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Alabama receives a 'D' in preparing special-ed teachers

By Desiree Hunter
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — Alabama has done a good job setting teacher licensing standards and is so-so in meeting quality objectives for No Child Left Behind, but the state is nearly failing when it comes to preparing special education teachers, according to a new report.

The National Council on Teacher Quality's State Teacher Policy Yearbook gives Alabama a "D" in that area, saying that while the state's standards are better than most, they "do not adequately prepare teachers to work with students with disabilities."

The report is scheduled to be released Wednesday.

Kate Walsh, president of the Washington, D.C.-based council, said the state should be commended for requiring special education teachers to receive elementary school instruction and take the elementary subject-area licensing test to prove their proficiency. However, the study says neither the special education nor the elementary teachers are "receiving sufficient subject matter preparation."

Officials with the Alabama Department of Education disputed several parts of the lengthy report, which gave the state an overall performance of "Weak but Progressing," the second-highest ranking. Only four states received the best rating, which was "Weak, But Ahead of the Class."

Jayne Meyer, state director of teacher education and certification, said Alabama has several new and pending policy changes that officials believe will have a significant impact on the state's performance in future editions of the study.

States were graded in six areas, including Teacher Evaluation and Compensation, meeting No Child Left Behind Teacher Quality Objectives and Teacher Licensure.

Alabama received another "D" in evaluation and compensation, a "C" in NCLB standards and a "B" for teacher licensure. It received two more "C's" in Alternate Routes to Certification and State Approval of Teacher Prep Programs.

Tuwanna H. McGee, a senior case advocate for the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program based at The University of Alabama, said the study could have included more research to back up statements made in its analysis, but can be a useful tool for education programs.

"It's a good piece to start a conversation," she said Tuesday. "Any information that can be provided to the department of education, to colleges about how to improve their teacher of education programs will be beneficial."

Alabama was docked for not monitoring the number of credit hours that schools require for special education degree programs, with some cited for "excessive" requirements. But Meyer said special education programs are monitored across the state, and that the study needed to do a better job of explaining what benchmarks were used.

"We appreciate the need to continue to do things better, but when we are judged by standards, goals that are not clear — like what is the definition of 'excessive,' it's difficult to deal with," she said.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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