The state should ensure that special education teachers know the subject matter they will be required to teach.
Regrettably, Mississippi offers a K-12 special education certification, in addition to a K-8 special education endorsement that can be added to an elementary license.
Further, Mississippi 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 a subject-matter test. The K-8 special education certification is a supplemental endorsement that only requires the completion of an approved program.
Certification for Special Education http://www.mde.k12.ms.us/ed_licensure/specialed.html
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 Mississippi 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.
Mississippi 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, Mississippi 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).
Mississippi was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts that enhanced this analysis. The state also asserted that it offers the following special education licenses: special education birth-K, emotional disability, early oral intervention birth-K, dyslexia therapy, mild to moderate K-12 (inclusion and tutorial only) mild to moderate K-12 (self-contained), and severe disability. Mississippi added that it offers several different options for special education majors, including everything from tutorial/inclusion to programs that include high levels of testing and education.
While the state's licensure options address a wide range of special education areas, with the exception of early childhood, all of the licenses offered span K-12. The point is not that the state has not addressed the needs of students with different disabilities, but that the state's licenses fail to distinguish between the needs of students at different grade levels.