2017 Special Education Teacher Preparation Policy
The state should distinguish between the preparation of elementary and secondary special education teachers. This goal was reorganized in 2017.
Arkansas offers a grades K-12 special education certification. Arkansas also allows teachers with a standard K-6 or 4-8 license, or a standard 7-12 English Language Arts, Mathematics, or Science license, to add the corresponding Special Education Resource endorsement.
However, because the special education license is valid for all grades, there is no guarantee that teachers teaching special education at the elementary level will have acquired the necessary content knowledge to teach at that level, or that secondary special education teachers will have acquired the necessary secondary level content knowledge.
Although Arkansas requires candidates to take a content test that results in a composite score to earn its K-12 special education certification, but the test content is geared towards general content knowledge and does not cover the core subjects at a significant depth and breadth for either the elementary or secondary level.
Rules Governing Programs for Education Licensure 7.05 http://www.arkansased.org/public/userfiles/Legal/Legal-Current%20Rules/Rules_Governing_Programs_for_Educator_Licensure_Final_Rule_December_2014.pdf Rules Governing Educator Licensure http://www.arkansased.gov/public/userfiles/rules/Current/Educator_Licensure_ADE317_FINAL_10262015.pdf
End licensure practices that fail to distinguish between the skills and knowledge needed to teach elementary grades and secondary grades.
The broad K-12 umbrella is deeply problematic for the overwhelming majority of high-incidence special education students, who are expected to learn grade-level content. Arkansas—at the very least—should offer elementary and secondary special education licenses and require special education teachers to have the appropriate license for the grade level of students with whom they are working.
Arkansas recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis, and was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts that enhanced this analysis. The state also indicated that Educator Preparation programs for Special Education (K-12) must ensure alignment with the educator competencies for the licensure area in order to maintain state approval. The competencies do include details for the teaching of all four content areas for learners with exceptionalities.
4C: Special Education Licensure Deficiencies
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.