Special Education Teacher Preparation Policy
The state should distinguish between the preparation of elementary and secondary special education teachers. This goal was reorganized in 2017.
Unfortunately, in addition to one grade-specific option (birth to age 5), Virginia offers a grades K-12 special education certification.
Virginia Administrative Code 8 VAC 20-22-510; 540
End licensure practices that fail to distinguish between the skills and knowledge needed to teach elementary grades and secondary grades.
The broad K-12 umbrella is deeply problematic for the overwhelming majority of high-incidence special education students, who are expected to learn grade-level content. Virginia—at the very least—should offer elementary and secondary special education licenses and require special education teachers to have the appropriate license for the grade level of students with whom they are working.
Virginia indicated that the Licensure Regulations for School Personnel have undergone a comprehensive review. On May 26, 2016, the Board of Education approved proposed Licensure Regulations for School Personnel (Final Stage) and authorized the Department of Education staff to make technical edits and continue the procedures of the Administrative Process Act. The regulations are currently in the Administrative Process Act final stage of the review. Virginia stated that the proposed regulations include the following new endorsements: Special education - general curriculum K-6 (add-on endorsement); Special education - general curriculum middle grades 6-8 (add-on endorsement); and Special education - general curriculum secondary grades 6-12 (add-on endorsement).
NCTQ looks forward to reviewing Virginia's progress in future editions of the Yearbook.
4C: Special Education Licensure Deficiencies
Generic K-12 special education licenses are inappropriate for teachers of high-incidence special education students.
Too many states make no distinction 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.
It is virtually impossible and certainly impractical for states to ensure that a K-12 teacher knows all the subject matter he or she is expected to teach. Further, the issue is just as valid in terms of pedagogical knowledge. Teacher preparation and licensure for special education teachers must distinguish between elementary and secondary levels, as they do for general education. The current model does little to protect some of our most vulnerable students.