Sacred Heart University is partnering with Cooperative Educational Services (CES) and the Bridgeport public school system on an accelerated, 12-month program for certified teachers who want to earn their cross-endorsement in special education.
Besides providing additional training for teachers, SHU’s aim for this program is to help fill the need for special education teachers in the state.
“Connecticut needs special education teachers; this is a designated shortage area,” said Jim Carl, dean of SHU’s Isabelle Farrington College of Education. “Meanwhile, there are not enough openings for the many talented teachers who seek positions in our elementary and secondary schools.”
The new partnership with CES helps SHU address both needs, Carl said. “It provides students who have special needs, ages 3 to 21, with teachers who are thoroughly prepared to teach them in both the general education environment and in more specialized education environments. And it enables our talented teachers to secure positions in school districts by connecting them to the comprehensive special education certification,” he noted.
The University offers this cross-endorsement certification through the state Department of Education to all certified public school teachers. The 30-credit program, which begins in summer and concludes in a year, prepares teachers to develop effective teaching and learning environments for students with disabilities, Carl said.
Completion leads to certification in Comprehensive Special Education (165) and the ability to apply their certification immediately.
Involves hands-on experiences
Along with coursework, the program involves two hands-on experiences coordinated with CES, an agency that provides educational programs, professional development and technical assistance to school districts throughout lower Fairfield County. Program participants apply what they’ve learned in class as they interact with students who have developmental and emotional disabilities. One of these sessions takes place during a six-week summer term and the second during the school year, scheduled to accommodate working adults.
The program and all its pieces are significant for various reasons, according to Carl. “All students, including those with disabilities, need teachers to help them develop to their fullest potential,” he said. “This cross-endorsement partnership quickly and efficiently widens the talent pool of special educators, so that school districts can fill their openings for special education teachers. Having dual-certified teachers enables districts to use them in a variety of roles.”
This isn’t the first time SHU has partnered with CES, according to Evan Pitkoff, the agency’s executive director. Pitkoff said there has been a natural professional relationship between CES and SHU spanning many years of joint ventures, such as post-secondary education programming for special-needs students and training for speech and language therapists.
He described CES’s role as “a laboratory for research initiatives, internships and special education student-teaching for SHU students. The authentic, quality educational settings, cutting-edge practices, strong professional development reputation of CES—including experience in Praxis preparatory programs—makes CES a trove of resources for students participating in graduate-level training in special education. Likewise, the internship and research participation from the University, its staff and students are value-added experiences for students and faculty in the CES programs.”
Students who are enrolled in current classes for the certificate report they are gaining knowledge that is preparing them well for teaching special-education students. “I have learned strategies and instructional techniques that are good for all children,” said Shana Halsey, who teaches in New Haven.
Fellow student Adam Horvath elaborated, “The top three things I’ve learned in this program are the necessary content knowledge to be a special educator, the effective application and use of data-based decision-making and how to reach all students more effectively as learners.”
For more information on the special education cross-endorsement program and how to apply, click here.