Pennsylvania’s Special Education (SPLED) teacher certification requirements mandate that those teaching students with special needs in Pennsylvania hold two certifications, e.g. SPLED and another certificate. The primary area of academic need of students with disabilities is in the area of reading and the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) has included certification as a Reading Specialist (along with completion of a SPLED degree) as qualifying one to teach special education in Pre-Kindergarten through high school settings and across exceptionalities. The undergraduate degree in SPLED requires four semesters of rigorous coursework combined with a series of related field experiences. While there is significant emphasis on the teaching of reading within these four semesters, additional in-depth study of reading at the graduate level will be highly valuable to SPLED majors, and the learners they teach, as will earning a Reading Specialist certificate. Outside this program, coursework and credits required to earn a Reading Specialist in a full time course of study typically require two summers and an academic year post undergraduate graduation to complete. This may be cost prohibitive for many students and an Integrated Undergraduate-Graduate (IUG) degree offers the advantage of two certifications at a reduced financial and temporal cost that might provide some relief to students while enhancing their overall teaching skill.
To summarize, the benefits of the IUG are that this program will:
- Permit coherent planning of an in-depth study of the teaching of reading through a graduate program emphasizing the teaching of reading;
- Result in graduates holding two Pennsylvania teaching certificates;
- Allow cost savings for students challenged to cover rising tuition rates;
- Encourage earlier contact with faculty outside of Special Education who also have expertise in reading; and
- Make resources of the graduate school available to students.