The state should ensure that special education teachers know the subject matter they will be required to teach.
Regrettably, Michigan offers a K-12 special education certification, in addition to grade-specific options.
Michigan appropriately requires its elementary special education teacher candidates to pass the same subject-matter test as general education candidates. However, the state does not ensure that its elementary special education teachers—who are required to meet the same preparation requirements as all elementary candidates— are provided with a broad liberal arts program of study relevant to the elementary classroom (see Goal 1-B).
Michigan also 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.
Michigan Administrative Code R340.1782, R390.1122
End licensure practices that fail to distinguish between the skills and knowledge needed to teach elementary grades and secondary grades.
It is virtually impossible and certainly impractical for Michigan to ensure that a K-12 special education teacher knows all the subject matter he or she is expected to be able to teach, especially considering state and federal expectations that special education students should meet the same high standards as other students. While the broad K-12 umbrella may be appropriate for teachers of low-incidence special education students, such as those with severe cognitive disabilities, it is deeply problematic for the overwhelming majority of high-incidence special education students, who are expected to learn grade-level content.
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.
Michigan 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, Michigan 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).
Michigan was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts that enhanced this analysis. The state added that preparation programs for teachers of students with learning disabilities must include the following: common manifestations of learning disabilities across the age span, including problems with academic performance in literacy, math and content areas across the K-12 spectrum; and assessing, teaching and modifying instruction and curricula across the K-12 continuum.
Michigan also asserted that it has HOUSSE options specifically for special education teachers, and it does differentiate between secondary and elementary when it comes to HQ status.