University of Idaho - I Banner
A student works at a computer

VandalStar

U of I's web-based retention and advising tool provides an efficient way to guide and support students on their road to graduation. Login to VandalStar.

Contact

Department of Curriculum and Instruction

Mailing Address:
College of Education, Health and Human Sciences
University of Idaho
875 Perimeter Drive
Moscow, Idaho 83844-3082

Phone: 208-885-6587

Fax: 208-885-1071

Email: teached@uidaho.edu

Map

Overview of Program

The coursework and practicum in the program will help prepare or further your knowledge of working with students with special needs. The main program focus is on mild to moderate disabilities and includes an emphasis on learning disabilities, mental conditions or other disabling conditions that require special equipment, materials and teaching procedures.

Special education teachers design and teach appropriate curricula and assign work geared toward each student’s needs and abilities. This includes behavioral, social, and academic development as well as preparing special education students for daily life beyond school also is an important aspect of the job.

A degree in special education prepares you for a rewarding career providing services to those with special needs or training others to work with students with special needs.

Paraeducators provide essential support to students with disabilities in special education settings and inclusive classrooms across the United States. The most recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) indicate there were 883,071 instructional aids (i.e., paraeducators) in the United States. (NCES, 2021). Compared to teachers, the need for paraeducators is growing at an even faster rate. Since 2000, the annual growth rate for teachers is 0.46% compared to 1.98% for paraeducators (NCES, 2021). Preparing current paraeducators to become special education teachers could help address the special education teacher shortage. Paraeducators may be an especially good fit because:

  • Strong Community Connections: Many paraeducators have strong connections to the community in which they serve. These connections are especially important for to racially, linguistically, and ethnically diverse communities, as paraeducators across the United States are more racially and ethnically diverse than the teacher workforce (Bisht et al., 2021; Morrison & Lightner 2017)

  • Knowledge of Special Education: Through their work in schools, paraeducators also have first-hand understanding of school policy and procedures. As limited previous experiences in schools are associated with levels of special education teacher attrition (Billingsley & Bettini, 2019), paraeducators are especially well-suited for the transition to service as the teacher of record. 

  • Career Interests and Job Benefits: Connally et al. (2017) described why paraeducators, especially those from culturally diverse backgrounds, may want to make the transition to become certified special education teachers. Primary reasons include enjoyment of working with children and youth, monetary benefits, and career status. 
    Unfortunately, paraeducators face a variety of barriers in obtaining teacher certification, including a lack of specific academic credentials required to teach, licensure and student teaching rules, difficulty getting reliable information, low pay (students regularly work multiple jobs), and high tuition costs (Connally et al., 2017). The University of Idaho recently received federal funding (OSEP 325k) to develop Idaho’s Model Paraeducators Advancing to Certified Teacher (IMPACT). More information about the program can be found here, or by contacting Andrew Scheef.

References

Billingsley, B., & Bettini, E. (2019). Special education teacher attrition and retention: A review of the literature. Review of Educational Research, 89(5), 697-744.
Bisht, B., LeClair, Z., Loeb, S., & Sun, M. (2021). Paraeducators: Growth, Diversity and a Dearth of Professional Supports. EdWorkingPaper No. 21-490. Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University.
Connally, K., Garcia, A., Cook, S., & Williams, C. P. (2017). Teacher talent untapped: Multilingual paraprofessionals speak about the barriers to entering the profession. New America. https://na-production.s3.amazonaws.com/documents/Teacher-Talent-Untapped.pdf
Morrison, J., & Lightner, L. (2017). Putting paraeducators on the path to teacher certification. Phi Delta Kappan, 98(8), 43-47.
National Center for Education Statistics. (2021). Digest of education statistics. https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d21/tables/dt21_213.10.asp

 

Contact

Department of Curriculum and Instruction

Mailing Address:
College of Education, Health and Human Sciences
University of Idaho
875 Perimeter Drive
Moscow, Idaho 83844-3082

Phone: 208-885-6587

Fax: 208-885-1071

Email: teached@uidaho.edu

Map