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In response to the statewide shortage of special education teachers, the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) has launched a new alternative-route certification program to attract and train highly qualified special educators.

Maryland school systems, like many throughout the country, have experienced a chronic shortage of qualified special education teachers.  The Resident Teacher Certificate Program (RTC) in special education is designed to help alleviate this shortage by working with Maryland colleges and universities to quickly train newly hired special education personnel to become fully qualified educators.  The program aims to attract recent graduates and mid-career professionals who are seeking formal training and certification in special education and are interested in teaching Maryland children with special needs

Three cohorts will place teachers in special education classrooms across Maryland.  Goucher College has attracted a cohort of twenty-one residents who have completed pre-service training and have begun their teaching careers in Baltimore City and Baltimore County this academic year.  Prince George’s County is currently seeking residents for their cohort, which will begin training with Bowie State University in February.  The Maryland Association of Non-Public Special Education Facilities (MANSEF) is also seeking residents; beginning in January, the MANSEF cohort will begin training with the College of Notre Dame.

Many residents in the Goucher College cohort are “career-changers” who are attracted to the program’s streamlined route to teaching.  One resident, who will begin teaching in Baltimore County this fall, searched for a way to begin work as an educator after working in business management and human resources.  “The RTC program seemed like a good way to accelerate [my] career change,” she said.

Other residents are attracted to the program’s sensitivity to teachers’ financial needs: residents enjoy significantly reduced or, in some cases waived, tuition fees and free professional coaching.  Moreover, residents earn a full teacher’s salary while they are completing in-service training toward full certification.  Unlike traditional teacher education programs, the RTC program allows teachers to earn credits for certification while they are teaching.

The Resident Teacher Certificate program ensures that candidates meet the No Child Left Behind Act’s requirements for highly qualified educators.  Residents will be certified in both special education and elementary or a secondary content area by the end of their two-year training and teaching program.