Programs like SUNY Oswego's and Ashford University's hope to create a more inclusive teaching environment.
Since the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind in 2001, special education has become a priority for several schools, both public and private. Teachers have the obligation of ensuring that all students get the education they need to succeed. As more special education programs have been put in place in schools, there has been a higher demand for teachers who have skills specifically in teaching children with special needs.
While some teachers acquired these skills through their undergraduate program, not all teachers have that training. As a result, several universities have created master's programs that cater specifically to teachers interested in working with special needs students. These programs help equip teachers with the specialized abilities they need to handle special needs students on any spectrum, in any grade.
"SUNY Oswego wanted to help narrow the gap specifically for special education in adolescence."
One school that recently decided to launch a master's program in special education is SUNY Oswego. Their School of Education has begun to accept applications for teachers interested in getting a master's degree in this field. The university decided to develop the program after noticing the high demand for these types of teachers in schools in New York as well as nationwide. However, their program specifically welcomes teachers interested in educating students between the 7th and 12th grade. After going through the program, teachers will become certified in generalist special education, which gives them the ability to teach a variety of subjects.
SUNY Oswego wanted to help narrow the gap specifically for special education in adolescence. The school already has a master's program in place for teachers interested in students with special needs between the 1st and 6th grade. This program has become highly respected and very successful, so the school decided to expand their curriculum to the next set of grades.
"We are really excited about this," said Roberta Schnorr, professor of curriculum and instruction. "We're very proud of the team we have in place."
Teachers can enroll in classes part time, or they can enroll as a full-time student. Before beginning the program, all applicants will need to have a bachelor's degree in education and be certified to teach adolescent students. The newly trained teachers will have access to several resources, including iPads filled with educational apps that assist teachers in teaching students with autism, Down syndrome, attention-deficit disorder and other special needs.
"Under Dr. Fenlon's leadership, we are growing our capacity to help teachers learn to use technological tools to remove barriers for learners with disabilities," Schnorr noted.
Closing the gap
SUNY Oswego isn't the only university that has made strides in its special education graduate programs. Ashford University, based in San Diego, just launched a similar program. While the program offered does not lead to teacher certification, it does give teachers the opportunity to develop the skills needed to work with special needs students. Like SUNY Oswego, Ashford University decided to jumpstart this program after learning of the massive gap in teachers who are focused on special education.
According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, the job growth in special education is expected to rise dramatically. Between 2010 and 2020, this field is expected to grow by nearly 20 percent, due to more children with special needs choosing to go through a standard school system. Alongside an increase in student enrollment, more parents are asking for teachers who are specifically qualified to teach special education.
Similar to SUNY Oswego's program, the program at Ashford University offers teachers a chance to learn how to apply practical knowledge in the classroom. Again, all applicants should be certified teachers before they apply.