CLD Position Statement: Alternative Routes to Certification in Special Education

By Rosenberg, Michael S.; Sindelar, Paul T. et al. | Learning Disability Quarterly, Spring 2004 | Go to article overview

CLD Position Statement: Alternative Routes to Certification in Special Education


Rosenberg, Michael S., Sindelar, Paul T., Connelly, Vincent, Keller, Cassandra, Learning Disability Quarterly


Special education continues to suffer from chronic and persistent teacher shortages. For example, in 2000-2001, nearly 53,000 special education teachers, 12% of the teaching force, were less than fully certified, affecting more than 800,000 students with disabilities. In addition, many school districts lose special education teachers as the school year progresses, particularly in urban and rural areas. Since traditional sources of teacher supply, college and university preparation programs, have been unable to meet the growing demand for special education teachers, alternative routes to certification (ARC) have proliferated.

Recognizing that there is a need for highly qualified special education teachers, it is essential that we develop innovative and creative alternatives to get interested individuals prepared, licensed, and into classrooms serving students with learning disabilities. As noted in the following statement, the Council for Learning Disabilities (CLD) agrees that strategies for recruiting and developing highly qualified professionals are necessary. Still, we must ensure that ARC programs deliver research-based teacher preparation and that graduates of such programs meet agreed-upon professional standards.

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No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and the proposed Individuals with Disabilities with Education Act (IDEA) have encouraged the development of alternative routes to certification (ARC) in special education. Even prior to these legislative efforts, ARC in special education had become a growth industry. In 1995, Buck, Polloway, and Mortorff-Robb found that 24 states offered ARC programs in special education, an increase of 19 states since 1991. Recently, it was found that 34 states offer more than 175 different ARC options, with California and Texas accounting for the largest number (Rosenberg, Boyer, Sindelar, & Misra, 2003). Analyses of the School and Staffing Survey (Connelly, 2003) indicate that over 15% of those who hold certification in special education earned it through an ARC; among those who are uncredentialed and seeking certification, 24% report being in an ARC program.

Factors contributing to the proliferation of ARC in special education include (a) the persistent and growing shortage of special education teachers affecting over 800,000 students with disabilities, (b) the acute need for personnel from underrepresented groups, and (c) criticism from political action groups outside the profession and professionals within the profession (e.g., Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, 1999) that traditional approaches to teacher preparation are self-serving, bloated, and over-regulatory.

Unfortunately, our collective knowledge base of ARC programs in special education does not match either the growth or current levels of interest in and advocacy for such programs. Rosenberg and Sindelar (2001), in a comprehensive review of the literature, found very little on the nature and efficacy of specific programs in the professional literature. They asserted that the avail able literature represented merely the tip of the ARC iceberg and that a large underground economy for teaching credentials is in place in many areas of the nation.

CLD recognizes the need for highly qualified general and special education teachers. For those responsible for the recruitment and retention of qualified special education professionals, in particular, there is a most troubling trend: As the number of children with special education needs increase, it is increasingly difficult to find highly qualified personnel who want to pursue a career in special education. …

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