Special Education Teacher Preparation Policy
The state should distinguish between the preparation of high-incidence elementary and secondary special education teachers. This goal was consistent between 2017 and 2020.
Unfortunately, Washington offers a K-12 special education certification and a PreK-3 early childhood special education certification.
Although special education candidates are required to earn an additional endorsement, there is no requirement the dual endorsement must be in elementary education, or middle or secondary core content areas. The dual endorsement could include library media, health fitness, or computer science. The dual endorsement does not limit the grade level at which a special education teacher can teach.
Washington Administrative Code 181-79A-132; 181-32-201; and 181-82A-202
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. Washington should strengthen its dual endorsement requirement and require the endorsement be earned at either the elementary level or the secondary level in a core content area, and only allow teachers to teach students in the applicable grade level.
Washington noted that the second endorsement pursued by a special education candidate may not be special education, early childhood special education, bilingual education, English language learner, or traffic safety.
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.