The Changing Education Landscape: How Special Education Leadership Preparation Can Make a Difference for Teachers and Their Students With Disabilities

Feb. 28, 2010

Source: Teacher Education and Special Education, v. 33 no. 1, (February 2010), p. 25-43.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The roles and obligations of teacher educators have expanded substantially in recent years. Expectations have increased because of national concerns about the overall achievement results of all students and because of specific federal mandates—expressed in reauthorizations of the No Child Left Behind Act and the Individuals With Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004—about students with disabilities and their access to the general education curriculum and their increased, successful participation in inclusive educational settings.

Complicated by the chronic and persistent shortage of special educators and the imperative that general educators have increased skills to address the needs of all struggling learners, demands on special education college and university faculty have magnified. However, the nation continues to face a shortage of faculty who can generate new knowledge about effective practices, translate such research findings into teacher preparation programs' curriculum, and prepare a sufficient supply of new and highly skilled teachers.

In this article, the authors discuss the current policy landscape, connections between the shortage of teachers and the shortage of special education faculty, and the role of the federal government in addressing these shortages.

Summary and Next Steps

The authors claim that there are connections between the supply and demand of faculty and the supply and demand for teachers, and vice versa; that is, if there is a shortage of special education teachers, there is shortage in the supply pipeline for future faculty.

The 2001 study revealed a shortage of these same faculty members, and the Special Education Faculty Needs Assessment study will provide information about whether a faculty shortage still exists. This new effort will also shed light on whether the nation has the capacity to increase the role of special education faculty to better prepare general educators to serve students with disabilities.

Pre-Service Training for General Education Teachers

Recent policy changes require greater knowledge about inclusive processes and practices, such as response to intervention, positive behavioral interventions and supports, and universal design for learning. These requirements affect not only special education teachers but general educators as well. Most students with disabilities spend the majority of their school days in inclusive settings; therefore, all teachers must be prepared to meet their academic and social needs.

A shortage of special education faculty will hamper the capacity of higher education to meet a critical new need: to prepare general education teachers to effectively instruct students with disabilities.

The Role of the Federal Government

The federal government should provide funding for more innovative programs that provide incentives and resources for systems change in teacher preparation efforts and facilitate coordination of dissemination activities.

The federal government also has an important role to play in fostering change in programs that prepare the next generation of college faculty. It can initiate a national conversation about leadership preparation and its implications for teacher training.
The authors argue that policy makers, stakeholders, university faculty, and others need to address and make recommendations about
- increasing the supply of special education faculty.
- meeting the demand for expanded roles for special education faculty in the preparation of general educators.
- revising the curriculum of doctoral preparation programs to increase the knowledge and skills of the next generation of teacher educators.
- determining the gaps in the current knowledge base and developing a research agenda, and
- creating a national plan of action.

Present federal policy makers have already assumed a major role in the national teacher education agenda. They have instigated widespread educational reform and have cleared the path for subsequent initiatives.

Updated: Jun. 13, 2010