Special Education in Tennessee
The National Center for Education Statistics reports that 12.1 percent of the student population in Tennessee has an Individualized Education Program, below the national average of 13 percent. The state hires 7,320 special educators to serve 1,791 public schools and 20 charter schools that are organized into 140 school districts. The state also has 494 private schools. In its analysis of the ability of each state to meet the needs of its students with disabilities, the U.S. Department of Education rated Tennessee as “Needs Assistance.” The Tennessee Department of Education (TDE) oversees issues related to education in the state. Its Division of Special Education promotes educational programs and services for students with special needs.
Types of Licenses
Special Education Degrees in Tennessee
The Department of Special Education at Vanderbilt Peabody College has the notable distinction of being rated number one in the nation for its graduate special education offerings, as ranked by U.S. News & World Report. Research and effective practices are the focal points of this school’s degree and certificate programs, and the department indicates that most of its graduates receive multiple job offers upon graduation. Undergraduates engage in a course of study resulting in an interdisciplinary major in exceptional learning with a focus on mild and moderate disabilities, multiple and severe disabilities or visual impairment. They can also opt to combine a special education major with another complementary major such as human and organizational development, child development or cognitive studies. At the graduate level, Vanderbilt Peabody offers Master of Education programs in early childhood, high-incidence disabilities and visual disabilities, as well as a low-incidence disabilities program and an applied behavior analysis certification program. Most of these areas of focus are also available at the doctoral level. Refer to Vanderbilt Peabody’s SPED Student Funding Opportunities webpage for information about available grants and stipends for students.
For information on master’s in special education programs in Tennessee, click here.
Alternatives to Certification
- If you have at least a bachelor’s degree and a minimum of three years of teaching experience in the subject and grade level where you wish to teach, you may present that experience in lieu of student teaching.
- You may apply credit you earn from correspondence or extension instruction through a member institution of the National University Extension Association or the Teacher College Association for Extension and Field Services toward your license application, up to one fourth of the total credit required for the license.
Teaching Special Education in Tennessee
- The instructional leadership page of the TDE website delineates the role of the Office of Instructional Leadership in professional development for Tennessee educators and provides links to staff development resources.
- Conferences and workshops for general and special educators are organized by the Tennessee Education Association.
- The TDE’s Teacher Leadership Development program pairs mentor educators with new teachers.
Tennessee Organizations for Special Educators
- The National Education Association-affiliated state teacher’s union, the Tennessee Education Association, organizes conferences and workshops, as well as takes part in advocacy work. Its 46,000 members include public school teachers, administrators, education support professionals, public university faculty and people studying to become teachers.
- The TDE’s Advisory Council for the Education of Students with Disabilities meets a few times per year to discuss and interpret policy relating to Tennessee’s people with disabilities.
- The Arc Tennessee supports people with developmental and intellectual disabilities through advocacy work.
Tennessee Special Education e-News
- Tennessee Voices for Children: This advocacy organization publishes a quarterly e-newsletter, as well as fact sheets pertaining to Tennessee children who have special educational needs.
- The Arc Connection: The quarterly newsletters of The Arc Tennessee contains profiles of advocates for those with disabilities, as well as coverage of relevant events.
- Peabody Journal of Education: The country’s second-oldest publication focused on educational policy, research and practice provides information about general and special education.
- Tennessee Disability Pathfinder: A statewide database of disability-related resources, including a multilingual helpline and a comprehensive system of early intervention services.