It's time to rethink the way colleges and universities train special education teachers, says Paul Sindelar, a professor of special education at the University of Florida. He argues for training all of them in a general education program first, giving extra training in response to intervention instructional and assessment techniques to who are interested in special education, and paying them more because of their specialized knowledge.
Sindelar offered these suggestions during a Monday panel that was part of a three-day conference in Washington this week. The 2009 OSEP Project Directors' Conference, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education's office of special education programs, brings together federal officials, researchers, and many of the people who are charged with providing technical assistance to states, districts, and schools on how to improve their special education programs.
Sindelar's recommendations on this panel were just a snapshot from a paper that he says is soon to appear in Exceptional Children, a publication of the Council for Exceptional Children in Arlington, Va. So he didn't have a copy of the paper available for me to read. But some of his co-panelists, like Utah State professor Benjamin Lignugaris/Kraft questioned whether a general education foundation should be a prerequite to a special education career.
"Is it only special education teacher prep that needs to be fixed and not teacher education in general?" he said, to a smattering of applause in the room. He suggested that teacher preparation in general is in need of rethinking, and that model schools that already have successful programs, particularly in response to intervention, should take the lead in preparing special education teachers.