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How to Become a Special Education Teacher in Massachusetts

For those who want to teach students with learning, emotional, or physical challenges, becoming a Special Education teacher can be a rewarding experience. This article explains the degree requirements, tests, and licensure credentials you need to pursue this career in Massachusetts.

General Requirements to Teach Special Education in Massachusetts

The Department of Education in Massachusetts requires a few things of candidates who want to teach Special Education. They must hold a Bachelor's degree, complete an accredited teacher preparation program, pass state-required tests, and apply for a license that qualifies them to teach students with moderate disabilities in either Pre-K through 8th Grade or 5th grade through 12th grade.

Entry-Level Education Requirement Bachelor's Degree
Common Degree Field Special Education
Testing Requirements MTEL General Curriculum and Foundations of Reading Test (Elementary and Middle School); MTEL Communications and Literacy Skills Test; MTEL Subject Area Tests (Secondary Education); MTEL SEI Test (All Educators)
Annual Mean Salary $74,470 (Kindergarten and Elementary) $74,500 (Middle) $76,080 (High School)*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Special Education Degree Requirements

Students planning to teach special education in Massachusetts could benefit from a Bachelor's of Science in Education with an emphasis in teaching students with special needs. Specific coursework varies across programs but four-year degrees like these will train students in best-practices in special education instruction, curriculum development, child psychology and behavioral problems, classroom management skills, learners' rights and education law, and common learning disabilities.  

In-class learning is supplemented by a practicum component that includes student-teaching in a classroom under the supervision of a fully certified teacher. Student-teachers typically spend one academic semester in a classroom planning lessons, leading instruction and developing assessments to gain on-the-job skills necessary to run a classroom upon graduation.

Required Tests and Endorsements

The Massachusetts Department of Education requires teaching candidates to pass several tests to gain Special Education credentials. The Communication and Literacy Skills Test, which is taken by all teachers in Massachusetts, assesses reading and writing skills through a variety of short-response, open-response and multiple-choice questions. It is divided into reading and writing sections which can be taken at the same time or on separate days.

For candidates seeking PreK to 8 teaching endorsement, the MTEL General Curriculum and Foundations of Reading test are required.  Teachers seeking grades 5-12 teaching endorsement must take the MTEL General Curriculum and Foundations of Reading test or one several MTEL subject matter tests at grade levels 5-8 or 8-12 which may depend on the educator's area of specialization. All MTEL tests are standardized to a scoring scale of 100-300. The minimum passing score on all exams is 240.

The Sheltered English Immersion Endorsement, which tests an educator's skills in best practices to serve non-native English speaking students, is also required by all special education teachers in Massachusetts. This endorsement is typically incorporated into teacher education preparation programs but can also be acquired by taking and passing the MTEL SEI test.

Teaching Licensure

After completing an approved degree program and the necessary testing requirements for teaching students with moderate disabilities, applicants should apply for an initial license through the state's Office of Educator Licensure. In Massachusetts, an initial teacher's license is valid for five years from the date issued and can be renewed once for an additional five-year period. The initial license application fee for a teacher of students with moderate disabilities is $100.00.

A Special Education teacher holding an initial license must advance to a professional license during the validity of the initial license by meeting several conditions. The teacher must have at least three years of employment in Massachusetts public schools, complete a year-long approved induction program with a mentor and 50 hours of continuing education under a mentor, and undergo an approved professional development plan that leads to master teacher status. A professional teaching license is valid for five years and renewable every five years after.