy.

The division receives grant money from a variety of sources to perform its work, and Innocenti said the continued focus will be on securing new projects to move research forward. The Cache County location of the National Children’s Study, which began operating in earnest this year, is one of the new long-range projects undertaken at the division. It will follow children from before birth through age 21 to better understand the relationship of health, environment, and development to later well-being. Dr. Innocenti is a co-principal investigator on the project, which Dr. Roberts helped bring to the CPD through a partnership with the University of Utah.

“I think we’ve got a really good staff,” Innocenti said. “They’re knowledgeable in both early childhood research and evaluation in general.” His vision for the future is to integrate that staff more closely with work done in other areas of the CPD and also throughout the Utah State University campus.

Innocenti has had a lot of experience in building connections. Last year he was elected to the Council for Exceptional Children Board of Directors as a Member-at-Large. He is a past president of the CEC’s Division for Early Childhood Board, and he served on the DEC Board for eight years.
In 1999 he became a fellow for the Zero to Three National Center for Infants, Toddlers and Families—an honor that brought with it some leadership training that went above and beyond the usual research skills.
But when asked for highlights of his career, the first thing that came to mind was the time he has worked at the CPD.

"Mark brings experience, dedication, and strong leadership to this new assignment.  I am looking forward to working with him to expand the capacity and reputation of the CPD for doing outstanding work," said CPD Director Bryce Fifield.

CPD by the numbers

In the past fiscal year, the Early Childhood Alternative Teacher Preparation program enrolled 25 rural preschool special educators.

Program allows rural preschoolers access to trained teachers

View of red cliffs in southern Utah.
Instead of bringing the trainees to the university, the EC-ATP program brings university coursework to the trainees.

It’s summer, and special education preschool trainees are coming to Utah State University to kick off their instruction. Their director has a message for them:

Prepare for your most challenging two years. The trainees are already filling teaching assignments, they’re new to their jobs, most of them are caring for their own families, and now they’re adding coursework to everything else.

They are on campus for a week, but the bulk of their training will occur where they live, via the Internet.

Providing trained special education preschool teachers to the remote corners of Utah is not an easy thing—not for the students, the schools or the training program. Across the nation, rural schools often struggle to keep special education classrooms staffed, and Utah is a state with a lot of rural areas.

The Early Childhood Alternative Teacher Preparation program helps fill that need by allowing preschool teachers to receive—in their own communities—the special education certification training that is required by law. The trainees take courses via the Internet. They also teach, under a “letter of authorization” that allows them to simultaneously finish their coursework and staff special education programs that might otherwise go without.

You can read more about the EC-ATP program on the CPD website. For a look at some of the rural Utah scenery captured by EC-ATP tech specialist David Harris on his way to install eqipment used by the program, check out his photo album on the CPD's facebook page.

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