How to Become a Special Education Teacher in Michigan
Special Education in Michigan
Large urban and suburban areas result in the state of Michigan employing 13,151 special education teachers to work with students in 4,192 public schools and 294 charter schools in 551 districts. However, the state’s services to students with special needs were rated “Needs Assistance” by the U.S. Department of Education, according to Education Week. The National Center for Education Statistics reports that 13.7 percent of Michigan students have an Individualized Education Program, slightly above the U.S. average of 13 percent. The Michigan Department of Education (MDE) oversees programs and policies related to education in the state. Its Office of Special Education (OSE) provides services to students with special needs and guidelines for special educators.
The MDE’s “Facts on Educator Certification” e-book states that the traditional route to licensure in Michigan requires a bachelor’s degree from a regionally-accredited institution, preferably with a major in the subject you want to teach. In addition, candidates must compete a teacher preparation program to qualify for a Provisional Certificate, the license traditionally granted to new teachers. Accelerated study and intern options are available to students who major in education or special education or who want to serve as interns in high-need public school classrooms.
If you opt to pursue education or special education at a graduate level, you can enroll in a master’s or doctorate degree program that concurrently provides the coursework necessary to qualify you for Michigan licensure. If you already have a general education license, you can pursue coursework to add an endorsement to your teaching credential in an area of special education, such as autism spectrum disorders, learning disabilities or visual impairment.
Special Education Degrees in Michigan
Eastern Michigan University’s Department of Special Education offers undergraduate and graduate options at its Ypsilanti campus, as well as at satellite campuses and through distance learning options. Undergraduates can pursue an elementary or secondary endorsement in cognitive impairment, emotional impairment, hearing impairment, physical and other health impairment, speech/language pathology or visual impairment. Master’s degree offerings that include the coursework necessary for teacher certification include programs in the same categories as these undergraduate programs, with the exception of speech/language pathology. The school does offer a master’s degree-only course of study in speech/language pathology, as well as master’s-only programs in autism, learning disabilities and special education. Located in Kalamazoo, Western Michigan University offers an intern teaching program through its College of Education/Public School Partnership Program for Education Excellence. Students work full time with experienced teachers in their classrooms while pursing the coursework necessary to qualify for Michigan licensure. The large city of Detroit is the home of Wayne State University and its Special Education programs. Its undergraduate, teaching certificate and special education endorsement programs allow for a range of specializations, including cognitive impairment, emotional impairment, learning disabilities and autism spectrum disorders.
Eastern Michigan University works to tailor its program in special education to meet the needs of students who are also working professionals by providing flexibility in course options and schedules. Applicants also have the option to pursue master’s degrees in autism-spectrum disorders, learning disabilities, and speech-language pathology. At Michigan State University, future teachers pursuing a master’s in special education learn both the research basis and its application to teaching students with special needs. The faculty helps students integrate evidence-based practices into the classroom. Spring Arbor has a master of special education in learning disabilities. Certified teachers looking to add the learning disabilities endorsement can take extra courses before starting the program. Another choice for applicants is whether to study online or on campus.
Alternatives to Certification
The MDE’s guide to Michigan’s Alternate Route to Interim Teacher Certification details the criteria for pursuing this nontraditional pathway to teaching. Minimum semester hours in relevant coursework, mentorship and a complete application are among the preliminary requirements. The Detroit branch of Teach for America provides intensive training to individuals committed to working in Detroit’s lowest-performing public schools.
Special Education Jobs in Michigan
The Michigan School for the Deaf provides educational and therapeutic services to people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
The MDE’s Professional Preparation and Development Unit oversees all matters concerning acceptable means for earning required professional development units. Organizations that offer professional development opportunities include:
- Michigan LearnPort, a division of Michigan Virtual University, offers online courses for educators.
- Michigan Online Resources for Educators, a service of the MDE, offers webinars as well as contact information for professional development trainers.
- The Michigan Education Association offers conferences and trainings, and facilitates events such as rallies and town hall meetings.
Michigan Professional Organizations for Special Educators
- The state teacher’s union, the Michigan Education Association, is a National Education Association affiliate organization for current and retired public school employees as well as pre-service teachers.
- Supporting special education teachers with resources and trainings, the Michigan Association of Teachers of Children with Emotional Impairments is one of the country’s largest organizations of its kind.
- Connecting educators, community agencies and concerned parents of children with special needs is the primary aim of Bridges4Kids.
Michigan Special Education Blogs
- SpeEdChange: Ira David Socol, a researcher and lecturer who works with Educology, an education reform group, maintains this blog about rethinking education.
- The Resourceful Room: A resource room teacher at an elementary school describes her daily challenges and insights.
- Friendship Circle Blog: This blog by Friendship Circle of Michigan features posts by community advocates, special educators and family members of children with disabilities.
- Special Education Listserv: The MDE’s OSE listserv allows stakeholders in the special education community to subscribe to e-updates about state policy and special education news.