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How to Become a Special Education Teacher in Georgia

In this article, we discuss the steps that must be completed to fulfill the academic and experiential requirements needed for prospective special education teachers, at all grade levels, in Georgia.

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Teachers who work with exceptional learners and students of varying abilities are an integral part of the Georgia education system. There are special requirements that must be fulfilled for any teaching candidate interested in pursuing a career spent educating children with learning disabilities, behavior problems, and physical disabilities. This article discusses the educational requirements, professional development, and certification needed to become a special education teacher at all grade levels in the state of Georgia.

Georgia Special Education Teacher Requirements

Average Salary for Special Education Teachers in Georgia (2017)* $53,490 (preschool), $54,940 (kindergarten and elementary school), $55,950 (middle school), $58,240 (high school), $71,780 (all others)
Required Degree Bachelor's degree
Degree Field Special Education
Testing Requirements GACE Program Admission Assessment (Reading, Mathematics, and Writing);
Georgia Educator Ethics Assessment;
edTPA exam(s) relevant to chosen certification(s);
GACE content exam(s) relevant to chosen certification(s)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Choose a Specialty

First, a potential special education teacher must decide which target groups they would like to instruct. In Georgia, special education teaching candidates can choose to focus on one of the following certifications for grades preschool through 12:

  • General Curriculum
  • Adapted Curriculum
  • Deaf Education
  • Behavior Disorders
  • Learning Disabilities
  • Physical and Health Disabilities
  • Visual Impairment

Other special education certifications are:

  • Early Childhood Special Education General Curriculum (grades P-5)
  • Preschool (ages 3-5)

Additionally, teachers may add academic content concentrations to their certificate. These concentrations are: math, science, social science, language arts and reading.

Step 2: Enter a Bachelor's Program

Prospective teachers must earn a bachelor's degree from a special education program approved by the Georgia Professional Standards Commission (GaPSC).

Prior to entering the teacher preparation portion of their degree program, students must pass the Georgia Assessments for the Certification of Educators (GACE) Program Admission Assessment, which measures basic skills in reading, math and writing. However, exemptions from this requirement are available for those with certain scores on their SAT, ACT or GRE.

Students must also fulfill an 'exceptional child' requirement, a class which aids in identifying children with special educational needs and advising student teachers on how to address those needs and seek out the proper resources if needed.

Step 3: Student Teach

Student teaching is an integral part of the teacher preparation program for special education instructors. During the last semester of their education, students will spend time face-to-face with students in a classroom setting. Before entering the classroom, student teachers must take the GACE Georgia Educator Ethics - Program Entry assessment and pass a background check. This allows their college or university to obtain a pre-service student teaching certificate on their behalf and ensure the safety of their students.

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Step 4: Pass Additional State-Required Assessments

The Georgia Educator Ethics - Program Exit assessment must be taken prior to the completion of a prospective special education teacher's education program in order for that teacher to earn an induction certificate and begin teaching.

The GaPSC also requires future special education teachers to pass the edTPA content pedagogy assessments relevant to their desired specializations. A minimum score of 38 is required for each of the following special education tests:

  • General Curriculum (P-12) Consultative
  • Adapted Curriculum (P-12) Consultative
  • Deaf Education (P-12) Consultative
  • Behavior Disorders (P-12) Consultative
  • Learning Disabilities (P-12) Consultative
  • Physical and Health Disabilities Consultative
  • Visual Impairment (P-12) Consultative
  • General Curriculum/Early Childhood Education (P-5)
  • Preschool (Ages 3-5) Consultative

Those interested in adding an academic content concentration (math, science, social science, language arts and/or reading) should take the relevant edTPA exam for that as well.

In addition to the above edTPA assessments, prospective special education instructors must pass the GACE tests appropriate to their area of study. The following tests require a minimum score of 220 for induction:

  • For Special Education General Curriculum, Behavior Disorders and Learning Disabilities certifications: GACE 081 and 082 - Special Education General Curriculum (grades P-12)
  • For Adapted Curriculum certification: GACE 083 and 084 - Special Education Adapted Curriculum (grades P-12)
  • For Deaf Education certification: GACE 085 and 086 - Special Education, Deaf Education (grades P-12)
  • For Special Education, Early Childhood certification: GACE 003 and 004 -Early Childhood Special Education General Curriculum (grades P-5)

For the five academic content concentrations - math, science, social science, language arts and reading - certification is available for grades preschool through five via GACE 003 and 004. For grades preschool through eight, future teachers should use the following:

  • GACE 087 - Special Education Reading, English Language Arts, and Social Studies
  • GACE 088 - Special Education Mathematics and Science

The following certifications do not require a GACE content assessment: Physical and Health Disabilities, Visual Impairment and Special Education Preschool.

Step 5: Apply for Georgia State Licensing

The first special education certificate earned by new teachers is a three-year induction certificate. When applying through the GaPSC for an induction certificate, prospective teachers may need to provide photocopies of their photo ID, a Verification of Lawful Presence form, an Approved Program Completion form, and their college transcript. Applications may be submitted electronically or on paper. Special education teaching candidates will also need to pass an FBI background check along with a full fingerprinting to ensure the safety of their students.

Georgia History Teacher Certification Resources

Students ready to begin preparing for their GACE certification exams may use the links below. Each provides comprehensive lessons, practice questions and more.

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