The state should ensure that special education teachers know the subject matter they will be required to teach.
Commendably, Oregon does not offer a K-12 special education certification.
Oregon also appropriately requires its elementary special education teacher candidates to complete a broad liberal arts program relevant to the elementary classroom. Further, teacher candidates for elementary special education are required to pass the same subject-matter test as general education candidates. Unfortunately, the state allows "alternative assessment," in which candidates who have twice failed the content test can petition for a waiver of the subject-matter requirement.
Regrettably, Oregon 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.
Oregon Administrative Rules (OAR) 584-038-0290, 584-060-0012
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, Oregon 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).
Require that all elementary teacher candidates pass the same content test as general education teachers.
Oregon should reconsider its waiver of subject-matter testing. Failure to ensure that teachers possess requisite content knowledge deprives special education students of the opportunity to reach their academic potential.
Oregon noted that federal law does not permit HOUSSE for new teachers; it is only allowed for veteran teachers.
IDEA specifically permits the use of HOUSSE for new secondary special education teachers. A specially designed version should be created for these new teachers, as they face a unique and demanding set of challenges. The challenge of becoming HQT in all subject areas may be a disincentive to those considering teaching secondary special education; a specific HOUSSE route can help mitigate this potential deterrent.