Delivering Well Prepared Teachers Policy
The state should ensure that special education teachers know the subject matter they will be required to teach.
Regrettably, Tennessee offers a K-12 special education certification, in addition to grade-specific options.
Further, Tennessee does not ensure that its elementary special education teacher candidates are provided with a broad liberal arts program of study relevant to the elementary classroom. It also does not require that they pass the same subject-matter test as general education candidates.
Tennessee also 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.
Tennessee Licensure Standards and Induction Guidelines (pages 26-1 and 27-1) Praxis Test Requirements www.ets.org
End licensure practices that fail to distinguish between the skills and knowledge needed to teach elementary grades and secondary grades.
It is virtually impossible and certainly impractical for Tennessee to ensure that a K-12 special education teacher knows all the subject matter he or she is expected to be able to teach, especially considering state and federal expectations that special education students should meet the same high standards as other students. While the broad K-12 umbrella may be appropriate for teachers of low-incidence special education students, such as those with severe cognitive disabilities, it is deeply problematic for the overwhelming majority of high-incidence special education students, who are expected to learn grade-level content.
Provide a broad liberal arts program of study to elementary special education candidates, and require that they pass the same content test as general education teachers.
Tennessee should ensure that special education teacher candidates who will teach elementary grades possess knowledge of the subject matter at hand. Not only should the state require core-subject coursework relevant to the elementary classroom, but it should also require that these candidates pass the same subject-matter test required of all elementary teachers. 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, Tennessee 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).
Tennessee asserted that it does offer secondary special education teacher candidates the ability to become highly qualified via its HOUSSE route.
Although Tennessee provides a multi-subject HOUSSE for secondary special education teachers, it is not specifically geared to the needs of new special education teachers who face unique pressures, as they must be competent in both the subject areas they teach and in the strategies for teaching children with a variety of special needs. IDEA specifically permits the use of HOUSSE for new secondary special education teachers.