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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

changing from special education to regular education

changing from special education to regular education

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Hi All! Has anyone transferred out of spec. ed. to reg. ed.? I am thinking of trying to do so and wonder what others' experiences have been. I really would like to hear others' perspectives.

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LK's picture

I have been looking for a teacher who has recently moved from regular ed. to spec. ed. or from spec. ed. to regular ed. to speak to about the differences. I haven't found anyone in my area to talk to about it. It seems like a rare occurrence in my area/district...maybe because there don't seem to be many teachers here with dual certification so they do not have the option.

I originally went into special ed. many moons ago and never thought about teaching in a regular classroom. I didn't really want to get certified in reg. ed. but the college I attended (and maybe this was true in most spec. ed. programs at that time) required students to get elementary certified with the special ed. added on. I later got my masters in special ed. and taught in resource settings at the high school and elementary levels. This was before IEPs grew to what they are now and just before the big push toward inclusion.

I moved to another part of the country and couldn't find anything in spec. ed. except for a second grade position in a private school for students with learning disabilities. Of course the kids had all kinds of disabilities but the school (being private) did not have to follow federal requirements including IEPs. It was a difficult adjustment for me because I was used to resource and this was close to regular self-contained classroom, just smaller numbers of students in each class. The pay was very low so I moved to a public school district the next year. I had never pursued regular ed. but ended up teaching sixth grade for several years. The class sizes were large and it seemed each year my subject areas and/or team changed as the size of the population changed.

All this time I kept looking for a resource position, but a fellow teacher who was teaching sp.ed. rescource at the time kept slapping my hand asking me if I was crazy. She could not wait to get out of special ed and teach sixth grade social studies which she finally did. She was very burned out by the IEPs, the parent complaints, the heavy caseload, dealing with the teachers whether she was pulling out or going in for inclusion.

Her experience and advice had an impact on me and I wasn't so sure anymore about going back to special ed. I moved again to another state and have been a regular ed. teacher in third and fourth grade since that move, still on the look out for the type of position I enjoyed so many years ago. But when I attend IEP meetings for my students and see the new paperwork and the push for all inclusion, I'm not so sure I should make the change. I have found regular classroom teaching very difficult, don't feel I fit in with most regular classroom teachers, but I do feel a sense of autonomy that I'm not sure I would feel in special ed. The hoops that have to be jumped through to get a child placed where they belong takes so long. There doesn't seem to be a cut off on case loads. The constant meetings!

I just finished a very stressful year in fourth grade in a mobile classroom and there are some special ed. opportunities in my district right now at all grade levels K-12, so I'm trying to decide whether to push for one of those positions or stay put. From everything I've read in this discussion, it sounds like it varies so much from one school, one district, one state, to another. If anyone can offer me some perspective who has done both, I'd love to hear it.

Mrs. W's picture
Mrs. W
5-8 Language Arts and History Teacher

When I did my undergrad the school I attended only had general education with a special ed endorcement. They cut the special ed endorcement my junior year because of state law, and quit offering any special ed. I always wanted to do special education, but I just settled on my degree in elementary education. I couldn't find a job in elementary, so started working as a para in a severe disabilities classroom and loved it. Last year I finally went back to get my license in special education. All of a sudden this summer a general education teaching job came about, and I was in a debate whether to teach general education or be a para in special education. I took the teaching job in general education 7/8 grade combined, because right now teachers are being cut, so getting offered a teaching job with my own classroom in general education outweighed being a para again in special ed. There were so many cuts this year it could be a few years before there were openings again. It will be a new adventure to go back to general ed after working in special education the past 5 years. The setting of general education I am going into is a little unique because it is a multi-age classroom where I can use some of my special education teaching strategies, adapting material for different levels and such.

Barbara H.'s picture
Barbara H.
Early Childhood Special Education Teacher

I've been a stay-at-home mother for several years and am now looking to re-enter the field of education. My experience is in early childhood special education, but can anyone advise me as to whether it would be a good idea to get certified in reg. education as well. Would it open up my options?

Ida Brandão's picture
Ida Brandão
Senior officer at the Ministry of Education in Portugal

National policies regarding Special Education Needs may differ from country to country but there's an international trend defended by UNESCO (Salamanca Statement) and other organizations supporting inclusion in mainstream schools rather than Special Schools that tend to perpetuate segregation.

I believe in inclusion and I think that it's not only a human right but it's the only way that all of us may experience and share the barriers that people with disabilities have to face. As long as people with disabilities are kept apart in closed communities, we tend to look at a distance to their situation. Regular pupils may learn about their schoolfellows needs and raise awareness at close range.

However inclusion to be successful requires specialized staff and physical resources. Schools need to promote an inclusion culture. When these requirements fail, the criticism arise that tregular schools are not prepared to host these children/youth and that they are better taken care in segregated special settings.

CC Crenchaw's picture
CC Crenchaw
Pre-K Mom - Atlanta, Georgia

I am planning on adopting a child in the 3rd or 4th grade that currently has an IEP. I have yet to read the IEP but I believe based on some of what I know about the lives many children have led before and during foster care, that the initial neglect and/or abuse that led to being pulled from the home or loss of parents and the instability from changing foster homes and schools results in falling behind in school and normal learning. With that said, I wonder if with steady improvement a child can be transitioned out of SPED into the mainstream over time? And does the school system take notice and validate the cause and effect of trauma/learning ratio in foster children? Or does the parent have to insist on IEP re-evaluation annually? Would love some guidance as I'd like to be prepared and armed with some good advice. Thanks to anyone who will respond.

DeeM's picture
Special Education Teacher - Elementary

I was middle schol special education and then went to general education english, 8th grade. I absolutely LOVED it. I would go back in a quick second, but like the other person who posted, we moved and there was huge choice in jobs within the spec ed field.

I work with a young teacher who just switched from fourth grade ICS to fourth grade general ed. and she really likes it. She likes having her own room and being able to make her own decisions and she was getting very frustrated with the spec ed. CST and admin in our district, so the move for her was easy. It is a lot of work being in charge of your own room, but I think there are pros and cons to both and it just depends on your own strengths and what you are looking for.

I am currently doing spec ed again and absoltuely love the resource part of it. I get the best of boht worlds this way becuase I have my own room but am workingn with the population I am best suited for.

Hope that helps a little.

Hubert V. Yee's picture
Hubert V. Yee
social media and marketing manager of startup

Hi CC Crenshaw,

Please reference this Web site . While I am not an expert on this subject matter and am in no way endorsing this organization, but I hope this lead helps generate some answers.

Mary Kattreh's picture

I taught several years in a special education resource room and transferred into a 2nd/3rd grade split class for a few years and then into a straight 2nd grade class. I did this for about 6 years. I have since returned to special education. My experience in the general education class taught me that often the spe.ed. students were all placed in my room, due to may experience/spe.ed. certification and that the paperwork demands were significantly less in gen.ed than in spe.ed. For me, however, the rewards have far out weighed the lofty paperwork demands I have experienced in spe.ed. Good luck.

june's picture
special ed teacher

When a student is placed in special ed. their cirumstances are taken into consideration. The special ed teacher is aware of psychological factors caused by foster care. Sometimes that changes has the child gets a stable, trusting environment. Students have an annual IEP meeting every year to determine progress on goals. Students do get phased out to main stream if they no longer has a deficit. You do not have to insist on a re-evaluation, the special ed teacher will contact you about one. If you want a meeting at anytime before the re-evaluation due date, you have the right to request one, the teacher won't get upset its part of the job. Maybe a regular meeting with teacher will answer your questions. An IEP meeting requires various individuals to attend and consumes more time if it is not needed.

Once you have guardianship of the child please contact the special ed. teacher or shool psychologist, they can talk to you. Also if the child will be moving to a new school were you live, the special ed teacher will arrange an IEP meeting within 10 days of the student entering. I hope I answered your questions.

Hanaa El-Ansary's picture

I work in a private school and I am interested in mainstreaming Early Learners into multi-aged preschool classrooms. Transitions between classrooms has been issues for these students and I would appreciate if someone can share special education strategies that would help support preschoolers with ADHD, Sensory processing, and mild Autism.

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