How to Become a Special Education Teacher in D.C.
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Washington, D.C. Special Education
With a rating of “Needs Intervention,” for its special education services from the U.S. Department of Education, Washington, D.C. ranks lower than most states in the region and the nation. However, the need for these services is high: The Institute of Education Studies reports that the District of Columbia has one of the highest percentages of students with Individualized Education Programs in the country, at 16.8 percent, nearly four percentage points higher than the national average of 13 percent. There is one public school district in D.C., containing 238 public, 99 charter and 87 private schools. D.C.’s Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) and its Division of Special Education determine and implement policy regarding the city’s special education services.
Undergraduates seeking to become special educators have more options in D.C. than in many other places in the United States. Those holding a bachelor’s degree from a regionally-accredited college can apply for two-year, non-renewable Regular I license as long as they show proof that they are enrolled in an OSSE-approved teacher certification program. Another route is to major in education or special education at a university that concurrently awards a bachelor’s degree and a D.C. teaching license. For more information, see OSSE’s teacher licensure guide. Educators in D.C.’s public charter and private schools are not mandated by the OSSE to possess a state teaching license, but local education agencies may require licensure.
No level of teaching licensure in Washington, D.C.demands a master’s or doctorate degree, but if you choose to pursue a graduate course of study in education or special education, consult with your department to ensure that the program provides the coursework and field experience required for you to apply for a D.C. teaching license in the area of specialization you’re seeking. For guidelines and links to all OSSE-approved programs, refer to the Educator Preparation Program Approval and Accreditation webpage.
Special Education Teaching Programs in Washington, D.C.
D.C.’s sole public institution of higher education is University of the District of Columbia. Its National Center for Urban Education offers several degrees and certificates, among them a master’s degree in special education. The School of Education, Teaching, and Health (SETH) at American University gives students the option of pursing an undergraduate minor in special education, as well as a master’s degree in special education with a focus on learning disabilities. In addition, the school offers a dual degree special education program that results in a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree.
American University’s M.A. in Special Education focuses on helping students with learning disabilities participate in education. The program emphasizes evidence-based strategies. Students work with veteran teachers at The Lab School of Washington, an arts-based day school for children with severe learning disabilities. George Washington University seeks to offer an intensive curriculum for students in the master’s program in special education. During the day, degree candidates work at a therapeutic day school, practicing their skills in a clinical setting, and they take classes in the evenings. Trinity Washington University offers a Master of Arts in Teaching in several areas, one of which is special education. The program is heavily focused on strategies for working with students with special needs.
Alternatives to Certification
There are a few alternative routes to educator licensure in Washington, D.C. For example, candidates can apply for licensure based on their experience or take part an alternative training program. The DC Teaching Fellows program places experienced professionals and recent college graduates in Washington’s highest-need schools and subject areas. Participants take part in intensive pre-service training and complete certification coursework through the TNTP Academy while working as teachers. Teach for America also serves D.C. public schools by placing corps members in high-need areas.
Teaching Special Education in Washington, D.C.
Apply online for public educator positions at the Join DC Public Schools website.
Browse the list of D.C.’s nonpublic and charter schools that serve students with special needs at the District of Columbia Association for Special Education website.
The Lab School of Washington serves students in grades 1-12 who have ADHD, dyslexia and other learning disabilities.
- General and special education teaching theory and practice are the focus areas of the professional development courses at Trinity Washington University’s Office of Continuing Education.
- The D.C. Special Education Co-operative supports charter schools and members with webinars and trainings in implementing effective special education teaching practices.
- The Washington Teachers’ Union’s Teachers’ Center offers a wide range of courses for educators, as well as free resources on its website.
Washington, D.C. Special Ed Teacher Professional Organizations
- The district union, the Washington Teacher’s Union, represents current and retired public educators.
- The District of Columbia’s State Advisory Panel (SAP) on Special Education is a federally-mandated council of agency representatives and community stakeholders who meet regularly to interpret policy as it applies to serving students with special needs.
- The OSSE’s Division of Special Education schedules Special Education Local Education Agency (LEA) Quarterly Meetings to address fiscal issues, programs and data systems related to meeting the needs of students with disabilities.
D.C. Special Education Blogs
- Teacher SOL: The winner of multiple educational blogger awards, Maria Angala is an exceptional needs specialist in D.C. who writes about advocacy and methods for inspiring students in the classroom.
- Mrs. V’s Special Education Classroom: Part blog, part local resource directory, this site keeps families and educators in the special education community informed about services and events.
- SETH News: The e-newsfeed for American University’s education department features items impacting regional and national education.