The University of Pittsburgh, School of Education, offers a Special Education Teacher Preparation specialization to prepare special educators to teach children and youth with a range of disabilities and emphasizes educational needs rather than categorical labels. Individuals are prepared as teachers with eligibility for Pennsylvania Department of Education, PreK-8 Special Education certification. Teachers with this certificate may provide specialized support and instruction to eligible students with cognitive, behavior, physical, and/or health disabilities within the PreK-8 grade level range. This support and instruction may occur in a variety of settings, including special education classrooms and resource rooms, general education classrooms and settings, and the community. PreK-8 special education teachers may also assist in the assessment and identification of students in need of special education services, coordinate the development and implementation of Individualized Education Programs, and collaborate with or provide consultative support to general educators.
This program prepares teachers for the changing experience in public schools. There has been a significant increase in the occurrence of students with disabilities being “included” in the general education classroom. Legislation provides students with disabilities the rights of access to, participation in, and progress in the general education curriculum. Given the higher incidence of students with disabilities in the general education classroom and the demands for standards-based curriculum for these students, Pennsylvania requires all Special Educators to also be certified and qualified to teach the general education population and curriculum. Our program accepts previously certified teachers (Elementary, Pre K – Grade 4, Grade 4-8, or Reading Specialist) and furthers their ability to teach a diverse student body effectively.
The required courses for the Special Education Teacher Preparation Pre K – 8 program can be completed full-time in one year or on a part-time basis over two years. Courses are held in the late afternoon and evenings. Program participants are required to complete field-based assignments with children with disabilities. The School of Education Office of Clinical Practice at University of Pittsburgh will arrange practicum placements for participants.
To be eligible for a special education teaching certificate, all students will also complete a 16-week full-time student teaching experience. This experience will be divided into two 8-week placements to ensure graduates have the skills to teach children with a variety of disabilities.
Upon completion of the certification program, students are eligible to apply for Pennsylvania Department of Education instructional certification as a Special Education Teacher Pre K- Grade 8.
Applicants may choose to pursue the Masters of Education (MEd) degree alongside their teaching certificate. The MEd program requires the completion of a minimum of 39-credits, combining 9-credits of graduate-level education coursework with certification courses (30 credits). Several of the required MEd courses are offered both in face-to-face and on-line formats.
Important Certification Changes
For all perspective students interested in obtaining Special Education Certification, there are important changes about which you need to know.
Below is an explanation of the various teaching certification and degree program options.
- Due to new Statewide PA Department of Education regulations, the 2011-2012 academic year will be the last time that the K-12 Special Education certification program will be offered at the University of Pittsburgh. The K-12 certification program (MPD) will be replaced with new programs designed to meet the current regulations and training needs for Special Education teachers in Pennsylvania.
- The new Special Education Teacher Preparation Pre K – 8 Program provides special education teaching certification for the grade span Pre-Kindergarten to Grade 8 for individuals with a previously earned instructional certificate. In addition to the instructional certification, students in this program have the option to earn their Masters in Education (MEd) degree, specializing in Special Education.
- Dual Certification in Early Childhood (Pre-K-4) and Special Education (Pre-K-8) is available through our Combined Accelerated Studies in Education (CASE) Program.
Special Education Teacher Certification Checklist - printable document which includes general information, prerequisites, curriculum, and degree requirements.