Essential Content and Practices


In this second initiative, we join the field in calling for an emphasis on “evidence-based” and “high-leverage” practices that make a truly make a difference in the academic achievement and lives of students with disabilities. Our task is to carefully and collaboratively review the practices that should be prominent in program and “named” and justified by our teacher candidates.

  • Essential Special Education Practices in Urban Schools.  The challenge for teacher education lies in arriving at a process where research underpinnings are continuously reviewed and decisions are made about which core evidence-based practices should receive sustained attention. A curriculum mapping process around essential practices is being implemented with the first stage being the identification of the Essential Practices. We define Essential Practices as being high leverage (“ the heart of teaching and most likely to affect student learning” [Ball & Forzani, 2010, p. 43]), having an evidence base, being critical to student success, and small enough to be observed but yet having broad applicability. Our teacher candidates will be responsible for identifying the practices, justifying them, and demonstrating them in the field. Essential Special Education Practices will be the focus of our observations, will drive our courses, and will inform the benchmarks for program advancement.

  • Content Essentials & Technology Use.  Special educators need to have a strong, working knowledge of essential content in core subjects.  We are in the process of developing a self-assessment tool that will help Post-baccalaureate students understand their strengths and needs related to content knowledge.  In addition, we will engage in a curriculum mapping process to identify the courses in which essential content will be more strategically integrated and assessed.  Finally, our plan is to strengthen the integration of technology, including the design and implementation of a semester-long “iPad Project” to investigate how to best facilitate meaningful access to content for the students in their field placements.