Special Education in Illinois
A higher-than-average level of need and a relatively high population density make Illinois a prime location for special educators, particularly those who want to work in urban districts in Chicago. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 14.5 percent of the state’s student population is identified as having disabilities, more than the national average of 13 percent. The United States Department of Education, which ranks each state on its ability to meet academic targets for students in special education programs, rates Illinois as “Needs Assistance” in this area, according to Education Week. Illinois employs 20,703 special education teachers, reports Concordia University. The state has 869 school districts containing 4,453 public schools, 39 charter schools and 1,491 private schools. The Illinois State Board of Education oversees Illinois’ educational programs; its Special Education Services division addresses issues concerning special education and provides resources for both special education teachers and students with disabilities.
Types of Licenses
Special Education Teaching Programs in Illinois
The University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign’s graduate special education program ranks in the top 10 programs of its kind in the nation according to “U.S. News & World Report.” The College of Education’s Department of Special Education offers a range of educational options. At the master’s level, students can choose from degrees in Learning and Behavior Specialist I or II, Infancy and Early Childhood Special Education, General Special Education and Research Practitioner in Special Education; some of these programs lead to licensure as well as a master’s degree. The department also offers a doctorate in special education, as well as the Learning and Behavior Specialist bachelor’s degree. A number of grant funding options are available for students interested in a range of specialties within special education. Northern Illinois University, located in Dekalb, offers several degree and licensure programs through its Special & Early Education department. Undergraduates can concurrently earn a bachelor’s degree and qualify for licensure or endorsement through the Learning Behavior Specialist I or Visual Disabilities Program. Options for graduate students include master’s degree programs with emphases in Advanced Special Education Practices, Early Childhood Special Education, Learning Behavior Specialist I, Learning Behavior Specialist II and Visual Disabilities. The school also offers graduate licensure and endorsement programs including Assistive Technology Specialist, Behavior Intervention Specialist, Curriculum Adaptation Specialist, Director of Special Education and Multiple Disabilities Specialist, as well as a program awarding a short-term emergency license in Special Education.
For profiles of all the schools in Illinois that offer master’s in special education programs, click here.
Illinois colleges and universities may offer alternative licensure programs for teachers with bachelor’s degrees and related experience. Teachers may be awarded an Educator License With Stipulations with endorsements such as the Alternative Provisional Teacher Endorsement or the Resident Teacher Endorsement. All the alternative options require that applicants have an undergraduate degree (not necessarily in education), as well as education coursework and passing scores on competency exams. The Alternative Provisional Teacher Endorsement is valid for two years, and for a third year if requirements are met. The Resident Teacher Endorsement is valid for four years (but not after June 30, 2017).
Special Education Teaching Jobs in Illinois
- Chicago Public Schools’ career opportunities webpage provides links to current vacancies.
- The Illinois Education Job Bank allows educators to browse openings and refine their searches by position, county and keyword.
- Districts and teachers can submit a request for training, technical assistance or conference presentations from the ISBE’s Special Education Division.
- The Illinois Service Resource Center provides trainings, onsite support and resources for educators and families working with students who are deaf or hard of hearing.
- Project CHOICES is an Illinois-based initiative providing on-site learning opportunities for educational professionals interested in adapting curriculum, collaboration, developing community partnerships and using effective instructional practices.
- Educator resource guides, professional referrals and training programs are among the offerings of the Illinois Autism Training and Technical Assistance Project.
Illinois Professional Organizations for Special Educators
- The state teacher’s union, the Illinois Education Association (IEA), is open to elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty and staff, teachers in training and retired teachers.
- The ISBE oversees several advisory boards of interest to special educators and the populations they serve. Among them are the Illinois Advisory Board for Services for Persons Who are Deaf-Blind, the Illinois Interagency Coordination Council, the Illinois Purchase Care Review Board, the Illinois State Advisory Council on the Education of Children with Disabilities and the School Health Advisory Committee.
Illinois Special Education Bloggers
- Teaching All Students: Maintained by a special education teacher and self-proclaimed tech geek, this blog reviews apps, devices and curricular strategies.
- ISRC Review: The e-newsletter of the Illinois Service Resource Center covers best teaching practices, family involvement and behavior strategies for educators and parents of children who are deaf or hard of hearing.
- Chicago Teachers Union Blog: Trending issues impacting Chicago general and special educators are the focus of the official CTU blog.