Thanks to a Greater Focus on Hiring Master’s-Educated Teachers, Special Education Is Improving in Vermont
In March 2016, the House Education Committee approved legislation that will improve the delivery of special education to Vermont’s students with disabilities. The legislation, which will make sweeping changes to Vermont’s funding system, features several practices designed to improve students’ learning experience while saving money.
One provision includes streamlining special education payments, thereby reducing administration efforts. The current method cuts down substantially on special education teacher’s instruction time because it forces them to document their time in 15-minute increments.
Paraprofessionals in Vermont are delivering much of the special education instruction because of how reimbursements are paid out. Some estimates have Vermont’s special education children receiving as much as 75 percent of their instruction from paraprofessionals—a model that simply doesn’t work.
The new legislation will create a new model that will change funding and place an emphasis back on special education teachers educated at the master’s level. This will mean that the children with the greatest need will be served by the most qualified special education teachers.
How Master’s-Prepared Special Education Teachers Are Supporting Vermont’s Students with Special Needs
According to the Vermont Agency of Education, there were 86,917 students in Vermont public schools as of December 2015. Of those, 13,831 were special education students – representing nearly 16 percent of all students. That’s significantly higher than the national average of 12 percent.
Special education student numbers have remained largely unchanged in the past few years, fluctuating from 13,851 in 2012, to 13,885 in 2013, to 13,991 in 2014.
Special education students in Vermont public schools were coping with these disabilities in 2015:
- Specific learning disabilities: 3,830
- Developmental delay: 2,596
- Other heath impairments: 2,221
- Emotional disturbance: 1,958
- Speech or language impairment: 1,099
- Autism spectrum disorder: 1,055
Vermont School for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Recognized For its Dedication and Commitment in the Field of Special Education
The Austine School/Vermont Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, located in Brattleboro, is just one example of how Vermont’s special education teachers are dedicated to the state’s special education students. The Center was awarded the highly esteemed National Association of Special Education Teachers (NASET) School of Excellence award in the 2008-09 school year for its commitment to the field of special education.
The mission of the Center is to provide educational and support services for deaf and hard of hearing children and their families in Vermont and surrounding states. The special education teachers of the Center work to develop their students’ broad-based literacy, critical thinking, problem solving, and decision-making skills, while helping them develop independence and positive self-worth.
The Center provides a K-12 program that includes a full range of support services and extracurricular activities. It includes an elementary school, which serves preschool through fifth grade, and a middle and high school, which serve students from the sixth through the twelfth grades.
The Center prepares students for entry into college and careers. Students are afforded opportunities for learning through a career exploration class, a business education class, technical education, vocational assessments, and much more.
The special education teachers of the Center also provide specialized instruction for all students with multiple disabilities and/or special learning needs.
How One Special Education Teacher is Making a Difference in Vermont
In 2013, a South Duxbury teacher was honored for her work in the field of special education. Maureen Charron-Shea, a Hardwood Union High School special education teacher, was awarded the LifeChanger of the Year Award for her commitment to students with disabilities.
She was selected from hundreds of nominees across the country, said a spokesperson for the National Life Group, the administrator of the award.
Charron-Shea first gave her special education students a voice six years ago when she helped them produce a documentary that served as a service learning project. Her students have now produced two documentaries, children’s books, and even music.