Claremont Graduate University recognized a shortage of qualified special education teachers across the nation and particularly in Southern California and introduced a new credential program to train more teachers.
Dr. Sharon M. Rogers, a special education coordinator and faculty associate at CGU, developed the new 15-month credential program that includes coursework done concurrently with a paid internship in a local school district under CGU faculty advisor’s guidance.
Rogers said, “There is a critical need not only for more special educators, but special educators who are sensitive to cultural and linguistic diversity.” He explained that students with special needs include children from diverse cultural, linguistic, socioeconomic backgrounds. “Our program seeks students from diverse backgrounds, and addresses issues of diversity in every course.”
According to a report by the American Academy of Employment in Education (AAEE), 98 percent of U.S. K-12 schools reported chronic shortages of special educators in 2000. AAEE reported that credential programs need to double their output of trained special educators from 1990’s levels.
In California, teacher education programs produced only 1,832 teachers when 3,900 were needed in 2002. Some California school districts currently report that almost 100% of their special educators begin teaching without a credential.
“Special needs kids often get the least prepared and highest turnover among teachers. We want to do our part to change that,” says Rogers.
The first group of 13 students entered the program in June, but Rogers says many more students could be accommodated in the future.