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Doctorate in Special Education

There are several avenues I plan to take with a Doctorate in Special Education and Leadership. My career has led me to what I believe is my true purpose which is making classrooms more accessible for students with high incidence disabilities. Students with high incidence disabilities are taught in the same classroom as the “normal” student; in many cases in a team taught classrooms. In this environment is where I have witnessed, on more than one occasion, the general education teacher being the main facilitator which I feel does not completely address the needs of students with high incidence disabilities.

Several variables come into play for the cause of this behavior such as: the general education teacher not having an understanding of the students’ disabilities and the general education teacher being more concerned with keeping up with the pacing guide and teaching them the test to ensure the special education student master’s content. This is a task that is better left for the special education teacher to complete outside of the regular classroom time. Nevertheless, the primary cause of this problem is due to the fact that the general education teacher and special education teachers do not plan effectively together.

The current trends reveal that school administrations seems to be stigmatized by special education students and tend to veer away from dealing with special education issues; leaving all issues to be resolved by the special education department chair. The bottom line remains the same: general education teachers’ attitudes and administration’s inadvertent misinformation and or ignorance are the cause for the lack of classrooms that are equipped to provide students with high incidence disabilities with the proper education.

My continued involvement in this field has led to some fundamental questions: should there be systemic change, or simply an education or readjustment of teachers’ beliefs? More specifically, how much do general education teachers understand that special education students oftentimes have emergent skills as opposed to being in a fixed point in time in terms of their abilities, capacities and potential? More importantly, what role can I play, as an educator, in resolving these issues?

There is a range of ability levels that is required in this type of education and it can be difficult to meet all levels of students without proper planning between the general and special education teachers. When the planning process is flawed the curriculum in restricted and the content will not reach all students. However, research and technologies such as universal design and assistive technology allows for greater accessibility within the classroom. My own experiences with assistive technology, IT and scaffolding have shown the feasibility of incorporating high incidence children in the traditional classroom.

It is with this experience that I now plan to pursue my goals of becoming a curriculum development specialist or special education developer, eventually one day becoming a professor for high education. Special Education, as a discipline and a source of impending research, goes beyond being simply an interest of mine. From the time I entered further education, I have been intent on procuring a doctorate in the field of education and advance my career in the Fairfax County Public School system in program development and curriculum development specialist for the Office of Special Education; ultimately becoming a professor of higher education.

As I journey though my educational path of pursuing my doctorate, I am sure I will further fine tune my career goals. In my own work, I have been directly involved in the lives of over 150 special education students and their parents, the students’ teachers and their teachers’ assistants. In my capacity as Chairperson of a Special Education Department, I have been involved in every aspect of administration and application and development of policies and procedures, as well as continuing education for my faculty and staff.

By pursuing doctoral study and research, I will be ensuring the future of the support of these distinctive educators, effective administration and quality education for all students. My future in academics, the source of my motivation, is based upon unaddressed or not sufficiently resolved needs in the field of the application of special education. While I have welcomed each challenge within my current capacity, I feel a need to do more, and on a larger scale to affect changes.

In effect, my position has largely been a middle-person, working between a school’s administration, my own department’s needs, and the needs of my students. I anticipate working in a capacity where administrations understand the issues involved in special education rather than overlooking what they view as being problems. And where funding is lacking, I will be an educated, convincing advocate for the creation of stimulating, comforting and appropriate learning environments for all children.

I made my daughter a promise, to do all I could to ensure a future in which her uniqueness will be understood, accommodated and not limited or stigmatized. In truth, I fight for the future of the last barrier to education. In the not-too-distant past, advocates for education fought very similar battles, women in education, the end of segregation. And now, we are on the cusp of the last conflict: the inclusion of special education children in mainstream education. To that day, to our tomorrow, I will be there.

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