Arkansas Special Education
Arkansas stands out from its neighbors to the west, south and east in that its special education services earned a rating of “Meets Requirements” by the U.S. Department of Education, the highest rating awarded. The Institute of Education Sciences reports that 13.5 percent of students in Arkansas have an Individualized Education Program, just slightly above the national average of 13 percent. The state employs over 3,800 special educators to serve its 1,145 public schools and 38 charter schools, which are organized into 244 districts. Additional special educators work in Arkansas’174 private schools. The Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) provides leadership, support and resources for the state’s schools. Its Special Education Unit (SPED) works with school districts to provide services for students with disabilities.
The Arkansas Department of Education’s Office of Educator Licensure oversees issues pertaining to becoming qualified to teach in Arkansas.
Arkansas Teaching Certificates
Special Education Teaching Degrees
One of the larger, more urban state colleges in Arkansas is the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. The university’s special education Master of Education programs include the coursework necessary to obtain an endorsement in special education, and allow students to focus on special education for students from birth through fourth grade or fourth through 12th grade. The Department of Education at Arkansas State University offers several courses of study for those who’d like to teach students with disabilities, including a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education with a focus in special education. The school, which is located in Jonesboro, also offers three special education master’s degree programs. The University of Central Arkansas, located in Conway, offers several special education endorsement programs for teachers who already hold general educator licenses. These programs are offered through the university’s Early Childhood and Special Education department.
For information on master’s in special education programs in Arkansas, click here.
Alternatives to Traditional Licensure
Arkansas offers multiple options for people seeking an accelerated means to begin teaching in public and charter schools. The ADE Arkansas Professional Pathway to Educator Licensure Program (APPEL), formerly the ADE Non-Traditional Licensure program, is the most common of these alternatives. It allows participants with a bachelor’s degree or higher to begin teaching in public school classrooms while completing the requirements for a Standard Teaching License. The Arkansas branch of Troops to Teachers prepares eligible members of the military to work in the state’s high-need classrooms. The Teach Arkansas’ Critical Shortage Areas webpage lists current areas of high need in the state’s public schools. Candidates with degrees in these subject areas might qualify for immediate placement in Arkansas schools through one of the state’s alternative licensure pathways.
Working in Special Education
The ADE’s Rules for Professional Development describe the state’s requirements for continuing education. The Arkansas Local Education Agency Resource Network (LEARN) organizes ongoing courses and projects for special educators. The group’s focus is on research-based educational practices for children with special needs. Educators, parents and community advocates participate in the ongoing workshops and training programs provided by the Learning Disabilities Association of Arkansas.
Arkansas Special Educator Organizations
- The state teacher’s union, the Arkansas Education Association (AEA) is open to anyone working in, studying to work in or retired from a public education setting, including teachers, administrators, classified staff, specialists and substitute teachers.
- The ADE’s Advisory Council for the Education of Individuals with Disabilities consists of administrators, educators, community advocates and other interested parties who interpret Arkansas special education policy.
Arkansas Special Education Bloggers
- OEP Blog: The University of Arkansas’ Office For Education Policy administers this blog, which is focused on research that supports the creation and revision of national and state educational policies.
- Arkansas Education Law Blog: Jennifer Williams Flinn, the founder of a law firm in Little Rock, is also a law professor at the University of Arkansas. She blogs about state policy impacting educators, students and families.