Special Education Teacher Preparation Policy
The state should distinguish between the preparation of elementary and secondary special education teachers. This goal was reorganized in 2017.
Commendably, Missouri offers a K-12 Elementary Mild to Moderate Option or a K-12 Middle/Secondary Mild to Moderate special education license. The state also offers an early childhood special education certification for birth to grade 3.
Missouri Code of State Regulations 5 CSR 20-400.560
Clarify grade-level licenses.
Missouri is also encouraged to clarify its special education policy by making distinct grade-level licenses. The fact that the licenses are labeled as "K-12" elementary or middle/secondary leaves doubt that these are really discrete grade-level licenses, or that a teacher with a K-12 elementary license is also able to teach at the secondary level without additional content testing.
Missouri recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis.
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.