Many Connecticut Teachers Lack Proper Training, Special Education Advocates Say

By Sullo, Michelle Tuccitto | New Haven Register (New Haven, CT), November 11, 2013 | Go to article overview

Many Connecticut Teachers Lack Proper Training, Special Education Advocates Say


Sullo, Michelle Tuccitto, New Haven Register (New Haven, CT)


If students with disabilities are going to succeed in regular education classrooms, their instructors need to have the training and preparation to teach them.

Attorney David Shaw of Bloomfield, who represents the plaintiffs in the ongoing P.J. litigation, asserts many teachers aren't trained enough, and disabled students still aren't getting enough access to the curriculum.

"We are trying to teach them to be functioning adults and they need to learn to get along with their peers and future employers," Shaw said. "These kids can do amazing things. If you have low expectations, like you think they won't learn to read, then that is what happens."

While Shaw's primary focus is on intellectually disabled students, his concern has been echoed by experts in other disability areas too.

"Parents fought to get their kids included in regular education, then the problem was that the teachers didn't know how to teach them," Shaw said.

According to Shaw, in many cases, kids have been taught by a paraprofessional in the back of classes. Ideally, the regular education teacher should be teaching them, with support from special education teachers and paraprofessionals, he said.

The state Department of Education has identified a need for training too.

The department's Bureau of Special Education's Annual Performance Report, released in February, shows monitoring "specifically indicated a need for training in strategies like co-teaching and differentiated instruction."

Training was offered, such as on meeting the needs of all students in a co-taught classroom, and using different instruction strategies with students of varying levels, the report shows.

The report indicates that teacher training geared toward helping disabled students achieve academically continued through job- embedded, school level and district level professional development.

The State Education Resource Center and Education Department staff presented training opportunities in co-teaching, differentiated instruction and assistive technology, according to the report.

Molly Cole, director of the Connecticut Council on Developmental Disabilities, said teacher preparation still "falls short."

"I don't fault the teachers, but they need a better understanding of kids with disabilities," Cole said.

Teachers need to be more comfortable with using assistive technology, like tablets and adaptive equipment geared toward helping disabled students, she said.

There are various devices to help people with disabilities -- from computer programs that teach social skills to children with autism -- to a device that creates audio speech when the user types in sentences. …

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