Website honors M.S.Ed. in Special Ed among nation’s best for new teachers

NIU’s M.S.Ed. in Special Education has earned high kudos from Teacher.org, a national website “for teachers by teachers.”

Following a review of “every single accredited ITP master’s program available,” the site’s editors “hand-selected the ones we could confidently recommend as the very best” in their 2019/2020 Best Initial Teacher Certification Master’s Program List.

Only 24 programs – NIU’s included – made the honor roll.

“In a field that is open to qualified candidates with a bachelor’s degree, a master’s is the path to becoming a teacher that is less frequently traveled,” the website’s editors wrote. “It represents a more advanced level of preparation, and tends to be the option of choice for a special kind of aspiring teacher with an extraordinary level of commitment to providing students with exceptional learning experiences.”

Teacher.org’s methodology began with specialty accreditation, only weighing programs with accreditation from the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation.

Further considerations included the use of entrance exams, the mix of degree specializations, faculty with deep scholarly and real-world classroom experience, diverse and in-depth field experience through community partnerships, research opportunities and content-area exam pass rates.

Greg Conderman
Greg Conderman

When Teacher.org’s editors turned to NIU, “we knew right away we were looking at a winner.”

Among their praise:

  • “As a graduate of the Department of Special and Early Education, it’s likely you’ll exceed the minimum expectations that the state requires for licensure.”
  • “From the first day on campus, you’ll enjoy one-on-one mentoring with highly qualified faculty who will stick by your side all the way through graduation.”
  • “A sense of community is further enhanced throughout your studies with the cohort model of learning.”

Greg Conderman, chair of the Department of Special and Early Education, is pleased by the recognition.

“Having an independent organization conclude that our LBS-1 and vision graduate programs are exceptional validates that we are making wise choices in our curricular changes and instruction,” Conderman says. “It sends a message to potential students and their employers that the special education graduate programs at NIU are a wise investment, and that they will receive a quality education here.”

Both programs are taught by “outstanding, caring professors and instructors,” he adds, and the rigorous coursework and fieldwork “prepare candidates well for their future careers.”

Conderman also attributes the success to other members of the department team.

Graduate advisor Kate Donohue
Graduate advisor Kate Donohue

“Our office staff, clinical staff and a graduate advisor collaborate with our faculty and candidates to deliver programs that meet their needs in terms of course delivery format, location, and course sequence,” he says. “We value getting to know each graduate student and helping each one achieve his or her professional goals.”

As Teacher.org indicates, many teachers do not enter the profession at the master’s degree level – and it’s something that Conderman has found true of the students whom his department prepares for careers in special education.

Earning that NIU degree “opens up many job possibilities” in an area of high demand, he says.

“Many of our candidates have some experience in the special education field as general education teachers or paraprofessionals. Many have worked, in some capacity, with children or youth with vision issues or learning or social-emotional needs, and find that based on that experience, this is the now the right career path for them,” he says.

Some are “career-changers who have found that their existing job is not personally fulfilling, and they wish to make a positive difference in a child’s life,” he adds.

“Our programs are a good match for those who want to make a difference in a child’s life and desire to work collaboratively with team members to support children and youth,” Conderman says. “Special education is a rewarding career.”

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