The state should ensure that special education teachers know the subject matter they are licensed to teach. This goal was reorganized in 2017.
Content Test Requirements: Georgia's P-12 special education certificates are issued as consultative, meaning that the teacher may work collaboratively with a content area teacher of record in all content subjects. To serve as teacher of record, candidates must add a special education concentration at a cognitive level (P-5, 4-8 and 6-12) in one of the following five areas: math, science, social science, language arts and reading. To add an academic level to a special education certificate, the teacher must either be recommended by an approved program or pass the appropriate content assessment.
Therefore, the state does not require a subject-matter assessment for this certificate, nor does it require a content test for what amounts to an elementary special education certification.
Require that elementary special education candidates pass a rigorous content test as a condition of initial licensure.
To ensure that special education teacher candidates who will teach elementary grades possess sufficient knowledge of the necessary subject matter, Georgia should require a rigorous content test that reports separate passing scores for each content area. Georgia should also set these passing scores to reflect high levels of performance. Failure to ensure that teachers possess requisite content knowledge may deprive special education students of the opportunity to reach their academic potential.
Ensure that secondary special education teachers possess adequate content knowledge.
Secondary special education teachers are frequently generalists who teach many core subject areas. Georgia's current policy of requiring no subject-matter testing is problematic because it fails to ensure that all secondary special education teachers are adequately prepared to help their students meet rigorous learning standards. Georgia should consider a distinct route for secondary special education teacher certification that allows candidates to demonstrate requisite content knowledge in the classroom through a combination of testing and coursework.
Georgia asserted that the statement, "Therefore, the state does not require a subject-matter assessment for this certificate, nor does it require a content test for what amounts to an elementary special education certification" is incorrect. The state indicated that it has had the Special Education General Curriculum/Early Childhood Education field of preparation and certification for candidates preparing to teach in grades P-5 and that the Early Childhood Education Special Education General Curriculum Test is a content test.
While it is true that the required, Georgia Assessments for the Certification of Educators (GACE) Early Childhood Special Education General Curriculum Assessment is a content test with a composite score, the fact that the state allows special education candidates the option of passing the test or providing a recommendation from an approved program warrants the statement in question and results in Georgia only meeting a small part of this goal.
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.