Special Education Teacher Preparation Policy
The state should distinguish between the preparation of high-incidence elementary and secondary special education teachers. This goal was consistent between 2017 and 2020.
Unfortunately, in addition to one grade-specific option (PreK-3), Nevada offers a special education license to teach grades K-12. In addition, special education candidates can also obtain licensure by holding a general education license at any level, "or a bachelor's or master's degree with a major or minor in special education...." Candidates opting for this licensure route must complete six semester hours of special education coursework and a preparation program within three years.
Nevada Administrative Code 391.343; .363
End licensure practices that fail to distinguish between the skills and knowledge needed to teach elementary grades and secondary grades.
The broad K-12 umbrella is deeply problematic for the overwhelming majority of high-incidence special education students, who are expected to learn grade-level content.Nevada—at the very least—should offer high-incidence elementary and secondary special education licenses and require special education teachers to have the appropriate license for the grade level of students with whom they are working.
Ensure that special education teachers are sufficiently prepared to teach students with disabilities prior to entering the classroom.
Nevada should ensure that special education teachers with the generalist, intellectual disabilities, or autism license are adequately prepared to teach students with disabilities. Allowing special education teachers with only a general education license and six semester hours of special education coursework to teach students with disabilities for three years while completing a special education program, deprives students of a teacher with a full range of knowledge that completion of a preparation program guarantees.
Nevada 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.