I found this post in a folder- I wrote it last year, in response to a discussion on another blog about the necessity of differential pay for special ed teachers. I thought it might be interesting to see if it sparks any discussion here!
A few years ago, in a rare moment of candor the administrator for Special Needs learners in one of our BC school districts lamented that while he didn’t have a shortage of special ed teachers, he did have a shortage of special ed teachers who had adequate training and skills to do the job.
I think part of the problem is that there is no standard of what a special ed teacher should know- not up here anyway. There are attempts, and each district wants trained Special Ed teachers, but the training varies from university to university. I completed my Masters degree in 2004, and at one point was berated for using the term “dyslexia” by a senior (too senior, obviously) professor. At another university in the same province, the head of the Special Education department is writing papers on dyslexia! Half of my Masters cohort was under age 35, and all of these admitted to having no training at all in teaching students with learning challenges, and yet all were expected to teach students with a wide range of abilities/disabilities.
Some schools advocate waiting until a learner is 8 or 9 before intervening, and some screen kindergarten children. It is this uneven application of knowledge and methodology that is really hurting our special needs population in our school systems up here.
So, I am all for better training of special education teachers, and I agree with you that differentiating pay is necessary. However- I think first we need a standard training program for special ed teachers.
While I believe that teachers are professionals and are very capable, in this area I think we need to start telling teachers what they need to do, and insisting on certain courses being taken. Up here there is a very strong sense of teacher autonomy- teachers resent and reject being told what to do. Unfortunately, in the field of learning disabilities it is the child who suffers.