CONTACT: STEPHEN PRADARELLI
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0007; fax (319) 384-0024
Release: April 10, 2001
UI endorsement offers hope for special education teacher shortage
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- To help combat a statewide shortage of certified special
education teachers, the University of Iowa College of Education is launching
an undergraduate endorsement that will give new teachers the necessary skills
to fill these positions immediately after graduation.
Currently, undergraduates receive certification in elementary or secondary
education, teach for several years and then return to the UI for its graduate
program in special education. But Gary Sasso, Ph.D., a professor in the UI
College of Education, said demand for special education has grown so great
in Iowa and nationally that the college decided to offer students more comprehensive
training and certification in special education while they're undergraduates.
"Until now education undergraduates who wanted to teach special education
had to petition the state for an emergency certificate," Sasso said.
"In turn, they had to promise the state that they would eventually get
certified. The problem, of course, is that you get people in special education
classrooms who are not fully certified."
One recent national study says there is a "critical" shortage
of personnel to meet the needs of children with disabilities. In 1997-98,
more than 4,000 special education teaching positions were vacant, and an additional
32,000 special education teachers were not fully certified for their positions.
In Iowa, an estimated 10 to 30 percent of special education teachers have
Demand for special education certification is high at the UI, as well, Sasso
said. Of 150 students recently asked informally whether they planned to seek
special education endorsement, more than half raised their hands.
Even students who don't plan to teach exclusively in special education classrooms
could benefit from the certification, Sasso said. Due to inclusion practices,
many regular education classrooms are "muticategorical" -- meaning
they include both special education and typical students. Coursework required
for the new certification -- including classes in behavioral disorders, learning
disabilities, and assessing students' needs, as well as a practicum and student-teaching
experience -- will provide students the skills and knowledge necessary to
successfully manage such classrooms and teach students with special needs.
This fall's pilot certification program will be limited to 25 students who
will work toward dual certification -- elementary education and special education.
Depending on the program's success, it could be expanded in two or three years.
"We think this could have a pretty immediate impact on the shortage,"
Sasso said. "Students who start taking the certification classes this
fall will be hitting the job market in just a couple years."