PreK-8 Special Education Add-on Certification

PLEASE NOTE: This program requires an existing level 1 or 2 certification in either elementary education, middle school education, or K-12 Reading Specialist. Candidates must have an existing certification prior to entry to the program or must complete one of these other certifications prior to completing the special education add-on certification. If you have no prior teaching certification and want to obtain certification in Special Education PreK-8, please see our dual PreK-4 Education and Special Education PreK-8 program.

The world needs great elementary teachers with inclusive educational experience!  Special needs and special education students are becoming integrated into traditional classrooms at a rapid rate.  Now more than ever, elementary teachers need credentials and experience in responding to the needs of these students, managing classrooms that are inclusive, and understanding the challenges that are a part of the daily lives of special education students.

In the past, inclusive education with a focus on special needs populations was not a part of elementary education programs. Recent changes by the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) have made inclusive education an important component of contemporary education school curricula. Special education studies leading to a second certification in Special Education increases the marketability of practicing teachers who already have received a primary certification in Pennsylvania. Indeed, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a job growth rate of approximately 17% for special education teachers between now and 2020. In addition, PDE recently changed the categorization of Special Education into separate PreK-8 and 7-12 ranges.

In response, Arcadia University has received PDE approval for a new add-on special education program in PreK-8 certification and 7-12 ranges.   

Teaching our youngest children requires a special blend of understanding, managerial and interpersonal skills. Early elementary teaching is a demanding but rewarding profession, particularly in a climate in which inclusion is, more and more, the reality of contemporary classrooms.

PreK-8 Special Education Add-on Certification

Arcadia’s PreK-8 Special Education Add-on Certification program helps students:

  • Develop knowledge about the social, cultural, emotional, physical, and cognitive needs of students with disabilities, with a focus on students in the preK-8 grade ranges
  • Design meaningful, rigorous and appropriate instruction for students with disabilities
  • Develop a deep and broad knowledge of special education
  • Experience and familiarize yourself with teaching methods across disabilities
  • Develop an understanding of the collaborative nature of special education
  • Practice and hone the craft of teaching special education through consistent, mindful, and prolonged fieldwork, while being coached and mentored by your professors, supervisors, and classroom teachers

Flexibility with Intentional Design in Fieldwork

Fieldwork is a key component of all Arcadia School of Education programs. That said, we understand that most of our graduate students work full-time and attend their courses in the late afternoon and evening, and that many are already teachers.

As a result, our policies regarding field and clinical experiences for graduate students are more flexible than those for undergraduate teacher certification students.  We provide several fieldwork opportunities that fall outside of traditional business hours (prior to 9 A.M., late afternoon and evening).

Students may also gain fieldwork experience in their own school if they are already working as a general education teacher or reading specialist.

All fieldwork for each course in the graduate PreK-8 special education stand-alone certification must be completed with PreK-8 students.

Program Plan/Certification Checklist

Strategic Instruction for Emergent and Content Literacy ED606  
Human Development: The School Years, K-12 ED517  
ESL: Multilingual and Multicultural Literacies ED622  
Learning and Assessment in Elementary Math ED526a  
Level 1    
Cultural Foundations of Education ED505  
Interpreting Educational Research ED510  
Introduction to Inclusive Education ED580 +ED580LE
Instructional and Assistive Technologies ED566d  
Level 2    
Supporting Students with High Incidence Disabilities ED582 +ED582LE
Supporting Students with low Incidence Disabilities ED584 +ED584LE
Transition Planning and Services ED670 +ED670LE
Level 3    
Positive Behavioral Approaches ED585 +ED585LE
The Profession of Special Education ED591 +ED591LE
Field Work in SPED (3 cr. — not applicable to the M.Ed.) ED583a  

Questions? If you have any questions about the special education add-on certification or would like to check your eligibility for this program, please contact Dr. Clare Papay, Director of Special Education Certification Programs, at


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