Montana Special Education
The percentage of students in Montana with special needs is slightly lower than the national average: Ed.gov indicates that 12 percent of Montana’s student population has been identified as having disabilities, compared to 13 percent nationwide. The state has a relatively small total population of just over one million people, and as a result, Montana employs only 842 special education teachers, according to Concordia University. Education Week reports that the U.S. Department of Education ranks Montana’s ability to meet special education targets as “Needs Assistance,” as of the 2010/2011 school year. The Montana Office of Public Instruction (OPI) oversees the Montana Division of Special Education, which is responsible for the state’s public school and state-operated programs for students with special needs.
Types of Licenses
Special Education Teaching Degrees in Montana
The Phyllis J. Washington College of Education and Human Sciences at the University of Montana offers three program options for those interested in working in special education settings in Montana. The first option is coursework resulting in both an elementary or secondary teaching license with an endorsement in special education; the second option is a special education endorsement-only program for individuals already holding a teaching license; the final option is a Master of Education program with an endorsement in special education. Located in Missoula, this campus has repeatedly been named as one of the most environmentally responsible, greenest colleges in the country by The Princeton Review. Participants in the OPI’s Special Education Endorsement Project fulfill the requirements of this program at Montana State University Billings. This school also offers dual bachelor’s degree programs that combine a degree in special education with a degree in elementary or special education, as well as several master’s degrees in special education.
For profiles of all the schools in Montana that offer master’s in special education programs, click here.
The Class 5 Alternative License is an option for individuals who want to be special education teachers and meet some but not all of the requirements for a Class 1 or Class 2 license. Those who are granted this license must agree to fulfill the requirements of a standard credential within three years, as outlined in a Plan of Professional Intent. Consult the OPI’s alternative license guidelines for more information. The OPI Special Education Endorsement Project permits school districts to fill vacant positions with individuals who hold a Class 1 or Class 2 Montana Teaching Certificate, but who do not have a special education endorsement. Teachers in this program must complete the requirements of a special education endorsement within three years and agree to teach in a special education setting in Montana for at least two years.
Teaching Special Education in Montana
OPI’s guide to Professional Development Resources list programs and resources for educators seeking professional development credits. Their program, the Montana Comprehensive System of Personnel Development, offers pre-service and in-service programs for general and special educators.
Montana Professional Groups for Special Education Teachers
- The MEA-MFT (a merger of the Montana Education Association and the Montana Federation of Teachers) is open to active and retired public service employees. About 18,000 public school teachers, school personnel, state and county government employees, municipal employees, higher education faculty, health care workers, Head Start staff and teachers in training comprise the membership. Dues depend upon income.
- The Montana Rural Education Association (MREA) advocates on behalf of rural school districts to ensure that students, teachers, personnel and programs receive appropriate funding and that these districts have control over the schools within them.
- The Montana Council on Developmental Disabilities consists of governor-appointed members who advocate for improved inclusion, integration and quality of life for Montana children and adults with developmental disabilities.
Montana Special Education Bloggers
- Montana Autism Education Project: This organization provides webinars, news stories and information on studies affecting individuals with autism spectrum disorders.
- Secondary Transition: Nikki Sandve and Sara Casey maintain this blog as part of OPI’s Special Education Division. They address issues concerning students with special needs at the secondary level who are preparing to transition to schools, training programs or employment.