College & Workforce Readiness

Teacher Prep Needs More Focus on Students With Disabilities, Report Says

By Corey Mitchell — January 23, 2020 2 min read

More than 60 percent of students with disabilities spend most of their time in general education classrooms, but general education teachers are often not equipped with the tools to meet their needs.

Teacher preparation programs have failed to help teaching candidates develop the necessary skills and knowledge to serve all students because they “do not center students with disabilities in their curriculum,” a new report from the Center for American Progress concludes.

That lack of focus has led to wide gaps in high school graduation rates, standardized test scores, and access to college and career opportunities between students with disabilities and their non-disabled peers, the report argues.

To help more students with disabilities reach their potential, colleges of education and alternative teacher preparation programs must train all teaching candidates how to read and understand individualized education programs and require coursework dedicated to supporting students with disabilities.

The report cites a survey from the National Center for Learning Disabilities and Understood.org that found that less than 1 in 5 general education teachers feel “very well prepared” to teach students with mild-to-moderate learning disabilities, including ADHD and dyslexia.

“Ensuring that general education teachers are appropriately equipped is not an impossible task,” the report concludes. “With the right educational supports, students with disabilities can master the same rigorous, grade-level academic content as their peers without disabilities. Adapting to meet the needs of students with disabilities is integral to providing a quality education to every child in America.”

Students with disabilities make up about 13 percent of the K-12 public school student population, according to federal data.My colleague, Madeline Will, has written about how “more colleges of education and state education departments are puting a priority on teaching their general classroom teachers how to work with students with disabilities.”

The Center for American Progress paper offers a series of recommendations for teacher preparation programs, school districts, and state education departments boards to ensure teachers are prepared to educate all students. The recommendations include:


  • Ensuring that teacher training requirements include coursework on teaching students with disabilities
  • Providing training for general education teachers on what supports are available for students with disabilities.
  • Developing coursework that addresses the needs of students with disabilities at the intersection of race, class, gender, immigration status, and LBGTQ identity

Related Reading

Overlooked: How Teacher Training Falls Short for English-Learners and Students With IEPs

Most Classroom Teachers Feel Unprepared to Support Students With Disabilities

Special Education a Growing Priority in Teacher-Training Circles

Students Face Uncertain Path After Special Education

A version of this news article first appeared in the On Special Education blog.