How to Become a Special Education Teacher in Alabama
Alabama Special Education
In its state-by-state ratings of special education services, the U.S. Department of Education gave Alabama its highest ranking of “Meets Requirements” as of the 2010/2011 school year. The National Center for Education Statistics reports that only 11 percent of the state’s student population holds an Individualized Education Program, two percentage points below the U.S. average of 13 percent. Alabama has 133 school districts with 1,628 public schools; the state is also home to nearly 400 private schools.The Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE) maintains a website with links to its policies and departments, including its Special Education Services (SES).
The web portal for the Alabama Department of Education’s Office of Teaching and Leading provides information about the requirements for working as a special educator in Alabama. The ALSDE requires teachers to have completed a bachelor’s degree and a teacher preparation program, which can be done concurrently at select institutions. All degrees and certificates earned must be from accredited institutions.
A teaching certification program or a graduate degree in education or special education qualifies a candidate to teach in Alabama, provided that it includes all courses and fieldwork required by the ALSDE. Having a master’s or doctorate degree in education can qualify candidates for an advanced level of licensure. Graduate students who hold general education degrees or certificates can pursue a special education endorsement program.
Special Education Degrees
Located in a lively urban center, the University of Alabama Birmingham’s School of Education offers a range of degree, endorsement and certification programs in special education. Earn both a master’s degree and a Class A certificate in early childhood special education or visual impairment, or obtain an endorsement. Special educators who already hold Class A certification can pursue an Education Specialist program that results in Class AA certification in Collaborative Teacher: Autism Spectrum Disorder or Visual Impairment: Orientation and Mobility. For more information, see the school’s graduate degrees webpage. In Tuscaloosa, the University of Alabama offers innovative hybrid programs through its Special Education and Multiple Abilities department. For instance, students can pursue an undergraduate major in early childhood special education that leads to certification in both early childhood special education (birth to age eight) and general early childhood education (preschool to 3rd grade) at Class B and Class A license levels. The Multiple Abilities Program at the University of Alabama prepares teachers to work with children in a range of settings through a five-semester course of study with an emphasis on fieldwork. The Collaborative Teacher Program awards a bachelor’s or master’s degree with certification and an endorsement as a Collaborative Special Education Teacher (grades K-6) or a Collaborative Special Education Teacher (grades 6-12). The university also awards several master’s and doctorate degrees targeting different grade levels and areas of focus within special education.
Alabama A&M, in Huntsville, Alabama, offers a master’s in special education that balances scholarly study with practical experience. The faculty in the Education Department subscribe to the collaborative method of teacher education in order to provide a more comprehensive teacher training program. Auburn University, located in Auburn, offers both on-campus and distance options for a master’s degree which could allow you to continue to teach while studying or attend classes from a remote location. The University of Alabama, located in Tuscaloosa, offers a master’s in special education through the Graduate School. Students, in collaboration with advisers and faculty, proceed through an individually designed program based on each student’s specific needs and goals.
Alternatives to Certification
Aspiring special educators have several options for alternative licensure in Alabama, as summarized on ALSDE’s certification webpage. For instance, the Alternative Baccalaureate-Level Certificate Approach is for holders of a bachelor’s degree in a subject area other than education or special education, while the Special Alternative Certificate Approach is for candidates who have been accepted to an Alabama-approved teacher preparation program but have not completed their course of study. Alabama’s Teach for America program provides intensive training and places candidates in 12 Alabama schools.
Special Education Teaching Jobs
The ALSDE’s Teach in Alabama Job Board advertises openings in Alabama public schools and allows job seekers to complete an online application. Montgomery Public Schools, one of the state’s largest and most urban districts, posts job opportunities in special education and other areas on its job openings webpage.
Churchill Academy, in Montgomery, serves children with learning challenges.
The Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind is the umbrella organization for several institutions in the state’s support network, including Alabama School for the Blind, Alabama School for the Deaf and Helen Keller School of Alabama.
- Educate Alabama is the ALSDE’s official learning collaborative for professional development modules. Users must register to enter this organization’s website.
- The Civitan International Research Center, part of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, offers trainings, workshops, seminars and conferences on diverse topics relevant to research and best practices in the field of special education.
- Alabama Council of Administrators in Special Education (ALA-CASE) organizes conferences, events and professional development sessions.
Alabama Special Educator Organizations
- The state teacher’s union, the Alabama Education Association (AEA) advocates on behalf of its membership of public school teachers, retired educators and students preparing to be teachers.
- The Special Education Action Committee consists parents of students with disabilities, educators and others in the special education community. This nonprofit coalition offers workshops and one-on-one assistance for parents and professionals and is involved in increasing public awareness.
- The Arc of Alabama is an advocacy group consisting of professionals, community stakeholders and individuals with developmental and other disabilities.
The Inside Scoop from Alabama Special Education Blogs
- ASA Blog: The Autism Society of Alabama uses this blog as a vehicle for announcing events and reviewing significant news items affecting Alabama’s population with autism spectrum disorders.
- A+ Education Partnership Blog: Alabama educators contribute to this group blog about educational reform and Alabama education initiatives.
- Toddler Times: Strategies for caregivers of toddlers with special needs are the focus of the official blog of The Bell Center for Early Intervention Programs.