MU College of Education offers new program to bridge the gap in special education teacher’s workforce

Department of Special Education chair Erica Lembke: “There is a really strong demand for special education teachers, so it’s important for us to meet the needs of our stakeholders.”

Courtesy of MU College of Education

MU is introducing a new online master’s degree for students in general special education.

“With this program, we wanted to broaden our reach and reach people in different states and people in Missouri who don’t have the time to drive to Columbia,” Erica Lembke, chair of the Department of Special Education, said.

The 33-credit hour program offers a Master of Arts degree in special education and instructs teachers on how to better help students who have multiple disabilities, also known as cross-categorical learners.

Applications are now being accepted until Oct. 1 and online courses start for the spring 2018 semester in January. According to the Mizzou Online website, the estimated program cost is $13,744.17 and because it is a distance learning program, even out-of-state students can qualify for in-state tuition.

“I worked with a lot of teachers in St. Louis who all wanted a Mizzou master’s but couldn’t drive out to Columbia to take our classes,” Lembke said. “We want to offer more flexibility for our students and broaden our reach.”

Students in the program are able to get their degree completely online and, if they follow a certain schedule, can obtain their degree in as little as two years. The program affords working students a more convenient opportunity to further their education.

“We have been thinking about online education in relation to working professionals,” Kathryn Chval, dean of the College of Education, said. “This online option really is the best choice for [working] teachers.”

Since the 1990s, schools have had fewer teachers than they need for certain subject areas such as math, history, science, art and special education, according to a report by the U.S Department of Education.

“There is a really strong demand for special education teachers, so it is important for us to meet the needs of our stakeholders,” Lembke said.

According to the U.S Department of Education, Missouri is in need of special education teachers who specialize in blind and partial sight, deaf and the hearing impaired, mild to moderate cross-categorical, severe developmental disabilities, speech pathology and special reading. Teachers specializing in these disabilities are needed for almost every single grade level, from pre-K to grade 12.

“The workforce need is so great,” Chval said. “This program serves the need of Missouri to provide more special education teachers.”

MU’s College of Education has many online master’s degrees for students ranging from gifted education to early childhood and autism. However, this new degree program differs from its predecessors in its approach to curriculum. The program is also likely to increase Mizzou Online enrollment, Chval said.

“[The program] is all evidence-based,” Lembke said. “It embeds cutting-edge practice. We are out doing the research.”

The professors and faculty in this program teach their students evidence-based practices such as positive behavior intervention supports, which states that by teaching appropriate behavior, teachers can prevent inappropriate behavior in the future, according to a press release.

Edited by Olivia Garrett | ogarrett@themaneater.com

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