TQB: Teacher Quality Bulletin

Tune in to NCTQ (April 2015): State Policy

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For as long as NCTQ has been tracking teacher policy, states have overwhelmingly set a lower bar for licensing new special education teachers. This is especially troubling now, as most special education students are expected to meet new college- and career-readiness standards.

Consider this: 35 states still offer or exclusively grant K-12 special education teacher licenses, sending an unequivocal message that the content knowledge and pedagogy needed for an elementary and secondary special education classroom are interchangeable. Just 15 states require special education teachers to even pass a content knowledge test.

Of the 18 states that require general ed elementary teacher candidates to pass an adequate test of the science of reading, only 11 also require special education teachers at the elementary level to pass the same test. Considering that reading difficulties are the primary reason for referrals to special education, the absence of a requirement should trip some alarms. The remaining seven states, Alabama, Florida, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Mexico and Ohio, all need to close this loophole.

There are notable exceptions. New York, in particular, stands out. In addition to requiring special education teachers to pass content tests that appear to be as rigorous as what is required of other teachers, New York is the only state that requires secondary special education teachers to demonstrate content knowledge in all subjects they are licensed to teach.