- Special education teachers in California would be able to teach in a general education classroom under new regulations aimed at giving all teachers the skills to meet students’ diverse needs, EdSource reports.
- The state’s Commission on Teacher Credentialing is adding core courses that all prospective teachers would be required to take before choosing which areas of specialty they want to pursue, such as special education, with a goal of better serving the state’s 740,000 students with disabilities.
- Goals of the commission’s decision include identifying students with special needs earlier and having educators who can more effectively work in an inclusion model.
With California experiencing shortages of special education teachers, like the vast majority of other states, it will be interesting to see how the commission’s decision affects the pipeline of those trained to teach students with special needs. The new requirements match many of the recommendations included in a 2015 task force report that called for less division between special and general education.
“Instead of opening a door to a brighter future, special education for many students is a dead end,” the report said, adding that in a less “siloed” approach, “All teachers and administrators, both general and special education, know how to work together in a seamless and coordinated instructional system to ensure that only evidence-based practices are used with all children, and that all children receive an appropriate, rigorous, standards-based curriculum.”
The new requirements follow the state’s efforts in 2016 to improve general education teachers’ skills to work with special education students. A 2009 study suggested that while inclusion of students with special needs in regular classrooms has increased and has benefits for these students, training for teachers on effective strategies has not kept pace. In addition to the focus on teacher education programs, the author noted that “school administrators play significant roles in providing teachers with the training and experience needed” to support students with diverse learning needs.
The growth of inclusion has also led to wider interest in and implementation of universal design for learning (UDL), in which instruction allows for a "variety of approaches to engagement, access, and demonstration of knowledge," says Adie Buchinsky, who teaches at the CHIME Institute’s Schwarzenegger Community School in Woodland Hills, CA. "More teachers using a UDL approach makes the general education classroom a more accessible place for students with diverse needs, including students who receive special education services."