Standards, Benchmarks, and Indicators

Article excerpt

Designing a Framework for Professional Development of Preservice and Practicing Teachers

Foundations of Learning and Development: Understands how children learn and develop; has in-depth knowledge about unique needs of learners with disabilities and works collaboratively-from a strengths-- based versus a deficit model-to support their intellectual, social, and personal development.

Effective Instructional Planning: Has effective and manageable planning strategies, both short and long term; can provide leadership for collaboratively developing IEPs (individualized education programs)

Measure yourself against these two standards for special educators-standards like these have been proposed by various organizations and associations, including the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards, (NBPTS), the National Council for Accreditation in Teacher Education (NCATE), and The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC). The press for accountability is on; such standards are increasingly used in making decisions about teacher certification, licensing, and promotion (National Commission on Teaching and America's Future, 1996, 1997). Standards provide a meaningful framework for ongoing professional development of not only preservice teachers but also practicing teachers.

Current trends and mandates indicate that standards in special education need to be based in general education. Reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 1997 and increased inclusion of students with disabilities in general education classrooms make it important that special education teachers have an understanding of the general education curriculum. If students with disabilities are to be successful within the school curriculum, special education teachers also need to know how to provide the necessary support for students' learning and development.

At the University of WisconsinMilwaukee (UWM), we have been working on standards-based curriculum and assessments for beginning special education teachers. Our goal is to develop a set of standards that are not only connected with the knowledge and skills required of general education teachers but also reflect the unique knowledge, skills, and roles of special education teachers.

This article informs special educators about various teaching standards and discusses their potential for guiding professional development of practicing teachers, based on our work with standards and assessment for preservice teachers. The article:

Provides a brief overview of standards that have been developed for novice and accomplished teachers.

Shares UWM's special education program standards and discusses the ways in which we use them in teacher preparation.

Suggests ways in which practicing teachers could use these or similar standards for ongoing professional development.

Overview of Teaching Standards

National organizations in the field of education have adopted standards that describe important knowledge and skills for professionals.

CEC has been a leader in this effort in special education. CEC's most recent standards document, What Every Special Educator Must Know (1995; see the CEC Web site, http://www. cec.sped.org), outlines the knowledge and skills essential for all beginning special educators.

NCATE uses CEC standards in evaluating teacher education programs.

NBPTS has developed standards for identifying and certifying accomplished teachers in more than 30 fields. Recently, board certification has been extended to include special education in five areas: Early Childhood, Mild and Moderately Impaired, Severe and Multiply Impaired, Visually Impaired, and Deaf/Hard of Hearing. In some states and districts, teachers who are NBPTS certified may be given leadership roles, as well as salary benefits (NBPTS, 1991; see the NBPTS Web site, http://www.NBPTS.ORG) (see Helms, this issue, pages 4-10). …