Special Education in Rhode Island
The smallest state in the nation has one of the highest percentages of students assigned to Individualized Education Programs: according to the National Center for Education Statistics, 17.6 percent of Rhode Island’s students have disabilities, compared to the U.S. average of 13 percent. That said, the U.S. Department of Education ranks Rhode Island among the top states for meeting academic targets for this population, bestowing the state with its highest rating of “Meets Requirements.” The Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) and its Office of Student, Community and Academic Supports employ 2,000 special educators to work in programs at the state’s 331 public and 12 charter schools, which are organized into 32 districts. In addition, there are 183 private schools in the state.
RIDE awards automatic certification to graduates of eight state-approved programs: Brown University, Bryant University, Johnson & Wales University, Providence College, Rhode Island College, Rhode Island School of Design, Roger Williams University, Salve Regina University and the University of Rhode Island. These programs are available at several levels of study.
Types of Licenses
Special Education Teaching Degrees in Rhode Island
In Providence, Rhode Island College offers urban-focused teacher preparation and education programs through its Special Education Department, including three undergraduate programs: mild/moderate disabilities programs at the elementary/middle level or the secondary level and a severe/profound disabilities program for those ages 3 to 21. Graduate students at Rhode Island College can opt for a Master of Education with special education certification or a Master of Education in special education with a focus in early childhood, severe/profound disabilities or exceptional learning needs. The school also offers a unique course of study resulting in a Master of Education in urban multicultural special education designed to prepare educators to work with English language learners with special needs. The Master of Arts in Teaching program at Providence’s Johnson & Wales University concurrently awards general and special education licensure. This program is completed with a cohort and emphasizes fieldwork.
For profiles of all the schools in Rhode Island that offer master’s in special education programs, click here.
Alternatives to Certification
Rhode Island Teaching Fellows, a partnership between the New Teachers Project and the Rhode Island Department of Education, allows recent college graduates and mid-career professionals to take part in an intensive training program that includes placement in one of the state’s urban public schools. While working full time, participants complete the necessary coursework and ancillary requirements so they can apply for professional certification. The induction program forTeach for America is similar, as is this program’s focus on serving Rhode Island’s highest-need schools. See the Board of Regents Standards for Alternative Route to Certification Programs guide for more information regarding the RIDE’s policies regarding alternative paths to educator licensure.
Teaching Special Education in Rhode Island
- The RIDE uses the SchoolSpring website to post openings in its public schools, and allows job seekers to sort jobs by location, type, grade level and category.
- Consult the RIDE’s Organization Directory to see alphabetized lists of Rhode Island public, special education and charter schools, as well as hyperlinks to their websites.
- The Eleanor Briggs School, a project of The Kent Center for Human & Organizational Development, serves children and youth with behavioral needs and mental health issues.
- Located in Warwick, Sargent Rehabilitation Center hires special educators and specialists to work in its programs serving children and adults in need of rehabilitative care.
- Rhode Island School for the Deaf, located in the city of Providence, has a day program and offers audiological, outreach and transition services.
- The Auditory-Oral Program is a project of the Northern Rhode Island Collaborative that trains specialists and special educators, as well as works directly with the special needs population.
- For guidelines, information and resources regarding meeting continuing education requirements, review the RIDE’s Professional Development webpage.
- The Northern Rhode Island Collaborative operates its own Professional Development Academy, with courses of interest to general and special educators.
- The East Bay Education Collaborative offers a full calendar of trainings, workshops and coaching opportunities, including some pertinent to special educators.
- The Rhode Island Vision Services Education and Services Program, based within Rhode Island College’s Paul V. Sherlock Center on Disabilities, offers training to educators working with children who are blind or visually impaired.
Rhode Island Groups for Special Education Teachers
- The state teacher’s union, the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals, represents 10,000 member teachers, health professionals, school personnel, university faculty and staff and state and municipal employees.
- The federally-mandated Special Education Advisory Committee consists of educators and community stakeholders who advise the RIDE regarding the needs of its students with special needs and issues pertaining to compliance.
- The Vision Education Services Advisory Board performs a similar function, but with the aim of serving the state’s children who are blind or visually-impaired.
Special Education Bloggers Writing in Rhode Island
- Talking Books Plus News: This blog features news from RI Regional Library for the Blind & Physically Handicapped. The organization also publishes an e-newsletter, Talking Times.
- Our Blog: The official blog of The Autism Project Rhode Island features creative strategies from professionals in the fields of education and advocacy, with a focus on supporting children and teens with autism spectrum disorders.
- The Networker: The quarterly e-newsletter of the Rhode Island Parent Information Network publishes special education theme issues, as well as focusing on general parent and family topics.