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March 16, 2000


In 2003, Illinois will join 43 other states in requiring cross-categorical certification for special education teachers to prepare them to address the multiple needs of students with learning, behavior, mental and physical disabilities, the State Board of Education decided Thursday.

Moving to a cross-categorical framework will require colleges and universities to realign their teacher training programs to intensely train special education teachers in strategies and skills for students with disabilities.  A number of the state’s top producers of special education teachers told the State Board that their programs have been moving in that direction for several years, and that they welcome this challenge.

“The new framework is based on the needs of students,” State Superintendent of Education Glenn W. McGee explained. “Classroom experiences have shown that most special education students can not be labeled with a single category.  In the great majority of cases, they have multiple needs that now require teachers with different certifications to teach them.  With the intensity of training that will be required under the new system, one teacher will be able to provide the multiple strategies needed to help these students succeed.”

Illinois would maintain categorical certification for teachers of students who are deaf/hard of hearing, blind/visually impaired or have speech and language impairments.  Early Childhood Special Education would also be a new designation and the current bilingual specialization would be maintained and available for all types of special education certificates.

For nearly two years, the State Board has been working with representatives of the special education community – parents, teachers, administrators, higher education and special interest organizations – to review teacher certification and evaluation in the state.  In arriving at these recommendations, State Board staff reviewed findings of a task force, comments from six public hearings and the recommendations of four specific groups and numerous individuals. 

The framework would establish the following two cross-categorical special education certificates:

Learning and Behavior Specialist I  (LBS I)   -   Meets rigorous standards for serving needs of students with learning, behavior/emotional, mental and/or physical disabilities at the elementary, middle and high school levels.  This certificate would be earned through a standards-based, highly focused preparation program designed to ensure that candidates have the knowledge and skills necessary to meet the multiple and unique needs of students with these disabilities.

Learning and Behavior Specialist II  (LBS II)    -   This certificate is an optional advanced designation for LBS I teacher that represents their enhanced knowledge and skills as teaching specialists.  This advanced certificate would be earned through additional in-depth training in teaching strategies and specialization in learning, mental or behavioral needs of students.  LBS II certificates would be optional for teachers and could be endorsed for more than one specialization area.

The plan would not change the services provided to students in special education.  Those are now, and would continue to be, set by the Individualized Education Program of each student, that is established with parental involvement.  Teacher training programs would have to ensure that future special education teachers are prepared with the variety of skills needed to meet the multiple needs of students with disabilities.

Present teachers, as well as those in teacher training at this time, would not be affected.

The framework approved by the State Board Thursday will be presented to the federal judge who found in the Corey H. case that special education students in Chicago were not receiving the services required by federal laws.

            The framework is scheduled to go into effect for teacher candidates beginning their training after January 1, 2003. The requirements for the LBS I and LBS II will be defined more specifically through the rulemaking process in consultation with the State Teacher Certification Board, the Illinois State Advisory Council on the Education of Children with Disabilities, parents, educators, legislators and other interested parties.