MA Special Education

The Master of Arts (M.A.) in Special Education (initial certification) program is a post-baccalaureate program for candidates without a previous teaching license who want to teach students with special education needs and/or to obtain an M.A. in Special Education degree.


Students who complete the certification portion of this program are eligible for the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) license #801, Cross Categorical Special Education, which allows graduates to teach students with cognitive disabilities, learning disabilities and emotional/behavioral disabilities.

The program’s focus is an understanding of diversity and exceptionality and an appreciation of the impact of a disability on an individual and his/her family, as well as a demonstration of knowledge and skills in the areas of student assessment, instruction, and management. The DPI requirements for licensure and the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) standards are the foundations of the program.

The program has two strands: a certification strand and a master's strand. All credits taken for certification count toward the master’s degree.

In the certification strand, students will receive initial certification in special education. Students will participate in developmental field experiences and will demonstrate the content knowledge, pedagogy, and dispositions necessary to be successful teachers. In a culminating student teaching experience, students will be expected to demonstrate learning strategies, individualized instruction, assessment and data-driven instruction that lead to student learning.

Portfolios are an integral component of the certification program. These portfolios will evolve through the course of the program and are designed to meet DPI requirements for teacher licensure and renewal. A passing score on the Praxis II: Middle School Content Knowledge Test #0146 is required by the State of Wisconsin for certification and is a requirement of this program. The Cross Categorical Special Education license may be obtained at either the Middle Childhood to Early Adolescence level (approximately grades 1-8) or the Early Adolescence to Adolescence level (approximately grades 6-12).

In the master's strand, candidates build on the coursework to develop and present a thesis or an action research project based on research and best practices.