Special Education in Alaska
The National Center for Education Statistics reports that 13.7 percent of students in Alaska are assigned Individualized Education Programs, which is slightly above the national average of 13 percent. According to the U.S. Department of Education, Alaska “Meets Requirements” in regard to its services to students with disabilities, the department’s highest rating. The state has 53 public school districts, containing 516 public schools and 25 charter schools, as well as 64 private schools. The Alaska Department of Education & Early Development (EED) and its Office of Special Education Programs oversee state services to students with disabilities.
Alaska Teaching Certificates
- The Initial Teacher Certificate is for new teachers who have a bachelor’s degree in education or special education.
- The Second Initial Teacher Certificate is issued when a first Initial or Provisional Certificate expires and a teacher has not yet completed two years of teaching or passed the state-mandated subject matter exam.
- The Professional Teacher Certificate is for candidates with two years of classroom teaching experience who have met all coursework, professional development and testing requirements.
- The Master Teacher Certificate is for educators who have National Board certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.
Teacher Certification Programs
Located in the coastal city of Juneau, the University of Alaska Southeast has a sizable School of Education, offering multiple degree and certificate options. For undergraduates, the bachelor’s degree in special education awards Alaska educator licensure in special education for grades K-12; this program is available both on the Juneau campus and online. For graduate students, both the Master of Education in special education and the Master of Arts in Teaching in special education accommodate working professionals by holding in-person classes in the evenings and weekends and offering additional courses via teleconference and digital learning formats. For a stand-alone licensure program, consider the graduate certificate in special education. The Anchorage location of the University of Alaska also offers several options for aspiring special educators through its Department of Counseling and Special Education. Courses of study include master’s degrees in special education, early childhood special education and speech language pathology. Students can also earn an Initial Graduate Certificate in special education or a Graduate Certificate in special education.
For information on master’s in special education programs in Alaska, click here.
Alternatives to Certification
- The EED’s Alaska Transition to Teaching (AKT2) program draws new college graduates, qualified professionals and paraprofessionals holding bachelor’s degrees. Participants find a job at a high-need secondary school, typically located in a rural area that has difficulty filling teaching positions. Before working in classrooms, the trainees pursue online independent study and engage in a summer field experience and cultural workshop to prepare them to enter the classroom in the fall. They then complete the requirements for certification while working as teachers.
- Alaska’s Troops to Teachers program recruits eligible members of the military to train for and work in Alaska’s highest-need subject areas and schools.
Special Education Jobs
- Alaska Teacher Placement, a project of the University of Alaska, features an interactive tool that allows educators to explore Alaska’s regions by map to locate jobs. You can also search for jobs by district and category.
- The Anchorage School District maintains an online employment board listing classified and certified vacancies in its public schools.
The Alaska Statewide Mentor Project pairs experienced educators with new teachers to refine teaching practices, provide guidance and boost classroom success. The Special Education Service Agency offers instructional support, special education trainings and itinerant outreach services to Alaska’s students with low-incidence disabilities. Southeast Regional Resource Center offers community programs and direct support for individuals with disabilities, as well as training and services for schools and districts.
Alaska Special Education Teacher Organizations
- The state union representing public educators is NEA-Alaska. The state’s largest district also has a union for its educators, the Anchorage Education Association.
- Mandated by federal law, the Governor’s Council on Disabilities & Special Education Services consists of special educators and community stakeholders. The group meets to interpret policy as it applies to Alaska students with disabilities. The council also maintains a Facebook page.
- Special educators volunteer to help coordinate the programs and events sponsored by the Alaska Council for Exceptional Children.