July 8, 2022
KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Western Michigan University becomes the first university in Michigan to offer an 18-month expedited master’s program in special education resulting in an initial teacher certification with an endorsement in autism spectrum disorder, emotional impairments, or learning disabilities. The new program will allow qualified individuals with a bachelor’s degree in any area and experience working with children to prepare to become special education teachers. The Michigan Department of Education historically required individuals to have an elementary or secondary education certificate to earn a special education teaching credential, but this requirement has been waived to increase the number of qualified special education teachers. There is a dire and pressing need for such teachers. The U.S. Department of Education reports that 49 states have a shortage of special education teachers, including Michigan.
In recent years, enrollment in initial endorsement programs has dropped in Michigan and, as noted, the state has experienced a serious shortage of special education teachers. Traditional programs require four or more years of study to earn special education certification, making it hard for many groups of potential teachers, including para-educators, substitute teachers, and career-changers, to earn a special education teaching license.
"The shortage of special education teachers continues to increase each year. This program will allow for a different path to becoming a special education teacher."
Dr. Kristal Ehrhardt, professor of special education and newly-appointed interim dean for the College of Education and Human Development
WMU's new program aims to address this shortage and to increase access for these students by providing a fast track towards initial teacher certification in special education for teachers of students with autism spectrum disorder, emotional impairment or learning disabilities. "The shortage of special education teachers continues to increase each year. This program will allow for a different path to becoming a special education teacher." said Dr. Kristal Ehrhardt, professor of special education and newly-appointed interim dean for the College of Education and Human Development. “Our special education faculty are working closely with local school personnel to design the format of this program with flexibility and accessibility in mind, in a way that supports working professionals and non-traditional students.”
Applications for the expedited program are now open with the first courses beginning fall 2022. The program is offered fully online, with synchronous and asynchronous courses and field placements in public schools. To meet the needs of working professionals and other non-traditional students, synchronous courses are offered in the evening or on weekends. The program is based on a cohort model, which has been shown to enhance student success. Candidates starting in fall 2022 will move through the 18-month program as a group, receiving consistent mentoring from WMU faculty and social support from classmates. Eligible students may receive funding, including $20,000-$26,000 stipends for those participating in the WMU Urban Teacher Residency Program, although funding is not assured. Diversity, equity and inclusion are cornerstones of the program, and the faculty are fully committed to recruiting, supporting and graduating a diverse group of students. The program is both intended and designed to increase the diversity of the teacher workforce in K-12 schools, as well as the overall availability of qualified teachers.
Interested prospective students are strongly encouraged to connect with special education faculty. Please contact program coordinator, Dr. Sarah Summy, with any questions about the new program. For general questions about CEHD programs, email email@example.com. The college also offers additional certificates and degrees in special education for teachers that already hold an initial teaching license and are interested in advancing their education.