If you have a special place in your heart for working with students who have disabilities, developmental delays or other unique needs, becoming a special education teacher could be the perfect career for you.
To pursue and maintain this career in Texas, you must meet special education teacher requirements. These requirements begin with earning a teaching license and include ongoing training to maintain your certification.
Enroll In An Educator Preparation Program
If you don’t take the traditional university route and earn a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree in education, you will need to enroll in an educator preparation program to earn your certification.
You wouldn’t be alone. Also known as an alternative teaching certification program, educator preparation programs are responsible for nearly 50% of new teachers in the state.
Earn a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university
Have a minimum 2.5 GPA on an official transcript or in the last 60 semester hours of courses completed
Be at least in the final semester of your bachelor’s degree program in which you need to provide a copy of your final semester schedule of classes, a letter from an academic advisor indicating you are eligible for graduation and an official transcript through the previous semester.
Complete Your Special Education Teacher Training
After you’re enrolled in an EPP, the required training will consist of courses either online or in-person, or a combination of both. You will also complete field experience. Here is a more detailed look of what your training includes:
A minimum of 300 hours of training to receive a standard teaching certificate
Of these 300 hours of training, 30 must be dedicated to observation by a teacher advisor or in a classroom environment
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.
Pass Your Certification Exams
All student interns must take and pass at least one content exam in the subject area you want to teach. The TExES content exams are available in more than 60 specialties and are generally broken down by subject or grade level. You can explore the different exams in our article, List of Texas Teacher Certification Tests: What You Must Take To Teach. If your goal is to become a special education teacher, you should take the Special Education (Grades EC-12) content exam.
However, you are not limited to one content exam. You may take more than one if your goal is to get a multiple subject teaching credential. Other content exams that may complement the Special Education content exam include American Sign Language or Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments.
Keep in mind that the school districts you work for may have different certification requirements as far as the content exams you take. This is where the educator preparation program you choose is important. Working with an EPP that is familiar with the different requirements of public schools and private schools will help ensure you take the correct content exams that match your teaching goals.
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.
There are additional certification exams you may or will need to pass as well. These include:
The PPR, or Texas Examinations of Educator Standards Pedagogy and Professional Responsibilities (everyone must take this)
There may be some changes to certification exam requirements on the horizon that’s important for all prospective interns to know about. The Texas State Board of Education tried to replace the PPR with a new requirement called the edTPA, a more strenuous exam that would have made it more difficult and costly to become a teacher. The board ultimately rejected this testing requirement, but it’s important to know that there could be additional testing changes in the pipeline.
If you are considering becoming a special education teacher, NOW is the time to act while current certification requirements remain. Just waiting another year or two may result in more difficult barriers to earning certification.
Finish Other Certification Steps
In addition to training and testing, prospective teachers must also submit a state application for your standard certificate and complete any fingerprinting and background checks required.
It’s also important that you establish an account with the Texas Education Agency (TEA), which oversees primary and public secondary public education. You must set up a TEA Login (TEAL) account to do this. This will give you access to your profile located in the Educator Certification Online System (ECOS). Use the first and last name that matches your Texas driver’s license or state identification.
The TEAL online portal will also be helpful down the road when you need to access any certification information. You can read more about how to access this part of the site in our article, Texas Teacher Certification Lookup Directions.
Maintain Ongoing Certification Requirements
Once you earn your certification, teaching credential requirements state that you must maintain this certification in order to continue working with special education students. You must renew your standard Texas teacher certification every five years.
Renewal requirements include:
Completing 150 continuing professional education (CPE) hours (200 if you hold an administrative or student services certificate)
Providing documentation that you have completed each CPE activity
Completing a renewal application
Continuing education activities should be related to your special education certification being renewed or the special education services that you provide. Topics or subject areas may include skills, professional ethics and standards of conduct. Examples of CPE activities include:
Professional development activities like workshops, conferences and in-service or staff development sessions given by an approved registered provider
Undergraduate and graduate coursework through an accredited institution of higher education (1 semester credit hour is equivalent to 15 CPE clock hours)
Independent study in content-area knowledge and skills, but not to exceed 20% of the required clock-hours
Developing, teaching or presenting CPE activities not to exceed 10% of the required clock hours
Providing professional guidance as a mentor to another educator, not to exceed 30% of the required clock hours
Our article, How To Renew Teaching Credential In Texas, further outlines the steps you must take to keep your certification valid and to keep you making a difference in the lives of children with special needs.
Micah is the Director of Curriculum & Technology. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in British Literature, from the University of North Texas and a Master of Arts in Teaching, from Louisiana College. In his previous career, Micah served for 14 years as a banker and bank manager. For the majority of this period, Micah managed the Downtown Fort Worth location of Frost Bank.
In 2005, Micah finally surrendered to his true calling to be an educator. After a brief, but fulfilling term teaching high school English at Flower Mound High School in Lewisville ISD, Micah went to work for the family business, training teachers.
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