Special Education Degrees and Certification in AL

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).

Licensure Requirements

For Undergraduates

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.

For Graduates

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.

Alabama Teaching Licenses

The ALSDE grants several types of teaching licenses, including:

  • The Class B License, for candidates holding a bachelor’s degree in education or special education
  • The Class A License, for candidates with a master’s degree in education or special education
  • The Class AA license, which requires that candidates complete a state-approved program with a minimum number of credit hours in teacher preparation coursework

Reciprocity

In general, the ALSDE will grant a candidate with a valid out-of-state teaching license a comparable license to teach in Alabama, except at the doctorate level. See the ALSDE’s guidelines for out-of state teachers for more information. People who studied to become teachers at an institution outside of the United States may qualify for reciprocity if they hold valid degrees and credentials comparable to those awarded in Alabama. According to ALSDE’s Foreign Credentials Approach guidelines, these individuals must submit documentation of their credentials to an Alabama-approved foreign credential evaluation agency to determine equivalency.

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.

Graduate Programs

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

Professional Development

  • 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.