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.
Unfortunately, in addition to an Early Childhood Special Education (Birth-8) certification, Colorado offers a Special Education Generalist (Ages 5-21) certification.
Code of Colorado Regulations 301-101 Section 5.08 and 5.09
End licensure practices that fail to distinguish between the skills and knowledge needed to teach elementary grades and secondary
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. Colorado—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.
Colorado provided edits to the analysis to clarify that the grade span for its special education generalist license is ages 5-21 and the grade span for its special education early childhood education license is ages birth to 8.
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.