Licensure Deficiencies

2017 Special Education Teacher Preparation Policy

2017 Goals for Licensure Deficiencies

The state should distinguish between the preparation of elementary and secondary special education teachers. This goal was reorganized in 2017.

Best practices

Although there are no state stands out for its policies to prevent special education licensure deficiencies, fourteen states recognize the importance of distinguishing the differing needs of elementary and special education teachers and their preparation by requiring specific elementary and secondary special education licenses. Commendably, these states do not offer K-12 mild to moderate special education licenses.

Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2017). Licensure Deficiencies national results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/national/Licensure-Deficiencies-85
Best practice 0

States

Meets goal 13

States

Nearly meets goal 0

States

Meets goal in part 1

State

Meets a small part of goal 9

States

Does not meet goal 27

States

Do states distinguish between the knowledge and skills needed by elementary special education teachers as compared to secondary special education teachers?

2017
2015
Add previous year
Figure details

Yes. State requires special education teachers to earn a license appropriate to their intended grade level.: AL, IA, LA, MA, MD, ME, MO, NJ, NY, PA, RI, TN, WI, WV

Partially. State offers grade-specific and K-12 licenses.: AZ, CO, CT, DC, DE, GA, HI, ID, IL, IN, KS, MN, MS, NE, NH, NV, SC, SD, TX, VA, VT, WA, WY

No. State offers only a K-12 license.: AK, AR, CA, FL, KY, MI, MT, NC, ND, NM, OH, OK, OR, UT

How we graded

4C: Special Education Licensure Deficiencies 

  • Specific Licensure: The state should require its teacher preparation programs to sufficiently distinguish between the differing needs of elementary special education teachers and secondary special education teachers by requiring distinct elementary and secondary special education licenses.
Specific Licensure
The total goal score is earned based on the following:

  • Full credit: The state is only eligible for the full point if it requires teacher preparation programs to sufficiently distinguish between the differing needs of elementary special education teachers and those of secondary special education teachers by requiring distinct elementary and secondary special education licenses. The state is not eligible for any credit if it offers K-12 special education licenses either in isolation or as an alternative to grade-specific licenses.
  • One-quarter credit: The state is eligible for one quarter of a point if, in addition to K-12 special education licenses, the state offers both elementary and secondary licenses.

Research rationale

Generic K-12 special education licenses are inappropriate for teachers of high-incidence special education students.
Too many states make no distinction between elementary and secondary special education teachers, certifying all such teachers under a generic K-12 special education license. While this broad umbrella may be appropriate for teachers of low-incidence special education students, such as those with severe cognitive disabilities, it is deeply problematic for high-incidence special education students, who are expected to learn grade-level content.[1] And because the overwhelming majority of special education students are in the high-incidence category, the result is a fundamentally broken system.

It is virtually impossible and certainly impractical for states to ensure that a K-12 teacher knows all the subject matter he or she is expected to teach. Further, the issue is just as valid in terms of pedagogical knowledge. Teacher preparation and licensure for special education teachers must distinguish between elementary and secondary levels, as they do for general education.[2] The current model does little to protect some of our most vulnerable students.


[1] Levenson, N. (2011). Something has got to change: Rethinking special education (Working Paper 2011-01). American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. Retrieved from http://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED521782
[2] Feng, L., & Sass, T. R. (2010). What makes special education teachers special? Teacher training and achievement of students with disabilities (Working Paper 49). National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research. Retrieved from http://www.urban.org/UploadedPDF/1001435-what-makes-special.pdf; Levenson, N. (2011). Something has got to change: Rethinking special education (Working Paper 2011-01). American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. Retrieved from http://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED521782