Setting- and Meeting- Standards in Special Education

By Connor, Frances P. | Teaching Exceptional Children, May/June 1997 | Go to article overview

Setting- and Meeting- Standards in Special Education


Connor, Frances P., Teaching Exceptional Children


CRC has now clearly established itself in the leadership role envisioned by its founders 75 years standard setter for the special education profession.

The founders of The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) declared in 1922 that one of its primary purposes was to establish professional standards in the field of special education. This mission was a major step toward the development of special education into a profession. What led to our founding? What teacher preparation programs were already in existence? What developments in supportive legislation, preservice education, and professional standards have occurred in our 75-year history? How has CEC contributed? This article briefly outlines some of the advances in the field and provides some perspective on the future. Educational Opportunities for Teachers Students of special education need no introduction to the early efforts of de L'Epee, Braille, Itard, Pereire, Seguin, Montessori, Bell, Gallaudet, and Howe and their influence on educational programs for exceptional children (see box, "Resources"). In most instances, their followers-new teachers-learned their skills directly from their "masters." But other leaders initiated increasingly more formal instructions for teachers and potential teachers in the special classes and schools in which the children were taught.

In the late l9th century, educators and other professionals formed advocacy groups to improve the education and care of exceptional children. Some of these groups were the American Instructors of the Deaf (1849); the American Association of Instructors of the Blind (1871); the American Association on Mental Deficiency (1879); and the Alexander Graham Bell Association, devoted to oral education of the deaf (1890).

As special schools and classes expanded around the turn of the century, the need for teachers with specialized preparation grew. Those efforts were extended to school-based training programs, such as the "summer session" offerings at New Jersey's Vineland Training School, which included both preservice and inservice training of teachers of students with mental retardation. Penn State provided a summer session (1897) for teachers of "backward" children; the University of California (1918) initiated a program for the teachers of children who were blind; and a Department of Special Education was established at Miami University in Ohio (1919). Teachers College at Columbia University (1920), under Leta Hollingsworth, developed a program to prepare teachers of gifted children. In 1917, the U.S. Office of Education (USOE) published data and lists of resources dealing with exceptional children By 1929, USOE reported 43 training institutions offering special education courses.

In the spring 1925 issue of The Crippled Child, Michigan State Normal College advertised a 1-year course to prepare teachers of "crippled children," in an effort to counteract teacher shortages:

The course is divided into periods of twelve weeks each, during which time a thorough acquaintance is made with their problems... . Four units of college credits will be covered each term, and the student... will be entitled to one year of college credit. The program was weighted toward in-school experience. In 1949, a national study of opportunities in institutions of higher education (IHEs) for special education teacher preparation (a cooperative effort of USOE and the National Society for Crippled Children and Adults, Inc.) set forth criteria for the preparation programs. The following were the three required program components:

A study of the characteristics (physical, mental, and emotional) of the particular condition under consideration. A study of the teaching methods and curriculum adjustments needed.

Observation and student teaching practice in the specialized area. Mackie (see "Resources") identified 122 colleges or universities that in 1953-54 provided sequences of preparation in one or more areas of exceptionality. …

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