Special Education in California
California is a large and densely-populated state with several major urban and suburban school districts, meaning that people interested in careers in special education have excellent prospects. The state of California serves nearly 690,000 students with disabilities as of the 2011-2012 school year, according to the California Legislative Analyst’s Office. This number includes students mainstreamed in the California public school system, as well as in a variety of settings such as daycare programs, preschools, classrooms with a special needs designation, community programs and workplaces.
The State of California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) has recently transitioned to awarding preliminary and clear teaching credentials instead of Level I and Level II credentials. Prospective special educators can learn about California’s new pathway to certification at http://teachcalifornia.org/Steps/Special.
Types of Certificates
Special Education Teaching Programs
The California State University of Fullerton, located at the northern edge of Orange County, has a diverse campus close to major school districts. It offers several options for those pursuing advanced degrees and certification in special education. Students seeking licensure can opt for an Intern credential, a Preliminary Mild/Moderate credential, a Preliminary Moderate/Severe credential, a Preliminary Early Childhood credential or a Clear (Professional Level II) Education Specialist credential in one of the three aforementioned areas of focus. Fullerton also offers the Streamlined Teacher Education Program (STEP), which results in a bachelor’s degree and a teaching credential, as well as the On-Track Scholar program, which recruits individuals who want to change careers to work in special education. The California State University of Northridge is a large university located in the San Fernando Valley. It offers a number of accelerated programs for students who want to earn their teaching credential or special education authorization, including an Intern Program and Accelerated Collaborative Teacher (ACT) program (both for those with bachelor’s degrees), as well as an Integrated Teacher Education Program (ITEP) for undergraduates. The Los Angeles County Office of Education administrates Beginning Teacher Programs that offer credential options and professional development in special education. These programs include a District Intern program and a Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment Induction Program for teaching candidates and current teachers seeking certification.
For profiles of all the schools in California that offer master’s in special education programs, click here.
Alternatives to Certification
The California Teacher Corps provides alternative certification for candidates who are already employed by a school, have a bachelor’s degree and have completed at least a semester’s worth of courses in education. Teachers must demonstrate deep content expertise to qualify to teach in a specialized area such as special education, and must complete a number of requirements after being issued an intern credential.
Special Education Jobs
- The California Department of Education (CalEd) maintains a website devoted to special education resources, services, requirements and employment in California. Browse through the links on the Services & Resources page and scroll to the bottom to see information regarding TEACH California, a program that helps potential special education teachers navigate the requirements and certification process for areas of education experiencing teacher shortages in California, including special education.
- CalEd has created a list of the state’s largest school districts, providing several employment leads for educators seeking jobs in public schools.The five districts with the highest enrollment are Los Angeles Unified, San Diego Unified, Long Beach Unified, Fresno Unified and Elk Grove Unified.
The Least Restrictive Environment Resources Project provides print resources, videos, consultations and training for school sites and districts in California. California Services for Technical Assistance and Training (CalStat) is an organization operated by the Special Education Division of the California Department of Education; it publishes a quarterly newsletter and conducts training for educators at school sites, as well as provides online learning opportunities. The California Teachers Association (CTA) maintains a calendar of conferences, workshops and trainings of interest to general classroom teachers and special education professionals, as well as produces several publications designed to help California teachers stay informed.
Professional Groups for California Special Education Teachers
The state teachers union, the CTA, has a membership consisting of California’s teachers in public schools, community colleges and public colleges. The Advisory Commission on Special Education (ACSE) is an advisory body that concerns itself with California’s compliance with research, program development and evaluation in the area of special education. Overseen by appointed members from the Speaker of the Assembly, the Senate Committee on Rules, the office of the Governor and the State Board of Education, the ACSE also has a membership comprised of educators, parents, people with disabilities, administrators and legislative representatives from the Assembly and Senate.
Special Education Bloggers in California
- Making Special Education Actually Work: Anne M. Zachry moderates this blog, which publishes posts from special education advocates. Much of the content addresses news and statistics related to special education in California.
- Kinders First: This blog provides a day-by-day account of the work of a special education teacher in Santa Fe Springs, California.
- SpecialEducationAdvisor.com: With a subtitle of “Special Education and IEP Advisor,” this blog has a broad scope and provides relevant information for people involved with special needs populations.