Special Education in Massachusetts
Massachusetts has one of the highest percentage of students with disabilities in the country: 17.5 percent according to the National Center for Education Statistics. (The national average stands at 13 percent.) However, the state manages to have the highest rating possible for its ability to provide special education services, earning a ranking of “Meets Requirements” from the U.S. Board of Education. The Massachusetts Department of Elementary & Secondary Education (MDESE) and its department of Special Education oversee the state’s 1,886 public and 62 charter schools, which are divided among 244 public school districts. The state employs over 8,170 special education teachers.
The MDESE’s online Licensure Help tool allows would-be teachers to determine the exact requirements for the specific type of license they are seeking.
Types of Licenses
Special Education Teaching Programs in Massachusetts
Of the over two dozen college and alternative programs awarding special education degrees in Massachusetts, Simmons College’s special education programs are among the most prominent. The school offers a Master of Education with certification in moderate or severe disabilities, a non-certification master’s degree program that focuses on moderate and severe disabilities and an endorsement course of study in moderate special needs, as well as unique Master of Education or Educational Specialist programs that include an endorsement in Assistive Special Education Technology or in Language and Literacy. Students have the added benefit of being amid Boston’s lively Fenway neighborhood, near the renowned Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. If you prefer to pursue an undergraduate degree that concurrently awards educator licensure and a special education endorsement, consider the program at Springfield College, through which students can follow a four-year track that qualifies them for dual licensure. General educators who seek a special education endorsement can pursue the graduate program in special education that leads to Initial Licensure in Teacher of Students With Moderate Disabilities.
For information on master’s in special education programs in Massachusetts, click here.
Alternatives to Certification
On its outline of the types of educator preparation programs, the MSDE lists several alternative/practice-based programs for potential educators. Passing the Massachusetts Test for Educator Licensure and having a bachelor’s degree in any subject are often enough to qualify a recent graduate for a five-year Preliminary License; the same criteria often applies for those changing careers. In select cases, the MDESE uses the Performance Review Program for Initial Licensure to award an Initial License to a candidate who has teaching experience and a relevant academic background, but has not met all of the state criteria for traditional licensure. Teach in Boston, a project of Boston Public Schools, keeps a list of resources and programs for people with and without bachelor’s degrees, endorsements or teaching licenses who want to work in urban classrooms in high-need subject areas or grade levels. One such program is the Boston Teacher Residency Partnership. Participants undergo a training program lasting between 13 and 18 months that focuses on urban teaching methods and covers special education and teaching English as a second language; they receive a living stipend while in the program and may be eligible for a scholarship to cover the cost of a master’s degree.
Special Education Jobs in Massachusetts
- The MDESE’s Massachusetts Educators Career Center allows users to submit their contact information and post resumes for consideration, as well as search for open positions. The MSESE website also contains links to state, contract and internship job opportunities.
- Boston Public Schools’ Career Center features listings of available teaching positions in the Boston area.
- Perkins School for the Blind has residential and day programs for students with visual impairments.
- The Horace Mann School for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, located in Allston, operates a day school, as well as offers support and outreach services.
- The MDESE’s Professional Development guidelines list the 10 standards for professional development in Massachusetts and provides links to information regarding department-sponsored trainings.
- Massachusetts FOCUS Academy, associated with the MDESE, delivers virtual professional development courses in several areas of special education through the Massachusetts Online Network for Education (MassONE).
- Merrimack Education Center provides professional development courses and additional licensure programs that satisfy the MDESE’s professional development requirements.
- Perkins uses video-based tutorials and short tests on special education topics to support teachers who need to earn professional development units.
Massachusetts Special Education Teacher Groups
The state teacher’s union, the Massachusetts Teachers Association, consists of public educators, as well as retired teachers, public school staff and students in Massachusetts teacher preparation programs. The MDESE has several advisory councils that meet regularly to interpret educational policy and advise how schools can best meet student needs. The advisory group that focuses on issues pertaining to student with disabilities is the Special Education Advisory Council.
Massachusetts Special Education Blogs
- Teaching Learners with Multiple Needs: Approaches to and resources for working with students who have multiple or significant special needs are the themes of special educator Kate Ahern’s blog.
- Teaching Every Student: Karen Janowski, an Assistive and Educational Technology Consultant with EdTech Solutions, covers tricks and tools for accommodating different learning styles.
- Lisa Jo Rudy on Authentic Inclusion: The author and consultant shares insights and tips on how to work with students with special needs in general education classrooms.