National Issue Forum: Roundtable Discussion: Preparing Special Educators: Critical Issues and Emerging Needs

June 27, 2007
DoubleTree Hotel, Arlington, Virginia


On June 27, 2007, the National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality offered a national invitational Roundtable Discussion focused on policy, research, and practice relating to special education teacher quality. This event, targeted for regional comprehensive centers, their states, and institution of higher education (IHE) partners, focused on recent and emerging policy, research, and practices in special education with an emphasis on teacher preparation. The goal of this Roundtable Discussion was to provide an opportunity for participants representing a variety of perspectives on these issues to come together to identify major challenges and opportunities to improve the preparation, certification, and licensure of special education teachers.

The Roundtable Discussion created a jumping-off point for more targeted and sustained activities on special education from National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality during the next year.

The purpose and goals of the meeting were as follows:

  • Discuss what is currently known in response to the guiding questions that follow.
  • Identify gaps in the current knowledge base.
  • Develop a recommended agenda for the next set of work on these issues—not only for National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality but for participants and the field as well.

Discussion centered on the following guiding questions:

  • Given the highly qualified requirements for special education teachers from No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), what are the implications for how special education teachers are prepared? What are the implications for certification and licensure?
  • How can the current context breed solutions? With what are states and IHEs experimenting to find solutions? What are some real priority areas related to improving preparation and certification and licensure? Now that we know more about IDEA guidance, what needs to be addressed by the NCLB reauthorization in its teacher quality provisions?
  • What information and knowledge is essential to moving forward on these issues? What are the gaps?


National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality offered an invitational Roundtable Discussion focused on policy, research, and practice relating to special education teacher quality for regional comprehensive centers and their state and institution of higher education partners. The objective of the roundtable was to share work that National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality has engaged in and determine additional technical assistance that National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality could offer in the future.

Broad Key Issues

  1. Develop a common language and allow greater access to the conversation.
  2. Assist new and veteran teachers with building their profession.
  3. Emphasize data. We need it, we need to analyze it, and we need to apply the findings to target resources.
  4. Focus on everything from teacher preparation to induction to professional development—systemic reform to develop teacher knowledge and ability.
  5. Emphasize the critical shortage of special educators and related personnel through the following:
    • Recruitment
    • Retention
  1. Compare certification and highly qualified teacher testing requirements: Are they the same? How can states support special educators to gain subject-matter expertise—high objective uniform state standard of evaluation (HOUSSE), exams, coursework, a combination?
  2. Focus on collaborative teaching models. What strategies are being developed and “tried out”? What works?
  3. Engage the community and raise public awareness about the critical need for special educators and related personnel.
  4. Increase funding for research of special education policy and practice.
  5. Increase the number of high-quality teacher preparation programs; increase the number of doctoral students to ensure that enough are prepared to teach education courses; and ensure that alternate route to certification programs meet high standards.


Special Education Teacher Certification and Highly Qualified Requirements
Angela Baber, Teaching Quality and Leadership Institute, Education Commission of the States

A Brief Overview of National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality
Amy Jackson, Learning Point Associates and National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality

Innovation Configurations
Daniel J. Reschly, Ph.D., and Susan M. Smartt, Ph.D., Vanderbilt University

Presenter Bio

Angela Baber
Angela Baber is a researcher for the Teacher Quality and Leadership Institute at Education Commission of the States (ECS). She researches state policy on issues that include diversified teacher pay systems, recruitment and retention of teachers, teacher preparation, teacher certification and licensure, No Child Left Behind (NCLB) implementation, paraprofessional requirements, and special education teacher requirements. In addition to researching these issues, Baber provides analysis of policy and practice for all 50 states and U.S. territories. Within the work of the National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality, Baber researches and responds to technical assistance for the regional comprehensive centers as well as participates in capacity-building convenings.

Before joining ECS in April 2006, Baber was a research assistant at the National Academies of Science Space Studies Board in Washington, D.C. She also was a project manager for the National Science Foundation funded science, Technology; Engineering, and Mathematics–Teacher Preparation (STEM-TP) at the University of Colorado–Boulder, beginning her work with STEM-TP as a learning assistant during her undergraduate years. The STEM-TP program focuses on recruiting and training high-quality teachers to become K–12 mathematics and science teachers. Baber created lesson plans, provided first-hand instruction to undergraduates in restructured astronomy and physics courses, and participated in multiple professional workshops with existing K–12 teachers and university faculty.

Albert L. Bennett, Ph.D.
Albert L. Bennett, Ph.D., is the Harold Washington Professor of Sociology and professor of education at Roosevelt University in Chicago. He specializes in research intended to close the achievement gaps, principally by improving the trust relationships between adults and youth. He also has considerable experience in evaluation design and program evaluation. Previously, he was the dean of the Evelyn T. Stone University College and also served as senior program officer of the Chicago Community Trust and director of program evaluation for the Chicago Public Schools.

Currently, Dr. Bennett serves as the cochair of the assessment committee at Roosevelt University. He is the principal investigator of a five-year evaluation of an effort to improve high schools in Chicago that is funded by the Lloyd A. Fry Foundation. In addition, Dr. Bennett is a member of the oversight committee of the University of Chicago’s Consortium on Chicago School Research and a member of the Higher Education Council of the National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality. He recently was elected to the board of the North Lawndale College Preparatory School, one of the charter high schools serving the Chicago community. He holds a doctorate in education and policy analysis from the University of Chicago.

Mary Brownell, Ph.D.
Mary Brownell, Ph.D., is professor of special education and codirector of the Center for Personnel Studies in Special Education at the University of Florida. She has spent her research career at the University of Florida focused on issues related to teachers who work with students with disabilities. Her early research activities focused on the factors related to special education teachers’ decisions to remain in or leave the classroom. Later, she focused her research on developing the ability of special and general education teachers to teach students with disabilities. More specifically, she has examined the role of collaboration in the professional development of teachers and their socialization into the workplace. She also has studied issues related to teacher quality and the preparation of special and general education teachers.

Recently, Dr. Brownell is focusing her research efforts on improving the reading instruction of both general and special education teachers. Her work has provided insight into the practices and knowledge of highly qualified teachers and how teacher educators and school district personnel can go about preparing, developing, and retaining special educators throughout their careers. To support her work, Dr. Brownell, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Florida and other institutions, has received multiple grants from the Office of Special Education Programs and the Institute of Education Sciences. Dr. Brownell also is a devoted teacher educator; she has been active in designing doctoral programs and working with preservice and inservice teachers. She holds a doctorate in special education from the University of Kansas.

Phoebe Gillespie, Ph.D.
Phoebe Gillespie, Ph.D., is the director of the Office of Special Education Programs–funded National Center for Special Education Personnel and Related Service Providers at the National Association of State Directors of Special Education. She has more than 30 years of experience in the field of special education, serving children from birth to age 21 in a variety of settings. Dr. Gillespie has worked as a paraprofessional, infant home and classroom teacher, mental health facility education director, diagnostician, building-level administrator, and recruitment and retention outreach manager for the Council for Exceptional Children’s Professions Clearinghouse. She holds a Ph.D. in educational policy, planning, and leadership from the College of William and Mary.

Laura Goe, Ph.D.
Laura Goe, Ph.D., is an associate research scientist in the Teaching and Learning Research Center at ETS in Princeton, New Jersey, and a senior researcher for the National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality. In July, she began a three-year tenure as a coeditor of the American Educational Research Association journal Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis. She also directs a project for the Institute of Education Sciences focused on assessing the preparation of teacher candidates to teach reading in elementary classrooms. Dr. Goe is involved in a number of projects at ETS focused on policy analysis and research related to teacher quality, preparation and induction, compensation, distribution, supply, and retention. She previously worked as research director for the Bay Area Consortium for Urban Education. She holds a doctorate degree from the University of California–Berkeley.

Amy Jackson
Amy Jackson is deputy director of the National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality. She has a wide array of educational experiences and expertise in teacher quality program development and implementation as well as examination design. Previously, Jackson worked with the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CCTC) for eight years as administrator of examinations, teacher development, and research as well as a director of teacher examination programs. She was responsible for the administration of several large-scale teacher development initiatives and also participated as a member of the senior management team for the CCTC executive director. Before CCTC, Jackson was affiliated with WestEd in San Francisco, providing regional technical assistance to state and local education agencies in Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington and developing classroom-based assessments for students and teachers. Earlier in her career, Jackson worked at the Connecticut State Department of Education and the Virginia Department of Education; she also was a K–12 art teacher in Richmond, Virginia. She holds a master’s degree in educational psychology and measurement from the University of Connecticut and has completed the coursework for a doctorate in quantitative methodology from the University of California–Berkeley.

Richard W. Mainzer Jr., Ed.D.
Richard W. Mainzer Jr., Ed.D., is associate executive director of professional services at the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC). He has more than 30 years of experience as a special educator in numerous roles and leadership positions. For the past 10 years, he has provided leadership in CEC’s professional standards and practice initiatives. He has been the CEC principal on numerous projects of national significance, including the National Clearinghouse for Professions in Special Education funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs, CEC’s Bright Futures Initiative, and CEC’s partnership with the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education. He currently is the CEC principal for CEC professional development products and services, including the CEC journals, publications, courses, and online seminars.

Previously, Dr. Mainzer was a special education teacher at both the elementary and middle school levels. He served as a policy specialist and state project director at the Maryland State Department of Education as well as a local director of special education services for Carroll County Public Schools in Maryland. He has been an assistant and associate professor of special education at both Clarion and Millersville universities in Pennsylvania. He holds a doctorate of education in learning and behavior from the American University in Washington, D.C.

Kathleen Paliokas
Kathleen Paliokas is director of the Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (INTASC), a program of the Council of Chief State School Officers. INTASC is a consortium of 35 states that are working together to improve the preparation, licensing, and ongoing professional development of teachers through standards-based reform. Previously, as assistant director of INTASC, she was responsible for overseeing and directing INTASC’s standards development projects in elementary education, foreign languages, the arts, and special education.

Paliokas also is director of the Center for Improving Teacher Quality (CTQ), funded by the Office of Special Education Programs at the U.S. Department of Education. CTQ is a national center that is working with 42 states to develop models for improving the preparation, licensing, and professional development of both general and special education teachers of students with disabilities. Before becoming director, Paliokas served as project coordinator for CTQ and was responsible for overseeing day-to-day management of CTQ operations.

Daniel J. Reschly, Ph.D.
Daniel J. Reschly, Ph.D., is professor of education and psychology at Peabody College, Vanderbilt University, where he is chair of the Department of Special Education. From 1975 to 1998, he directed the School Psychology Program at Iowa State University. He has published on the topics of response to intervention, special education system reform, overrepresentation of minority children and youth, and classification procedures. In addition, he has been active in state and national leadership roles, including president of the National Association of School Psychologists and editor of School Psychology Review. Dr. Reschly served on various National Academy of Sciences panels: Standards-Based Reform and the Education of Students with Disabilities (member), Minority Overrepresentation in Special Education (member), and Disability Determination in Mental Retardation (chair). He also is codirector of the National Research Center on Learning Disabilities. He holds a doctorate from the University of Oregon.

Susan Smartt, Ph.D.
Susan Smartt, Ph.D., is a senior research associate at Vanderbilt University and a member of the National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality team. She has 30 years of experience working in both general and special education. Dr. Smartt has worked as a classroom teacher, a reading specialist, a school psychologist, and a principal of an inpatient child psychiatry school. She was the coowner and director of a learning disabilities clinic and most recently was a national reading consultant and teacher trainer. She writes teacher training curricula to assist teachers in data-based decision making for informed instructional planning and enhanced progress monitoring. She holds a doctorate from Tennessee State University.

Gretchen Weber
Gretchen Weber is a senior program associate at Learning Point Associates. She specializes in teacher quality and provides expertise for teacher-quality policy, publications, and products. Within the work of National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality, Weber coordinates the technical assistance for the regional comprehensive centers, including the capacity-building convenings. She also is participating in the development of a suite of online tools that use technology to improve and document teacher quality. Most recently, she led the technical assistance and professional services efforts for several Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin schools that were working to meet the highly qualified teacher provision of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act and assisted them in improving their capacity-building abilities related to instructional leadership.

Weber is a National Board Certified teacher and has taught elementary and middle school for seven years, working with a wide range of student populations in both suburban and urban settings. She also served as a technology facilitator and lead teacher to provide technical assistance and professional development to assist teachers in improving the implementation of technology and differentiated instruction to improve student achievement. In addition, she has worked as a part of the Illinois Professional Teaching Standards task force for the Illinois State Board of Education. Weber holds a Master's of Education in curriculum and instruction from National-Louis University.


Innovation Configurations to Improve the Availability of Highly Qualified Teachers for Students With Disabilities and At-Risk Characteristics (Draft version—June 2007)

Recruiting Quality Teachers in Mathematics, Science, and Special Education for Urban and Rural Schools, TQ Source Tips & Tools: Emerging Strategies to Enhance Teacher Quality (June 2007)

The Teacher Preparation > Teacher Practices > Student Outcomes Relationship in Special Education: Missing Links and New Connections , (TQ Research & Policy Brief) (May 2007)

TQ Research & Policy Update, Vol. 1, No. 1 (April 2006). (PDF 312 KB)