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What Your Special Education Teacher Training Should Include

Micah Fikes
Micah Fikes on December 28, 2020

Special education is one of the most in-demand teaching jobs in Texas. Pursuing a career as a special education teacher allows you to fill a critical need in the education system while making a difference in students’ lives. 

Finding the right special education teacher training program is key to being prepared for this challenging yet fulfilling career. 

Special education teachers work with students who may have one or more disabilities, whether they are emotional, physical, mental or learning disabilities.

For many aspiring special education teachers, enrolling in an Educator Preparation Program (EPP) like an alternative teacher certification program is an attractive option for those whose career goals are changing, who already have a bachelor’s degree and who want the flexibility that allows them to complete coursework around their schedules.

But what should your teacher training include? Below we’ll go over what the state of Texas required, as well as other important considerations when choosing a teacher preparation program on your journey toward becoming a special education teacher.


Minimum Training Hours


special education teacher trainingNo matter which teacher training program you choose, it must meet the minimum required of training hours set forth by the Texas Education Agency (TEA).

In the state of Texas, you are required to complete a minimum of 300 hours of training to receive a standard teaching certificate. Of these 300 hours, 30 must be dedicated to observation of a certified teacher in a classroom environment (also known as student teaching).

These 300 hours are designed to prepare you for working in the classroom, as well as fine tune your skills once you are in the classroom. Your program should also pair you with an in-field advisor who should guide you through your first year of teaching special education. 

Training Tailored Toward Special Education


A special education teacher is responsible for creating a flexible program and learning environment that provides specialized instruction for students with disabilities. The training you receive to become a special education teacher should include a curriculum that will help you teach different kinds of learners. 

This includes:

  • Lesson planning
  • Behavior management
  • Tools to create connections with special education students
  • Teaching to your strength
  • An overview of special education
  • Reading in special education
  • Content training for special education

Special education teacher training should also include a focus on understanding IEP and ARD. These are two terms you will frequently hear as a special education teacher. 

An IEP, or Individualized Education Program, is a written document that each public school child has if that child is eligible for special education. The IEP contains information unique to a student’s educational needs and includes content such as current educational performance, measurable goals and what services a child will receive. 

ARD stands for Admission, Review and Dismissal committee. In Texas, you will be a part of this committee that develops an individual student’s IEP. 

Other Areas Training Should Include


special education teacher trainingA comprehensive special education teacher training program will also go beyond curriculum to ensure you have met all the requirements for becoming a teacher in Texas.

For example, a special education teacher training program should also help you manage your timeline. This is important because over the course of the past year, there have been several changes to testing timelines. 

As part of the state’s certification requirements, you will need to take your TExES content exams. It is best to work with your program to ensure you are taking the right content exams. For special education, that means taking the TExES Special Education EC-12 exam, which assesses a candidate’s understanding and ability to work with students in need of special attention.

You will also need to pass the PPR, or Texas Examinations of Educator Standards Pedagogy and Professional Responsibilities. This exam assesses whether you have the requisite knowledge and skills that an entry-level educator should possess. 

The best teacher training programs will help you prepare for these as part of the curriculum and ensure your timeline for taking these exams will not cause any delays to earning your certification. 


A Full Circle Approach


To ensure your program fulfills the training components outlined above in a comprehensive and supportive manner, look for one that practices a full circle approach

Your special education teacher training should focus on three components: training, testing and teaching. All three are essential for success, and at ECAP, all individuals enrolled work on these components simultaneously. 

In one school year, a teaching intern will need to complete 300 hours of training, a pedagogy exam and teaching experience. A full circle design allows interns to complete a program more quickly by working on these components simultaneously.

Understanding this process and what is required of you to earn your teaching certification in special education can feel at times overwhelming. The best training programs will work with you side by side to make sure you stay on the right track of reaching your teaching goals and to ensure you are ready to become a leader in the classroom.

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Written by Micah Fikes

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.