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What Is a Master of Science in Education in Special Education?

Earning a Master of Science in Education in Special Education from Northwest Missouri State University gives experienced classroom teachers the tools and expertise necessary to teach students with mild and moderate disabilities. By completing this program, you will be prepared to collaborate with other stakeholders, assess the needs of each student, and create a positive learning environment for student achievement and success.

Coursework in the Program

The coursework plan designed by Northwest Missouri State University provides comprehensive study in the use of data, an in-depth exploration of appropriate placement and instruction for exceptional students, and a road map for working with students, teachers, other professionals, families and communities.

Data: Understanding and using data is essential to modern education. Some of the coursework included in this program focuses on data sources for effective instruction. In addition, graduate students study the administration and interpretation of ability and achievement tests to evaluate students and “make data-based decisions with an emphasis in the areas of special education and reading.”

Instruction: Coursework in this program focuses on creating student-centered instruction. Graduate students learn how to determine the least restrictive environment for every student. Emphasis is placed on recognizing cultural differences as well as individual student academic and behavioral potential when determining placement. Coursework also presents a variety of teaching strategies and methodologies for teaching K-12 students with mild or moderate disabilities.

Collaboration: Planning for instruction in the area of special education is not a solitary practice. The master’s degree in special education program at Northwest Missouri State University covers the importance of collaboration, conferencing and open communication between all member of each student’s team. This process does not end at graduation from high school. The team also has the responsibility to develop a transition plan that will follow the student to post-secondary education and career development, including access to life-skill resources and possible independent living.

Coursework also includes the study of behavior analysis and intervention as well as the scholarly study of professional literature regarding current issues and trends.

Career Possibilities Upon Graduation

Many experienced general education teachers seek a degree in special education to enhance their classroom instructional practices and deepen their understanding of the needs of all of their students. However, for teachers with a passion for serving students with special needs, there are several positions this degree has been designed for.

Special education teacher: Some school districts provide instruction for students with academic, social or emotional disorders in separate, self-contained classrooms. In these settings, students generally receive all-academic instruction in a classroom with fewer students than the general education classrooms. For music, art and physical education classes, students in self-contained rooms participate with their grade-level peers.

Resource teacher: Many districts have adopted the inclusive model in which students of all abilities are assigned to general education classrooms. For those students with Individual Education Programs (IEPs) who are entitled to special services, the resource teacher either works collaboratively with the general education teacher or takes small groups of students with the same IEP goals to a resource room for more intensive instruction.

Interventionist: One of the prevailing schools of thought is that early intervention for struggling students may provide sufficient support to fill in the academic gap and reduce the number of students requiring special education services. Many districts follow the Response to Intervention (RTI) model, “a multi-tier approach to the early identification and support of students with learning and behavior needs.” As students move through the RTI program, they meet regularly with an interventionist. These special education teachers are assigned small groups of students who do not work at grade level, but who do not qualify for special education services.

Enrolling in the Master of Science in Education in Special Education program, offered entirely online in the NCATE-accredited program by Northwest Missouri State University, may be the next step in your teaching career. If you are passionate about supporting students with special needs, this is the degree for you.

Learn more about Northwest Missouri’s online MS Ed. in Special Education program.


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