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Modified Program Will Lead to Earlier Licensure for Prospective Special Education Teachers

To help meet the critical demand for special education teachers, Old Dominion University is reshaping its program to provide students with an opportunity to receive licensure to teach special education, general curriculum, K-12, upon receipt of their bachelor of science degree in interdisciplinary studies.

ODU's College of Arts and Letters, in cooperation with the Darden College of Education, has modified the university's undergraduate teacher preparation program to help the commonwealth of Virginia meet this immediate need for special education teachers. The program, which will be offered starting with the fall 2009 semester, recently received approval from the Virginia Department of Education.

"This interdisciplinary studies teacher preparation program will provide an increased pool of well-trained, well-qualified, special education teachers who will understand and have experience with the theories and instructional strategies to effectively teach special education students," said Elizabeth Esinhart, program director.

"It also will result in lower attrition rates for new teachers since they will have received the instruction and practical experience to be more effective as teachers. This opportunity for licensure at the undergraduate level modifies the former program that required students to complete graduate work prior to receiving their teaching license."

Interdisciplinary studies teacher candidates who select this program will be able to earn full licensure to teach special education while becoming highly qualified to teach either elementary education or secondary English. The multidisciplinary course work in the baccalaureate degree will span the disciplines of English literature, composition and linguistics; history; fine and performing arts; mathematics and statistics; natural sciences; social sciences; human growth and development; and educational foundations, technology, theories and methods.

In addition, students will have opportunities for several early field experiences prior to student teaching. The program will be offered on the main ODU campus, as well as at the university's higher education centers and distance learning sites.

"Many states, including Virginia, struggle with teacher supply and demand, particularly with regards to special education teachers," said Cheryl Baker, graduate program director for special education. "Combine the fact that teacher preparation programs graduate only half the number of teachers needed to fulfill the needs of the K-12 system with research that suggests approximately 30 percent of new teachers will leave the profession within five years of entry, and it is no surprise that special education classrooms are sometimes filled with under-qualified teachers."

Of the 132 school divisions surveyed by the state, less than 30 percent projected an adequate number of special educators through the 2011-12 school year, Baker added, while an average of almost 40 percent anticipated a severe shortage for special education teaching and administrative positions for their school division in Virginia.

"I am delighted that this new program will both help reduce the teacher shortage and help these children with special needs by providing highly qualified teachers," said William Graves, dean of the university's Darden College of Education. "ODU is working to meet the needs of the commonwealth for highly qualified teachers in every child's classroom."

For more information about the new program, contact either Baker (csbaker@odu.edu) or Esinhart (eesinhar@odu.edu).

This article was posted on: July 17, 2009

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Old Dominion University is an equal opportunity, affirmative action institution.