New Springfield College Bachelor’s Degree Program Prepares Future Teachers for Both Elementary and Special EducationApril 29, 2011
SPRINGFIELD, Mass., April 29, 2011 -- As elementary school children with disabilities are educated in the same classrooms as children without disabilities, Springfield College has launched a bachelor’s degree program to prepare future teachers to be dual-licensed for both elementary and special education.
Linda Davis-Delano, Springfield College director of educator preparation, described the new program as “trailblazing – the wave of the future. It is unlike the many programs that prepare teachers for integrated classrooms by simply adding special education courses to elementary education teacher preparation. Our program merges elementary and special education teacher preparation. The merge applies to academic courses and also to field experiences in integrated classrooms.”
Davis-Delano said that the merged program trains teachers to educate students of varying abilities, including those with and without impairments. Future teachers learn a range of student assessment and instructional options and ways of measuring student learning. Graduates of the program will be prepared to apply for licensing as elementary education teachers and special education teachers.
Davis-Delano said that teachers with expertise in both elementary and special education are particularly well suited for classrooms using an increasingly recommended tiered system for identifying the needs of students with and without disabilities. These teachers are able to provide increasingly intensive interventions as needed. The system has reduced unnecessary referrals to special education. Many parents and school districts have embraced this model.
The inclusion of special education and general education in the same classrooms has been shown to benefit children of all abilities. About 80 percent of children with disabilities receive part, or most, of their education in the general education classroom. However, preparation of teachers to work effectively in this model has lagged.
Davis-Delano said that teachers with dual licensure are in great demand. Currently, 98 percent of U.S. school districts report shortages of qualified special education teachers, and that figure is projected to increase. The U.S. Department of Labor projects a 17 percent increase in special education teacher positions through 2018. In Massachusetts, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education established a taskforce to address the recruitment, preparation, certification and retention of special education teachers.
Education of children with disabilities changed dramatically in 1975 with federal legislation requiring that they be educated with children who are not disabled to the maximum extent appropriate. Later legislation specified that education for disabled children approximate the standards of regular education and allow children to progress from grade to grade. One result was a need for teachers able to address both populations in the general classroom.
In the 1990s, the move for full inclusion increased. Many professionals maintained that children with disabilities were better served in the regular classroom with services brought to them as needed rather than being taken to separate classrooms for special services. This inclusionary education has been shown to benefit all children in the classroom.
According to Davis-Delano, “The faculty at Springfield College has recognized that a new paradigm is needed. Our new bachelor’s degree program that merges elementary and special education teacher preparation stresses best practices in differentiated instructional strategies. It is designed to fully prepare graduates for the inclusive classrooms of today and tomorrow.”