The United States is facing its first teacher shortage crisis in 20 years, according to a report by the Learning Policy Institute
. Special education is one of the areas that has been particularly hard hit, says the Institute, an independent education research organization.
UMass Lowell has seen similar findings.
In a survey of its partner school districts, the university’s College of Education found that 95 percent are in need of dual-licensed elementary teachers who have the skills to teach children with disabilities in inclusive classroom settings.
In response, UMass Lowell is introducing a bachelor of arts degree in education that enables students to earn dual certification to teach both elementary school in grades one to six and children with moderate disabilities in pre-kindergarten to eighth grade in Massachusetts.
Launching this fall, it’s the first program in Massachusetts to offer this twofold certification.
“Building on UMass Lowell's long legacy of preparing excellent teachers, this new degree will develop a generation of teachers who have the skills to work with all students in today’s increasingly diverse classrooms,” says College of Education Dean Anita Greenwood. “They will be technologically competent, community-engaged and ready to make a difference.”
The unique elements of the program, for which scholarships are available, include an immediate introduction to teaching during the freshman year, field-based coursework throughout the program, a curriculum that blends classes in the liberal arts and sciences as well as education and two full-time teaching practica in senior year. The senior-year practicum experiences – teaching elementary students and students with moderate disabilities in local public schools – give teacher candidates opportunities to work side-by-side with experienced teachers and students.
With the introduction of the bachelor’s degree program, UMass Lowell has renamed its Graduate School of Education the College of Education, as it was originally known until 1998 when it shifted its focus toward graduate degrees as state teaching requirements changed.
UMass Lowell took a step toward reviving undergraduate teacher training with the launch of the UTeach program in 2012, a national initiative through which undergraduates majoring in the sciences and engineering can earn a minor in secondary STEM education and become certified to teach. The success of the UTeach program, coupled with the demand from school districts for more elementary teachers who are prepared to work with children with moderate disabilities, led to the development of the new undergraduate degree.
With the addition of the new degree, the college now offers a range of options for individuals who wish to become teachers, teachers who would like to become administrators and administrators who would like to advance their careers.