Special Education Professional Standards: Which Skills Are Critical to Special Education Teacher Effectiveness?

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Year of Completion


First Advisor

Joel Mittler


Teacher evaluation has become an increasingly high stakes issue in the field of education as evidenced by its pivotal emphasis in national and local education reform initiatives, funded research, and federal policy levers. In recent years, states have experienced unprecedented pressure to adopt objective performance benchmarks that reflect student achievement as part of formal teacher evaluation systems. No teacher evaluation measures have been developed for use with special education teachers or the settings in which they teach. Dedicated focus is needed to ensure that proposed teacher evaluation measures are valid for use with these teachers. Measures must, at the minimum, be sensitive to students' learning challenges, teachers' instructional expertise, and other supports provided by special education teachers. This exploratory study focused on clarifying whether existing professional special education skills were perceived to be critical for special education teachers' effectiveness. Participants from three special education stakeholder groups rated the importance of nationally endorsed special education skills. Responses were explored through multiple analytic lenses, including a within subjects analysis of variance and multivariate analyses of variance. Findings are presented in terms of next steps toward the development of a meaningful measure of special education teacher effectiveness, related policy and practice considerations in this regard, and implications for future research.