Author Andrea Harkins-Brown, Nicholas Gillon, and Andrea Schanbacher

Research has shown that general educators may lack the competencies to effectively include students with disabilities, thus widening the gaps in outcomes between students with disabilities and their peers. In this study, we outline the development and implementation of a competency-based continuing education program, designed to equip general educators to effectively include students with disabilities (SWDs) and earn special education certification. This paper presents the results of a program evaluation conducted using both validated measures and author-developed instruments. Participants included general education teachers, instructional coaches, and those in similar roles. Results indicated that participants significantly increased their knowledge of professional standards, demonstrated knowledge in high-leverage practices, and showed high levels of self-efficacy to implement inclusive practices. We discuss these results, emphasizing the timeliness of this nontraditional approach and its implications for teacher preparation, research, and policy amid the troubling national special education teacher shortage. Namely, this approach epitomizes a model that allows leaders to strategically utilize their existing workforce to address vacancies in special education and emphasizes that the responsibility to support SWDs rests squarely upon all educators.


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