MS in Special Education: Mild to Moderate Disabilities with Elementary/Middle Grade Certification

The Master of Science in Special Education with a concentration in Mild/Moderate Disabilities (Elementary/Middle School focus) is a 39-credit program that will prepare you to work with students who have disabilities in grades 1-8, including students identified with: learning disabilities, emotional disabilities, and mild intellectual disabilities. Over half of the students identified with disabilities are served currently in inclusive classrooms. Thus, you will learn how to provide instruction within co-taught general education classrooms and in small individualized settings across all content areas.

In addition to your coursework, you will complete two supervised field experiences with guidance from university supervisors, mentor teachers and faculty advisors (i.e., 150 – 300 hours of hands-on experience within urban elementary/middle classroom settings).

As a graduate student in our program, you’ll combine coursework with applied experiences/projects to develop your competencies in:

  • Understanding the legal issues and federal requirements involved in educating students with disabilities
  • Assessing and evaluating student performances using formal and informal assessments
  • Collecting and analyzing data to make evidence-based decisions across academic and behavioral domains
  • Developing effective and innovative individualized instructional programs across various content areas including math, literacy, and written language
  • Managing and charting challenging student and classroom behaviors
  • Collaborating effectively with fellow educators, parents, itinerant teachers and other specialists, administrators, and students
  • Reflecting on your own ethical practices while becoming a lifelong member of the special education professional community

In addition to passing all required courses, graduate students are required to:

  • Pass Praxis Exam II
  • Complete two supervised internships
  • Conduct a graduate student project and present the findings
  • Complete a comprehensive examination

We’re thrilled that you’re interested in our program and invite you to take the time to further explore the details below. If you have any questions please contact us or, if you’re ready, apply today.

Contact Us

Faculty Contact
Laurie deBettencourt. PhD

Academic Program Coordinator
Camilla Mika-Simms


Are you currently employed as a paraeducator in MD? Interested in earning a master’s in special education leading to certification in mild-to-moderate disabilities?

  •   Completion of online application
  •   Submission of application fee
  •   Submission of official transcripts from all postsecondary institutions attended (Cumulative GPA must be 3.0 or better)
  •   An essay describing your goals and how the program will assist you in meeting those goals uploaded
  •   A current resume or CV uploaded
  •   Two letters of recommendation from individuals who can speak to your work with children with disabilities submitted to admissions office
  •   Submission of passing scores on Praxis I Core, SAT, ACT, or GRE (For information on passing score requirements, please refer to the Maryland State Department of Education website)
  •   Applicants invited for an interview will be asked to provide a written response to a prompt and will be asked to “audition” by responding to classroom scenarios provided by faculty interviewers

For more information on the application process, please view the SOE admissions page.


15 Credits

871.501 Introduction to Children and Youth with Exceptionalities

Students investigate the major areas of exceptionality addressing the characteristics and educational needs of students with a broad range of special instructional needs. Students review incidence and etiology, diagnostic and instructional services, educational continuum of programs, and findings of recent research. (3 credits)

882.511 Human Growth and Development: A Lifespan Perspective

Students consider an overview of the physical, social, and emotional aspects of human development throughout a person’s lifespan. The course considers developmental theory and reviews current areas of research. (3 credits)

884.500 Introductory Processes and Acquisition of Reading

This course is intended for students seeking initial teacher certification at early-childhood and elementary and special education levels. Participants examine the processes of language and reading development, including the impact of phonemic awareness and how the brain responds to reading acquisition. This course provides an introductory foundation for further study of specific strategies, materials, and assessment techniques in reading instruction. (3 credits)

884.502 Diagnosis/Assessment for Reading Instruction

Students in this course learn approaches for assessing and addressing the reading abilities and needs of children. Course activities include the examination of learner characteristics and implications for appropriate reading instruction. Students study and analyze a broad selection of formal and informal assessment techniques and instruments, their application to reading instruction and classroom practice, and strategies for effectively communicating relevant information to parents, educators, and other professionals about children’s reading performances. (3 credits)

884.505 Materials for Teaching Reading

Students in this class develop ways to evaluate and select appropriate materials for classroom reading instruction. Course activities include reviews of commercially produced reading programs, children’s literature, remedial materials, and the use of appropriate and culturally sensitive instructional approaches for teaching diverse student learners. Materials are evaluated in relation to current research, developmental and cultural appropriateness, and student interest and motivation. (3 credits)


871.510 Legal Aspects, Service Systems, and Current Issues in Special Education

This online course reviews litigated and legislated standards for special education and related services for persons with disabilities. Students explore current issues in the provision of services for persons with disabilities, including inclusion, the response to intervention (RTI), and regulations for eligibility. (3 credits)

871.511 Instructional Planning and Management in Special Education

Students focus on the instructional and organizational skills necessary for teaching students who receive special education services. Topics of primary emphasis include developing effective individualized education plans, preparing and delivering exemplary lesson plans, and identifying instructional best-practice strategies that promote effective classroom organization and instruction. Students create lesson plans using best-practice strategies. (3 credits)

871.512 Collaborative Programming in Special Education

This course focuses on collaboration themes common to various educational settings: interpersonal communication, problem solving, cultural diversity, teamwork, and family systems theory. Students examine techniques that promote effective communication between teachers, school administrators and related professionals, and families of students with special needs. Co-teaching models that work effectively are also discussed. (3 credits)

871.513 Applied Behavioral Programming

This course will focus on the methodology of applied behavior analysis including how the principles of behavior can be used to make changes and improvements in classroom behavior. Observational methods, single-subject designs, behavior promotion and reduction, and generalization strategies are reviewed in relation to the needs of students with disabilities. Students assess and develop individual behavior projects that demonstrate their ability to design, implement, and evaluate behavioral support programs in an ethically responsive manner. (3 credits)

874.512 Characteristics of Students with Mild to Moderate Disabilities: Learning Disabilities, Behavioral Disorders, and Intellectual Disabilities

Students examine the incidence, etiology, and characteristics of students with learning disabilities, behavioral disorders, and intellectual disabilities, and review major theoretical models and instructional practices associated with each. (3 credits)

874.513 Educational Assessment of Students with Mild to Moderate Disabilities: Elementary/Middle

Students explore assessment instruments and procedures for diagnosing elementary and middle school students who are experiencing learning and behavior problems. Participants administer and interpret norm-referenced, criterion-referenced, and curriculum-based instruments that assess academic achievement, social behavior, and emotional functioning.  (3 credits)

874.526 Classroom Management: Methods for Students with Mild to Moderate Disabilities

This course reviews the theoretical foundations for developing practical interventions and management strategies to deal with inappropriate classroom behaviors, as well as strategies for individualized education program (IEP) development and implementation. Behavior modification, therapeutic strategies, social skills instruction, and communication principles are applied to the design and implementation of structured classroom management programs used to improve behavior and academic performance of students with mild to moderate disabilities. (3 credits)

874.541 Reading: Methods for Students with Mild to Moderate Disabilities

Students learn to apply strategies designed to improve the reading performance of elementary/middle school students with mild-to-moderate disabilities. Highlighted are strategies related to word identification and paraphrasing and methods such as progress monitoring and self-evaluation. During the course, students apply a strategy with a student who is experiencing reading difficulties. (3 credits)

874.524 Spoken and Written Language: Methods for Students with Mild to Moderate Disabilities

Students learn teaching strategies that can be used by teachers with students who have difficulty with oral and written expressive language. Instructional methods include both curriculum modifications and teacher-devised tasks. (3 credits)

874.525 Mathematics: Methods for Students with Mild to Moderate Disabilities

Students examine effective instructional strategies for the remediation of problems frequently found in the mathematics performance of students with mild-to-moderate disabilities. (3 credits)

874.860 Mild to Moderate Disabilities Internship: Induction – Elementary/ Middle

This internship, scheduled approximately midpoint in a student’s program, and provides supervised experiences in the education of children and youth in grades one through eight who require special education services. The internship sites and activities are assigned according to each student’s interest and training needs. The student implements foundational knowledge, skills, and dispositions gained in coursework in the areas of assessment, instruction, classroom management, and individual behavior intervention appropriate for the learning characteristics of elementary- and middle-school-age students with disabilities(3 credits)

874.861 Mild to Moderate Disabilities Internship: Culmination – Elementary/Middle

This internship, scheduled near the completion of a student’s program, provides supervised experiences in the education of children and youth in grades one through eight who require special education services. The internship sites and activities are assigned according to each student’s interest and training needs. The student continues professional development begun during the induction internship by implementing content specific knowledge, skills, and dispositions gained in subsequent coursework, with a focus on evaluating, selecting, and using reading materials and instructional methods appropriate for the learning characteristics of elementary- and middle-school-age students with disabilities.  (3 credits)

892.562 Access to General Education Curriculum with Technology Accommodations

This online class provides instruction on using accommodations based on student characteristics, the collaborative role of educators, and strategies for differentiating instruction for students with learning disabilities within the general education environment. Participants examine universal design for learning strategies and technologies to enhance student participation in educational programs.


Flexibility is allowed in scheduling and is determined in consultation with your advisor and can be completed within a 5 year timeline

Fall I

  •   Characteristics of Students with Mild/Moderate Disabilities (874.512)
  •   Instructional Planning (871.511)

Spring I

  •   Legal Issues (online) (871.510)
  •   Applied Behavioral Programming (871.513)

Summer I

  •       Collaborative Programming (871.512)
  •   Access to Technology (online) (892.562)
  •      Classroom Management (874.526)

Fall II

  •   Internship: Induction I (874.860)
  •   Reading Methods (874.541)

Spring II

  •   Educational Assessment (Elementary/Middle ) (874.513)
  •   Spoken and Written Language Methods  (874.524)

Summer II

  •   Math Methods (874.525)
  •   Internship: Culmination (874.861)