Ensuring Excellence in the Preparation of Special Educators through Program Evaluation
Wilcox, Daryl J., Putnam, John, Wigle, Stanley E., Education
The inclusion movement across America requires an increase in the academic expectations of all students (IDEA, 1997). Students with exceptionalities will not be able to meet these increased expectations unless their teachers are knowledgeable about the appropriate academic content related to these expectations and can deliver it appropriately to individual exceptional students (Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), 1998). The quality of educational services for students with exceptionalities depends upon the abilities, qualifications and competencies of the educators who provide services to such individuals (CEC, 1983). One implication of this relationship between student success and teacher competence is that the quality of university programs that prepare K-12 teachers has to be as good as it can be.
The quality of teacher-preparation programs within institutions of higher education is examined by various accrediting agencies. Procedures by which institutions of higher education may be nationally accredited generally require those institutions to undergo a rigorous self-study (NCATE, 2001). If an institution wishes its program of preparation for special educators to be accredited through the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), its self-study must be based upon the accreditation standards adopted by CEE (CEE, 1998).
The program evaluation standards adopted by CEC have significant potential to strengthen the preparation of special educators. The purpose of this article is to report on how one aspect of the CEC standards (the requirement that institutions preparing special educators engage in follow-up studies of their graduates) can provide insight into the strengths and weaknesses of any given teacher preparation program in order to ensure the excellence of that program.
The Department of Special Education at small mid-western college conducted a follow-up study of the graduates of the bachelors program that was implemented in the fall of 1993. The special education program at Mid-West State provides a degree and a licensure endorsement in Mild/Moderate Handicapped, K-12 in accordance with the standards of its State Department of Education. In order to collect follow-up data, the graduates of the teacher preparation program at Mid-West State were identified by using: 1) state directories of educators; 2) placement files from the college; 3) the college alumni directory; and 4) advisement folders. Sixty-eight graduates were identified, however, 10 could not be found in any of the above sources and five were not teaching. The final mailing list of 53 program graduates comprised 78% of the students who majored in Special Education at Mid-West State and who started their program of study in fall, 1993.
The administrator with whom each graduate presently works was also identified. Some of the graduates worked under more than one administrator, e.g., more than one building, service unit, or consolidated rural school. A mailing list of all the administrators for whom the graduates in this study presently work was compiled.
Survey Form Construction
A survey form was constructed based on the CEC Common Core of Knowledge and Skills Essential for All Beginning Special Education Teachers section of the accreditation guidebook (CEC, 1998). The survey form was composed of two main parts. Part 1 asked the special educators in this study to rate the level of responsibility they have in their current position for each of the CEC Standards. The form directed the respondents to mark "4" to indicate they have 100-75% of the responsibility for a given item, "3" to indicate that they have 75-50% of the responsibility, "2" to indicate that they have 50 - 25% of the responsibility, and "1" to indicate that they have 24-0% of the responsibility for a given item.
Part 2 of the survey form directed the respondent to rate the level of preparation for each standard s/he believed to have received from the Mid-West State program for special educators. …