New Penn State online master’s program focuses on special education
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — With an estimated 13 percent of U.S. schoolchildren receiving special education services, school districts across the country are facing a severe shortage of teachers, therapists and other qualified professionals. To help meet that need, Penn State World Campus is offering a new online Master of Education degree in special education aimed at practitioners working in the field.
Students in the new program can choose one of three areas of emphasis: academic and behavior supports, applied behavior analysis or autism. Courses will be taught by faculty from the Penn State College of Education.
“Teachers all want their kids to achieve, and a program like this gives them the tools to make that happen,” said education professor David Lee. “It’s a very difficult job, but if you’re trained well, it can be very rewarding,” added assistant professor Katie Hoffman, the program coordinator.
There has been a dramatic change over the past 15 years in the way children with disabilities are taught, with most students now assigned to general education classrooms rather than self-contained classrooms. That change requires different skills from teachers and support staff, some of whom may not feel adequately prepared to work with students with disabilities.
- The academic and behavior support focus will help teachers and other practitioners gain the skills to support all students, with special attention to children who are at-risk or have special needs.
- The applied behavior analysis focus provides coursework required for certification as a behavior analyst.
- The autism focus will give teachers the skills to assess and instruct children with autism, and to design programs with those children in mind.
Classes will be taught by Penn State faculty who conduct research in the areas in which they are teaching, and all the methods taught are evidence-based, Lee said.
“This program will provide core foundational knowledge, while allowing flexibility for students to explore emphases that meet their professional goals,” said David Sylvia, director of academic affairs for graduate programs at World Campus. The online program allows teachers and others interested in special education to pursue an advanced degree without leaving their jobs, he said.
Applications are being accepted for admission in Penn State's fall 2015 semester. For more information, visit the program website.
By Hilary Appelman and Mike Dawson, Penn State World Campus (June 2015)