Becoming a Special Education Teacher in Tennessee

Jan 02, 2019

Special education teachers can work in individual classrooms or in inclusive classrooms. If you'd like to help students with disabilities learn, follow the instructions in this article.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics stated that there were over nine thousand special education teachers in Tennessee in 2017. Here, we'll take a look at the step-by-step requirements needed to become a licensed special education teacher in Tennessee.

Requirements for Special Education Teachers in Tennessee

Average Salary for Special Education Teachers in Tennessee (2017)* $44,390 (Preschool)
$50,050 (Elementary School)
$50,650 (Middle School)
$51,060 (Secondary School)
Required Degree Bachelor's Degree
Required Field Special Education 4
Testing Requirements* Core Academic Skills for Educators exams (Math, reading, and writing)
Praxis Principles of Learning and Teaching (PLT) exam
Special Education: Core Knowledge and Severe to Profound Applications (5545)
Teaching Reading: Elementary Education (5203)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Complete Your Education

For a special education teacher, it may come as no surprise that you'll want to study special education in your bachelor's degree program. A bachelor's degree in special education should also include the requirements to make it a DOE-approved education preparation program (EPP). You'll find that your EPP will include student teaching internships that equal at least 15 weeks. You'll need to spend time in two different classrooms discovering what works best for you and the students. There are several endorsements for special education available, so many colleges offer programs in interventionist special education or comprehensive special education. In your program, Tennessee requires that you keep a GPA of 2.5 throughout your studies. Some of those studies many include:

  • Teaching diverse learners
  • Instructional strategies for special education
  • Assistive technologies
  • Behavior management
  • Co-teaching in inclusive classrooms
  • Developmental assessments

Step 2: Complete Exam Requirements

As with other teaching licenses, there are several exams that must be taken and passed. The first exams you'll take is the series known as the Core Academic Skills for Educators assessment. These three tests look at math, reading, and writing basics. Most of these things will be learned in high school, and in some instances, a high enough SAT score could stand in place of this. You will need to pay close attention to each exam, since they are individually scored, making each just as important as the previous. Here are the minimum scores you'll need:

Subject Minimum Score
Math 150
Writing 162
Reading 156

After your core exams, you'll then need to take a Principles of Learning and Teaching (PLT) for the grade you want to teach. Special education teachers are endorsed in grades K-12, so it's really up to you who you prefer to teach. All three of the exams are set up the same, with 70 multiple-choice questions and four written responses. You'll have two hours to complete any of the exams, and you must earn at least 160 on the K-6 or 5-9 exams, or 157 on the 7-12 exam.

Finally, you'll choose the special education exam that works best for you. The most traditional path is the special education comprehensive K-12 endorsement, so we'll look at that specifically. There are two exams to earn this endorsement: Special Education: Core Knowledge and Severe to Profound Applications and Teaching Reading: Elementary Education. The special education exam must be completed within two hours. There are 90 multiple-choice questions and three constructed-response questions in six categories. In order to pass you must score higher than 158. The reading exam requires a passing score of 162. You'll have the same amount of questions to answer as the special education exam, but you'll have 150 minutes to complete it.

Step 3: Get Fingerprinted

The final step to become a special education teacher is to get fingerprinted. This will, in turn, lead to a criminal background check by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. Sign into identogo.com and set up an appointment with a local scanning center. They will take a digital read on your fingerprints to run through the system more quickly.

Tennessee Special Education Teacher Certification Resources

With so many endorsement exams available, you'll want some solid resources to help you out. The following links with take you to some comprehensive study guides.

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