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Standard 4: Aspect A

The program is committed to and invests in strengthening and improving the education profession and the P-20 education system. Each program’s context (or multiple contexts) provides particular opportunities to engage the field’s shared challenges and to foster and support innovation. Engagement with critical issues is essential and must be contextualized. Sharing results of contextualized engagement and innovation supports the field’s collective effort to address education’s most pressing challenges through improvement and innovation.


Documenting Existing Work:

Overview: According to a 2017 report, nearly 8 in 10 California schools were looking to hire special education teachers, and 87% of principals reported that finding them is a challenge. Our Education Specialist (ES) program responds to this identified need by increasing the number of qualified Education Specialists who have the skills to teach students with disabilities. Over the past five years, our ongoing recruitment efforts have resulted in a 300% increase in admissions for ES and Dual programs combined. With more qualified Education Specialists and an increasing number of ES student teachers in the classroom, there is more opportunity to address the disparity in educational outcomes for students with special needs. 

The need for well prepared ES teachers is also demonstrated by districts naming this as a focus for two of our residency programs: Clovis and Fresno Unified (see further details below). Additionally, the ES program provides embedded support by University faculty and clinical practice coaches to the Mentor Teachers who have ES student teachers. As they support our candidates, the Mentor Teachers also learn, in partnership with University faculty, the most up-to-date pedagogy to support all learners.

Finally, our ES Candidates also support students with special needs and their families. Teacher candidates in the ES program conduct research to address parent education and training regarding the IEP process. Projects like these support families by adding to their knowledge base and supporting them to become active members of the IEP team. Other projects being conducted seek to address issues regarding student learning, increasing communication supports, and providing spaces for individuals with disabilities to add their voice to lines of research intended to improve their lives.

Overall, completers indicate that their experiences in the program prepare them for their time in the classroom. Of 171 Education Specialist candidates who completed the program between Fall 2016 and Spring 2020 to the CSU Educator Quality Center Completer survey, 41% indicated the program was effective, while another 41% indicated the program was very effective.

Once our completers are working in schools in our region, their impact continues to be recognized. Each year, our ES program gives the Carolyn Dobbs Special Education Teacher of the Year Award recognizes the importance of the work of special education professionals. Several alumni and the current Coordinator won the award while teaching in public schools. Moreover, alumni provide leadership in schools and districts with one alumni even winning the prestigious Golden Bell Award from the California School Boards Association.

Education Specialist Teacher Residency: The Education Specialist residency at Clovis Unified and Dual Credential Programs (Multiple Subject / ES) Residency were established to support the need for Education Specialists in the local area. As is the case statewide, our region currently has a high rate of special educators serving students with specific learning and behavioral needs under provisional (i.e., temporary) credentials. In order to support both teachers and student teachers in the community, the Special Education residencies help to address this need by offering stipends for tuition in return for a commitment to teaching service.

Coursework in the program provides opportunities for candidates to identify issues and problems within the context of their current placements/job sites and seek solutions to those issues/problems within their placement/job sites to improve student learning and outcomes in local schools. Likewise, projects being completed in SPED 298 also address issues and real world problems within the context of schools in the Central Valley. 

The Education Specialist Residency at Clovis Unified and the Dual (Multiple Subject/ES) residency at Fresno Unified are designed to support families with students who may be struggling, through a service commitment by the resident candidates to teach in special education within local communities for a minimum of three years. In doing so, Fresno State, Clovis Unified, Fresno Unified, and resident candidates make an active commitment to train and teach in local communities. The Education Specialist residencies offer a close partnership with the Education Specialist and the Multiple Subject credential and curriculum content, faculty, teachers, and students so that teachers in training or residents are able to connect with their students more closely, offer more one on one instruction and connect with the students’ families to offer them support and information.

Overall, the Education Specialist works with local partners and stakeholders to support high-needs schools in a variety of ways. These include:

  • The Education Specialist Teacher Residencies in two partner districts
  • Advisory Boards that have met once a year in the past.
  • The Special Education Masters program that promotes projects and thesis that address efforts to reduce disparities in educational outcomes in the context of the Central Valley. Our Masters program is combined with our Education Specialist Credential program. These students complete our program, start working in classrooms, and then work on research and project or thesis completion within our school context. These students become teachers who are local partners and stakeholders.
  • We also target hiring adjunct faculty who are currently working in the context our students attend, thus increasing our stakeholders and program support.

Additional Data: 
The Education Specialist Credential Program at Fresno State supports local district partners and county stakeholders through the credentialing of aspiring Education Specialists. Our program’s candidates come primarily from the four major counties surrounding Fresno State (Fresno, Madera, Tulare, Kings), all of which service Title I schools and districts. The Central Valley is a 450-mile-long stretch and one of the fastest growing regions of California due to migration, which is the leading source of population growth. Most regions in the Central Valley have high poverty rates, and education levels are lower in the Central Valley than in the rest of California. In Fresno County with a population of a little over a million residents, 21.2% of the residents were born outside of the United States, 21% of families live in poverty and 44% of the population speak a language other than English. In the four counties (Fresno, Kings, Madera and Tulare) surrounding Fresno State, the total population, per the 2020 Census Bureau, is 1,790,512, with the largest increase in Fresno County, followed by Madera and Tulare Counties. Yet there are few private universities and no other CSUs in the area to provide education.

The Education Specialist Credential Program at Fresno State supports local district partners and county stakeholders through the credentialing of aspiring Education Specialists. Our program’s candidates come primarily from the Central Valley’s four major counties(Fresno, Kings, Madera and Tulare) surrounding Fresno State, all of which serve Title I schools and districts, and are ethnically diverse, reflecting the overall populations of the Central Valley. 

To understand the context of special education needs in the region, we examined data from four sources. First, we reviewed the Policy Analysis for California Education [PACE] Institute, an independent, non-partisan research center led by faculty directors at Stanford University, the University of Southern California, the University of California Davis, the University of California Los Angeles, and the University of California Berkeley, who collects data on California’s  education workforce and works with state and local decision-makers to achieve improvement in performance and more equitable outcomes at all levels of California’s education system, from early childhood to postsecondary education and training. PACE and Stanford University released a report, Getting Down to Facts II (Darling-Hammond et al., 2018) [video summary here] which provided an in-depth analysis of California’s education system as of 2018 and looked at what is working well and where improvement is still needed. According the the report, California is in the midst of a severe and deepening shortage of special education teachers—and the shortage is dire. There have been persistent shortages of fully certified teachers, in large part due to a severe drop in teacher education enrollments and high attrition for special educators, and, as a result, students with disabilities who often have the greatest needs are frequently taught by the least qualified teachers. Nearly 8 in 10 California schools are looking to hire special education teachers, and 87 percent of principals at those schools report that hiring is a challenge (Darling-Hammond et al., 2018). 

Compounding the limited supply of fully prepared special education teachers is the problem of turnover in special education. Between the 2015–16 and 2016–17 school years, more than one out of five teachers in special education schools left their positions, substantially more than in any other subject area (Darling-Hammond et al., 2018). When districts cannot fill a position with a fully prepared teacher, they have few good options: districts report dealing with shortages by hiring underprepared teachers (i.e., those entering with substandard credentials or permits), and temporary or long-term substitute teachers. During this same time period, more than one out of five teachers in special education schools left their teaching positions. Attrition of special education teachers is associated with inadequate preparation and professional development, challenging working conditions that include large caseloads, overwhelming workload and compliance obligations, inadequate support, and compensation that is too low to mitigate high costs of living and student debt loads. 

Second, we reviewed the Teacher Shortage article, from facts derived from CCTC, that we found in EdSource, which is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization founded in 1977. It is a key institution on the education policy, reform and journalism landscape in California. “California has been experiencing a shortage of teachers, especially in special education, bilingual education, and science, technology, engineering and technology, or STEM for some years. The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated the problem. EdSource is tracking how the shortage is impacting different districts and regions statewide. Many are working on aggressive tactics to recruit and retain teachers, including offering bonuses and other incentives, and building teacher “residency” programs.”

Third, we compared the percentage of basic credentials issued by CCTC from 2015-2020. See Table 1. The data show that the number of credentials issued over a four year span by CCTC increased for Multiple Subject by 1.5%, decreased for Single Subject by 3.5% and increased for Education Specialists by 2%. 

Table 1. Total New Teaching Credentials by Percentages Issued by Type 2015-2020

Credential Type 2015-2016 2016-2017 2018-2019 2019-2020 Total % increase or decrease
Multiple Subject  41.7% 41.8% 42.8% 43.2% 1.5%
Single Subject  39.7% 38.1% 37.7% 36.2% -3.5%
Education Specialist  18.6% 20.1% 19.5% 20.6% 2.0%

Fourth, we randomly selected 6 out of the 13 disabilities to compare data across years 2015-2019 to see trends in these categories in the four counties in the Central Valley region surrounding Fresno State. We collected the data from KidsData (https://www.kidsdata.org/) who collect data reported to CCTC by districts across California. In Table 2, the total percentage of students identified for special education supports and services from 2015-2019 increased overall by 20.4% for Fresno County, by 10% for Kings County, by 12.27% for Madera County and by 32.8% for Tulare County. At the same time, the increase in Education Specialist Credentials issued by CCTC was only 2%. Clearly, the need for more Education Specialists in the Central Valley is significant. 

Table 2. Total Numbers of persons (birth-age 22) identified with selected disabilities in California (KidsData @https://www.kidsdata.org/)

Fresno County

Disability  2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 % increase or decrease
Autism 1,654 1,878 2,115 2,369 2,685 74.42%
Emotional Disturbance 508 549 570 603 639 25.78%
Intellectual Disability 1,973 2,037 2,130 2,220 2,297 16.42%
Learning Disability 4,218 7,384 7,517 7,867 8,133 12.67%
Speech or Language Impairment 4,263 4,350 4,438 4,689 4,864 14.1%
Health Impairment 1,949 2,087 2,173 2,291 2,484 27.45%
Totals= 17,565 18,285 18,943 20,039 21,102 20.14%

Kings County

Disability  2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 % increase or decrease
Autism 253 286 331 380 436 72.33%
Emotional Disturbance 70 73 79 98 106 51.42%
Intellectual Disability 184 179 175 184 186 1.1%
Learning Disability 1,289 1,309 1,299 1,314 1,263 -2.01%
Speech or Language Impairment 748 701 710 734 738 -1.34%
Health Impairment 239 241 279 306 331 38.5%
Totals= 2,783 2,789 2,873 3,016 3,060 10%

Madera County

Disability  2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 % increase or decrease
Autism 260 278 304 338 352 35.39%
Emotional Disturbance 90 95 117 108 109 21.11%
Intellectual Disability 248 259 267 277 275 10.9%
Learning Disability 1,132 1,141 1,170 1,220 1,194 5.5%
Speech or Language Impairment 794 819 843 828 886 11.59%
Health Impairment 395 392 419 448 461 16.70%
Totals= 2,919 2,984 3,120 3,219 3,277 12.27%

Tulare County

Disability  2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 % increase or decrease
Autism 658 750 889 995 1,088 65.34%
Emotional Disturbance 164 202 230 218 216 31.7%
Intellectual Disability 1,278 1,386 1,394 1,384 1,377 -.07%
Learning Disability 2,784 2,750 2,897 3,109 3,250 16.74%
Speech or Language Impairment 1,086 1,121 1,215 1,295 1,399 28.82%
Health Impairment 1,005 1,525 1,746 1,967 2,065 105.47%
Totals= 7,075 7,734 8,371 8,968 9,395 32.8%

Site Placements
As highlighted in Standard 3B, our program places candidates in over thirty districts or county offices of education and in over 120 school sites in a  sixty-five mile span. Our program supports the needs of students with disabilities in schools and districts in the Central Valley by providing interns and credentialed Education Specialists to districts and schools within the four counties (Fresno, Kings, Madera and Tulare) surrounding Fresno State. Candidates are placed in schools in all four counties, both urban and rural, the surrounding region. Every effort is made by program faculty to ensure that candidates are in the best possible placement to support their development. As demonstrated by the data represented below, our region is home to some of the most diverse student populations in the state, meaning candidates in all programs have opportunities to develop as practitioners while working with students from diverse racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds, as well as students with disabilities.

Table 3. Student Population Diversity by County

Diversity Fresno County Kings County Madera County Tulare County
African American/Black 4.8% 3.6% 1.4% 1.0%
American Indian/Alaska Native 0.6% 1% 1.1% 0.7%
Asian American 9.3% 0.9% 1.4% 2.0%
Filipino 0.8% 1.6% 0.2% 0.8%
Hispanic/Latino 65.4% 70.6% 74.4% 77.8%
Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander 0.2% 0.2% 0.1% 0.2%
White 16.5% 18.9% 19.% 15.2%
Multiracial 2.1% 2.9% 1.6% 1.4%

Articulating Plans for Future Stakeholder Involvement:
In the future we plan to make some changes and be more proactive with the partnerships and advocacy that currently exists.

  • Our advisory boards will be more directed at understanding our partners’ own work to reduce disparities in educational outcomes
  • We have a current opportunity as we develop an updated Educational Specialist program based on the new CTC Teacher Preparation Expectations to target more proactively the efforts of our partners.
  • We also would like to explore working with our graduate students and program completers to complete the circle of research by working more closely with both the program and Credential students to share their efforts at reducing disparities.

Aspect B →