Virginia Special Education
The National Center for Education Statistics notes that 13 percent of Virginia’s student population has an Individualized Education Program, the same percentage as the national average. The U.S. Department of Education has granted Virginia its highest rating of “Meets Requirements” in regard to its ability to meet special education academic goals. The state’s 134 school districts contain 2,186 public and four charter schools, and employ 13,680 special education teachers. Virginia is also home to 641 private schools.The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) and its Division of Special Education and Student Services implement policy regarding teaching licensure and supporting students in special education programs.
Types of Licenses
Special Education Degrees in Virginia
The Teach Virginia website maintains a list of Virginia colleges and universities with special education personnel preparation programs, as does the the VDOE website. U.S. News & World Report ranks the graduate special education program of the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education among the top five in the nation. Located in the historic and picturesque city of Charlottesville, the large campus sits amid the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.The school’s dual degree programs result in a bachelor’s degree in education and master’s degree in teaching, and allow students to choose a special education endorsement in early childhood, elementary or secondary education. The school also offers post-graduate dual professional license and endorsement programs in special education general curriculum at several grade levels, as well as a master’s degree program in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis in special education and a doctorate in special education. In addition, the Curry School of education administrates two off-site programs at its center in North Virginia. The first results in a master’s degree in special education and the other awards a special education certificate leading to Initial Licensure.
For profiles of all the schools in Virginia that offer master’s in special education programs, click here.
Alternatives to Certification
The VDOE’s Routes to Licensure in Virginia guide summarizes several nontraditional means of earning a teaching license in the state. Candidates with a job offer from a Virginia school can request that the employing school recommend them for a three-year, nonrenewable license. Ways to qualify for this license include participating in experiential learning and completing endorsement coursework. Candidates working as special education teachers without a special education endorsement can apply for a Provisional Special Education License if they have a have earned an undergraduate degree, work under a special education mentor teacher and pursue coursework that aligns with VDOE’s current requirements. The VDOE also administrates a Career Switcher Program, targeting candidates who have a bachelor’s degree and at least five years of professional work experience. Participants enter an intensive induction program in pedagogy and teaching practices. After they accrue 180 hours of teaching experience, the VDOE issues them a Provisional Career Switcher License. They then locate a job in a Virginia public school and, while working, pursue additional training to eventually qualify for a renewable license; they’re also assigned a mentor to assist them in their first year of teaching. Among the Virginia colleges currently participating in this program are the Virginia Community College System, Old Dominion University, Regent University and Shenandoah University.
Special Education Teaching Jobs in Virginia
- The VDOE’s Title II, Part A: Improving Teacher Quality webpage summarizes Virginia policies and options regarding professional development for educators, including how to receive a Highly Qualified Teacher designation.
- The Curry School of Education, part of the University of Virginia, organizes conferences, workshops and courses for general and special educators.
- The Virginia Federation of the Council for Exceptional Children trains educators in best practices for working with individuals with disabilities.g
Virginia Special Educator Organizations
- The state teacher’s union, the Virginia Education Association, is affiliated with the National Education Association and consists of current, retired and future public educators.
- Educators and community stakeholders comprise the membership of the State Special Education Advisory Committee, which interprets special educational policy and advises institutions on compliance issues.
Virginia Special Education Blogs
- Special Classroom: Gillian Gray Pilcher, a special education teacher in Fairfax County Public Schools, blogs about curricular and teaching strategies.
- Hope House News and The Buzz: These publications of the Hope House Foundation, a community agency supporting people with developmental disabilities who live independently in their homes, feature organizational news and articles written by individuals with disabilities.