Special education teachers play an important role in ensuring every child receives a high-quality education. Although they typically work with a smaller segment of the student body population, their impact can be felt across many classrooms.
A special education teacher works with students who have special needs or developmental disabilities. This specialized teacher may work in public schools or private schools, as well as in an elementary school, middle school or high school. Many special ed teachers provide support at resource centers and teach in online schools.
While some teach in their own classrooms, other special education teachers assist in general ed classrooms. Some special education teachers also specialize in working with certain students, such as those who have speech delays, hearing disorders or physical disabilities.
If you’re considering becoming a special education teacher in Texas, one of your first questions is likely how you can get certified to teach. Here’s what your journey may look like according to the state’s requirements for certification.
To acquire a teaching certificate in Texas, you must have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution with a minimum GPA of 2.5. The GPA requirement can apply to the overall GPA posted on your transcript or over the last 60 semester hours of your college coursework to become a teacher in Texas.
Through your coursework at a college or university, you will take the appropriate classes and complete the required testing to earn your education degree.
However, it’s important to note that your degree does NOT have to be in education in order to be a teacher in Texas. If your bachelor’s degree is NOT in special education, you will need to enroll in an educator preparation program (EPP).
Educator preparation programs provide the training necessary to help you acquire the skills that you need to become a teacher in Texas. You must enroll in an EPP that has been approved by the state.
Online Texas teacher alternative certification programs are steadily rising in popularity and are a great option for those who have graduated from college but did not go through university education degree programs. In fact, 49% of all new teachers in Texas are prepared through alternative certification programs.
To be eligible for an educator preparation program, Texas Administrative Code says you must:
Education preparation programs can vary in how they are offered. Some may promote 100% online instruction, which can be a great option for those with tight schedules. Online programs offer flexibility and better course availability, while in-person programs offer the benefit of building professional relationships and hands-on training.
For many, the best educator preparation programs offer a combination of both in-person and online training. This option offers you the flexibility you need while providing the hands-on training that will make you a more well-rounded teacher.
If your path takes you on the EPP route, once you enroll, you will need to complete all required training. Here is a more detailed look at what your training includes:
It’s important to note that the 30 hours of observation by a teacher advisor is a very important part of your certification process. These certified teachers send a recommendation to your credential program that you are ready or not ready to teach in the classroom.
Here is where the program you choose makes a difference. ECAP has former principals, vice principals and teachers who have extensive experience to help you through this process. Not all programs do this. Some simply send past teachers who are ex-students of their program to evaluate you, so it is important to contact the program you are considering to ensure that you are going to get the best advisor to help you.
To become a certified special education teacher in Texas, you must pass a series of certification exams. These tests are aimed at determining whether you possess the necessary knowledge and skills to teach students with special needs and disabilities. They vary based on grade level and subject area.
You must first take a certification exam to get your intern certificate. You’ll take a content exam that relates to your special education teacher goals. The TExES content exams are available in more than 60 specialties, which you can explore in our article, List of Texas Teacher Certification Tests: What You Must Take To Teach.
It’s important to note as well that you are not limited to one content exam, or single subject teaching credential. You may take more than one if your goal is to get a multiple subject teaching credential. Other content exams can help you become a well-rounded teacher. Examples of additional content exams you may want to consider include American Sign Language or Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments.
Here is how the process of taking your content exams works at ECAP. We ask our interns to immediately take a practice content test to establish a baseline of where your knowledge base is at. This way each intern will have a good understanding of their current knowledge level in each subject area and know which areas they need further training in.
Then, we strongly encourage each intern to take 40 hours of online training before they take the actual exam. While the content test currently has a passing score of 240, we instruct our candidates to aim for a score of 270. Once you score a 270, ECAP will give you permission to take your content exams. Hitting a score of 270 gives you a buffer zone for your final content exam test. Just hitting the 240 score leaves you no room for error.
You may also need to take the Science of Teaching Reading. This teaching reading exam is required if you plan to get certified in one of the following areas:
Finally, you must take the PPR as well. The PPR, or Texas Examinations of Educator Standards Pedagogy and Professional Responsibilities, “is designed to assess whether as test taker has the requisite knowledge and skills that an entry-level educator in this field in Texas public schools must possess,” according to the TEA.
The Texas State Board of Education has weighed removing the PPR from the state’s list of requirements and replacing it with another exam. In fact, the state recently tried to replace the PPR with a new requirement called the edTPA, but the initiative failed after it was determined the new requirement wouldn’t help solve the state’s teacher shortage.
No one is certain what future testing requirements are in the pipeline, so if you’re considering earning your teacher certification, NOW is the time to act while current certification requirements remain in place. If you wait until as soon as the 2023-24 school year to begin your program, you may face more difficult barriers to earning certification.
No matter which path you take toward certification - university or through an educator preparation program - the final step is to apply for a Texas teaching certificate.
To apply, you must set up a Texas Education Agency Login (TEAL) account, which will give you access to your profile located in the Educator Certification Online System (ECOS). Make sure you use the first and last name that matches your Texas driver’s license or state identification.
You’ll also need to complete a fingerprinting process as part of a national criminal background check. Applicants must submit fingerprints electronically by using an approved vendor.
Even after you earn your certification, keep note of any professional development classes you must take to renew your certificate. You must renew your standard Texas teacher certification every five years.
Renewal requirements include:
Continuing education material should be related to your certification being renewed or the services that you provide.
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Topics: Becoming A Teacher
Scott is the Deputy Executive Director and Program Consultant. Scott earned a Bachelor of Science in Human Biology from Texas Woman's University and a Master of Education from Texas Woman's University. Scott has extensive experience in both the classroom and as an administrator in districts in North Texas.