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: Although New Jersey offers a K-12 endorsement, it must be added to a general education license that restricts the grade level or subject matter that can be taught. New Jersey also requires its elementary special education teacher candidates to pass the same subject-matter test as general education candidates. Elementary teachers are required to pass the Praxis II Elementary Education: Multiple Subjects (5001) test, which contains separate
subscores for each core content area.
In addition, New Jersey allows secondary special education teachers to teach single subjects on the K-12 secondary certifications. These teachers are required to pass a single-subject content test.
However, the state allows an exemption to candidates who have failed to meet the passing score by 5 percent if they have a GPA of 3.5 or higher.
Praxis Tests www.ets.org/praxis New Jersey Administrative Code 6A:9B-8.2; 9.3(b)(6) and 6A:9B-11.4 Special Education Certificate Requirements http://www.state.nj.us/education/educators/license/endorsements/2475S.pdf
Eliminate GPA exception.
Although the content tests required of New Jersey's special education candidates is commendable, it is undermined by the state's policy allowing teacher candidates who fail to meet the passing score by five percent to be exempt if their GPA is 3.5 or higher. Relevant higher-level coursework provides the foundation for requisite content knowledge, but to ensure that teacher candidates possess sufficient subject-matter knowledge for the elementary classroom, New Jersey should require all teacher candidates to pass a rigorous test. Doing so will help to ensure that every student is taught by a teacher with adequate subject-matter knowledge.
Ensure that secondary special education teachers possess adequate content knowledge.
Secondary special education teachers are frequently generalists who teach many core subject areas. Commendably, New Jersey ensures that these teachers will have subject-matter knowledge in at least one core content area. However, while it may be unreasonable to expect secondary special education teachers to meet the same requirements for each subject they teach, as do other teachers who teach only one subject, the state's current policy may not be sufficient to help special education students meet rigorous learning standards. New Jersey should consider a distinct route for new secondary special education teacher certification that allows candidates to demonstrate requisite content knowledge in the classroom through a combination of testing and coursework.
New Jersey stated that it feels the NCTQ analysis is accurate and responded with a helpful question that resulted in our clarification of this goal.
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.