The state should ensure that special education teachers know the subject matter they will be required to teach.
Commendably, New York does not offer a K-12 special education certification. New York offers special education certification in the following categories: birth-2 generalist, 1-6 generalist and 7-12 generalist. (As of September 2011, the 7-12 generalist certificate replaces the 5-9 generalist and 7-12 specialist certificates.)
New York 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 York 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.
Regulations of the Commissioner of Education, Part 52.21, 52.21(b)(3)(vi)
Provide a broad liberal arts program of study to elementary special education candidates.
New York 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 York 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 York was helpful in providing NCTQ with the facts necessary for this analysis. The state added that effective September 2, 2011, secondary special education teacher candidates must complete a minimum of six semester hours in each of the following subject areas: mathematics, English language arts, social studies and science, with sufficient pedagogical skills to teach these subjects. These requirements, in combination with the general education core and pedagogical core, must ensure that candidates have a knowledge base for teaching special education students at the adolescence level.
New York also noted that teachers holding this certificate will be eligible to teach in supportive roles such as consultant teachers, resource room service providers and integrated co-teachers. Further, a multi-subject content specialty test is being developed for grades 7-12 students with disabilities generalists and will consist of three parts: English language arts and literacy, mathematics, and science and social studies. Candidates will be required to pass each part independently to attain certification.
In addition, candidates holding the students with disabilities in adolescence generalist certificate will also have the option of obtaining an extension to this certificate, which will authorize the teacher to be employed as the special class teacher of students with disabilities in a specific subject area. These teachers must complete 18 semester hours of study in the subject area and pass the content specialty test in the specific subject area. Employing school districts must provide weekly collaboration between a certified general education content specialist in the subject area of the extension and the teacher holding the extension, with at least one period per month co-taught by both teachers. The length of the required weekly collaboration and co-taught lesson will be defined at the local level.