The state should ensure that special education teachers know the subject matter they will be required to teach.
Commendably, Rhode Island does not offer a K-12 special education certification.
Rhode Island 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, Rhode Island 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.
Provide a broad liberal arts program of study to elementary special education candidates.
Rhode Island 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 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, Rhode Island 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).
Rhode Island recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state added that pending certification changes would require that secondary candidates complete programs highly qualified in content areas.