South Carolina is in critical need of special educators, with special education vacancies making up the largest share, nearly 20 percent, of unfilled teaching positions in the state. Last year, about 100 special education jobs went unfilled statewide.
To tackle this problem and prepare more special educators, the University of South Carolina is launching a series of courses for current early childhood teachers specifically those who serve children from birth to third grade.
Special education professor Kate Ascetta told South Carolina Radio Network that students can earn their certification without getting a master’s degree. “Now we actually have an undergraduate program that in collaboration with early childhood programs. These are early childhood educator undergraduates.”
Students in the early childhood education program at the University of South Carolina can choose to earn this certification while completing their undergraduate degree. Before now, special education courses were only taught at the master’s degree level. “They are able to get an add-on certification. So, they will now be after one year of online courses, so it’s just 6 additional courses, they are certified to work with 3 to 5 year-olds with disabilities,” Ascetta said.
A law, passed in 2017, requires educators to be licensed to teach special education children 3-5 years old. These 100 percent, online courses will allow current teachers to obtain this certification.