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New requirements for California special education teachers

California will make changes on how the state's special education teachers are trained, perhaps marking the latest step toward improving classroom experiences for students, as well as relations between parents, schools and teachers.

By requiring the same core courses for prospective teachers, including those pursuing special education and general education degrees, the state's Commission on Teacher Credentialing is optimistic about improving the education outlook for California's 740,000 students with disabilities.

The expectations

The commission also expects the changes may:

  • Improve the reputation of California's special education system
  • Boost classroom performance among special education students
  • Help teachers identify children with special needs
  • Curtail teacher shortages within special education

Ability to teach in general education setting

By completing the courses, special education teachers will be able to teach in a general classroom setting, possibly improving their skills and giving them a better grasp on dealing with students from various backgrounds - not just students with disabilities.

Special education teachers have not been able to do this since 1996.

Two decades ago, California's severe shortage of special education teachers led the state to create a system that allowed for teachers to gain special education credentials without certain requirements such as general education instruction and student teaching.

Seeking better achievement

The state's newest changes may provide temporary peace of mind to some parents, but the more vigilant ones will be waiting for results that may take years. But let's try to be optimistic.

Keep in mind this comment from Linda Darling-Hammond, special education advocate and chairwoman of the Commission on Teacher Credentialing. "The models we support, and research and evidence show that having more access to general education classes correlates to better achievement."

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