Teachers of Students with Emotional and Behavioral Disabilities: The Route to Certification and Determining Gaps in Training



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Background: While there is a plentitude of research that discusses the attrition of special education teachers and their reasons for leaving their profession, there is minimal research on the route to certification of teachers of students with emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD) and even less on how they are trained and how a school's administration can help to support them. This study aimed to add to the literature by examining how special education teachers are certified in Texas, the status of teachers in Texas who teach students with EBD, and what they need to know and do. Special educators in Texas take many different routes to certification. Factors such as the Educator Preparation Program (EPP), teacher status, and teacher requirements are some of the many items that were analyzed. Purpose: The goals of this study were (a) to determine for the years 2014–2019 the number of special education teachers certified in Texas, the type of EPPs they used, and the range and most common routes to certification; (b) to investigate the status (i.e., number, level of preparation, certification) of teachers of students with EBD in Texas; and (c) to determine what teachers of students with EBD need to know and be able to do. Methods: This mixed methods study used a descriptive design to investigate the status of Texas teachers of students with EBD and compared the Texas Education Agency (TEA) requirements for special education teachers to the content taught in EPPs meant to prepare them. Data from the TEA on new special educator certifications were analyzed to determine if there were any patterns in the number of new special educators who have been certified over the last five years. EPP and route to certification for new educators also helped to determine how new special educators were trained. The final piece of information reviewed included the TEA Requirements for Special Educators. These various sources of data permitted an analysis of what special education teachers are expected to know and be able to do when working with students with disabilities with social and behavioral difficulties. It also set the stage for the recommendations related to the content and format of administrative support to be provided on campuses. Results: In Texas, from 2014 to 2019, the number of newly certified special educators varied minimally from year to year, and most newly certified special educators were certified through certification by exam or by alternative certification programs. No specific certification for teachers of students with EBD is offered. In addition, requirements for special education teachers regarding working with students with disabilities who have social and behavioral difficulties are limited in what teachers should know and be able to do. These findings reveal extensive opportunities for in-service training for teachers and administrators. Conclusion: The number of special educators certified remained almost constant while the number of students with disabilities was constantly on the rise. Teachers of students with EBD were certified in the same manner as teachers who support the general special education population. These outcomes formulated the conclusion that a design for professional development for both special education teachers and administrators examining characteristics and strategies for working with students with EBD is needed. Steps to finding ways for administrators to support and work with teachers of students with EBD were also proposed to aid in retaining them.



special educators, emotional and behavioral, certification