Professional Standards and Practice Policies and Positions

  • Shall recognize general educators as the primary interveners and special educators as members of the problem-solving teams in tiers one and two. Special education teachers, related service personnel, and specialized general educators (e.g. teachers of English language learners, reading specialists, mental health specialists, etc.) are the primary interveners for the highest tier services. Team collaboration occurs in each tier and may involve educators, related service providers, administrators, and families. These new and expanded roles in team collaboration will ensure that the needs of all learners are met.
  • Shall include families as partners in the process and, at a minimum, inform parents in writing of their rights when a student is first identified as not meeting expected intervention response rates.

Chapter 01: Preparation and Use of Personnel

Chapter 02: Professional Standards, Rights, and Responsibilities

CEC Resolutions and Positions


Paragraph 1 Right to Quality Instruction

The quality of educational services for children and youth with exceptionalities resides in the abilities, qualifications, and competencies of the personnel who provide the services. There is a serious deficit in the present availability of fully qualified personnel able to extend such services. This lack of competent personnel seriously hampers efforts to extend educational services to all children and youth with exceptionalities. There is a need to investigate new modes for evaluation of professional competence in the desire to accelerate the process of training effective professionals and paraprofessionals in significant numbers to meet the needs of the field. The Council affirms the principle that, through public policy, each student with an exceptionality is entitled to instruction and services by professionally trained and competent personnel. In addition, there is a need for new and appropriate training patterns which allow for broadening the role of special educators in a variety of settings to work in teams with other educators and children and youth with exceptionalities and for training the necessary supportive and ancillary personnel.

Paragraph 2 Continuing Professional Development

As standards, practice, policy, and service delivery systems change, employing education agencies have a responsibility to assure that all professionals and others involved in the education of individuals with exceptionalities have the requisite knowledge and skills. Accordingly, the Council believes that both general and special education teachers and administrators, and other ancillary staff must have access to state-of-the-art knowledge and documented effective practices designed for students with exceptionalities. Therefore, access to the evolving knowledge base of effective practice is essential to maintaining programs that can respond to the needs of all students with exceptionalities. To this end, the Council calls upon the federal government and professional associations, states/provinces, local school districts, institutions of higher education, and other relevant entities to commit the necessary resources to professional development programs that are grounded in adult learning principles and reflect professional standards for continuing education.

Because effective special education is dependent on the continuous improvement of what special educators know and are able to do, the Council believes that all special education professionals must be committed to and engage in ongoing professional development that advances their practice. We further believe that professionals must have the opportunity to acquire knowledge and skills through a broad array of venues, including, but not limited to, institutions of higher education, professional associations, state/provincial education agencies, and local school districts. We further encourage collaboration among all of these entities in designing and implementing high quality professional development. Employing agencies must provide resources, including release time, to enable each special educator to engage in continuing professional development throughout her/his career. We further believe that employers and professional organizations should recognize and reward special education professionals for improving their knowledge and skills.

Paragraph 3 Federal Role in Personnel Preparation

Through legislation, the federal government has played a dominant role in supporting initial efforts to prepare personnel for educating children and youth with exceptionalities. The Council believes that the federal government should continue and expand its efforts to train high-level leadership personnel, assist through leadership and financial support the development of agencies to prepare personnel, and conduct research in new systems of preparing and utilizing personnel and meeting personnel needs. Definitive data are needed concerning personnel utilization and retention and other factors of personnel usage.

Paragraph 4 State, Provincial, and Local Role in Personnel Preparation

In recent years, state, provincial, and local governments, in order to improve professional competencies, have made greater efforts to support formal training programs in colleges and universities and facilitate inservice and workshop efforts. The Council believes that such activities should be increased and that greater state, provincial, and local financial support should be given to their development and operation. The Council advocates extension of state, provincial, and federal funding to new and emerging special education services.

Paragraph 5 National Recruitment

Further efforts need to be undertaken to develop a national program to attract more qualified and motivated individuals into the field of special education. Such a program should include efforts to recruit more members from ethnic and multicultural groups into the field and to provide employment opportunities for those persons trained. The Council believes that such a program must be conducted through national leadership with full involvement and participation of all levels of government and professional organizations. It is only through such a well coordinated effort in recruitment that the field's needs for qualified and motivated personnel can ever be met.

Paragraph 6 Responsibility of Higher Education

Colleges and universities have an obligation to develop and coordinate their resources in support of programs for exceptional children. The obligation comprises a number of factors:

a. To provide through scholarly inquiry an expanded knowledge base for special education programs.

b. To provide training for various professional and paraprofessional personnel needed to conduct programs for students with exceptionalities.

c. To cooperate in the development and field testing of innovative programs.

d. To provide for the coordinated development of programs across disciplines and professions so that training and service models are congruent with emerging models for comprehensive community services.

e. To provide all students, whether or not they are in programs relating specifically to children with exceptionalities, a basis for understanding and appreciating human differences.

f. To exemplify in their own programs of training, research, and community service--and even in their architecture--a concern for accommodating and upgrading the welfare of handicapped and gifted persons.

g. To cooperate with schools, agencies, and community groups in the creation and maintenance of needed special education programs.

Paragraph 7 Government Role in Research

The Council recommends additional federal funding to bring about effective coordination of services and research efforts in order to provide a national information service encompassing curriculum methods and education technology. Funds from all levels of government should be made available for the development of more effective information and dissemination services. To facilitate more effective dissemination, an interchangeable coding and retrieval system compatible with educational enterprises and disciplines should be established across organization, agency, and government lines. Considering the exceptional child, through the teacher, as the ultimate recipient of services, the Council believes that information and dissemination systems should be coordinated so that a concerted and unified thrust is possible. Such systems should not be unique to geographic areas but national in scope.

Paragraph 8 Dissemination of Research

The Council sees research and its dissemination as inextricably interrelated. No longer can these two functions be considered as separate entities if children and youth with exceptionalities are to benefit from such enterprises. The Council recommends that all government funded research projects include a means for dissemination that will contribute toward upgrading the instruction of children and youth with exceptionalities.

The Council strongly recommends that government-approved dissemination activities be provided for separately in the federal education budget and not subsumed under some other priority. Further, it is recommended that dissemination not only include information delivery, but also include the identification and implementation of better educational practices and a process to train school personnel in the implementation of the improved practices and procedures.

A coordinating process for such a system is mandatory in order to identify, redirect, and deliver information among the various parts of the system. The goal is to constantly survey the information needs of multiple audiences; inform appropriate agencies who can develop materials, methods, programs, and strategies to meet those needs; inform users of worthwhile and proven resources; and encourage their implementation.

Paragraph 9 Focus of Research

The Council believes that greater emphasis needs to be given to improving educational methods and curriculum for children and youth with exceptionalities. It is suggested that government agencies give particular attention to applied educational research which would provide for the empirical evaluation of educational materials, analysis of teacher-pupil interaction, efficacy of media and technology as they relate to the instructional process, and development and evaluation of innovative instructional methods for children and youth with exceptionalities. 

Equally important, as has been learned from the developing fields associated with the education of exceptional children, is the belief that research must be conducted regarding how the human service delivery system can be made available to formerly institutionalized persons with exceptionalities. The Council believes that such research should be highly programmatic in nature and should clearly focus on the development of new policies and approaches for the delivery and evaluation of needed and provided services. At a minimum, such research must focus upon the implementation and continuous evaluation of the utilization of the individualized educational program.

Paragraph 10 Preparation of Personnel for Exceptional Children from Ethnic and Multicultural Groups

The Council supports the following personnel preparation policy recommendations to assist teachers and other professional personnel to improve their skills in meeting the needs of children from ethnic and multicultural groups: 

a. Teachers and college faculty members and others who provide training should include information about the diversity of cultural and linguistic differences in their preservice and inservice training programs.

b. Professional personnel should be required to receive training in adapting instruction to accommodate children with different learning styles who are members of ethnic and multicultural groups.

c. College and university preservice training programs should include clinical, practicum, or other field experiences with specific focus on learning about exceptional children from ethnic and multicultural groups.

Paragraph 11 High Stakes Assessment of Professional Knowledge, Skill, and Dispositions

It is the Council’s policy that in determining an individual's professional competence multiple measures rather than a single test score shall be used in the decision making process to enhance the validity and reliability of decisions related to content and pedagogical competence. As a minimum assurance of fairness, when a test is used as part of the decision making process, the individual should be provided multiple opportunities to pass the test. If there is credible evidence that a test score may not accurately reflect the individual's level of performance, the agency shall provide an alternative means by which the individual may demonstrate performance relative to professional standards. 

Background: The Council recognizes the important role that standardized assessments play in documenting teacher competence to ensure that all children are provided with effective teachers. Developments in national, state, and provincial policy are moving toward more rigorous assessment and accountability systems for teachers, most notably through provisions such as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The Council endorses various countries’ efforts to ensure that students with exceptional needs are guaranteed well-prepared teachers.

However, the Council is concerned by the growing reliance of policy makers on use of a single high stakes test to make critical decisions about educators’ professional competence. Several states in the United States have already adopted policies that permit individuals with a bachelor’s degree, but no training in special education, to be fully licensed in special education if they achieve a passing score on a single test. NCLB includes a provision that defines a “highly qualified teacher” as one who passes a single test. Teaching is a complex activity. None of the currently available tests adequately assesses prospective special education teachers in both content and pedagogy. The use of a single test also raises serious validity issues and could have a negative impact on otherwise qualified persons. There is consensus in the teaching community that high stakes decisions should never rest on a single test score.


Paragraph 1 Preamble

As public awareness increases and public policies expand, new sets of conditions are created under which professionals in special education must function. While such awareness and policies may be powerful forces for improvement in the field, they do not of themselves deliver appropriate education to persons with exceptionalities. Effective education for persons with exceptionalities is also dependent upon qualified professionals who work under appropriate standards and conditions and are able to ensure their own professional rights and responsibilities. 

Professionals must be adequately prepared and have a supportive environment which enables them to meet new demands. As advocates for persons with exceptionalities they must have the right to be responsive to and responsible for the vulnerable persons whom they serve. Finally, professionals must continually advance the knowledge, skills, behaviors, and values that make up the collective basis for practice and decision making for those working in the field. The combined energies of the profession and the Council are needed to accomplish these goals.

Therefore, the Council believes that professionals practicing in the field should be able to do so according to recognized standards of practice and professional ethical principles; and that only persons qualified to provide special educational services should be eligible for employment in instructional, administrative, and support roles in programs serving persons with exceptionalities.

For these reasons, the Council is committed to the development, promotion, and implementation of standards of preparation and practice, professional ethical principles, and appropriate certification and/or licensure in order to continue its leadership role in supporting professionals who serve persons with exceptionalities.

Paragraph 2 Special Education Professional Ethical Principles

Professional special educators are guided by the CEC professional ethical principles and practice standards in ways that respect the diverse characteristics and needs of individuals with exceptionalities and their families. They are committed to upholding and advancing the following principles: 

A. Maintaining challenging expectations for individuals with exceptionalities to develop the highest possible learning outcomes and quality of life potential in ways that respect their dignity, culture, language, and background.

B. Maintaining a high level of professional competence and integrity and exercising professional judgment to benefit individuals with exceptionalities and their families.

C. Promoting meaningful and inclusive participation of individuals with exceptionalities in their schools and communities.

D. Practicing collegially with others who are providing services to individuals with exceptionalities.

E. Developing relationships with families based on mutual respect and actively involving families and individuals with exceptionalities in educational decision making.

F. Using evidence, instructional data, research, and professional knowledge to inform practice.

G. Protecting and supporting the physical and psychological safety of individuals with exceptionalities.

H. Neither engaging in nor tolerating any practice that harms individuals with exceptionalities.

I. Practicing within the professional ethics, standards, and policies of CEC; upholding laws, regulations, and policies that influence professional practice; and advocating improvements in laws, regulations, and policies.

J. Advocating for professional conditions and resources that will improve learning outcomes of individuals with exceptionalities.

K. Engaging in the improvement of the profession through active participation in professional organizations.

L. Participating in the growth and dissemination of professional knowledge and skills.

Paragraph 3 – Special Education Professional Practice Standards (approved October 2011)

Teaching and Assessment

Special Education Professionals:

1. Systematically individualize instructional variables to maximize the learning outcomes of individuals with exceptionalities 

2. Identify and use evidence-based practices that are appropriate to their professional preparation and are most effective in meeting the individual needs of individuals with exceptionalities.

3. Use periodic assessments to accurately measure the learning progress of individuals with exceptionalities, and individualize instruction variables in response to assessment results.

4. Create safe, effective, and culturally1 responsive learning environments which contribute to fulfillment of needs, stimulation of learning, and realization of positive self-concepts.

5. Participate in the selection and use of effective and culturally responsive instructional materials, equipment, supplies, and other resources appropriate to their professional roles.

6. Use culturally and linguistically appropriate assessment procedures that accurately measure what is intended to be measured, and do not discriminate against individuals with exceptional or culturally diverse learning needs.

7. Only use behavior change practices that are evidence-based, appropriate to their preparation, and which respect the culture, dignity, and basic human rights of individuals with exceptionalities.

8. Support the use of positive behavior supports and conform to local policies relating to the application of disciplinary methods and behavior change procedures, except when the policies require their participation in corporal punishment.

9. Refrain from using aversive techniques unless the target of the behavior change is vital, repeated trials of more positive and less restrictive methods have failed, and only after appropriate consultation with parents and appropriate agency officials.

10. Do not engage in the corporal punishment of individuals with exceptionalities.

11. Report instances of unprofessional or unethical practice to the appropriate supervisor.

12. Recommend special education services necessary for an individual with an exceptional learning need to receive an appropriate education.

Professional Credentials and Employment

Special Education Professionals:

1. Represent themselves in an accurate, ethical, and legal manner with regard to their own knowledge and expertise when seeking employment.

2. Ensure that persons who practice or represent themselves as special education teachers, administrators, and providers of related services are qualified by professional credential.

3. Practice within their professional knowledge and skills and seek appropriate external support and consultation whenever needed.

4. Provide notice consistent with local education agency policies and contracts when intending to leave employment.

5. Adhere to the contracts and terms of appointment, or provide the appropriate supervisor notice of professionally untenable conditions and intent to terminate such employment, if necessary.

6. Advocate for appropriate and supportive teaching and learning conditions.

7. Advocate for sufficient personnel resources so that unavailability of substitute teachers or support personnel, including paraeducators, does not result in the denial of special education services.

8. Seek professional assistance in instances where personal problems interfere with job performance.

9. Ensure that public statements made by professionals as individuals are not construed to represent official policy statements of an agency.

10. Objectively document and report inadequacies in resources to their supervisors and/or administrators and suggest appropriate corrective action(s).

11. Respond objectively and non-discriminatively when evaluating applicants for employment including grievance procedures.

12. Resolve professional problems within the workplace using established procedures.

13. Seek clear written communication of their duties and responsibilities, including those that are prescribed as conditions of employment.

14. Expect that responsibilities will be communicated to and respected by colleagues, and work to ensure this understanding and respect.

15. Promote educational quality and actively participate in the planning, policy development, management, and evaluation of special education programs and the general education program.

16. Expect adequate supervision of and support for special education professionals and programs provided by qualified special education professionals.

17. Expect clear lines of responsibility and accountability in the administration and supervision of special education professionals.

Professional Development

Special Education Professionals:

1. Maintain a personalized professional development plan designed to advance their knowledge and skills, including cultural competence, systematically in order to maintain a high level of competence.

2. Maintain current knowledge of procedures, policies, and laws relevant to practice.

3. Engage in the objective and systematic evaluation of themselves, colleagues, services, and programs for the purpose of continuous improvement of professional performance.

4. Advocate that the employing agency provide adequate resources for effective school-wide professional development as well as individual professional development plans.

5. Participate in systematic supervised field experiences for candidates in preparation programs.

6. Participate as mentors to other special educators, as appropriate.

Professional Colleagues

Special Education Professionals:

1. Recognize and respect the skill and expertise of professional colleagues from other disciplines as well as from colleagues in their own disciplines. 

2. Strive to develop positive and respectful attitudes among professional colleagues and the public toward persons with exceptional learning needs.

3. Collaborate with colleagues from other agencies to improve services and outcomes for individuals with exceptionalities.

4. Collaborate with both general and special education professional colleagues as well as other personnel serving persons with exceptional learning needs to improve outcomes for individuals with exceptionalities.

5. Intervene professionally when a colleague’s behavior is illegal, unethical, or detrimental to individuals with exceptionalities.

6. Do not engage in conflicts of interest.


Special Education Professionals:

1. Assure that special education paraeducators have appropriate training for the tasks they are assigned.

2. Assign only tasks for which paraeducators have been appropriately prepared.

3. Provide ongoing information to paraeducators regarding their performance of assigned tasks.

4. Provide timely, supportive, and collegial communications to paraeducators regarding tasks and expectations.

5. Intervene professionally when a paraeducator’s behavior is illegal, unethical, or detrimental to individuals with exceptionalities.

Parent & Families

Special Education Professionals:

1. Use culturally appropriate communication with parents and families that is respectful and accurately understood.

2. Actively seek and use the knowledge of parents and individuals with exceptionalities when planning, conducting, and evaluating special education services and empower them as partners in the educational process.

3. Maintain communications among parents and professionals with appropriate respect for privacy, confidentiality, and cultural diversity.

4. Promote opportunities for parent education using accurate, culturally appropriate information and professional methods.

5. Inform parents of relevant educational rights and safeguards.

6. Recognize and practice in ways that demonstrate respect for the cultural diversity within the school and community.

7. Respect professional relationships with students and parents, neither seeking any personal advantage, nor engaging in inappropriate relationships.


Special Education Professionals:

1. Do not knowingly use research in ways that mislead others.

2. Actively support and engage in research intended to improve the learning outcomes of persons with exceptional learning needs.

3. Protect the rights and welfare of participants in research.

4. Interpret and publish research results with accuracy.

5. Monitor unintended consequences of research projects involving individuals with exceptionalities, and discontinue activities which may cause harm in excess of approved levels.

6. Advocate for sufficient resources to support long term research agendas to improve the practice of special education and the learning outcomes of individuals with exceptionalities.

Case Management

Special Education Professionals:

1. Maintain accurate student records and assure that appropriate confidentiality standards are in place and enforced.

2. Follow appropriate procedural safeguards and assist the school in providing due process.

3. Provide accurate student and program data to administrators, colleagues, and parents, based on efficient and objective record keeping practices.

4. Maintain confidentiality of information except when information is released under specific conditions of written consent that meet confidentiality requirements.

5. Engage in appropriate planning for the transition sequences of individuals with exceptionalities.

Non-Educational Support

Special Education Professionals:

1. Perform assigned specific non-educational support tasks, such as administering medication, only in accordance with local policies and when written instructions are on file, legal/policy information is provided, and the professional liability for assuming the task is disclosed.

2. Advocate that special education professionals not be expected to accept non-educational support tasks routinely.

Paragraph 4 Standards for the Preparation of Special Education Personnel

4.1 Program Recognition

a. Programs preparing individuals for entry level or advanced special education professional roles shall adhere to CEC’s professional standards, by seeking CEC’s official recognition through the evidence-based process of program review.

b. Program review includes examination of evidence to document quality practice in:

(1) Conceptual Framework. Programs have a conceptual framework that establishes the programs vision and its relationship to the programs components and curricula.

(2) Candidate Content, Pedagogical, and Professional Knowledge, Skills, And Dispositions

i. Content Standards. Programs ensure that prospective special educators have mastered the CEC Special Education Content Standards for their respective roles.

ii. Liberal Education. Programs ensure that prospective special educators have a solid grounding in the liberal curricula ensuring proficiency in reading, written and oral communications, calculating, problem solving, and thinking.

iii. General Curriculum.

(a) Programs ensure that prospective special educators possess a solid base of understanding of the general content area curricula i.e., math, reading, English/language arts, science, social studies, and the arts, sufficient to collaborate with general educators in:

     Teaching or collaborative teaching academic subject matter content of the general curriculum[1] to students with exceptional learning needs across a wide range of performance levels.        

     Designing appropriate learning and performance accommodations and modifications for students with exceptional learning needs in academic subject matter content of the general curriculum.

(b) Programs preparing special educators for secondary level practice and licensure in which the teachers may assume sole responsibility for teaching academic subject matter classes, ensure that the prospective special educators have a subject matter content knowledge base sufficient to assure that their students can meet state curriculum standards.

(3) Assessment System and Program Evaluation. Programs have an assessment system to collect and analyze data on the applicant qualifications, candidates and graduate performance, and program operations sufficient to evaluate and improve the program.

(4) Field Experiences and Clinical Practice. Programs with their school partners have designed, implemented, and evaluated field experiences and clinical practica sufficient for prospective special educators to develop and apply knowledge, skills, and dispositions essential to the roles for which they are being prepared.

(5) Diversity. Program with their school partners have designed, implemented, and evaluated curriculum and experiences sufficient for prospective special educators to develop and apply their knowledge, skills, and dispositions necessary to help all students learn. The curricula and experiences include working with diverse faculty, candidates, and P-12 exceptional students.

(6) Faculty Qualification, Performance, and Development. The program faculty is qualified and model best professional practice in their scholarship, service, and teaching.

(7) Program Governance and Resources. The program has appropriate leadership, authority, budget, facilities, and resources to address professional, institutional, and state standards.

Paragraph 5 Standards for Entry into Professional Practice

  • Position on Preparation Program Accountability
  • Position on Academic Subject Matter Content of the General Curriculum and Special Education
  • Position on School Vouchers and IDEA Reauthorization
  • Position on Response to Intervention (RTI): The Unique Role of Special Education and Special Educators


CEC expects that all programs, traditional and non-traditional, preparing special education teachers regardless of affiliation, location, or intensity will adhere to CEC’s professional standards, demonstrating that their graduates possess the profession’s entry-level knowledge and skills by seeking the CEC’s official recognition through the evidence-based process of program review.


Most special education personnel preparation programs are university based. Over the last several years, state education agencies and school districts have begun implementing programs to prepare special education teachers. There are indications that some of these programs have advantages, such as helping to increase diversity within the field. As the demand for special education teachers increases, non-traditional programs will likely increase.

Special educators, like other professionals, have a unique public trust. As a part of this trust, parents of individuals with exceptionalities and the community reasonably expect that special educators be prepared to practice safely and effectively.

As the preeminent professional organization of special educators, CEC develops and maintains rigorous standards for well-prepared beginning special educators. The standards of CEC were subject to a rigorous, evidence based validation process involving practicing teachers and teacher educators.

Through these standards, CEC provides preparation programs the opportunity to demonstrate to the public that their graduates possess validated knowledge and skills. This demonstration involves an evidence based program review conducted by professionals in the field. CEC has recognized hundreds of preparation programs as having demonstrated that their graduates have mastered the knowledge and skills for entry to the special education profession.


CEC believes that:

a. In all situations, special educators must work within the limits of their professional knowledge and skill. They must know when to request the consultation and support of colleagues with additional expertise in a specific content area.

b. All special educators should have a solid grounding in the liberal arts curriculum ensuring proficiency in reading, written and oral communications, calculating, problem solving, and thinking.

c. All Special educators should also possess a solid base of understanding of the general content area curricula. i.e., math, reading, English/language arts, science, social studies, and the arts, sufficient to collaborate with general educators in:

  • Teaching or co-teaching academic subject matter content of the general curriculum to students with exceptional learning needs across a wide range of performance levels.
  • Designing appropriate learning and performance accommodations and modifications for students with exceptional learning needs in academic subject matter content of the general curriculum.

d. Because of the significant role that content specific subject matter knowledge plays at the secondary level, special education teachers should routinely teach secondary level academic subject matter content classes in consultation or collaboration with one or more general education teachers appropriately licensed in the respective content area. When a special education teacher assumes sole responsibility for teaching an academic subject matter class at the secondary level, the special educator should have a solid subject matter content knowledge base sufficient to assure the students can meet state curriculum standards.


It is the position of CEC to oppose strongly any federally authorized voucher program for students with disabilities as being contrary to the best interests of children and their families, the nation’s public school systems, states and their local communities and taxpayers. Further, CEC believes that a voucher option would both contradict and undermine central purposes of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).

IDEA Policy for Private School Placements

IDEA allows for private school placements but under very strict conditions. If a school district is unable to provide a special education and related services under the terms of a particular child’s individualized education program (IEP), then a placement may be made in a private school or facility, at no cost to the parents and paid for with public education funds. The decision is made collectively, thus involving representatives of the school district, the child’s parents, and the other members of the required IEP team. The particular receiving school must meet all of the standards that apply to the state and local educational agencies and the child and the child’s family must be guaranteed all the rights and protections of the IDEA. Full authority, responsibility, and public accountability rest with the public school district, thus requiring on-going supervision and monitoring of the private placement. This Congressionally authorized option for private placements has worked effectively as a component of the IDEA for over a quarter of a century.

Non-Negotiable Guarantees

CEC further opposes voucher programs at the state or local level. Recognizing, however, that some such programs have been enacted, CEC strongly believes that any such program must include the following non-negotiable guarantees:

  • the same standards of accountability as those required of state and local educational agencies – including all federal and state rules and regulations – along with on-going public monitoring, full transparency of private programs, and regular reporting to parents and the public;
  • full and demonstrated accessibility for all students, including students with special learning needs;
  • provision for a complete program of special education, related services, and supplementary aids and services in the context of full implementation of the IEP, with periodic review and revision;
  • a guarantee of a free, appropriate, public education (FAPE);
  • full access for children regardless of racial or ethnic heritage, and children who are English language learners;
  • a guarantee of all procedural safeguards under the IDEA, Section 504, the ADA, and other relevant civil rights laws of the United States;
  • a guarantee of education in the least restrictive environment (LRE); and
  • fiscal protections to guarantee that public education funds are not diverted to a voucher program at the expense of the students remaining in the public schools.


By basic definition, voucher programs provide for the distribution of public education dollars in the form of monetary vouchers to parents of school-age children to be used toward the cost of tuition at private schools, both sectarian and nonsectarian. While CEC acknowledges the historic and continuing contribution of private schools as part of the tapestry of American culture, CEC considers current voucher proposals under IDEA as ill-conceived for at least the following reasons:

Absence of necessary accountability: Public accountability is notably lacking for private schools, whereas local education agencies are held accountable by virtue of both federal and state laws and regulations. Public schools must adhere to requirements for highly qualified staff, but private schools typically are not held to these requirements. Private schools are not obligated to participate in the regular assessments toward measuring student achievement, nor are they even bound to the requirement of an individualized education program (IEP). Further, no on-going general supervision of the educational program is conducted by the state and local education agency, thus providing no assurance that special education and related services are being fully provided. Lastly, the regular reporting on individual student progress required by both IDEA and NCLB are not required.

No guarantee of FAPE: A central guarantee of IDEA is the right to a free appropriate public education. Evidence indicates that the voucher approach fails to guarantee an at no cost education for a student’s family. Beyond the initial voucher payment, private schools are charging parents additional amounts. This reality ultimately makes voucher programs quite appealing to middle and upper-middle income families, but at the same time effectively eliminates lower income families and single-parent families.

Families opt out of procedural protections: Though they may not at first realize it and may in fact be told otherwise, parents in effect discard their due process and other rights by accepting vouchers. IDEA, Section 504, and the ADA guarantee a host of long-standing protections for families that can be invoked on any and all aspects of educational programming, including mediation, due process hearings, state-level appeal, “stay put” guarantee, discipline timelines, on-going evaluations, and assurance of alternative placements when required. Though private schools receiving voucher payments may simply be declared in compliance with the procedural guarantees of IDEA and related laws, the absence of public accountability, public supervision, and public oversight effectively negates such an assertion.

Segregation within the private school: A fundamental tenet of IDEA is the requirement of education within the least restrictive environment (LRE), starting with the absolute presumption of the general education classroom and proceeding to a continuum of service options only when demonstrated to be necessary. Since private schools are not subject to this tenet, the potential for in-school segregation of students with special learning needs predictably accelerates.

No guarantee of equal access: A hallmark of public education is its availability to all children, regardless of their individual learning needs. Despite some initial efforts to provide full accessibility to all children, private schools receiving vouchers are now allowed to pick and choose whom they will enroll, and which children they will retain even after initial enrollment. For example, evidence indicates that students with more severe disabilities or those with higher cost needs or behavioral challenges are typically not enrolled, and if enrolled, not retained.

Promotes re-segregation rather than diversity: Public education is a great unifier of an ever more diverse student population, as it was throughout the 20th Century. But research indicates that voucher programs could point us in the other direction in fact by facilitating racial, ethnic, economic, religious, gender, and disability segregation. 


CEC recognizes the impact that Response to Intervention (RTI) can have on the education of all children, roles of special educators, and the special education system. The RTI process is designed to identify struggling learners early, to provide access to needed interventions, and to help identify children with disabilities. RTI is a process intended to assist in identifying children with disabilities by providing data about how a child responds to scientifically based intervention as part of the comprehensive evaluation required for identification of any disability. Special educators play an integral role and have a strong and clear identity in the RTI process. To that end, CEC believes that any RTI process must include nonnegotiable guarantees related to special education and the key role of special educators.

It is the position of CEC that an RTI process:

  • Must be viewed as a school-wide initiative, with special education as an explicit part of the framework, spanning both general and special education in collaboration with families. The RTI process represents an inclusive partnership between all school personnel and families to identify and address the academic and behavioral needs of learners beginning as early as the preschool years.

  • Shall not delay the referral of a child who is suspected of having a disability for a comprehensive evaluation. Children with identified disabilities may not be required to go through an RTI process in order to receive special education and related services.


  • Shall consist of a multi-tiered problem-solving process with at least three tiers (three tiers being the most common approach). As evidence shows the increasing intensity of a child’s needs, the response to these needs also increases through research-based interventions. Any child, including those with disabilities, may simultaneously be provided interventions from more than one tier. Tiers provide services and are not placement options. Services at each tier supplement rather than supplant each other.
  • Shall, in the first tier, provide instruction through a universal core program. If the evidence shows that the child needs additional support for success, then more intensive interventions must be provided. At the second tier, interventions are more intensive and supplement the universal core program. The highest tier includes specially designed instruction and related services provided to children identified as having a disability. This tier also provides other intensive services designed to meet the individual needs of children not identified as having a disability.
  • Shall include universal screening, high quality research-based instruction, and progress monitoring to determine the quality of student responses to intervention as well as inform decisions about the student’s movement between tiers. Tiers should differ in the intensity (i.e., duration, frequency, and time) of the research-based interventions, the level of individualization delivered, the size of student groupings, and the skill level of the educator.
  • Shall include a universal screening process (generally early in tier one) that incorporates short-term progress monitoring in response to general education for determining which children require a change of tier.
  • Shall use a formative evaluation process, such as progress monitoring measures, to inform instructional decision making about adjusting instruction, changing curricula or materials, and/or determining movement among tiers.

Referral to Special Education

  • Shall include provisions for referral for a comprehensive evaluation in any tier, which includes measures of cognitive ability, to determine if a child has a disability and is eligible for special education and related services and due process protections. Data from responsiveness to instruction in tiers one and two shall not be a substitute for a comprehensive evaluation. RTI data does not provide sufficient data to rule out or identify a disability. A comprehensive evaluation shall provide additional data to exclude other potential primary causative factors and inform individualized special instruction, including any accommodations, modifications, assistive technology, and behavioral/learning supports needed.
  • May reduce the number of students referred for special education, promote effective early intervention, provide diagnostic information to consider in the identification of a disability, and/or may reduce the impact of a disability on a child’s academic progress.

Team Roles

  • Shall recognize general educators as the primary interveners and special educators as members of the problem-solving teams in tiers one and two. Special education teachers, related service personnel, and specialized general educators (e.g. teachers of English language learners, reading specialists, mental health specialists, etc.) are the primary interveners for the highest tier services. Team collaboration occurs in each tier and may involve educators, related service providers, administrators, and families. These new and expanded roles in team collaboration will ensure that the needs of all learners are met.
  • Shall include families as partners in the process and, at a minimum, inform parents in writing of their rights when a student is first identified as not meeting expected intervention response rates.

Children Who Are Twice Exceptional

  • Shall consider the educational needs of children with gifts and talents and their families, particularly related to the identification of children considered twice exceptional because they have gifts and talents as well as a disability. These advanced learners shall be provided access to a challenging and accelerated curriculum, while also addressing the unique needs of their disability.

Professional Knowledge and Skills

  • Shall recognize that the knowledge and skill level of educators needed in each of the three tiers is very different, thereby supporting requirements that educators possess the appropriate level of knowledge and skills in such areas as: (1) identifying and implementing evidence-based intervention strategies; (2) monitoring academic and behavioral progress; (3) selecting, implementing, and evaluating instructional and programmatic elements; (4) participating meaningfully and actively in the multidisciplinary comprehensive evaluation process; and (5) designing, implementing, and evaluating problem-solving models that ensure fidelity and integrity.

Research and Development

  • Shall make a firm commitment to continuing program improvement through the process of structured monitoring, intensive ongoing evaluation, and systemic professional training based on evolving research and practice.
  • Shall consider the intended and unintended consequences of moving toward more wide-scale implementation without more extensive research and development efforts that clearly demonstrate effectiveness in improving the achievement of students with exceptionalities over time.
  • Shall engage in research and development to inform practice, particularly in the areas of implementation across all academic and/or behavioral areas and age levels; movement back and forth from tiers and data needed to understand this movement; the use of tiers one and two data to help inform the identification of a disability; the problem-solving and standard treatment protocol approaches to instruction; and the conceptual issues associated with non-responsiveness; and measuring and defining non-responsiveness.


  • Shall ensure that sufficient resources are available to cover a substantial percentage of the costs that state, provincial, and local jurisdictions will incur to implement and institutionalize this initiative without reducing expenditures for other education programs.