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: Nebraska does not require content testing for any of its special education teacher candidates. The state's early childhood inclusive endorsement allows teachers to teach students in birth through grade three, including those with special needs. Candidates for this endorsement are required to take the Education of Young Children (5024) assessment, which is not a content test.
92 NAC 24.006.18; 57 Praxis Test Requirement http://www.education.ne.gov/EducatorPrep/IHE/SkillsTesting/ContentTestScores.pdf
Nebraska recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. However, the state strongly asserted that it continues to disagree with NCTQ's analysis that does not recognize Nebraska's Guidelines to which all institutions are held accountable. Based on the NCTQ standard, the criteria used, and the standards for acceptable documentation, Nebraska concedes that the analysis is factually accurate.
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.