Minnesota Special Education
According to the ED.gov website, 15 percent of Minnesota’s student population has an identified disability, significantly above the national average of 13 percent. Education Week reports that the U.S. Department of Education’s evaluation of the state’s ability to provide special education services resulted in a rating of “Needs Assistance,” as of the 2010/2011 school year. The state hires 7,750 special education teachers to serve the needs of students in 339 independent school districts, three intermediate districts, five integration districts, 136 charter schools, 17 education districts, four tribal schools, nine telecommunications districts and 20 cooperative districts. The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) oversees public and charter school services throughout the state. Its Special Education Division website provides information regarding special education policies, programs and resources.
Types of Licenses
Special Education Degrees in Minnesota
U.S. News & World Report ranks the graduate special education programs at University of Minnesota-Twin Cities among the top 10 in the nation. This school’s Department of Education Psychology offers several degrees through its special education track. The DirecTrack to Teaching program prepares students in undergraduate programs for initial licensure, and allows them to obtain early admission to the school’s master’s degree program in education. The university recommends that students in this program major in child psychology, early childhood education foundations, elementary education foundations, Inter-College Program, kinesiology or psychology to provide them with the appropriate background to work with students with special needs. The University of Minnesota’s dual Master of Education/Licensure program is for those who want to teach in K-12 special education settings while earning an advanced degree. Areas of specialization include academic behavior strategist, applied behavior analysis, autism spectrum disorders, deaf/hard of hearing, developmental disabilities, early childhood special education, emotional and behavioral disorders and learning disabilities. This school also offers a master’s degree in special education focused on research only that prepares students for the school’s doctorate program in special education. For general educators or para-professionals seeking additional training, it offers two certificate programs, one in applied behavior analysis and another in autism spectrum disorder.
For profiles of all the schools in Minnesota that offer master’s in special education programs, click here.
Alternatives to Certification
Alternative certification is a tricky process in Minnesota. The MDE used to have an alternative pathway to certification involving portfolio submission, but, as of May 2013, this program has been suspended for new applicants. In 2011, the state passed a law allowing highly-qualified instructors who obtained their licenses through alternative certification programs in other states to work in high-need classrooms in Minnesota, but the MDE has yet to create a way for them to apply for licensure. Teach for America Twin Cities is one of the few alternative programs in Minnesota, placing candidates in intense, short preparation programs before releasing them to work with mentors and support in high-need Minnesota schools.
Teaching Special Education in Minnesota
- The MDE supports and hosts a range of workshops and training programs for educators. View its policies regarding professional development on its professional development webpage.
- Education Minnesota’s Teachers as Learners and Leaders program trains teachers to be advocates of change in their educational institutions.
- Technical support for special educators, creative problem solving, early intervention strategies and best practices are among the staff development topics addressed by the professional development offerings of Metro ECSU.
- Minnesota Administrators for Special Education sponsors a New Leaders Cohort to mentor special education directors.
Professional Organizations for Minnesota Special Education Teachers
- Over 70,000 public educators, retired educators and pre-service teachers comprise the membership of Education Minnesota.
- Minnesota law requires that each school district have a Special Education Advisory Council to offer input on special education policy.
Minnesota Special Education Blogs
- Assistive Technology Listserv: This MDE listserv allows educators, parents and other community members to post questions and comments regarding MDE’s rapidly-expanding assistive technology program. Follow the instructions on the Special Education in the Classroom webpage to initiate your subscription.
- Center for School Change: Advice for caring educators, innovative collaborations and Minnesota educational policy are the focal points of this blog.
- Learning Times: LDA Minnesota (formerly Learning Disabilities Association, Inc.) publishes an e-newsletter. Subscribe for the latest updates or browse the archives online.