Special Education Teacher Preparation Policy
The state should distinguish between the preparation of high-incidence elementary and secondary special education teachers. This goal was consistent between 2017 and 2020.
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.
Rules Governing Licensure http://dese.ade.arkansas.gov/public/userfiles/Legal/Legal-Current%20Rules/2018/Educator_Licensure_Final_10-29-18.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 high-incidence 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 indicated that as it works to ensure that students with disabilities are served in their least restrictive environment, districts are encountering a shortage of teachers with content expertise who are able to provide core instruction based on grade-level expectations. This high-level instruction is crucial as the state moves to having more students with Individualized Educational Programs (IEPs) participating in the general assessment based on grade-level standards. The state noted that the Special Education Resource was added as a licensure area in 2015, and requires completion of twelve (12) hours of coursework and passing scores on the Praxis Special Education: Core Knowledge and Applications (5354). Programs prepare educators who are currently licensed in K-6, 4-8, or 7-12 ELA, Math, or Science to teach the content area in which they are licensed to students with exceptionalities in an inclusion and/or resource setting. The Special Education resources requires a standard license, completion of a program aligned to the Competencies for Special Education Resource K-6, 7-12, and passing scores on the Special Education: Core Knowledge and Applications.
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.