Discussing Special Education Teacher Prep at Eastern Michigan

Last Friday, I had a great opportunity to participate in a roundtable at Eastern Michigan University (EMU) on special education teacher preparation, recruitment and retention. With six other distinguished panelists that included a state and district representative, an EMU faculty member, a current EMU teacher candidate, a parent and a local teacher representative, we all agreed that integrating some of the preparation of general and special educators was of paramount importance.

For two hours, we shared data on current recruitment and retention rates and best practices for long-term retention.  One of these practices included the need for a strong induction and mentoring program. Michigan currently has a mandatory three-year mentoring program, 15 additional days of professional development, and regional seminars that allow them to hear from and connect to master teachers as they begin their teaching careers. What a great exemplar!

We also discussed the steps EMU is taking to make teacher preparation more successful and how important it is to align university training with what teachers are expected to do in their classrooms. Traditionally, general education and special education teachers have been trained separately, yet as we continue to move towards more inclusive settings, EMU will collaborate to ensure that programs are working together and general and special education are no longer “housed” in separate silos.

During and following the roundtable, I had a chance to chat with some of the over 250 attendees. Some of the topics of interest to audience members included the economic implications of inclusive practices and the need for financial incentives for teachers, especially as we work to increase the number of youth who choose to become special educators.  As I mingled through the crowd, I was excited to meet so many teacher candidates who participated in this event. I want to extend a special thanks to those who participated and remind all of you that investing in education is investing in our future!

Alexa Posny is Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services at the U.S. Department of Education.


  1. So many good older teachers are being forced out because they are more expensive. Bad press is rampant that older teachers have not “kept up”; yet many of us never stopped learning and adding to our credentials, but have effectively educated ourselves out of the employment market.
    I know enough good older teachers to staff a school but lack the money to start a charter. What about a national Teacher Force that goes in Fema-style to reestablish schools after a disaster? Dr. Janis Davis, Dallas, TX.

    • I am Special Education teacher in Jersey City, and can tell you, there is so much we can do for our special needs students. These students need people who are willing to dedicte their career to helping them succeed in such a fast pace, ever changing world. Inclusive settings are appropriate if a child can keep up with the other children in the classroom. I do not think it just putting a child with the hope he or she will progress as expected. Inclusive settings must have to teachers on the same level of what should be taught, what modifications shouls be made, how best to reach each studnet. In addition, it is important to help the general education students to understand that it is ok to help each other, after all young children do not see their classmates as having special needs, they are always ready to help. Being a Special Education Teacher was a choice, but I must say the training to work with special needs or more appropriate–students with disabilities has to be a must before entering the classroom.

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