Do you want to become a special education teacher in California? Special education requirements for teacher preparation are rigorous. But your efforts will be rewarded. Educators have tremendous job opportunities in the Golden State. Take the first step towards a fulfilling career by reviewing this guide to becoming a special education teacher.
What are the special education requirements for teachers in California?
Educators must earn a two-level certification to teach special education. It’s called the Education Specialist Instruction Credential. With the credential, you can provide Special Education Support in a variety of environments, including special education and general education settings.
Credential holders are authorized to:
- Conduct educational assessments that evaluate students’ ability to access the academic core curriculum and their progress towards meeting instructional academic goals.
- Provide instruction and special education support to students in a specific area of specialization, such as Mild/Moderate Disabilities.
The two levels of the credential are preliminary and clear. Let’s explore how to obtain each.
What are the special education requirements for the preliminary credential?
Preliminary is the first level of the Education Specialist Instruction Credential. The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CCTC) issues preliminary credentials to educators who have satisfied the basic credential requirements.
There are three pathways to obtain the preliminary credential:
- College or university preparation program
- College or university intern program
- Public school district intern program
This article focuses on the requirements of the college or university pathway, which CCTC considers the traditional route.Requirement #1: Obtain a baccalaureate degree or higher from a regionally accredited college or university.
The first step towards earning the preliminary credential is to obtain a bachelor’s degree or higher. However, graduate degrees in professional education, such as a doctor of education, do not satisfy the requirement. Ensure that the educational institution holds regional accreditation. In California, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) is the regional accreditation authority.Requirement #2: Demonstrate basic skills proficiency.
In this step, you will demonstrate your proficiency in English and math. You have six options for meeting the basic skills requirement:
- Pass the California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST).
- Pass the California Subject Examinations for Teachers (CSET).
- Pass the California State University Early Assessment Program or the California State University Placement Examinations.
- Achieve a qualifying score on the SAT (Math – 550 and English – 500) or ACT (Math – 23 and English – 22).
- Achieve a score of 3 or above on the AP English Exam and AP Calculus or AP Statistics Exam.
- Pass a basic skills examination from another state.
You must complete the requirement before student teaching or interning, although you may need to complete it sooner. The sixth requirement of the preliminary credential is to finish an Education Specialist Instruction preparation program. Some programs require evidence of basic skills proficiency for admission. For example, the University of Redlands offers an online Master of Arts in Learning and Teaching (MALT) with a Preliminary Education Specialist Credential. Program applicants must verify that they have satisfied the basic skills requirement through one of several methods.Requirement #3: Demonstrate subject-matter competence.
California’s special education requirements also call for teachers to demonstrate proficiency in the core academic subject areas. To satisfy this requirement, you have two options:
- Pass the CSET Multiple Subject or Single Subject Examination.
- Complete a CCTC-approved subject-matter program and obtain a certificate of completion.
Like the basic skills requirement, the subject-matter competence requirement may be needed for admission to an Education Specialist Instruction preparation program. Individuals who apply to the University of Redlands online MALT can prove subject-matter competence by completing a waiver program or passing the CSET.Requirement #4: Pass the Reading Instruction Competence Assessment (RICA).
The RICA assesses knowledge of effective reading instruction and the ability to apply it. You are exempt from this requirement if you plan to pursue the Education Specialist specialty area of Early Childhood Special Education. Also, the RICA is not required if you obtained a California teaching credential by earning a bachelor’s degree and completing a teacher preparation program with student teaching.Requirement #5: Complete a course or pass an exam on the U.S. Constitution.
If you graduated from high school in California, you have likely satisfied this requirement. That is because California high school students must take one semester of American government and civics.
You can also take a course (two semester units or three quarter units) or pass an exam from a regionally accredited college or university in the provisions and principles of the U.S. Constitution.Requirement #6: Complete an approved Education Specialist Instruction program in an education specialist specialty area.
The final special education requirement for the preliminary credential is crucial. By completing a special education teacher preparation program, you will develop the knowledge and skills to effectively meet the needs of general education and special education students.
Preparation programs provide an emphasis in at least one area of specialization:
- Mild/Moderate Disabilities
- Moderate/Severe Disabilities
- Deaf and Hard of Hearing
- Visual Impairments
- Physical and Health Impairments
- Early Childhood Special Education
Remember, the preliminary credential will authorize you to work only in the specialty area(s) listed on the credential. Therefore, it is vital to consider your intended specialty area as you weigh your program options. Most preparation programs do not offer training in all of the specialty areas.
To find approved programs, consult the CCTC database. As of June 2019, the CCTC has approved 55 institutions to offer Preliminary Education Specialist Instruction preparation programs. The University of Redlands online MALT is one option. It prepares K-12 educators to teach students with mild to moderate disabilities in public or private K-12 settings. It is also one of the only approved programs to integrate a master’s degree with the Preliminary Education Specialist Instruction Credential. Through an innovative and interdisciplinary curriculum, candidates broaden their understanding of education theory while building competencies through hands-on practice.
The length of special education teacher preparation programs varies. Candidates in the University of Redlands program can earn a master’s degree as well as the preliminary credential in as few as 18 months.
What are the requirements for the clear credential?
Once you’ve obtained the Preliminary Education Specialist Instruction Credential, you’re ready to pursue the second level, called the clear credential. You will complete the requirements through a CCTC-approved teacher induction program. Visit the CCTC database to search for colleges, universities, and school districts that offer teacher induction programs.Requirement #1: Receive your Individual Learning Plan (ILP).
The preparation program you completed for the preliminary credential will outline your strengths and areas for improvement. You will use this information to develop an ILP in collaboration with your employer and teacher induction program sponsor. The ILP will outline the extended preparation and professional development you need to upgrade to the clear credential.Requirement #2: Complete the ILP requirements.
You will satisfy your ILP requirements according to the roadmap laid out in the ILP. You have the full term of your preliminary credential (five years) to complete the requirements.Requirement #3: Obtain a formal recommendation.
Once you’ve satisfied your ILP requirements, you’ll need to obtain the formal recommendation for the clear credential from your teacher induction program sponsor.
What questions do you have?
The special education requirements for teachers in California are complex. But if you have questions, we can assist. Fill out the form on this page to connect with a University of Redlands Online Enrollment Counselor.
We can also help you learn more about the University of Redlands online MALT with an Education Specialist Credential. This innovative program will equip you with a master’s degree while preparing you to satisfy the requirements for the preliminary credential.