Special Educator Professional Preparation

Special Educator Preparation Standards

CEC, as the recognized leader in the development of standards for special educators, has developed initial and advanced standards for the preparation of special education professionals at all levels. CEC has and continues to use a research-based collaborative process that ensures that its standards are current, research-based, and fully address the knowledge and skills special educators must master.

CEC is committed to upholding high standards for all special educators.

There can be confusion between the Preparation Standards and the CEC Knowledge and Skill Specialty Sets. The CEC Preparation Standards are used by all programs whatever the specialty area, in this sense they are generic. However, the Preparation Standards do not delineate the specialized content, issues, vocabulary, interventions, and settings of different specialty areas (e.g. early childhood special education, gifted education, educational diagnostician, etc.). These are fully outlined in the CEC Specialty Sets.

The Specialty Sets are used to inform the CEC Preparation Standards. This means that all special education preparation programs will use either the Initial or Advanced CEC Preparation Standards as informed by the appropriate Specialty Set as they develop their curriculum and create performance assessments to demonstrate that their candidates have mastered the standards.

Initial Teacher Preparation

CEC’s performance-based Initial Preparation Standards define what a candidate must know and be able to do to begin teaching. A high-quality preparation program that prepares candidates to meet these standards must provide, at a minimum, the following:

  • Bachelor’s degree
  • Sufficient opportunities to develop and demonstrate appropriate pedagogical skills including extensive field experiences and clinical practice
  • Preparation in core academic subject areas

In addition, CEC expects that professional special educators in new positions undergo a systematic and structured discipline-specific period of induction—this is often the responsibility of the state or school district.

Preparation for Advanced Special Education Roles

As special educators progress in their teaching careers, many seek to develop and deepen their skills and broaden their knowledge base through advanced study in classroom or specialty areas. Others choose to pursue new roles with special education. CEC applauds these efforts and has developed Preparation Standards for Advanced Programs.

Because of the varied nature of these roles, the standards can be very different. But, in general, the advanced role programs should address (as appropriate to the role) assessment; content knowledge; program, services, and outcomes; research and inquiry; leadership and policy; professional and ethical practice; and collaboration.

For assistance in selecting the appropriate standards, please review the Standards for Initial and Advanced Special Educator Preparation Selection Flowchart.



For more information please e-mail prostandards@cec.sped.org or call (703) 620-3660.