The state should ensure that special education teachers know the subject matter they will be required to teach.
Commendably, Maryland does not offer a K-12 special education certification.
However, Maryland does not ensure that its elementary special education teacher candidates are provided with a broad liberal arts program of study relevant to the elementary classroom. It also does not require that they pass the same subject-matter test as general education candidates.
Further, Maryland 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.
Provide a broad liberal arts program of study to elementary special education candidates, and require that they pass the same content test as general education teachers.
Maryland should ensure that special education teacher candidates who will teach elementary grades possess knowledge of the subject matter at hand. Not only should the state require core-subject coursework relevant to the elementary classroom, but it should also require that these candidates pass the same subject-matter test required of all elementary teachers. 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, Maryland 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).
Maryland asserted that a liberal arts background is provided through the general college or university requirements that elementary and special education candidates complete before they enter teacher education programs.
The state also noted that secondary special education teachers must be certified in a content area to be highly qualified if they are the primary teacher of content in the classroom or the teacher of record. Those holding professional certification in special education may add content in one of two ways: presenting a qualifying score on the appropriate content assessment, or presenting a minimum of 15 semester hours in the age-appropriate area of special education and 15 semester hours in related content areas.
Maryland pointed out that even for teachers who are not currently teachers of record, and while not a requirement, the state has supported programs that help secondary special educators become highly qualified in the core academic areas assessed on the Maryland School Assessment (MSA) in middle school and the High School Assessment in high school.
In addition, the state contended that it plans to phase out HOUSSE by the conclusion of school year 2013-2014. The use of HOUSSE will end for general educators who wish to use experiences they have had prior to the 2005-2006 school year. The HOUSSE process for 1) elementary and secondary certified teachers in special education and teaching core academic subjects in special education assignments, and 2) K-12 teachers in English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) and teaching core academic subjects, will be available only to teachers with experience prior to the 2010-2011 school year. The use of HOUSSE for these educators (excepting multi-subject special educators who are highly qualified in language arts, mathematics or science at the time of hire) will also end at the conclusion of the 2012-2013 school year, regardless of prior experience.
Finally, Maryland added that teachers who are certified in both elementary education and special education are required to pass both the elementary content test and the Praxis II Special Education assessment. Teachers certified in special education either at the elementary or secondary level, and listed as the teacher of record, must have this dual certification, including the testing referenced above, to be considered highly qualified under the rules of NCLB.