Lyndsey Benharris, PhD, Co-chair
Danette Day, EdD
Robert Shapiro, PhD, BCBA-D
Annette Sullivan, EdD
The Education Department has developed a variety of innovative master’s programs to meet special education teacher candidate and PreK-12 district needs.
The MEd in Special Education programs are designed to prepare candidates for careers in teaching students with disabilities. The degree offers students preparation in one of four program areas:
- Teacher of students with moderate disabilities: PreK-8 or 5-12 (Initial Licensure)
- Teacher of students with severe disabilities, all levels: (Initial Licensure)
- Reading Specialist (Initial Licensure)
- Guided Studies (Professional Licensure, Individualized Concentration, and Individualized Concentration/Dyslexia Specialist)
The program prepares graduates to:
- Demonstrate knowledge of the field of special education, including legislation and litigation that has affected the rights of individuals with disabilities
- Demonstrate competence in teaching that leads to success for all students in the least restrictive environment
- Evaluate students to determine their educational needs and to design appropriate programs
- Collaborate with teachers and parents to develop effective teaching strategies that will enhance students’ learning
- Demonstrate competence in educating English Language Learners (ELL) and in the use of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) strategies and other assistive technologies
- Demonstrate sensitivity, understanding and respect for children and adults from diverse cultural, religious, ethnic, and racial backgrounds
Note: The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (formerly Department of Education) continually revises teacher education standards and requirements for licensure. As a result, students are advised that Special Education program requirements are also subject to change to maintain compliance with both State and professional standards. The Special Education program at Fitchburg State University makes a concerted effort to notify students of changes in program requirements and regulations as soon as they are officially published by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. When appropriate, the Special Education program advises students of potential changes in advance of formal announcement and implementation. The Special Education program will work with teacher candidates and the school districts to meet these requirements. Through a nationally accredited and state approved curriculum, the program provides the content and experiences that will lead to initial licensure, provided the candidate has met other state requirements, such as the employment and Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure (MTEL) requirements. Prospective students are strongly encouraged to attend an informational meeting to more fully understand the requirements they must meet to acquire licensure.
Admissions Standards and Criteria
To apply for enrollment in a Master of Education in Special Education Program leading to initial licensure, a student must submit documents as outlined in the Graduate Admission section, as well as:
- Applicants to graduate initial licensure teacher preparation programs must successfully complete the literacy and communication subtests of the Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure (MTEL) and submit passing scores as part of their application.
- In addition, students must successfully pass the appropriate content exam(s) of the MTEL prior to the practicum experience as follows:
- Moderate Disabilities (PreK-8)—Foundations of Reading Test; General Curriculum Multi-subject and Math subtests
- Moderate Disabilities (5-12)—Foundations of Reading Test; General Curriculum Multi-subject and Math subtests or a content specific test (e.g. English, History, Math)
- Severe Disabilities (All)—General Curriculum Multi-subject and Math subtests
- Reading Specialist (All)—Reading Specialist
For the most current information regarding licensure requirements for teacher preparation programs, contact the Educator Licensure Office at (978) 665-3239
Students must complete an essay of no more than one page in response to one of the following questions/statement:
- Tell about a positive situation in which you helped a person and made a significant difference in that person’s life.
- What are the most important factors in establishing a long-term working relationship with students, friends, etc.?
- Tell us about a significant event that involved you in a teaching or helping role.
- Describe the situation as it occurred at the time.
- What did you do in that particular situation?
- How did you feel about the situation at the time you were experiencing it?
- How do you feel about the situation now?
- What would you change, if anything?
Students interested in the master’s program may be required to take prerequisite courses depending on their previous course work and/or teaching certificate(s).
Prerequisite courses may include:
Course in Child Psychology or Human Growth and Development (any level)
Be sure to check with your advisor to determine appropriate prerequisite courses.
This program provides students with a specialized body of knowledge in reading. The program defines the knowledge and skills necessary for effective assessment, instruction and leadership in the field of reading. The program is responding to the needs of school districts by preparing specialists in leadership roles, as well as equipping candidates with the requisite knowledge to meet the needs of students with a wide range of abilities.
The Reading Specialist Program provides candidates who hold initial licenses in a related teaching area with a rigorous, research based curriculum, as well as a range of assessment, teaching and staff development opportunities.
This program has been approved by CAEP, the International Literacy Association, and by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
- Literature for Children or Young Adults (or equivalent)
- Child Growth and Development (or equivalent)
- Principles and Practices of Teaching Reading (or equivalent)
- An initial teaching license as outlined above
Student Learning Outcomes
Candidates gain knowledge of the theoretical, historical, and research-based practices related to the development of literacy and language. An emphasis is placed on scientifically based reading instruction.
Candidates develop expertise in analyzing and adapting curricula to support the literacy needs of all learners. This includes listening, speaking, reading and writing.
Candidates develop proficiency in the assessment of student literacy achievement using a range of formative, summative and normative assessments.
Candidates are able to evaluate the technical adequacy and cultural appropriateness of specific instruments used for screening, progress monitoring and diagnosis.
Candidates analyze assessment data to effectively communicate results to a variety of stakeholders and to develop literacy instruction for a broad range of learners.
Candidates create inclusive classrooms, advocate for equity and affirm students’ identities through experiences that encourage scholarship in the areas of diversity and equity.
Candidates develop competency in a variety of instructional strategies using print and digital materials to motivate and engage all learners.
Candidates develop the leadership skills necessary to facilitate ongoing school and district literacy initiatives and to promote professional development activities.
Adapted from Standards for the Preparation of Literacy Professionals (2017). International Literacy Association
MEd in Special Education: Reading Specialist (Initial Licensure)
This track prepares candidates for Reading Specialist licensure. Initial licensure in early childhood, elementary, middle school or special education is required for entry into this track. In order to receive the initial license, Reading Specialist candidates must have taught for a minimum of one year under their initial license.
Total for degree 36 cr.
Note: Students who have completed the Reading Specialist Initial Licensure program who are interested in obtaining a license in Moderate Disabilities (PK-8) should contact Dr. Nancy Murray.
Sheltered English Immersion (SEI) Endorsement Course
Prior to completion of the program of study, initial licensure candidates are required to take the Fitchburg State University ESE-approved SEI course, if needed, in order to be endorsed for licensure. Please note that SEI endorsement occurs following the completion of the program, not before. Please note that the DESE requires that the SEI course include at least 30 contact hours face-to-face to meet their requirements.