Is Teacher Preparation Failing Students With Disabilities
Although the early 2010s aimed to eliminate the deficiencies in special education by offering students with disabilities a more robust curriculum, many other aspects were lost in the process. Specifically, special education demands specialized training, but no one has made that a requirement for all educators.
General education teachers are not prepared to handle students with disabilities. Special education teachers often speak out about a lack of resources, lack of training, and lack of involvement from administrative staff and even parents. Teachers on both sides of the equation are asking for help to serve their students that have disabilities.
Although it seems that teachers enter the classroom more educated than ever, are they prepared to interact with children with learning disabilities? Are teachers ready to interact with students from across the special education spectrum?
Students with Special Needs
Before diving directly into what is and is not a part of becoming a teacher, it’s critical to evaluate what counts as a learning disability. This umbrella has taken on a much broader range of children than it did twenty or thirty years ago. Today’s children are more likely to receive a diagnosis of learning, emotional, and behavioral disorders at an early age now more than ever.
Special needs refer to those who have particular requirements for learning because of learning disabilities, physical or emotional disabilities, and behavioral challenges. Mostly, children with special needs have well, special needs. They have special requirements that must be satisfied in order for them to achieve success academically. As a result of students with disabilities not receiving the specialized or personalized instruction that they need in full-inclusion classrooms, the achievement gaps are widening.
Is it possible to turn that around with proper teacher training? More than likely, yes.
The biggest concern for students with disabilities and inclusion classrooms is ensuring that these children have access to quality education. As we have already firmly established, they need individual attention to succeed. The time that qualified educators spend with these children isn’t the only concern either. Many teachers never receive any formal training in working with children with disabilities. They may take an intro to special education course. However, unless they are a special education major, this is where their coursework on working with students with special needs stops.
My recommendation is that teacher education programs require all education majors to take at least three courses on working with students with specials needs. Or they can embed curricula for working with students with special needs into all of their classes. Also, during field experiences and student teaching, students must be required to work with and show proficiency in educating students with special needs.
What did I miss? What else can teacher education programs do to better prepare teacher education candidates to work with students with special needs?