Special Education Teacher Preparation Policy
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: Kansas offers a K-6 and PreK-12 high incidence licenses as well as an Elementary Education Unified (K-6) license allows teachers to teach children with and without disabilities. The elementary unified license requires passage of the the Praxis Elementary Education: Content Knowledge for Teaching (7801) test. This test reports separate subcores in the core content areas of English/language arts, math, social studies and science. However, the science subtest does not sufficiently address candidates' content knowledge in science.
However, Kansas does not require content testing for any of its high incidence special education teachers.
Regulations and Standards for Kansas Educators 2016-2017 http://www.ksde.org/Portals/0/TLA/Licensure/Licensure%20Documents/CertHandbook16-17link.pdf High Incidence Disabilities license standards http://www.ksde.org/Agency/Division-of-Learning-Services/Teacher-Licensure-and-Accreditation/Postsecondary/Higher-Ed-Faculty-Resources/Higher-Education-Resources-TLA/Higher-Education-Standards
Kansas recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis, however this analysis was updated subsequent to the state's review. The state also noted that Praxis II content test(s), which will be for Elementary Education Unified license, have not yet been determined by Kansas State Department of Education's (KSDE's) Professional Standards Board or the Kansas State Board of Education.
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.