Panel Paper: Are New Teachers Prepared to Educate Students with Disabilities? Examining the Overlay of Changes to Inclusion and Teacher Education Policies

Thursday, July 19, 2018
Building 3, Room 210 (ITAM)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Michael Gottfried1, Ethan Hutt2 and Jacob Kirksey1, (1)University of California, Santa Barbara, (2)University of Maryland, College Park

Policies surrounding inclusive education have been expressed international priorities for over a decade, where policymakers are pushing for students with disabilities to spend as much time as possible in general education classrooms. UNESCO (2013) explains, “... an ‘inclusive’ education system can only be created if ordinary schools become more inclusive – in other words, if they become better at educating all children in their communities (p. 8)”. Consequently, now more than ever before, university teacher education programs face increased responsibility to ensure general education teaching candidates receive adequate preparation to educate students with learning disabilities (SWLDs). In the United States, stakeholders believe that edTPA– a performance assessment used as a credential requirement– can be an important tool in helping to fulfill this goal. Utilizing survey data from a large research university, we investigated how qualities of teacher preparation programs - including edTPA - related to general education teacher candidates’ perceptions of their preparation to educate SWLDs. Candidates reported feeling more prepared to follow government policies for educating students with disabilities if they believed their program was cohesive in its goals and expectations. Candidates who rated edTPA as beneficial for entering the teaching profession also believed that edTPA improved their abilities to teach in inclusive classrooms, create lesson plans for SWLDs, use individualized education plans, and design assessments for SWLDs. As international policymakers continue to prioritize teacher performance assessments, these findings highlight the importance of how such assessments can be utilized as tools to prepare teachers for supporting students with disabilities.