What Do the CEC Standards Mean to Me? Using the CEC Standards to Improve My Practice
Crutchfield, Margaret D., Teaching Exceptional Children
The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) is the world's leader in the development of standards for special education teachers. Hundreds of colleges and universities use these standards to develop their curricula and as a measure to assess their graduates' competence. Over half the states in the United States use the CEC standards as models for their state licensure frameworks (see boxes, "How Do the CEC Professional Standards Affect Teacher Preparation?" and "How Do the CEC Professional Standards Affect State Teacher Standards?"). But do these standards have any use or relevance for special education teachers working every day in classrooms?
The answer is a resounding Yes. Practicing special educators can use the CEC standards to help them maintain the knowledge and skills necessary to meet the needs of their students. Many teachers find the standards an excellent yardstick to assess their own competence and determine the best use of their professional development hours. Practitioners can also use the standards to evaluate their ability and proficiency as they contemplate a job change or a move to working with students with different kinds of disabilities.
The CEC standards can be a powerful tool for special educators to request and receive the professional development opportunities they need to update their current skills and learn new skills required for the challenges they face every day. School and district planners use the standards as the basis for helping teachers develop professional development programs ensuring that all teachers have the knowledge and skills they need to work successfully with students with disabilities.
Understanding the CEC Professional Standards
The CEC professional standards are composed of several different sets and kinds of standards that CEC has developed for different audiences and different purposes, as follows:
* The CEC Content standards are used by university teacher preparation programs seeking program approval through the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and CEC (see boxes, "How Do the CEC Professional Standards Affect Teacher Preparation?" and "How Do the CEC Professional Standards Affect State Teacher Standards?").
* The CEC Knowledge and Skill standards are individual sets of competencies that delineate the specific knowledge and skills that teachers need to work effectively with children with certain levels or types of disabilities. The Council developed Knowledge and Skill standards for categorical areas (e.g., learning disabilities, gifts or talents, visual impairments), for multicategorical areas (e.g., general curriculum referenced, independence curriculum referenced), for advanced roles (e.g., special education administration, educational diagnostician), and for paraeducators.
The Knowledge and Skill standards are the appropriate standards to use for teacher self-evaluation because they list specific competencies. An individual set of Knowledge and Skill standards will always include the CEC Common Core and a more specialized level of standards. The CEC Common Core represents the common body of knowledge and skills that all practicing special education teachers should have mastered. The specialized standards are called the Area of Specialization (AoS) standards. As stated previously, CEC has AoS standards for multicategorical frameworks, as well as standards for all categorical areas. All standards are available on the CEC Web site (http://www.cec.sped.org/ps/perf_based_stds/index.html).
Each specific set of standards is divided into the following 10 domain areas, which help cluster individual knowledge and skills into groups that are related to each other.
2. Development and Characteristics of Learners.
3. Individual Learning Differences.
4. Instructional Strategies.
5. Learning Environments and Social Interactions.