Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Special education teacher preparation questions

In the 2009 Teacher Quality Yearbook, the preparation of special education teachers is a report element worth noting. The report argues that:
1. The state should require that teacher preparation programs provide a broad liberal arts program of study to elementary special education candidates. All elementary special education candidates should have preparation in the content areas of math, science, English, social studies and fine arts and should be required to pass a subject-matter test for licensure.

2. The state should require that teacher preparation programs graduate secondary special education teacher candidates who are “highly qualified” in at least two subjects. The most efficient route for these candidates to become adequately prepared to teach multiple subjects may be to earn the equivalent of two subject area minors and pass tests in those areas.

3. The state should customize a “HOUSSE” route for new secondary special education teachers to help them achieve highly qualified status in all the subjects they teach.
Kentucky and 24 other states are not doing any of those things. Only six meet the elementary standard, and only 15 meet the secondary standard. Only 14 use the HOUSSE option, short for "high, objective, uniform state standard of evaluation" and defined here as allowing teachers to demonstrate subject knowledge through " a combination of proven teaching experience, professional development, and knowledge in the subject acquired over time through working in the field."

While I'm not comfortable with the full Yearbook list of expectations, these special education standards do seem worth considering. Of course, they effectively say that special education teachers need pretty much the full background of other teachers plus the added knowledge and skills to work with students with additional needs. If we want that added preparation from teachers who are already taking on added challenge, it seems to me that we're going to have to commit to give them added compensation as well.


  1. We need to teach teachers how to successfully remediate dyslexic students as they learn differently from traditional students.

  2. I am a special education teacher in NJ. I have been teaching for over 28 years. I teach Math and Science to 8th grade learning disabled students in a departmental situation. I just got a letter from my human resource department stating that I am not highly qualified to teach math and science. I must now develop a plan, in an agreement with my principal, how I am going to obtain a highly qualified status or I lose my tenure. The plan my principal likes, is that before June 2010, I pay around $200 and pass the praxis exam which was not required 28 years ago when I got my teaching certificate. If I fail, I lose my money and my job. A question you might be asking is, “Didn’t you achieve the highly qualified status by going through the HOUSSE route for secondary special education teachers in all the subjects you teach?” Another question you might be asking “Is there such a thing as being grandfathered in after teaching so long?”
    To answer the first question, yes, as long as I was teaching all four major subjects, but the principal changed my teaching assignment. When I went down to just teaching only two major subjects, I lost my highly qualified status. To answer the second question, there is no grandfathering. NEA, NJEA, teacher’s unions and associations dropped the ball on this little loophole. I can get transferred to a school that has a special education position available that is in an in-class support environment. Those teachers are exempted from being highly qualified. But the teacher association is not sure if can just bump a teacher with less experience than I when dealing with highly qualified status. The waters are so muddy when this subject is discussed by unions and associations. I decided that I not going to take the praxis exam, because I’m too close to retirement and I don’t have time to study for the praxis within that little time. If they said take that exam in the summer, I may have considered that.

  3. REALLY!!! Finally a new book addresses the over-emphasis on the what of teaching to the neglect of the how of teaching (Joseph Wise, Power of Teaching—The Science of the Art). What Wise slightly overlooks however is that there is a giant and disruptive step to be taken between realizing the need for an emphasis on how to teach and achieving it. Currently here is no such thing as Teacher Education anywhere on the planet. Fifty years of modern research on teaching and still there is no science of instruction. Schools of Education and Education Professors need a dose of renewal, compliance and accountability. You might wish to look in on my attempt to jump-start such a process of parsing and ranking of teaching methods until we have a simple list of Good, Better and Best Practices. Of course, this alone will not do it we also must initiate department level REGULATION of what professors teach. Currently a course with the same name and syllabus can be entirely different from one professor to another. There is have no core curriculum, every other profession has a body of knowledge that everyone must know. The current “Race to The Top” inadvertently leaves only teachers behind. &


Updates and data on Kentucky education!