Progress on this goal since 2017
- Stayed the same
Do states distinguish between the knowledge and skills needed by elementary special education teachers as compared to secondary special education teachers?
Yes. State requires special education teachers to earn a license appropriate to their intended grade level.: AL, IA, LA, MA, MD, ME, NJ, NY, RI, TN, WV
Partially. State offers grade-specific and K-12 licenses.: AK, AZ, CO, CT, DC, DE, GA, HI, ID, IL, IN, KS, MN, MO, MS, NE, NH, NV, OH, SC, SD, VA, VT, WA, WI, WY
No. State offers only a K-12 license.: AR, CA, FL, KY, MI, MT, NC, ND, NM, OK, OR, PA, TX, UT
HI: State offers a PreK-12 license.
IL: Illinois offers a PreK-12 license.
MT: State offers a PreK-12 license.
ND: State offers a PreK-12 license.
NJ: Although New Jersey does issue a K-12 certificate, candidates must meet discrete elementary and/or secondary requirements.
NM: State offers a PreK-12 license.
OK: State offers a PreK-12 license.
OR: State offers a PreK-12 license.
PA: State offers a PreK-12 license.
SC: The state offers a PreK-12 license.
TX: State offers a PreK-12 license.
WY: State offers a PreK-12 license.
Updated: February 2020
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General Teacher Preparation
- Program Entry
- Teacher Shortages and Surpluses
- Program Performance Measures
- Program Reporting Requirements
- Student Teaching/Clinical Practice
Elementary Teacher Preparation
Secondary Teacher Preparation
- Middle School Content Knowledge
- Middle School Licensure Requirements
- Secondary Content Knowledge
- Secondary Licensure Requirements
Special Education Teacher Preparation
Teacher and Principal Evaluation
Retaining Effective Teachers
Early Childhood Preparation
How we graded
4C: Special Education Licensure Requirements
- Specific Licensure: The state should require its teacher preparation programs to sufficiently distinguish between the differing needs of high-incidence elementary special education teachers and high-incidence secondary special education teachers by requiring distinct elementary and secondary special education licenses.
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 high-incidence elementary special education teachers and those of high-incidence 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 high-incidence elementary and secondary licenses.
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. 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. The current model does little to protect some of our most vulnerable students.
 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
 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