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: Candidates applying for the special education PreK-8 certificate must have a dual certificate in one of the following: early childhood, elementary/middle, reading specialist, or a content-specific PreK-12 certificate. Therefore, only candidates with a dual certificate in either early childhood would be required to pass the same elementary content test as general education elementary teachers. This general elementary test does not report subscores for all core content areas.
Pennsylvania recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis, however this analysis was updates subsequent to the state's review.
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.