Evaluation of a Merged Secondary and Special Education Program

May. 10, 2011

Source: Teacher Education Quarterly, Volume 38, No. 2, Spring 2011
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This article describes the development, design and evaluation of merged programs (Secondary Dual Educator’s Program - SDEP).
SDEP is a full-time graduate program culminating in licensure as a secondary educator in a content area (authorization to teach mid-level and/or high school), licensure in secondary special education, and a Master in Education (M.Ed.).
The overall purpose of SDEP is to develop strategic teachers with the versatility to meet the learning needs of all secondary students.
This article uses data from multiple stakeholders to evaluate whether SDEP candidates and graduates are meeting program goals.

The participants were forty-four teacher candidates—22 from the 2006-07 cohort and 22 from the 2008-09 cohort; two faculty members from curriculum and instruction and two from special education who had taught in the program and/or served a cohort leaders; seven supervisors who had supervised student teachers in both the SDEP program and in either the special education or secondary education discrete programs and three principals who had hired teachers prepared in discrete programs and merged programs in the past two years participated.
Data were collected through several evaluation tools and procedures: Teacher Candidate’s Self-assessment of Competency (TCSC), Faculty Work Sample Review (FWSR), School-wide Program Evaluation Survey (SPES), and interviews conducted with the graduates, university supervisors and the principals who hired graduates.


The findings suggest that graduates of a merged secondary program developed competency in differentiated planning, assessment, and instruction in content area and embedded the provision of accommodations into their planning process. These graduates reported that learning a process for differentiated planning and instruction helped them to be successful first-year content-area teachers in diverse inclusive classrooms.
Moreover, principals described graduates as able to differentiate for both high and low achievers.

Further, the authors explain what aspects of the merged program may have contributed to these findings. They argue that the program provided curricular coherence in which a clear focus and purpose connected a progression of learning experiences that built upon one another. Candidates first learn to assess and consider the learning needs of every student in an actual classroom; to view learning diversity as a given that must be assessed and understood before one can plan instruction. Then candidates learn and practice skill areas that become components in an overall process of differentiated planning, instruction, and formative classroom assessment. Finally, they use the overall approach in a secondary general education class.

The program, also provided an opportunity for collaboration. The candidates engage in collaboration both as a special education student teacher and as a secondary student teacher. Some graduates who accepted traditional positions as either a special educator or a content area teacher stated they did not identify with either of these roles as traditionally defined. Instead, they saw themselves as a bridge between special and general education on behalf of students and felt that collaboration skills were crucial to this role.
Finally the authors argue that while this initial evaluation focused on graduates who became content area teachers, more research is needed to explore how graduates of merged secondary programs who become special educators teach content to students in special education or serve as a learning specialist within content area teams.
Furthermore, some principals created and placed graduates in blended assignments, and further study is needed to explore the purpose and efficacy of these new positions.
Finally, follow-up with graduates over a period of several years is needed to learn how their approach to planning, assessment, instruction, and collaboration evolves over time.

Updated: Apr. 24, 2017