Abstract

Throughout the United States, public school districts serve increasing numbers of students with disabilities who are in the process of developing proficiency in English as a new or additional language. As a result, the need persists for special education teacher preparation programs to cultivate competencies for meeting the needs of emergent bilingual students with disabilities. In this study, researchers gathered special education teachers’ perceptions of their current levels of competence for teaching emergent bilingual students with disabilities. Self-assessment ratings for 50 competencies within seven broad categories (i.e., language development, learner characteristics, assessment, instruction, environment, collaboration, and professional practices) were collected from 101 in-service and 19 preservice special education teachers in the Midwest. Overall, self-assessment ratings reflected emergent levels of competence across the seven broad categories, with similar scores reported by preservice and in-service special education teachers. Significant differences (i.e., generally higher ratings on the 4-point scale) were recorded by bi/multilingual special education teachers (with or without bilingual or English as a Second Language [ESL] credentials) as compared with monolingual special education teachers without ESL credentials. This finding reveals the need to reimagine ways to build essential competencies for special education teachers to meet students’ intersectional needs. Specific suggestions are provided in relation to redesigning the content of coursework and reexamining the formats used to design and deliver coursework and field experiences in special education teacher preparation.

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