California teacher requirements are about to see some big changes that could not only help student with disabilities succeed in the classroom, but help these educators succeed in working with these students.
The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing is adding core courses and an assessment that is already mandated for general classroom teachers to the training for special education educators.
All aspiring teachers, whether they are seeking special or general education, will need to take foundational courses on instructional techniques and skills, including classroom management and lesson planning. From there, they would branch off to specialize in an academic area or in working with students with disabilities.
Special education teachers would also be qualified to teach in a general education classroom, which gives them an opportunity to co-teach as equals with a general education teacher or be part of a team concentrating on students with disabilities.
Twenty-one years ago, when there was a shortage of special education teachers in California, the state created a shortcut to obtaining a special education credential. This meant these teachers could no longer teach students who hadn’t been identified as having a learning or other disability. The end result over the next two decades was that it limited the integration of special education students to learn with other students.
Poor performance across California
This decision comes after data released by the California School Dashboard identified that in two-thirds of the 228 California school districts designated for assistance, students receiving special education services were among the student groups who were identified as performing “very poorly.”
The commissioners are hoping the overhaul will help students with disabilities be identified and served earlier, taught more effectively and “mainstreamed” more often. It is also the goal to prepare teachers for all students with diverse backgrounds.
Hopefully these changes will improve special education in California for all parties. Special education teachers will have more opportunities and flexibility in their careers, which can bring better access and integration to the education of students with disabilities and special needs.