Special education teachers work with children who learn differently in a range of settings. They might co-teach in a general education classroom, instruct students in self-contained classrooms, or work in community settings. Earning a graduate degree in special education can help teachers to advance within this field. Here, you can learn more about some universities in Virginia that offer graduate programs in special education, admission requirements, and some common courses that could be encountered in a graduate special education program.
Virginia Schools with Special Education Graduate Programs
Virginia Commonwealth University
At Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, students can earn the Master of Education (M.Ed.) with a concentration in special education. Candidates can choose concentrations in general education, early childhood, or severe disabilities. Those who are not yet licensed as teachers can earn such licensure through the program. Collaborative partnerships are available with Richmond Public Schools, VCU's Child Development Center, and Virginia Leadership Development in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities. Externships are available in schools and mental heath programs.
Through Liberty University's 36-credit program, students can earn a Master of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T.) with a focus in special education. All coursework is completed online, and students collaborate with educators across the country. Those who choose this program can earn their initial teacher licensure. The program integrates candidates' Christian faith with their teacher preparation courses.
Mary Baldwin University
Mary Baldwin University offers several graduate degree options. Students can earn the M.A.T. with initial licensure in special education, or the M.Ed. focused in special education or in autism spectrum disorders for those who are already licensed. The M.Ed. program can be completed online in about 12-15 months, while courses in the M.A.T. program are provided online, in a hybrid environment, or in one of five on-ground locations. M.A.T. courses are co-taught with a Mary Baldwin professor and a practicing teacher. M.Ed. students can provide a prior learning portfolio to earn credit for previous teaching experiences.
The course of study at Marymount University in Arlington can lead to earning a M.Ed. in Special Education. The program focuses on special education in the general curriculum. Courses are typically offered in the evenings or on the weekends. A partnership with the Fairfax County schools allows for a fast-track completion of the degree while pursuing a teaching practicum for students seeking licensure.
University of Virginia
At the University of Virginia, students can earn the Master of Teaching in Special Education. The program requires two years of full-time study. The African-American Teaching Fellows program provides financial support and mentorship opportunities. Other teaching fellowships may be available. In addition, UVA offers a Doctor of Philosophy in Special Education. This program is designed to prepare graduates to be researchers and college-level teachers in this field. The Ph.D. typically takes four years of study to complete, and a comprehensive exam and dissertation will be expected.
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Program Admission Requirements
Those applying to master's level programs in special education should have a strong desire to work with children with special needs. Specific admission requirements may vary by program. Candidates should hold an undergraduate degree; if their undergraduate degree is not in special education, additional requirements may apply. Students should expect to provide transcripts, recommendations, and a personal statement. Some programs may require GRE scores. In addition, applicants should be qualified to sit for state teacher licensure exams and pass a series of background checks. Ph.D. programs may have additional requirements. The following are some courses commonly offered in Virginia's graduate-level special education programs.
Assessment of Disability
This course may provide an overview of how children come to be diagnosed with special educational needs. The practices of administering assessments and interpreting the data derived from such assessments could be reviewed. In addition, the preparation of an IEP based on assessment might be a topic.
A reading remediation course is likely to focus on a range of strategies to help students struggling with reading and language arts instruction. The components of effective reading instruction, such as phonological awareness, fluency, and comprehension could be a focus of learning. Students may be asked to complete hands-on tutoring or practicum lessons.
A behavioral support class may provide strategies for the creation of a positive classroom environment as well as specific models for working on the behavioral issues that students with disabilities often experience. Specific topics may include functional behavior assessment and behavior modification techniques. Collaboration with other professionals regarding student behavior could be a course component.
Special educators must prepare students with disabilities for post-secondary education, work environments, and community living. This course may provide strategies for designing curricula to guide students in planning for this transition. Coordination with outside employers and resources may be a component of the program.
Special educators play an important role in schools and community environments, educating students with a range of learning needs. Many universities in Virginia offer students the ability to earn a graduate degree allowing for further education or initial licensure within this teaching discipline.