The Need for Exemplary Special Educators: What the Research Tells Us
Current research overwhelmingly supports the need to prepare high quality pre-service special educators to enter the field of education. Meeting the needs of all students in the K-12 educational environment can be challenging. Professional programs need to adequately prepare competent educators and provide them with grounded experience in working with students with disabilities.
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The skills that students will need to thrive in our 21st century global economy are vastly different than those of the Industrial Age – an age for which our schools were built. Therefore, meeting the needs of all students is even more critical.
For years research has indicated that our nation is less likely to service children with disabilities well because of our failure to appropriately train, recruit, and mentor special education teachers. This failure was illuminated in The 2002 President’s Commission on Excellence in Special Education Report. Ultimately, this will not only hinder our efforts to increase levels of achievement for students with disabilities; it will also lessen our overall effectiveness to improve our educational system for all children. Thus, there have been changes in licensure requirements and preparatory teacher education programs.
Consequently, educational preparatory programs are shifting. There has been an increase in data accountability, and more emphasis on experiential learning, replacing theory based practices about how to work with children with special needs. It is certain that special educators will need to be talented, confident and well versed with N.J.A.C. 6A: 9-10. They need to understand the philosophical, historical, and legal foundations of special education; characteristics of students with disabilities; standardized and functional assessment; strategies for the development of literacy; curriculum planning, learning environments, modifications, and materials for students with disabilities; and inclusive education practices, positive behavioral support, communication, collaborative partnerships and assistive technology. Teachers also need to understand transitional planning, program development and navigating the various agencies available for students with disabilities.