2011 Delivering Well Prepared Teachers Policy
The state should ensure that special education teachers know the subject matter they will be required to teach.
Commendably, Alabama does not offer a K-12 special education certification.
Alabama also appropriately requires its elementary special education teacher candidates to pass the same subject-matter test as general education candidates. However, the state does not ensure that its elementary special education teachers—who are required to meet the same preparation requirements as all elementary candidates—are provided with a broad liberal arts program of study relevant to the elementary classroom (see Goal 1-B).
Further, Alabama fails to require that secondary special education teacher candidates are highly qualified in at least two subject areas, and it does not customize a HOUSSE route for new secondary special education teachers to help them achieve highly qualified status in all subjects they teach.
Alabama Administrative Code 290-3-3-.35, .36 Praxis Test Requirements www.ets.org
Provide a broad liberal arts program of study to elementary special education candidates.
Alabama should ensure that special education teacher candidates who will teach elementary grades possess not only knowledge of effective learning strategies but also knowledge of the subject matter at hand. Although the state commendably requires the same content test for elementary special education teachers as general education teachers, it should also require core-subject coursework relevant to the elementary classroom. Failure to ensure that teachers possess requisite content knowledge deprives special education students of the opportunity to reach their academic potential.
Ensure that secondary special education teacher candidates graduate with highly qualified status in at least two subjects, and customize a HOUSSE route so that they can achieve highly qualified status in all subjects they plan to teach.
To make secondary special education teacher candidates more flexible and better able to serve schools and students, Alabama should use a combination of coursework and testing to ensure they graduate with highly qualified status in two core academic areas. A customized HOUSSE route can also help new secondary special education teacher candidates to become highly qualified in multiple subjects by offering efficient means by which they could gain broad overviews of specific areas of content knowledge, such as content-driven university courses. Such a route is specifically permitted in the 2004 reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
Alabama recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state reiterated that elementary special education teachers are required to meet the same preparation requirements as all elementary candidates.
Alabama also noted that NCTQ presumes that there is only one model for special education at the secondary level, a model that requires special education teachers to teach core academic content. However, special education teachers do not teach content at the secondary level. Rather, they are paired with highly qualified teachers of the core academic subjects specified in NCLB. The core academic subject teachers provide the instruction; the paired special education teachers provide the support that special education students need in order to learn.
Further, Alabama pointed out that a number of secondary special education teachers have achieved proper certification at the master's degree level, having completed undergraduate majors in a core academic subject to earn baccalaureate level certification and HQ status in that core academic subject. Special education teachers with at least two years of teaching experience may also use a passing score on the appropriate Praxis II content knowledge test.
In anticipation that NCLB will be amended, Alabama added that it has no plans to modify HOUSSE options at this time.
While special educators should be valued for their critical role working with students with disabilities and special needs, they are identified by the state not as "special education assistants" but as "special education teachers," presumably because the state expects them to provide instruction to children. Providing instruction to children who have special needs requires both knowledge of effective learning strategies and some knowledge of the subject matter at hand. Failure to ensure that teachers are well trained in content areas deprives special education students of the opportunity to reach their full academic potential.