The state should ensure that special education teachers know the subject matter they will be required to teach.
Commendably, Arkansas does not offer a K-12 special education certification.
Arkansas 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, Arkansas 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.
Rules Governing Initial, Standard and Provisional Teacher Licensure 4.07 Praxis Test Requirements www.ets.org
Provide a broad liberal arts program of study to elementary special education candidates.
Arkansas 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 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, Arkansas should use a combination of coursework and testing to ensure that 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).
Arkansas asserted that it does 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. The state added that special education is issued as an endorsement area to a content area teaching license or as an initial license through a blended program of study; it does not issue a license in special education alone.
Arkansas also pointed out that there is a multi-subject HOUSSE for secondary special education teachers.
This analysis acknowledges that Arkansas requires the same content preparation and testing for its elementary special education teachers as it does for all elementary candidates. However, as discussed in Goal 1-B, the state does not ensure that its general elementary teachers are provided with a broad liberal arts program of study relevant to the elementary classroom.
Although Arkansas provides a multi-subject HOUSSE for secondary special education teachers, it is not specifically geared to the needs of new special education teachers who face unique pressures, as they must be competent in both the subject areas they teach and in the strategies for teaching children with a variety of special needs. IDEA specifically permits the use of HOUSSE for new secondary special education teachers.