Pennsylvania Special Education
The National Institute for Education Statistics indicates that 16.5 percent of Pennsylvania’s student population has an Individualized Education Program, significantly higher than the national average of 13 percent. However, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) serves its students well, earning a rating of “Meets Requirements” from the U.S. Department of Education, the department’s highest ranking. The PDE and its Bureau of Special Education employ 21,000 special educators to staff its 3,292 public schools and 135 charter schools. Pennsylvania also has 2,238 private schools.
Types of Licenses
Special Education Teaching Programs in Pennsylvania
One aspect of Temple University that makes it a standout institution is The Institute on Disabilities at Temple University, which conducts research and projects, as well as offers training and technical assistance to special education professionals. Temple’s College of Education administers several programs for students seeking Special Education (PreK-8) Certification or advanced degrees in the field. The 4+1 Accelerated program is a unique hybrid offering that awards a bachelor’s degree in early childhood and elementary education (PreK-4), a master’s degree in special education (PreK-8) and two PDE-approved teaching licenses, one in Early Childhood Education and one in Special Education (Preschool-Eighth Grade). Current educators can add endorsements through one of three programs at Temple: the Autism Endorsement Graduate Certificate Program, the Add-On Certification in Special Education (PreK-8) and the Master’s in Special Education with Special Education Teacher Certification (PreK-8). For researchers, the school offers the Interdisciplinary Doctor of Philosophy in Education with a concentration in special education. For an accelerated route to qualifying to teach in Pennsylvania, enroll in one of the several PDE-endorsed programs on the list of participating institutions and certification areas approved for Intern Certification.
For information on master’s in special education programs in Pennsylvania, click here.
Alternatives to Certification
Pennsylvania has two main routes to alternative certification. The first is the popular Pennsylvania Teacher Intern Certification Program, which requires a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in the area in which you want to be certified, as well as passing qualifying exams. Candidates take a full-time professional teaching position while completing an induction program with additional academic and testing requirements. The second option is to earn a Passport to Teaching license issued by the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence. Would-be teachers can qualify for a Pennsylvania Instructional I certificate in elementary education as well as in several areas of secondary education. For people who want to work in Philadelphia’s highest-need schools, the Philadelphia Teaching Fellows program places experienced professionals and recent college graduates in classrooms while they earn their credentials.
Special Education Teaching Jobs in Pennsylvania
- To obtain up-to-date information regarding policies and programs pertaining to earning continuing education units in Pennsylvania, consult the PDE’s Continuing Professional Education webpage.
- The Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Network offers continuing education trainings, conferences and workshops regarding research-based special education teaching practices.
- Headquartered in Philadelphia, Hispanos Unidos Para Niños Excepcionales serves parents, educators and community agencies who work with Spanish-speaking and bilingual students with special needs. The organization operates a bilingual helpline as well as provides technical support and training.
Pennsylvania Professional Groups for Special Education Teachers
- The state has two main teachers’ unions, the Pennsylvania State Education Association (affiliated with the National Education Association) and the American Federation of Teachers Pennsylvania.
- The Special Education Advisory Panel, mandated by federal law, is a group of government appointees and community advocates who advise the PDE on how to best meet the needs of students in special education programs in Pennsylvania.
- In the realm of early intervention policy and practice, the Pennsylvania State Interagency Coordinating Council is an advisory board of parents, education professionals and governor appointees that meets regularly to ensure that family, community and school resources meet children’s needs.
Pennsylvania Special Education Blogs and e-News
- Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children Blog: Pennsylvania education and advocacy for children is the focus of this organizational blog.
- the Notebook: This online news site and blog bills itself as an independent voice for people in the Philadelphia Pubic Schools community.
- The BSE Communicator: The PDE’s Bureau of Special Education publishes an e-newsletter in PDF format to share news and best practice models.
- PEAL News: The quarterly print and digital newsletter of the Parent Education & Advocacy Leadership Center covers community and educational supports for children with disabilities and their families.