Special Education Teacher Preparation Policy
The state should ensure that high-incidence special education teachers demonstrate sufficient knowledge of the subject matter they are licensed to teach. This goal was consistent between 2017 and 2020.
Content Test Requirements:
All K-12 special education candidates in Colorado must pass the same elementary education content test as general education elementary teachers. The Praxis Elementary Education: Multiple Subjects (5001) test contains separate subscores for each core content area. However, early childhood special education teachers (birth to age 8) are not required to pass this same test. Early childhood special education candidates must pass the Praxis
Special Education: Preschool/Early Childhood (5691) test, which is not a content test.
Provisional and Emergency Licensure: Because provisional and emergency licensure requirements are scored in Provisional and Emergency Licensure, only the test requirements for the state's initial license are considered as part of this goal.
Code of Colorado Regulations CCR 301-101 Sections 3.0 and 5.0
Ensure that high-incidence secondary special education teachers possess adequate content knowledge.
Secondary high-incidence special education teachers are frequently generalists who teach many core subject areas. Colorado's current policy of only requiring an elementary-level content is problematic because it fails to ensure that all secondary special education teachers are adequately prepared to help their students meet rigorous learning standards. Colorado should consider a distinct route for secondary high-incidence special education teacher certification that allows candidates to demonstrate requisite content knowledge in the classroom through a combination of testing and coursework.
Colorado recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis, however this analysis was updated subsequent to the state's review.
4A: Special Education Content Knowledge
Generic K-12 special education licenses are inappropriate for teachers of high-incidence special education students. Too many states do not distinguish 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.
Special education teachers teach content and therefore must know content. While special educators should be valued for their critical role in working with students with disabilities and special needs, each state identifies them not as "special education assistants" but as "special education teachers," presumably because it expects them to provide instruction. Inclusion models, where special education students receive instruction from a general education teacher paired with a special education teacher to provide instructional support, do not mitigate the need for special education teachers to know content. Providing instruction to children who have special needs requires knowledge of both effective learning strategies and the subject matter at hand. Failure to ensure that teachers are well trained in content areas—presumably through subject matter licensing tests—deprives special education students of the opportunity to reach their academic potential.