The mission of the Department of Special Education is to prepare highly effective practitioners whose work is grounded in current research, theory and evidence-based practice. This is accomplished through close faculty mentorship, rigorous coursework and supervised fieldwork. Candidates develop professional skills and dispositions to effect positive change for students with specialized learning needs.
Program outcomes for Special Education major
The candidate will:
- Understand the field as an evolving and changing discipline grounded in evidence-based principles and theories, relevant laws and policies, and human issues that influence the education of individuals with exceptional needs, both in school and society
- Demonstrate respect for individuals with exceptional needs as unique human beings
- Understand how exceptional conditions interact with the domains of human development and use this knowledge to respond to the varying abilities and behaviors of individuals with exceptional learning needs
- Be active in seeking to understand primary language, culture and familial backgrounds that interact with the individual's exceptional condition
- Use multiple types of assessment information and understand the legal policies and ethical principles of measurement and assessment
- Collaborate with families, other educators, related service providers and personnel from community agencies in culturally responsive ways
The Special Education major is a distinctive program grounded in evidence-based theory and practice. Formal study examines individuals with exceptional learning needs from multi-dimensional perspectives: cognitive, academic and social learning, language, communication, behavior and attention. Applications occur in varied settings and contexts: schools, the community and at home, across the lifespan. Concepts of social justice, current law and policies, and growth and development underlie coursework.
Outcomes for Special Education teacher licensure
The candidate will:
- Develop long-range individualized instructional plans and carefully sequenced shorter-range goals and objectives that emphasize explicit modeling and efficient guided practice
- Modify instructional plans based on analysis of the individual's learning progress, and facilitate instructional planning in a collaborative context
- Possess a repertoire of evidence-based instructional strategies to individualize instruction for students with exceptional learning needs, and promote positive learning results in general and special curricula
- Modify or shape learning environments to encourage independence and create a safe, equitable, positive and supportive learning environment in which diversities are valued
- Enhance language development and teach communication skills using augmentative, alternative and assistive technologies
The Special Education teacher licensure program prepares candidates to teach children with disabilities. Candidates who seek initial licensure in Special Education will major in Special Education. This plan of study allows the candidate to teach students with disabilities in grades K through 12, after passing the Praxis Subject Assessment in Special Education and the Foundations of Reading examination. The program features a carefully sequenced plan of field-based experiences, ranging from focused observations to supervised assessments, culminating in student teaching.
Prospective candidates work closely with University advisement staff to apply to the School of Education, including the successful completion of the Praxis Core assessment requirement by the fall of the sophomore year. Candidates may also qualify for a waiver based on SAT/ACT scores. As required by the Connecticut State Department of Education, candidates may only complete two professional Education courses before acceptance into the teacher licensure program.
The state Department of Education regulates initial licensure requirements. The University recommends candidates for initial licensure. The state Department of Education is responsible for the awarding of cross-endorsements in a second teaching field, beyond the initial license.
These must be completed by April 1 of sophomore year
- Sophomore standing
- Sealed official transcript(s) of all undergraduate work
- A minimum cumulative GPA of 2.67
- Declaration of the Special Education major
- Evidence of successful completion of the Praxis Core test. Candidates are eligible for a waiver of the Praxis Core test with a combined score of 1,000 or more on the SAT, if neither the math nor the verbal subtest scores were below 400 points from any test by March 31, 1995; or a combined score of 1,100 or more, with no less than 450 on the math or verbal subtest from tests April 1, 1995 or after
- Two letters of recommendation from individuals who can attest to the candidate's suitability as a prospective teacher. Recommendations must be obtained from individuals who are not family members or personal friends, or members of the USJ School of Education
- A well-written essay that describes reasons for wanting to enroll in the program and emphasizes experiences relevant to teaching. The essay should highlight people, places and experiences with children and adolescents who have affected this decision.
- A successful interview with an Education faculty team
- A planned B.S. degree and licensure program developed with a Special Education faculty member who advises both the major and licensure. The program is forwarded to the licensure officer for approval.
By April 1 of sophomore year, the candidate will complete and file a declaration for the Special Education major with the faculty advisor in the Special Education department. The declaration status of a transfer candidate will be determined when meeting with the University advisement office. After being admitted to the teacher licensure program, the candidate will maintain no less than a 2.67 cumulative GPA and earn no less than a C+ in Special Education and Education courses, and required General Education courses.
Candidates in the Special Education major with teacher licensure complete a carefully designed sequence of coursework before student teaching. These experiences include opportunities to interact and instruct students with and without disabilities in the general education classroom and in specialized settings, beginning sophomore year and continuing through junior year. A coordinating seminar in the final semester is a capstone course for the major.
During sophomore year, candidates are introduced to programs and services for children and youth with a range of abilities and disabilities, in a variety of settings - at school, home and the community. Field assignments acquaint candidates with the needs of students who may require specialized instruction in academic or non-academic areas and the programs that serve them.
In junior year, candidates participate in intensive, supervised clinical experiences in educational assessment and research-based interventions. Junior year courses prepare candidates to meet the rigors of student teaching, with a focus on: the development and implementation of Individual Education Plans, co-teaching and differentiation in the general education classroom, and positive behavior support. These experiences are applied to students with a range of disabilities, including learning disabilities, intellectual disabilities, social/emotional disabilities, attention disorders and autism spectrum disorders.
In senior year, candidates are placed in public schools for a 10-week, full-time student teaching experience in Special Education. Candidates will also be placed in a general education classroom for a field experience. For most candidates, placements in both the special and general education classroom are in the same building.
During the second semester of senior year, candidates enroll in SPEC 499 - Coordinating Seminar . This course is a culminating experience in which candidates synthesize the knowledge and skills they have acquired throughout the program, connecting theory and practice as they prepare to enter Special Education. As part of this seminar, candidates complete education evaluations of students in an on-site assessment clinic under the direct supervision and mentorship of Special Education faculty.
Required Supporting coursework (9 credits)
In addition to the nine credits of required supporting courses, Special Education students are required to complete the Univerisity's General Education Requirements - Undergraduate . The General Education courses should be selected in conjuction with Academic Advising or faculty advisor to ensure that the student can meet all degree requirements as well as licensure requirements in a timely fashion.
Required courses (60 credits)
Throughout the teacher licensure sequence, the Department of Special Education reserves the right to recommend withdrawal of candidates who fail to show ability to meet pre-professional expectations and dispositions. For candidates who demonstrate difficulty, an improvement plan will be developed and progress towards goals will be monitored. A list of expected academic skills and professional dispositions include:
- Well-elaborated knowledge base
- Well-developed critical thinking skills
- Effective communication and interpersonal skills with peers, instructors and professionals in the field
- Commitment to the mission of the Special Education department
- Achievement of grades of C+ or better in all EDUC, SPEC, and general education courses
- Continued minimum cumulative GPA of 2.67
- Achievement of a grade of B or better in the Tuesday Experience, EDUC 370 - The Language Arts
Requirements for application to Student Teach
Only candidates who have been accepted into the Teacher Licensure Program are eligible to apply for student teaching. An application to student teach from the Office of Student Teaching and Clinical Experiences must be submitted by February 1 for fall placements and September 15 for spring placements.
- All application documents may be found on the School of Education, Student Teaching website. Candidates are advised to maintain a folder of important documents. These include:
- A copy of the letter of acceptance into the Teacher Licensure program
- A copy of the Major and Teacher Licensure Planned Program
- An unofficial transcript with most recent semester's grades
- A typed Student Information Form
- A typed autobiographical essay
- A typed Field Experience form
- A copy of Praxis II and Foundations of Reading exam registration confirmation showing that the required licensure exams will be taken before student teaching begins. Passing grades on all exams are required for licensure application.
- Proof of fingerprinting at a regional educational service center (CREC, EASTCONN, ACES, etc.)
- Candidates must successfully complete the USJ Writing Portfolio prior to student teaching
- Candidates must resolve all alert forms prior to student teaching
- Candidates may not take any other courses while student teaching
Candidates will provide the Licensure Office with copies of Praxis II and FOR score reports before a recommendation is made to the state Department of Education for initial special education teacher licensure. Candidates seeking cross-endorsement in elementary education must submit successful results in all required elementary tests. The state Department of Education has the sole authority to issue cross-endorsements.
Comprehensive exam for Special Education major
All students must pass a comprehensive exam to be awarded a Bachelor of Science degree in Special Education. The exam is given during January break of the senior year and involves the completion of two case studies. The comprehensive exam requires candidates to analyze, synthesize and interpret student performance data from multiple sources. The candidate must demonstrate the ability to integrate the data with theory and research to formulate conclusions and propose actions.
Exit from Teacher Licensure Program
Once a candidate has met all the requirements of a state-approved teacher preparation program for initial certification, she is a "Licensure Program Completer." Program completers include all those who are documented as having met the requirements. Documentation may take the form of a degree, institutional certificate, program credential, transcript or other written proof of having met the program's requirements. In applying this definition, the fact that an individual has or has not been recommended to the state for initial certification or licensure may not be used as a criterion for determining who is a program completer.
To be recommended to the state Department of Education for licensure in Special Education, candidates must:
- Complete all program requirements for the major and for licensure, including the state education department's requirements for coursework and student teaching
- Fulfill general education requirements and content with no grade lower than a C+
- Complete a successful student teaching experience with a grade of B or better
- Submit successful Praxis II test in Special Education 0543, and the Foundations of Reading Examination 090
- Show evidence of appropriate educator dispositions as defined by the School of Education Conceptual Framework and Student Teaching Evaluation Criteria
- Submit application for a teaching license to teacher licensure officer
After completing entrance requirements, the prescribed programs and exit requirements, candidates will be recommended to the state education department for initial licensure in special education.
For the state to issue a cross-endorsement in elementary education, candidates must complete the requirements above, successfully complete cross endorsement courses, and submit successful Praxis II tests in Elementary Education, 5031, Multiple Subjects Subtests.
Other opportunities in Special Education
The School of Education benefits from two laboratory schools. The Gengras Center, an on campus school for students with significant disabilities, and the School for Young Children, an early childhood school nearby, offer opportunities for on-site observations, field work, practicum, internships and course-related applications.
Kappa Delta Pi Honor Society
Kappa Delta Pi International Honor Society in Education has been active at USJ since 2009. The society has a long-standing commitment to "recognizing excellence and fostering mutual cooperative, support, and professional growth for educational professionals." Letters of invitation are sent in February to students eligible for membership informing them of a March orientation meeting and an initiation ceremony in the spring.
The School of Education has partnerships with several school districts and agencies, which provide candidates the opportunity to interact with K-12 students under faculty supervision. Longstanding partnerships include: Bloomfield School District, Connecticut Department of Children and Family Services, West Hartford Schools, and East Hartford Schools. Candidates are provided authentic opportunities to assess, teach and collaborate with others.