2011 Delivering Well Prepared Teachers Policy
The state should ensure that special education teachers know the subject matter they will be required to teach.
Commendably, New Jersey no longer offers a K-12 special education certification. Although the state does offer a K-12 endorsement, it is added to a general education license that restricts the grade level or subject matter that can be taught.
New Jersey also 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).
Further, New Jersey 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.
In addition, the state allows secondary special education teachers to teach single subjects on the K-12 secondary certifications. Although New Jersey has addressed content knowledge by requiring subject-specific content tests, it is unclear whether the state ensures pedagogical knowledge that spans the K-12 grade levels.
New Jersey Administrative Code 6A:9-11.3
Consider elementary and secondary specific endorsements for special education teachers.
Although New Jersey's policy takes steps to ensure that the preparation of special education teachers distinguishes between elementary teachers and secondary levels in terms of content knowledge, the K-12 endorsement does not differentiate in pedagogy preparation. 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 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.
New Jersey should ensure that special education teacher candidates who will teach elementary grades possess not only knowledge of effective learning strategies but also knowledge of the subject matter at hand. Although the state commendably requires the same content test for elementary special education teachers as general education teachers, it should also require core-subject coursework relevant to the elementary classroom. 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, New Jersey 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).
New Jersey was helpful in providing NCTQ with the facts necessary for this analysis.