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: In New York, candidates applying for either the early childhood or elementary 1-6 generalist certificate must pass the applicable New York State Teacher Certification Examinations (NYSTCE) multiple-subjects content test. The early childhood and elementary multiple-subjects tests are the same tests required of the state's general education early childhood and elementary teachers. These tests consist of three separately scored sections: literacy and English language arts, math, and arts and sciences.
In addition, candidates applying for the 5-9 generalist certificate or the 7-12 generalist certificate must pass the applicable multiple-subjects content test. The middle school and secondary multiple-subjects content tests consist of three separately scored sections: literacy and English language arts, math, and arts and sciences.
Regulations of the Commissioner of Education, Part 52.21(b)(3)(vi) Multiple Subjects Framework http://www.nystce.nesinc.com/NY_viewSG_opener.asp Certificate Requirements http://eservices.nysed.gov/teach/certhelp/CertRequirementHelp.do#cfocus
Middle school and secondary special education teachers are frequently generalists who teach many core subject areas.
While New York is on the right track in requiring content testing with separately scored subtests, the state should monitor the rigor of this new test to ensure that it guarantees requisite knowledge needed in both middle and secondary classrooms. New York may also want to consider a distinct route for secondary special education teacher certification that allows candidates to demonstrate requisite content knowledge in the classroom through a combination of testing and coursework.
New York recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis.
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.