The Importance Of Accreditation


“The act or process of educating or being educated; the knowledge or skill obtained or developed by a learning process!”

Inquiries into furthering my educational aspirations were made to various colleges within my immediate environmental area. Several of the schools contacted required placement exams that I did not challenge, as I am adept and very capable of dealing with college examinations. The thing that got to me was the disparaging remarks from some college recruiters regarding their standards for education as opposed to another college. One of the schools that I’ve attended is a two-year degree school while the other is as well. They hold real estate in the same zip code and competed for students in the same local. They both educated local students as well as out of state and students from other countries and nations.

One school considered itself superior to the other by reason of accreditation. The school that was described as inferior did not have middle states accreditation. The school was described as below standard by the other. The so-called superior school is lead and operated by a non-HBCU affiliation while the other happened to be lead and operated by an African American staff. The self-described superior school has made plans, designs, and did bid for the take-over of the African American school. Albeit, the self-described superior school admits that it does not and will not accept credentials from the so-called inferior school. I have attended both of these institutions and received very good instruction from its teachers as well. While the lessons learned were an invaluable source of information, the education that I received from personal academic research (self-taught) has enhanced my knowledge base. Money was not a factor in my personal research, study, and/or practicum. I would add, the knowledge and information that was derived from the HBCU School proved to be equally rewarding as the other if not better!

Personally, I would say that I received more educational value at the HBCU (Historical Black Colleges and Universities) as opposed to the other collegiate institution. Albeit, they both required money.

When students visit college campuses they are encouraged to become a student at that particular school. The tour guides’ show all of the amenities and accolades that are offered in order to get you enrolled…and to gain your tuition monies. But what about the quality of education offered by the particular schools? The majority of the colleges will often quote their accreditation as compared to another school of choice. What has accreditation to do with a good and valuable quality education? Money! And the ability to make money! Education does not and should not require money!

In 1899 Dr. Matthew Anderson, an outstanding community leader, and his wife Caroline Still Anderson founded Berean Manual and Industrial School. Dr. Anderson was a pivotal influence in the religious, business, and educational history of Philadelphia. Dr. Anderson also founded the Berean Presbyterian Church and the Berean Savings Fund Society.

Caroline Still is the daughter of the great William Still, a Philadelphia Abolitionist and member of the Underground Railroad.

Mr. William Still (a self-educated man), one of seventeen children, was born in Burlington County in 1821. His father escaped slavery from Maryland to New Jersey and later was followed by his wife and children. William Still left New Jersey for Philadelphia in 1844. Three years later he was appointed secretary of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society.

“When Brother William Still was 23, he left the family farm in New Jersey for Philadelphia, to seek his fortune. He arrived, friendless with only five dollars in his possession. Mr. Still taught himself to read and write. In fact, so well, that in three years he was able to gain and hold the position of secretary in the Pennsylvania Abolition Society. Brother Still provided the all-white society with his views on how to aid fugitive slaves. After all, he had been one himself. He was such an asset to the group, that he was elected chairman in 1851. Still held the position for the next ten years. He also became chairman of the Vigilance Committee in 1852. Still was the first black man to join the society and was able to provide first-hand experience of what it was like to be a slave.”

“Mr. Still established a profitable coal business in Philadelphia. His house was used as one of the stations on the Underground Railroad. Brother Still interviewed escaped fugitives and kept careful records of each so that their family and friends might locate them. According to his records, Still helped 649 slaves receive their freedom. The number is compounded with the number of slaves saved by Sister Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad.”

“William Still, a self-educated man, began his campaign to end racial discrimination on Philadelphia streetcars. He wrote an account of this campaign in Struggle for the Civil Rights of the Coloured People of Philadelphia in the City Railway Cars (1867). He followed this with The Underground Railroad (1872) and Voting and Laboring (1874).”

“William Still, a self-educated man, established an orphanage for the children of African-American soldiers and sailors. Other charitable work included the founding of a Mission Sabbath School and working with the Young Men’s Christian Association. William Still died in Philadelphia on 14th July, 1902.”

The Concise History of Berean Institute:

“In 1904 Berean Institute of Philadelphia Pennsylvania qualified for state aid and received a grant of $10,000. Over the years, state aid has enabled the school to expand its services and diversify its programs of study. Funds from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania now provide a significant portion of the total operating budget. Berean Institute embarked on a program of expansion under the dynamic leadership of the late Dr. William H. Gray, Jr., who utilized the support of many influential citizens of Pennsylvania including the former Governor Milton J. Shapp. Dr. Gray served as Chairman of the Berean Board of Trustees. Under Dr. Gray’s leadership Berean Manual and Industrial School began operating as Berean Institute. He also had Berean Institute’s current building constructed in 1973.”

“Mrs. Lucille P. Blondin, who served the school for forty-five years, became Berean Institute’s first President. Mrs. Blondin retired in June 1993. Dr. Norman K. Spencer was appointed to serve as the second President and Chief Executive Officer. Under Dr. Spencer’s leadership, contracted programs funded by the City and Commonwealth agencies as well as community outreach projects have been added. Hon. John Braxton, former Judge, Court of Common Pleas heads a list of distinguished Board of Trustees members.”

“Berean Institute enrolled students in full and part-time programs. Most of the students are residents of the Commonwealth and live in Philadelphia. Other students have come from Central and South America, China, India, Puerto Rico, Tonga, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Tanzania, the Dominican Republic, England, Cambodia, Viet Nam and states along the eastern seaboard of the United States.”

“A number of students come to learn a marketable skill and their Berean training fulfills their current educational aspirations. Many others regard the school as a stepping-stone to further education. Berean has many graduates who have gone on to earn four-year college degrees and others who have completed graduate studies at some of the area’s outstanding institutions of higher learning.”

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Department of Education granted Berean Institute approval to award the Associate in Specialized Technology Degree on September 15, 1976, and the Associate in Specialized Business Degree on December 27, 1976.

Again, education is:

“The act or process of imparting or acquiring general knowledge, developing the powers of reasoning and judgment, and generally of preparing oneself or others intellectually for mature life; the act or process of imparting or acquiring particular knowledge or skills, as for a profession; a degree, level, or kind of schooling: a university education; .the result produced by instruction, training, or study: to show one’s education; the science or art of teaching; pedagogics.”

A definition of education: ‘The act or process of educating or being educated; the knowledge or skill obtained or developed by a learning process; a program of instruction of a specified kind or level: driver education; a college education; the field of study that is concerned with the pedagogy of teaching and learning; an instructive or enlightening experience: Unabridged

Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2009

So why does another school rate it’s accreditation over and above that of another? Money! Many colleges and universities rate its’ educational values based on the amount of money in its’ coffers as well as the amount of money that they can amass!  Another tool to increase superiority in the education business is to attain and maintain accreditation and as many acquisitions as possible.

Several opinions suggest education achieved through these venues is designed to prepare people/students for the job market as opposed to being prepared for life skills. The skills required to carry ones posterity and their descendants that follow into prosperous futures.

Is it fair to assess the stature of a collegiate institution above any other based on the amount of money that is needed to be spent or the amount of education that is achieved? Ivy league institutions turn out many students who are not prepared for the challenges of life…but many of them are rich and have spent thousands of dollars to attend those schools as well as graduating from them. On the other hand, many poor people that are lucky enough to qualify for grants, loans, scholarships, etc., are better prepared to face the challenges set before them (so it seems).

Many poor and working poor students seem to value the collegiate level education as if their life depended upon it, so they tend to work a bit harder to achieve the degree status. The document can be deemed worthless when the graduate cannot find the desired job for which he/she has studied. It is even worse when the graduated student finds that they are worse off than when they started college. They are now burdened with school loan debt plus the debts that they have had to meet before attending college. Working at McDonalds and the like, seem to be the only job that is attainable for many of them. The competition is fierce. These students are for the most part, grouped in with many applicants that are not college educated and many do not have high school diplomas as well! The knowledge attained is not considered or tested by many of these employers. Kiosk type pictures on a cash-register computer is what they have to work with. Is this not insulting to a student who has studied computer science, read and write computer programs and its languages, as well as other academics of study?

Why is it that many non-ivy league students find themselves out of work? Why is it that many of them find that they are the first to lose their employment positions compared to their ivy-league colleagues? Why is it that many inner-city college educated graduates find themselves less likely to be selected as team-leaders than their counter part ivy-leaguers? Many employers advertise their openings with statements that don’t require a college level education. They ask that candidates simply have a high school level education. College educated candidates apply to those openings and find themselves scrutinized out of the running, i.e., background checks, credit checks, criminal histories, schooling activities, etc. Why is it college educated candidates find that not only do they have to compete with ivy-leaguers, they have to compete with high school educated folks as well. What is the sense in enduring hours, years, and other sacrifices to attain the coveted two and/or four-year college level degree when you’re not going to qualify for the job anyway?

The notion of accreditation, money, and notable stature should not be the basis of choosing the collegiate route to education. Education should be based on ones ability to achieve, retain, and utilize education. The achievement of education begins in the home (as well as anyone who desires it). It begins with the Childs’ upbringing and the stressed importance placed by the parent and/or guardian. Should the child be highly scholastic in abilities that enable him/her to be described as intellectually talented above average, that student deserves free college education. While the rest of us who are collegiate material may well have to pay for our higher education. Mind you, my argument is based on the ability to access education without having to spend money…teachers need to earn a living, schools need to pay the costs of operating and maintaining buildings and staff. So the money has to come from somewhere. Albeit, the aforementioned disparages between different colleges should cease the practice of who’s a better institution of higher learning. Is it the responsibility of educated people to enlighten people who are not?

While many may not be aware, education is achievable without attending so-called accredited and/or less accredited schools, of higher learning…start with the libraries in your homes as well as the public facilities, news papers, magazines, shared information, and articles. Why is the education attained by others kept to a level of secrecy that one should have to pay for it?

Attained and acquired education is the responsibility of the educational pursuer…the burden is placed solely on the student not the educational pursued. I’m not advocating that one can become a doctor, architect, or a lawyer by simply reading text…there is a difference between education and training.

Education is yours to achieve and it can be free.

All About Teacher Quality

One of the sectors which fosters national development is education by ensuring the development of a functional human resource. The institution of strong educational structures leads to a society populated by enlightened people, who can cause positive economic progress and social transformation. A Positive social transformation and its associated economic growth are achieved as the people apply the skills they learned while they were in school. The acquisition of these skills is facilitated by one individual we all ‘teacher’. For this reason, nations seeking economic and social developments need not ignore teachers and their role in national development.

Teachers are the major factor that drives students’ achievements in learning. The performance of teachers generally determines, not only, the quality of education, but the general performance of the students they train. The teachers themselves therefore ought to get the best of education, so they can in turn help train students in the best of ways. It is known, that the quality of teachers and quality teaching are some of the most important factors that shape the learning and social and academic growth of students. Quality training will ensure, to a large extent, teachers are of very high quality, so as to be able to properly manage classrooms and facilitate learning. That is why teacher quality is still a matter of concern, even, in countries where students consistently obtain high scores in international exams, such as Trends in Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). In such countries, teacher education of prime importance because of the potential it has to cause positive students’ achievements.

The structure of teacher education keeps changing in almost all countries in response to the quest of producing teachers who understand the current needs of students or just the demand for teachers. The changes are attempts to ensure that quality teachers are produced and sometimes just to ensure that classrooms are not free of teachers. In the U.S.A, how to promote high quality teachers has been an issue of contention and, for the past decade or so, has been motivated, basically, through the methods prescribed by the No Child Left Behind Act (Accomplished California Teachers, 2015). Even in Japan and other Eastern countries where there are more teachers than needed, and structures have been instituted to ensure high quality teachers are produced and employed, issues relating to the teacher and teaching quality are still of concern (Ogawa, Fujii & Ikuo, 2013). Teacher education is therefore no joke anywhere. This article is in two parts. It first discusses Ghana’s teacher education system and in the second part looks at some determinants of quality teaching.


Ghana has been making deliberate attempts to produce quality teachers for her basic school classrooms. As Benneh (2006) indicated, Ghana’s aim of teacher education is to provide a complete teacher education program through the provision of initial teacher training and in-service training programs, that will produce competent teachers, who will help improve the effectiveness of the teaching and learning that goes on in schools. The Initial teacher education program for Ghana’s basic school teachers was offered in Colleges of Education (CoE) only, until quite recently when, University of Education, University of Cape Coast, Central University College and other tertiary institutions joined in. The most striking difference between the programs offered by the other tertiary institution is that while the Universities teach, examine and award certificates to their students, the Colleges of Education offer tuition while the University of Cape Coast, through the Institute of Education, examines and award certificates. The training programs offered by these institutions are attempts at providing many qualified teachers to teach in the schools. The National Accreditation Board accredits teacher training programs in order to ensure quality.

The National Accreditation Board accredits teacher education programs based on the structure and content of the courses proposed by the institution. Hence, the courses run by various institutions differ in content and structure. For example, the course content for the Institute of Education, University of Cape Coast is slightly different from the course structure and content of the Center for Continue Education, University of Cape Coast and none of these two programs matches that of the CoEs, though they all award Diploma in Basic Education (DBE) after three years of training. The DBE and the Four-year Untrained Teacher’s Diploma in Basic Education (UTDBE) programs run by the CoEs are only similar, but not the same. The same can be said of the Two-year Post-Diploma in Basic Education, Four-year Bachelor’s degree programs run by the University of Cape Coast, the University of Education, Winneba and the other Universities and University Colleges. In effect even though, same products attract same clients, the preparation of the products are done in different ways.

It is through these many programs that teachers are prepared for the basic schools – from nursery to senior high schools. Alternative pathways, or programs through which teachers are prepared are seen to be good in situations where there are shortages of teachers and more teachers ought to be trained within a very short time. A typical example is the UTDBE program, mentioned above, which design to equip non-professional teachers with professional skills. But this attempt to produce more teachers, because of shortage of teachers, has the tendency of comprising quality.

As noted by Xiaoxia, Heeju, Nicci and Stone (2010) the factors that contribute to the problems of teacher education and teacher retention are varied and complex, but one factor that teacher educators are concerned about is the alternative pathways through which teacher education occur. The prime aim of many of the pathways is to fast track teachers into the teaching profession. This short-changed the necessary teacher preparation that prospective teachers need before becoming classroom teachers. Those who favor alternative routes, like Teach for America (TFA), according to Xiaoxia, Heeju, Nicci and Stone (2010) have defended their alternative pathways by saying that even though the students are engaged in a short-period of pre-service training, the students are academically brilliant and so have the capacity to learn a lot in a short period. Others argue that in subjects like English, Science and mathematics where there are usually shortages of teachers, there must be a deliberate opening up of alternative pathways to good candidates who had done English, Mathematics and Science courses at the undergraduate level. None of these arguments in support of alternative pathways, hold for the alternative teacher education programs in Ghana, where the academically brilliant students shun teaching due to reasons I shall come to.

When the target is just to fill vacant classrooms, issues of quality teacher preparation is relegated to the background, somehow. Right at the selection stage, the alternative pathways ease the requirement for gaining entry into teacher education programs. When, for example, the second batch of UTDBE students were admitted, I can say with confidence that entry requirements into the CoEs were not adhered to. What was emphasized was that, the applicant must be a non-professional basic school teacher who has been engaged by the Ghana Education Service, and that the applicant holds a certificate above Basic Education Certificate Examination. The grades obtained did not matter. If this pathway had not been created, the CoEs would not have trained students who initially did not qualify to enroll in the regular DBE program. However, it leaves in its trail the debilitating effect compromised quality.

Even with regular DBE programs, I have realized, just recently I must say, that CoEs in, particular, are not attracting the candidates with very high grades. This as I have learnt now has a huge influence on both teacher quality and teacher effectiveness. The fact is, teacher education programs in Ghana are not regarded as prestigious programs and so applicants with high grades do not opt for education programs. And so the majority of applicants who apply for teacher education programs have, relatively, lower grades. When the entry requirement for CoEs’ DBE program for 2016/2017 academic year was published, I noticed the minimum entry grades had been dropped from C6 to D8 for West African Senior Secondary School Examination candidates. This drop in standard could only be attributed to CoEs’ attempt to attract more applicants. The universities too, lower their cut off point for education programs so as attract more candidates. The universities as alleged by Levine (2006) see their teacher education programs, so to say, as cash cows. Their desire to make money, force them to lower admission standards, like the CoEs have done, in order to increase their enrollments. The fact that, admission standards are internationally lowered in order to achieve a goal of increasing numbers. This weak recruitment practice or lowering of standards introduce a serious challenge to teacher education.

The Japanese have been able to make teacher education and teaching prestigious and therefor attract students with high grades. One may argue that in Japan, the supply of teachers far exceeds the demand and so authorities are not under any pressure to hire teachers. Their system won’t suffer if they do all they can to select higher grade student into teacher education programs. To them, the issues relating to the selection of teachers are more important that the issues relating to recruitment. However, in western and African countries the issues relating to recruitment are prime. It is so because the demand for teachers far outweighs that of supply. Western and African countries have difficulties recruiting teachers because teachers and the teaching profession is not held in high esteem. Teacher education programs therefore do not attract students who have very good grades. It is worth noting that, it is not the recruiting procedure only that determines whether or not teacher education will be prestigious, however recruiting candidates with high grades, ensures that after training, teachers will exhibit the two characteristics essential to effective teaching – quality and effectiveness. Teacher education can be effective if the teaching profession is held in high esteem and therefore able to attract the best of applicants. Otherwise, irrespective of incentives put into place to attract applicants and irrespective of the measures that will be put in place to strengthen teacher education, teacher education programs cannot fully achieve its purpose.

In order to strengthen teacher preparation, there is the need for teacher preparation programs to provide good training during the initial teacher training stage, and provide and sustain support during the first few years after the teachers have been employed. That is why Lumpe (2007) supports the idea that pre-service teacher education programs should ensure teachers have gained a good understanding of effective teaching strategies. Methodology classes therefore should center on effective teaching strategies. Irrespective of the pathway the training program takes, the program must be structured such that trainees gain knowledge about pedagogy, besides the knowledge of subject matter. They should also get enough exposure to practical classroom experience like the on-campus and off-campus teaching practice. Whether or not there is the need to fill vacancies in the classroom due to the high teacher attrition, many countries face, teacher preparation programs should aim at producing quality and effective teacher and not just filling vacancies.


Teacher quality has such enormous influence on students’ learning. Anyone who has been in the teaching business will agree that teacher quality is central to education reform efforts. Priagula, Agam & Solmon (2007) described teacher quality as an important in-school factor that impact significantly on students’ learning. Quality teachers have positive impact on the success of students. Where the students have quality and effective teachers the students make learning gains while those with ineffective teachers show declines. With respect to the classroom teacher, teacher quality is a continuous process of doing self-assessment so as to have professional development and a self-renewal, in order to enhance teaching. For the teacher educator, an effective or quality teacher is one who has a good subject-matter and pedagogy knowledge, which the he/she can build upon.

Outstanding teachers possess and exhibit many exemplary qualities. They have the skills, subject matter, and pedagogy to reach every child. They help equip their students with the knowledge and breadth of awareness to make sound and independent judgments. Three determinants of teacher quality will be considered here. They are; pedagogical knowledge, subject-matter content knowledge and experience.


Trainees of every profession receive some sort of education that will give them insight into and prepare them for the task ahead. That of the teacher is called Pedagogical Content Knowledge or Pedagogical Knowledge. Pedagogical Content Knowledge can be described as, knowledge the teachers use in organizing classrooms, delivering the content the students must show mastery over and for managing the students entrusted into their care. Generally speaking, pedagogical knowledge is knowledge the teacher uses to facilitate students’ learning. Pedagogical Content Knowledge is in two major forms – teachers’ knowledge of the students’ pre-conceptions and teachers’ knowledge of teaching methodologies. Students come to class with a host of pre-conceptions relating to the things they are learning. The pre-conceptions may or may not be consistent with the actual subject-matter that is delivered. Teachers must have a good idea of both kinds of preconception, in order to help students, replace the inconsistent pre-conceptions or build upon the consistent pre-conceptions to bring about meaningful learning. Teachers must have a repertoire of teaching methodologies for facilitating students’ learning. When the methodologies are applied wrongly little or no learning occurs in students. In effect when either of the two is weak, the teacher becomes a bad one because that teacher will not be able to execute his/her responsibility in the vocation he/she has chosen. Due to this during teacher preparation, Pedagogical Content Knowledge is emphasized.

Teachers gain Pedagogical Content Knowledge from various sources. Friedrichsen, Abell, Pareja, Brown, Lankford and Volkmann (2009) distinguished three potential sources of Pedagogical Content Knowledge. They listed the sources as professional development programs, teaching experiences and lastly teachers’ own learning experiences. During their days as students in teacher education programs, teachers are assisted in variety ways to gain Pedagogical Content Knowledge. For examples, during practice, they learn how to put the pedagogical skills they learnt. Teacher education programs and other professional development programs create avenues for teachers to gain pedagogical content knowledge through workshops, lectures, working together with colleagues, and in teaching practice. Then their experiences in their classrooms as they teach students lead them to gain insight into which methodologies work under best under specific situations. That last source is usually ignored. It indicates that the professional knowledge of the teacher begins to develop long before the teacher becomes a candidate entering into teacher education. This means, the way teachers teach influences to a large extent the prospective teachers’ professional knowledge and beliefs. This type of learning is, generally, overlooked by teachers at all levels because unintentional and informal, it is.

Pedagogical Content Knowledge can be gained through formal and informal means. Learning opportunities for pedagogical content knowledge, formally, designed by institutions, based on learning objectives which generally are prerequisite for certification, constitutes the formal means. In formal learning, students have clear ideas about the objective of acquiring pedagogical skills. Informal learning, on the other hand, is not organized intentionally. It takes place incidentally and so can be considered as ‘side effect’. As Kleickmann et al (2012) described it, it has no goal with respect to learning outcomes, and it is contextualized to a large extent. This is often called learning by experience. Informal, but deliberative, learning situations exists. This occurs in situations such as learning in groups, mentoring, and intentional practicing of some skills or tools. Werquin (2010) described informal, but deliberative, learning as non-formal learning. Unlike formal learning, non-formal learning does not occur in educational institutions and does not attract certification. Whether pedagogical content knowledge

Pedagogical Content Knowledge is used to bridges the gap between content knowledge and actual teaching. By bridging the gap, it ensures that discussions of content are relevant to teaching and that discussions themselves are focused on the content. As such, Pedagogical Content Knowledge is something teachers must pay attention to. Teachers who possess and use good Pedagogical content knowledge have good control over classroom management and assessment, knowledge about learning processes, teaching methods, and individual characteristics (Harr, Eichler, & Renkl, 2014). Such teachers are able to create an atmosphere that facilitates learning and are also able to present or facilitate the learning of concepts by even lazy students. They are able to make learning easier by students hence teacher with high pedagogical content knowledge can be classified as quality teachers. It is worth noting that it is not pedagogical content knowledge only that makes good teachers. A teacher will not be good if he/she is master of pedagogical knowledge but lacks subject matter content knowledge.


The goal of teaching is to help learners develop intellectual resources that will enable them participate fully in the main domains of human taught and enquiry. The degree to which the teacher can assist students to learn depends on the subject-matter the teacher possesses. That is to say, teachers’ knowledge of subject-matter has influence on their efforts to assist students to learn that subject-matter. If a teacher is ignorant or not well informed he/she cannot do students any good, he/she will rather much harm them. When the teacher conceives knowledge in such a way that it is narrow, or do not have accurate information relating to a particular subject-matter, he/she will pass on these same shallow or inaccurate information to students. This kind of teacher will hardly recognize the consistent pre-conceptions and challenge the misconceptions of students. Such a teacher can introduce misconceptions as he/she uses texts uncritically or inappropriately alter them. It is the teacher’s conception of knowledge that shapes the kind of questions he/she asks and the ideas he/she reinforces as well as the sorts of tasks the teacher designs.

Teachers’ subject-matter matter content knowledge must go beyond the specific topics of their curriculum. This is because the teacher does not only define concepts for students. Teachers explain to students why a particular concept or definition is acceptable, why learners must know it and how it relates to other concepts or definitions. This can be done properly if the teacher possesses a good understanding of the subject-matter. This type of understanding includes an understanding of the intellectual context and value of the subject-matter. The understanding of subject matter generally reinforces the teacher’s confidence in delivering lessons, thereby making him/her a good teacher.


Experience is one of the factors that account for variations in teacher salary, the world over (Hanushek and Rivkin, 2006). The fact that salary differences are based on the number of years the teacher has served, suggests that employers believe the teachers experience makes him/her a better teacher and such a teacher must be motivated to remain in the service. Though some studies like that Hanushek (2011) have suggested that the experience positively influences teacher quality only in the first few years, and that beyond five years, experience ceases to have positive impact on teacher efficacy, common sense tells us the one who has been doing something for a long time does better and with ease. Experience will therefore continue to pay, since, more experienced teachers have the propensity to know more about the subject-matter they teach, and think and behave appropriately in the classroom, and have much more positive attitudes toward their students.

Teachers who have spent more years of teaching, usually, feel self-assured in their skill to use instructional and assessment tools. These teachers are able to reach even the most difficult-to-reach students in their classrooms. They also have greater confidence in their capability to control the class and prevent incidence that might make the teaching and learning process difficult. Their experience makes them much more patient and tolerant than their counterpart with few years of experience (Wolters & Daugherty, 2007). Novice teachers progressively gain and develop teaching and classroom management skills needed to make them effective teachers. They spend time learning themselves – trying to understand fully the job they have entered. The teachers who have spent more years teaching have gained a rich store of knowledge the less experience teachers will be trying to build. Teachers’ sense of effectiveness is generally associated with good attitudes, behaviors and interactions with their students. This is something the experienced teacher has already acquired. These explain why more experienced teachers are usually more effective teachers than the novices.

Another reason more experienced teachers tend to be better teachers than their inexperienced counterparts, is that, experienced teachers have gained additional training, and hence, have acquired additional teaching skills, needed to be effective from direct experience. Usually the training of teachers does not end at the initial teacher training stage. After graduation, teachers attend capacity building seminars, workshops and conferences. These give teachers the opportunity to learn emerging teaching techniques and also refresh their memories on the things they have learnt. Such seminars, workshops and conferences mostly add to the teacher’s store of knowledge. The other advantage the experienced teachers have is that they have encountered more situations to develop the skills needed to be effective teachers through additional direct, and sometimes indirect experiences. That is to say, they have encountered challenging situations which gave them the opportunity to build their skills. Whether they were able to overcome these challenging situation or not, does not matter so much. If the teachers encounter difficult situations in their classes, they learn from them. If the teachers are able to overcome difficult situations, they get to know how to resolve such situations at the next encounter, otherwise their reflections and suggestions from co-teachers gives them ideas about how to approach same or similar situations. They also have a greater chance of being exposed to current and competent models. More experienced teachers have a higher chance of demonstrating superior self-efficacy in most areas, because they have learned the needed classroom management and instructional skills from their colleagues. Teachers who have been in active service for many years are most likely to be classified as quality teachers, because of what they have learnt from in-service training, capacity building workshops and seminars, their interaction with other teachers and what they have learnt from experience in their classrooms.


Teacher education aims at providing teacher education program through initial teacher training for teacher trainees, and in-service training for practicing teachers in order to produce knowledgeable and committed teachers for effective teaching and learning. To realize this mission, teacher education programs have been instituted for the training of teachers. These programs differ from one country to another. Even within the same country, there may be different programs training teachers for the same certificate. These alternative programs are a created, specially, where there are shortages of teachers, and attempts are being made to train large numbers of teachers at a time. These alternative programs ease the teacher certification requirement, allowing those who under normal circumstances would not become teachers. This introduces serious challenges. Because large numbers of teachers are needed within a short period, their training is somewhat fast-tracked resulting in what is usually referred to as half-baked teachers – teachers of lower quality. Applicants who did not gain admission into the program of their choice come into teaching only because they have nowhere else to go. Such applicants tend not to be dedicated to the teaching service in the end. Fast-tracking initial teacher preparation actually harm the mission for which the initial teacher training institutions were created. This is because the teacher produced through such training are usually not of high quality.

Teacher preparation has a direct impact on students’ achievement. The most important in-school factors upon which student’s success hinges, is a teacher who has been well prepared. A well-prepared teacher is one who has gone through a strong teacher preparation program. It is therefore necessary for educators to work to create needed improvements in teacher preparation. To strengthen teacher preparation, teacher preparation programs must provide strong preparation during the initial teacher training period and give support to fresh teachers until they are inducted. Pre-service teacher education should emphasize the acquisition of effective teaching strategies. This can be done in methodology classes and corresponding field experiences. Students who have quality teachers make achievement gains, while those with ineffective teachers show declines, therefore having high quality teachers in classrooms has a positive impact on students’ achievements.

Pedagogical content knowledge, subject matter content knowledge and experience determines the quality of a teacher. Teachers make subject-matter accessible to students by using Pedagogical content knowledge. Pedagogical content knowledge has two broad areas of knowledge: teachers’ knowledge of students’ subject-matter pre-conceptions and teachers’ knowledge of teaching strategies. What Pedagogical content knowledge does is that, it links subject-matter content knowledge and the practice of teaching, making sure that discussions on content are appropriate and that, discussions focus on the content and help students to retain the content. The teacher’s job is to facilitate the learning of subject-matter by students. The degree to which the teacher can assist students to learn depends on the subject-matter content knowledge the teacher possesses. Teachers who possess inaccurate information or comprehend the subject-matter in narrow ways, harm students by passing on the same false or shallow subject-matter knowledge to their students. The last of the three determinants of teacher quality is experience. Teachers who have served more years gain additional and more specific training by attending seminars, conferences and workshops and in-service training and so tend to understand their job better. They also might have met and solved many challenging situations in their classroom and therefore know exactly what to do in any situation.

How To Be Great Educator

Anyone can teach. We teach each other every day. For example, we give instructions to each other for such things as cooking, putting together furniture, and completing household other tasks. However, teaching someone is different than the process of educating someone. Consider the difference between informal learning and formal learning. An example of informal learning would be following a recipe to learn how to cook. In contrast, formal learning occurs within a classroom and usually is accompanied by evaluation and assessment. It may seem that teaching and educating are the same thing; however, the difference has to do with the place or context for learning.

This is the same distinction can be made for teaching informally (giving instructions) and teaching students in a formal classroom environment. A person enters the field of education as a profession – either full time in traditional academic institutions or as an adjunct (or part time) instructor. The reasons vary for why someone would choose to be in the classroom. A traditional full time professor may likely be responsible for conducting research, teaching, and publishing scholarly work. An adjunct instructor may teach in a community college, traditional college, or an online school. When someone teaches students in higher education he or she may be called a facilitator, instructor, or professor. This is important as there isn’t a job with the word educator in the title.

The questions I would like to answer include: What then does it mean to be an educator? Does it signify something different than the assigned job title? What I have learned through my work in higher education is that becoming an educator is not an automatic process. Everyone who is teaching adult students is not functioning as an engaging and highly effective educator. However, it is possible to learn how to educate rather than teach and that requires making a commitment to the profession.

What Does It Mean to Teach?

Consider teaching as part of the system of traditional, primary education. Those classes are teacher-led and children as students are taught what and how to learn. The teacher is considered to be the expert and directs the learning process. A teacher is someone who is highly trained and works to engage the minds of his or her students. This style of teacher-led instructional continues into higher education, specifically traditional college classrooms. The teacher still stands at the front and center of the class delivering information, and students are used to this format because of their experience in primary education. The instructor disseminates knowledge through a lecture and students study to pass the required examinations or complete other required learning activities.

Within higher education, teachers may be called instructors and they are hired as subject matter experts with advanced content knowledge. The job requirements usually include holding a specific number of degree hours in the subject being taught. Teachers may also be called professors in traditional college classes, and those positions require a terminal degree with additional research requirements. For all of these roles, teaching is meant to signify someone who is guiding the learning process by directing, telling, and instructing students. The instructor or professor is in charge, and the students must comply and follow as directed. Here is something to consider: If that is the essence of teaching, is there a difference between that and educating students? Is the role of a teacher the same as that of an educator?

What Does It Mean to be an Educator?

Consider some basic definitions to begin with as a means of understanding the role of an educator. The word “education” refers to giving instruction; “educator” refers to the person who provides instruction and is someone who is skilled in teaching; and teaching is aligned with providing explanations. I have expanded upon these definitions so that the word “educator” includes someone who is skilled with instruction, possesses highly developed academic skills, and holds both subject matter knowledge and knowledge of adult education principles.

Skilled with Instruction: An educator is someone who should be skilled in the art of classroom instruction, knowing what instructional strategies are effective and the areas of facilitation that need further development. An experienced educator develops methods that will bring course materials to life by adding relevant context and prompting students to learn through class discussions and other learning activities. Instruction also includes all of the interactions held with students, including all forms of communication, as every interaction provides an opportunity for teaching.

Highly Developed Academic Skills: An educator must also have strong academic skills and at the top of that list are writing skills. This requires strong attention to detail on the part of the educator and in all forms of messages communicated, including anything written, presented, and sent via email. The ability to demonstrate strong academic skills is especially important for anyone who is teaching online classes as words represent the instructor.

The use of proper formatting guidelines, according to the style prescribed by the school, is also included in the list of critical academic skills. For example, many schools have implemented APA formatting guidelines as the standard for formatting papers and working with sources. An educator cannot adequately guide students and provide meaningful feedback if the writing style has not been mastered.

Strong Knowledge Base: An educator needs to develop a knowledge base that contains subject matter expertise, as related to the course or courses they are teaching, along with knowledge of adult education principles. I know of many educators who have the required credit hours on their degree transcripts, yet they may not have extensive experience in the field they teach. This will still allow these educators to teach the course, provided that they take time to read the course textbook and find methods of applying it to current practices within the field.

Many schools hire adjuncts with extensive work experience as the primary criteria, rather than knowledge of adult learning principles. Those instructors I have worked with who do have a strong adult education knowledge base generally acquired it through ongoing professional development. That was my goal, when I decided on a major for my doctoral degree, to understand how adults learn so that I could transform from an instructor to an educator.

Becoming an Engaging and Highly Effective Educator

I do not believe that many instructors intentionally consider the need to make a transformation from working as an instructor to functioning as an educator. When someone is hired to teach a class, someone other than a traditional college professor, they often learn through practice and time what works well in the classroom. There will likely be classroom audits and recommendations made for ongoing professional development. Gradually the typical instructor will become an educator as they seek out resources to help improve their teaching practices. However, I have worked with many adjunct online instructors who rely on their subject matter expertise alone and do not believe there is a reason to grow as an educator. For anyone who would like to make the transformation and become an engaging and highly effective educator, there are steps that can be taken and practices that can be implemented.

Step One: Continue to Develop Your Instructional Practice

While any educator can learn through time on the job, it is possible to become intentional about this growth. There are numerous online resources, publications, workshops, webinars, and professional groups that would allow you to learn new methods, strategies, and practices. There are also social media websites such as LinkedIn and Twitter that allow for the exchange of ideas and resources within a global community of educators.

You can also utilize self-reflection as a means of gauging your effectiveness. I have found that the best time to review my instructional practice occurs immediately after a class concludes. That is a time when I can assess the strategies I have used and determine if those methods were effective. Even reviewing end of course student surveys may provide insight into the perspective of my students.

Step Two: Continue to Develop Your Academic Skills

I know from my work with online faculty development that this is an area of development that many educators could use. However, it is often viewed as a low priority – until it is noted in classroom audits. If an educator has weak academic writing skills, it will interfere with their ability to provide comprehensive feedback for students. For online instructors, that has an even greater impact when posted messages contain errors with spelling, grammar, and formatting. The development of academic skills can be done through the use of online resources or workshops. Many online schools I have worked for offer faculty workshops and this is a valuable self-development resource.

Step Three: Continue to Develop Your Subject Matter Expertise

Every educator has subject matter expertise that they can draw upon. However, the challenge is keeping that knowledge current as you continue to teach for several years. The best advice I can offer is to find resources that allow you to read and learn about current thinking, research, and best practices in your chosen field. This is essential to your instructional practice as students can ascertain whether you appear to be current in your knowledge, or outdated and seemingly out of touch. Even the use of required textbooks does not ensure that you are utilizing the most current information as knowledge evolves quickly in many fields.

Step Four: Continue to Develop Your Knowledge of Adult Learning

The last step or strategy that I can recommend is to gain knowledge about adult learning theories, principles, and practices. If you are not familiar with the basics there are concepts you can research and include critical thinking, andragogy, self-directed learning, transformational learning, learning styles, motivation, and cognition. My suggestion is to find and read online sources related to higher education and then find a subject that interests you to research further. I have found that the more I read about topics I enjoy, the more I am cultivating my interest in ongoing professional development. What you will likely find is that what you learn will have a positive influence on your work as an educator and will enhance all areas of your instructional practice.

Working as an educator, or someone who is highly engaged in the process of helping students learn, starts with a commitment to make this a career rather than a job. I have developed a vision related to how I want to be involved in each class I teach and I recommend the same strategy for you. You may find it useful to develop teaching goals for your career and link your classroom performance to those goals. For example, do you want to complete the required facilitation tasks or would you rather put in the additional time necessary to create nurturing class conditions?

After developing a vision and teaching goals, you can create a professional development plan to prompt your learning and growth in all of the areas I have addressed above. While this strategy may require an investment of time, it is helpful to remember that we always make time for whatever we believe is most important. Being an educator is not sustaining a focus on job functions, rather it is cultivating a love of what you do and learning how to excel for the benefit of your students. Becoming an engaging and highly effective educator occurs when you decide that teaching students is only part of the learning process, and you work to transform who you are and how you function, while working and interacting with your students.

History Of Special Education

Perhaps the largest and most pervasive issue in special education, as well as my own journey in education, is special education’s relationship to general education. History has shown that this has never been an easy clear cut relationship between the two. There has been a lot of giving and taking or maybe I should say pulling and pushing when it comes to educational policy, and the educational practices and services of education and special education by the human educators who deliver those services on both sides of the isle, like me.

Over the last 20+ years I have been on both sides of education. I have seen and felt what it was like to be a regular main stream educator dealing with special education policy, special education students and their specialized teachers. I have also been on the special education side trying to get regular education teachers to work more effectively with my special education students through modifying their instruction and materials and having a little more patience and empathy.

Furthermore, I have been a mainstream regular education teacher who taught regular education inclusion classes trying to figure out how to best work with some new special education teacher in my class and his or her special education students as well. And, in contrast, I have been a special education inclusion teacher intruding on the territory of some regular education teachers with my special education students and the modifications I thought these teachers should implement. I can tell you first-hand that none of this give and take between special education and regular education has been easy. Nor do I see this pushing and pulling becoming easy anytime soon.

So, what is special education? And what makes it so special and yet so complex and controversial sometimes? Well, special education, as its name suggests, is a specialized branch of education. It claims its lineage to such people as Jean-Marc-Gaspard Itard (1775-1838), the physician who “tamed” the “wild boy of Aveyron,” and Anne Sullivan Macy (1866-1936), the teacher who “worked miracles” with Helen Keller.

Special educators teach students who have physical, cognitive, language, learning, sensory, and/or emotional abilities that deviate from those of the general population. Special educators provide instruction specifically tailored to meet individualized needs. These teachers basically make education more available and accessible to students who otherwise would have limited access to education due to whatever disability they are struggling with.

It’s not just the teachers though who play a role in the history of special education in this country. Physicians and clergy, including Itard- mentioned above, Edouard O. Seguin (1812-1880), Samuel Gridley Howe (1801-1876), and Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet (1787-1851), wanted to ameliorate the neglectful, often abusive treatment of individuals with disabilities. Sadly, education in this country was, more often than not, very neglectful and abusive when dealing with students that are different somehow.

There is even a rich literature in our nation that describes the treatment provided to individuals with disabilities in the 1800s and early 1900s. Sadly, in these stories, as well as in the real world, the segment of our population with disabilities were often confined in jails and almshouses without decent food, clothing, personal hygiene, and exercise.

For an example of this different treatment in our literature one needs to look no further than Tiny Tim in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (1843). In addition, many times people with disabilities were often portrayed as villains, such as in the book Captain Hook in J.M. Barrie’s “Peter Pan” in 1911.

The prevailing view of the authors of this time period was that one should submit to misfortunes, both as a form of obedience to God’s will, and because these seeming misfortunes are ultimately intended for one’s own good. Progress for our people with disabilities was hard to come by at this time with this way of thinking permeating our society, literature and thinking.

So, what was society to do about these people of misfortune? Well, during much of the nineteenth century, and early in the twentieth, professionals believed individuals with disabilities were best treated in residential facilities in rural environments. An out of sight out of mind kind of thing, if you will…

However, by the end of the nineteenth century the size of these institutions had increased so dramatically that the goal of rehabilitation for people with disabilities just wasn’t working. Institutions became instruments for permanent segregation.

I have some experience with these segregation policies of education. Some of it is good and some of it is not so good. You see, I have been a self-contained teacher on and off throughout the years in multiple environments in self-contained classrooms in public high schools, middle schools and elementary schools. I have also taught in multiple special education behavioral self-contained schools that totally separated these troubled students with disabilities in managing their behavior from their mainstream peers by putting them in completely different buildings that were sometimes even in different towns from their homes, friends and peers.

Over the years many special education professionals became critics of these institutions mentioned above that separated and segregated our children with disabilities from their peers. Irvine Howe was one of the first to advocate taking our youth out of these huge institutions and to place out residents into families. Unfortunately this practice became a logistical and pragmatic problem and it took a long time before it could become a viable alternative to institutionalization for our students with disabilities.

Now on the positive side, you might be interested in knowing however that in 1817 the first special education school in the United States, the American Asylum for the Education and Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb (now called the American School for the Deaf), was established in Hartford, Connecticut, by Gallaudet. That school is still there today and is one of the top schools in the country for students with auditory disabilities. A true success story!

However, as you can already imagine, the lasting success of the American School for the Deaf was the exception and not the rule during this time period. And to add to this, in the late nineteenth century, social Darwinism replaced environmentalism as the primary causal explanation for those individuals with disabilities who deviated from those of the general population.

Sadly, Darwinism opened the door to the eugenics movement of the early twentieth century. This then led to even further segregation and even sterilization of individuals with disabilities such as mental retardation. Sounds like something Hitler was doing in Germany also being done right here in our own country, to our own people, by our own people. Kind of scary and inhumane, wouldn’t you agree?

Today, this kind of treatment is obviously unacceptable. And in the early part of the 20th Century it was also unacceptable to some of the adults, especially the parents of these disabled children. Thus, concerned and angry parents formed advocacy groups to help bring the educational needs of children with disabilities into the public eye. The public had to see firsthand how wrong this this eugenics and sterilization movement was for our students that were different if it was ever going to be stopped.

Slowly, grassroots organizations made progress that even led to some states creating laws to protect their citizens with disabilities. For example, in 1930, in Peoria, Illinois, the first white cane ordinance gave individuals with blindness the right-of-way when crossing the street. This was a start, and other states did eventually follow suit. In time, this local grassroots’ movement and states’ movement led to enough pressure on our elected officials for something to be done on the national level for our people with disabilities.

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy created the President’s Panel on Mental Retardation. And in 1965, Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which provided funding for primary education, and is seen by advocacy groups as expanding access to public education for children with disabilities.

When one thinks about Kennedy’s and Johnson’s record on civil rights, then it probably isn’t such a surprise finding out that these two presidents also spearheaded this national movement for our people with disabilities.

This federal movement led to section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act. This guarantees civil rights for the disabled in the context of federally funded institutions or any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance. All these years later as an educator, I personally deal with 504 cases every single day.

In 1975 Congress enacted Public Law 94-142, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EHA), which establishes a right to public education for all children regardless of disability. This was another good thing because prior to federal legislation, parents had to mostly educate their children at home or pay for expensive private education.

The movement kept growing. In the 1982 the case of the Board of Education of the Hendrick Hudson Central School District v. Rowley, the U.S. Supreme Court clarified the level of services to be afforded students with special needs. The Court ruled that special education services need only provide some “educational benefit” to students. Public schools were not required to maximize the educational progress of students with disabilities.

Today, this ruling may not seem like a victory, and as a matter of fact, this same question is once again circulating through our courts today in 2017. However, given the time period it was made in, it was a victory because it said special education students could not pass through our school system without learning anything. They had to learn something. If one knows and understands how the laws work in this country, then one knows the laws always progress through tiny little increments that add up to progress over time. This ruling was a victory for special education students because it added one more rung onto the crusade.

In the 1980s the Regular Education Initiative (REI) came into being. This was an attempt to return responsibility for the education of students with disabilities to neighborhood schools and regular classroom teachers. I am very familiar with Regular Education Initiative because I spent four years as an REI teacher in the late 1990s and early 2000s. At this time I was certified as both a special education teacher and a regular education teacher and was working in both capacities in a duel role as an REI teacher; because that’s what was required of the position.

The 1990s saw a big boost for our special education students. 1990 birthed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This was, and is, the cornerstone of the concept of a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) for all of our students. To ensure FAPE, the law mandated that each student receiving special education services must also receive an Individualized Education Program (IEP).

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 reached beyond just the public schools. And Title 3 of IDEA prohibited disability-based discrimination in any place of public accommodation. Full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, or accommodations in public places were expected. And of course public accommodations also included most places of education.

Also, in the 1990s the full inclusion movement gained a lot of momentum. This called for educating all students with disabilities in the regular classroom. I am also very familiar with this aspect of education as well, as I have also been an inclusion teacher from time to time over my career as an educator on both sides of the isle as a regular education teacher and a special education teacher.

Now on to President Bush and his educational reform with his No Child Left Behind law that replaced President Johnson’s Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The NCLB Act of 2001 stated that special education should continue to focus on producing results and along with this came a sharp increase in accountability for educators.

Now, this NCLB Act was good and bad. Of course we all want to see results for all of our students, and it’s just common sense that accountability helps this sort of thing happen. Where this kind of went crazy was that the NCLB demanded a host of new things, but did not provide the funds or support to achieve these new objectives.

Furthermore, teachers began feeling squeezed and threatened more and more by the new movement of big business and corporate education moving in and taking over education. People with no educational background now found themselves influencing education policy and gaining access to a lot of the educational funds.

This accountability craze stemmed by excessive standardized testing ran rapid and of course ran downstream from a host of well-connected elite Trump-like figures saying to their lower echelon educational counterparts, “You’re fired!” This environment of trying to stay off of the radar in order to keep one’s job, and beating our kids over the head with testing strategies, wasn’t good for our educators. It wasn’t good for our students. And it certainly wasn’t good for our more vulnerable special education students.

Some good did come from this era though. For example, the updated Individuals with Disabilities with Education Act of 2004 (IDEA) happened. This further required schools to provide individualized or special education for children with qualifying disabilities. Under the IDEA, states who accept public funds for education must provide special education to qualifying children with disabilities. Like I said earlier, the law is a long slow process of tiny little steps adding up to progress made over time.

Finally, in 2015 President Obama’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) replaced President Bush’s NCLB, which had replaced President Johnson’s ESEA. Under Obama’s new ESSA schools were now allowed to back off on some of the testing. Hopefully, the standardized testing craze has been put in check. However, only time will tell. ESSA also returned to more local control. You know, the kind of control our forefathers intended.

You see the U.S. Constitution grants no authority over education to the federal government. Education is not mentioned in the Constitution of the United States, and for good reason. The Founders wanted most aspects of life managed by those who were closest to them, either by state or local government or by families, businesses, and other elements of civil society. Basically, they saw no role for the federal government in education.

You see, the Founders feared the concentration of power. They believed that the best way to protect individual freedom and civil society was to limit and divide power. However, this works both ways, because the states often find themselves asking the feds for more educational money. And the feds will only give the states additional money if the states do what the feds want… Hmm… Checks and balances, as well as compromise can be a really tricky thing, huh?

So on goes the battle in education and all the back and forth pushing and pulling between the federal government and the states and local government, as well as special education and regular education. And to add to this struggle, recently Judge Moukawsher, a state judge from Connecticut, in a lawsuit filed against the state by the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding, rocked the educational boat some more when in his ruling he included a message to lawmakers to reassess what level of services students with significant disabilities are entitled to.

His ruling and statements appear to say that he thinks we’re spending too much money on our special education students. And that for some of them, it just isn’t worth it because their disabilities are too severe. You can imagine how controversial this was and how much it angered some people.

The 2016 United States Presidential election resulted in something that few people saw coming. Real Estate mogul and reality star Donald Trump won the presidency and then appointed anti-public educator Betsy Devos to head up this country’s Department of Education. Her charge, given to her by Trump, is to drastically slash the Department of Education, and to push forward private charter schools over what they call a failing public educational system.

How this is going to affect our students, and especially our more vulnerable special education students, nobody knows for sure at this time. But, I can also tell you that there aren’t many people out there that feel comfortable with it right now. Only time will tell where this is all going to go and how it will affect our special education students…

So, as I said earlier, perhaps the largest, most pervasive issue in special education is its relationship to general education. Both my own travels and our nation’s journey through the vast realm of education over all of these years has been an interesting one and a tricky one plagued with controversy to say the least.

I can still remember when I first became a special education teacher back in the mid-1990s. A friend’s father, who was a school principal at the time, told me to get out of special education because it wasn’t going to last. Well, I’ve been in and out of special education for more than two decades now, and sometimes I don’t know if I’m a regular education teacher or a special education teacher, or both. And sometimes I think our country’s educational system might be feeling the same internal struggle that I am. But, regardless, all these years later, special education is still here.

In closing, although Itard failed to normalize Victor, the wild boy of Averyon, he did produce dramatic changes in Victor’s behavior through education. Today, modern special education practices can be traced to Itard. His work marks the beginning of widespread attempts to instruct students with disabilities. Fast forwarding to 2017, for what happens next in the future of education and special education in our country… Well, I guess that depends on all of us…

Benefit Online College Programs

It is one thing to be an excellent teacher and it is another to know how to continue earning a living from teaching after teacher layoffs. The primary reason for this is that economic survival as an intellectual isn’t on the course list in graduate school. For some reason the idea that dedicated public school educators could suddenly find themselves unemployed as a result of massive budget cuts is not available to professors that teach future public school teachers. Fortunately is it possible for a teacher with an earned graduate degree, a Ph.D. or master degree, to convert academic and intellectual strength into an online teaching citadel by learning how to acquire online adjunct instructor jobs with post-secondary academic institutions. The growth of online bachelor degree programs and online master degree programs is creating many online teaching positions that must be filled by technically adept and academic qualified online adjunct instructors. The alert educators should realize by now that making the effort to learn how to teach online for multiple online degree programs is one of the best ways to construct a viable financial fortress in these troubled times.

The teacher layoffs seem to have taken a great number of academics by complete surprise, but the next round of pink slips should be met with a plan to discover the benefits of teaching online. The growth of online bachelor degree program and online master degree programs plus the adoption of distance learning by the thousands of community colleges and technical schools is creating a host of online adjunct jobs that must be filled by prepared academics. It is necessary for a prospective online adjunct instructor to learn how to use a personal computer because in order to teach college and university students enrolled in online college courses an online instructor will be required to move smoothly in and out of multiple digital interfaces. The educators with at least a modest level of skill with a computer should have no trouble learning how to interact with the online degree programs with two to five different post-secondary academic institutions. It goes without saying in order to teach online it is first necessary to start applying to teach online courses. This can be accomplished by navigating the Internet and locating the faculty application section of the thousands of post-secondary websites.

There is nothing like experience to encourage the candor necessary to make a realistic decision, and educators have the intellectual tools required to accurately determine the viability of distance learning in terms of their professional careers. There is very little discussion available about the growing presence of distance education technology, and the alert academic examining this should easily identify a growing number of online adjunct instructor jobs with online bachelor degree program and online master degree programs. Obviously, the educator that masters the functions of a personal computer and becomes proficient in the navigation of the Internet can start building an online teaching schedule. It is possible to teach online full time or part time depending on the amount of academic work the academic is willing to accept form various community colleges, state universities and for-profit colleges. The important first step any teacher interested in online learning must take is to start making applications in the faculty application sections of the thousands of post-secondary websites on the Internet. Each school that offers online college courses to its enrolled students actually needs academically qualified and technically proficient online adjunct instructors.

The shadow of teacher layoffs on the traditional campus is creating a need for academics to take a fresh look at jobs teaching online college courses. Obviously, the authority derived from taking control of the teaching schedule can have a very positive effect on an educator feeling threatened by budget cuts, and online teaching provides a teacher with an earned graduate degree the opportunity to increase the number of online classes in an online teaching schedule or decrease them according to financial goals. The best way to start acquiring online teaching positions is to apply for any many online adjunct faculty openings as possible each day in the faculty application sections of post-secondary websites. Every community college, state university, four-year state college, technical school and for-profit college offers its enrolled students online college courses, and there are more online bachelor degree programs and online master degree programs every academic year. This means there is every reason to believe that an aggressive application strategy can eventually produce an online teaching schedule that will generate as much online adjunct income as can be earned by continuing to teaching in a traditional academic environment.

There is nothing esoteric about teaching online, but too many academics seem to think that logic is misplaced in the effort to transition out of the physical classroom and into a variety of online college classes that can be taught from a personal computer. The current thinking about distance education technology on the part of academic administrators is located in the economic impact the budget cuts to public education are making on the traditional academic industry and the skyrocketing cost of maintain the physical plants known as campuses. The logic of distance learning is that it is far less expensive to distribute post-secondary academic instruction on the Internet from a computer server than it is to continue offering the same academic instruction in a physical classroom. The new and returning college students understand the logic inherent in the convenience of earning an academic degree from work and at home from their laptop computers instead of driving a vehicle at odd hours of the day and evening to remote physical location. These two logics combine to produce many online adjunct openings that must be filled by academics with earned graduate degrees, a master degree or doctorate, as more online bachelor degree programs and online master degree programs are deployed in an attempt to satisfy the education needs of swelling post-secondary student populations with less costly alternatives to the physical classroom. Additionally, these circumstances make it possible for a prospective online adjunct instructor to use logic to construct a sustainable online teaching schedule.

It may be difficult to find the bright spot on the traditional academic campus since the teacher layoffs seem to have no end. The nature of the educator with a graduate degree, however, is not one that gives up easily in the face of challenge, so an academic willing to learn how to teach online from a personal computer can actually produce a sunny academic forecast by understanding the role of distance education technology and how it is creating many online adjunct job openings. The aggressive online adjunct instructor can build an online teaching schedule populated with as many as ten online college classes. There is no doubt if each online class pays the online instructor two thousand dollars the online adjunct income can compete against a traditional faculty salary and win. Further, the online adjunct instructor can teach the college and university students enrolled in the online bachelor degree programs and online master degree programs from any place on the globe that provides a connection to the Internet. Obviously, it will take some focus and determination to transition out of the physical classroom and into an online teaching schedule, but teaching online for a living is preferable to watch traditional teaching jobs disappear at an increasing rate as budget funds for public education make the cost of maintaining the physical plants knows as campuses and the classrooms on them less affordable every semester. The best strategy for locating online adjunct faculty openings is to learn how to submit evidence of academic achievement and classroom experience in the faculty application sections of post-secondary websites.

When educators still teaching in the physical classroom or teachers recently unemployed as a result of public education layoffs think about the prospect of teaching online for online bachelor degree programs and online master degree programs the question of whether it can actually produce enough online adjunct income to make it worth the effort. The answer is that a full time online teaching schedule containing six to ten online faculty openings can generate an income that will equal or exceed that what can be earned by continuing to teach on the traditional campus. Of course, there is more than income available to an online adjunct instructor. For example, every online college courses is located on the internet. This means that all that is necessary to access the online degree program is a laptop computer and an Internet connection. Actually, it is this feature about earning an academic degree online that attracts so many new and returning college and university students. The point is that the online instructor and the college students do not need to be present in any one physical classroom in order to connect with each other. Since every post-secondary academic institution is deploying online courses as quickly as possible, the economic opportunities for educators with earned graduate degrees, a doctorate or master degree, and sharp computer skills is practically endless because it is easy to teach online for multiple schools without actually being on the schools’ campuses.

The teacher layoffs came like a thunderclap for many academics teaching in a physical classroom on a traditional campus. However, just as the passing of a thunderstorm reveals the clear sky often painted with rainbows, the disturbance in the academic labor market reveals online teaching as a viable alternative to traditional academic employment. For example, a traditional academic position generates just one salary, and that salary can be lost to severe budgetary cuts in public education. Conversely, an online teaching schedule populated with multiple online faculty positions generates a variety of online adjunct income streams that are not interdependent in the sense that if one is lost the others continue throughout the year. Since every community college, technical school, state university and for-profit college now offers online degree programs to their enrolled students, the chances of developing a alternative academic career that can be coordinated from a personal computer located in any developed geographic location on the planet are very high. The best place to start investigating online teaching opportunities is to visit the websites of post-secondary academic institutions. Each school has a faculty application section that is specifically designed to accept academic credentials and documentation of classroom experience. The budget cuts to public education are creating a rocky academic employment landscape that can be smoothed out by building an online teaching schedule. Academics worried about their employment status in the physical classroom should make the effort to apply for online adjunct faculty jobs with online bachelor degree programs and online master degree programs because it is now obvious that the majority of post-secondary educational instruction is being moved to the Internet. The reason there are so many opportunities to teach online is simply because academic administrators are discovering that it is very cost efficient to provide new and returning college students with online college classes leading to an academic degree they can earn from their personal computers. Of course, each online college course must be taught by a qualified online adjunct instructor, so as the online college degree programs become more available the number of online teaching job openings grows at the same time. The academic with an earned graduate degree and a moderate level of computer skill can begin building an online teaching schedule by entering the required information about academic achievement and classroom experience in the faculty application sections of community colleges, four-year state colleges, state universities and for-profit schools. It will take a high degree of focus to organize a successful search for online teaching positions, but the effort will be worth it since teaching online can smooth out the academic employment landscape by generating online adjunct income all year long.

One of the most difficult issues facing educators during the rounds of teacher layoffs is which direction to go in after becoming unemployed as a provider of educational instruction. After all, the general economy and the associated high levels of unemployment in other fields does not offer much in the way of opportunity for an intellectual seeking alternative employment in public education. In addition, the vast majority of teachers are place bound in that they are accustomed to working on the same physical campus for decades and the idea of having to travel to another geographic location in search of teaching work is truly a difficult prospect. Fortunately, distance education technology can solve both of these problems by providing the academic with an earned graduate degree, a doctorate or master degree, with plenty of adjunct online faculty jobs and an extreme level of professional mobility. Since all online college degree programs are located on the internet all of the interaction an online adjunct instructor has with them is accomplished from a personal computer. This means the professional mobility inherent in online teaching as a career path is literally not available to educators that stay in the physical classroom on the traditional campus. Academics with earned graduate degrees that want a ticket out of the traditional classroom can find the ticket in an online teaching schedule.

Many academics are forced to deal with teacher layoffs resulting from budget cuts to public education and they are finding the task difficult and demoralizing since the general economy is suffering from high unemployment. After all, if an educator can no longer teach in a physical classroom on a traditional campus just where else is there to work and earn a decent living. Fortunately, distance education technology is coming to the rescue for alert academics with earned graduate degrees, a master degree or doctorate, and at least a modest level of computer skill. The best way for educators to confront the academic employment issue is to learn how to construct an online teaching schedule populated with online adjunct job openings with online bachelor degree programs and online master degree programs. The distance learning programs are increasing in number each semester provides an alternative career path for academics that understand why online college courses are important to new and returning college students and academic administrators of post-secondary academic institutions. The real reason there are so many available online faculty job openings is that college students want to avoid the cost of traveling to a physical campus and administrators want to avoid the cost of maintain the physical classrooms. The prospective online adjunct instructor can learn about the distinct possibilities of earning a living by teaching from a personal computer by visiting the thousands of state university, community college, four-year state college and for-profit college websites on the Internet.

The situation for educators teaching in physical classrooms is murky right now as a result of the continuing uncertainty about emerging teacher layoffs. While this is understandable given the situation on the traditional campus, it can be rectified by beginning a successful campaign for online teaching. However, in order to do so an academic must have a clear vision about the changes in the academic labor model. To put a sharp point on the reality of teaching today, academic administrators are no longer willing or able to support the salaries paid to traditional educators working traditional public education settings. Instead, they would prefer to hire online adjunct instructors to fill the growing number of online adjunct professor jobs at the post-secondary academic level. The teacher working at the secondary or elementary level of the academy with a graduate degree, a master degree or Ph.D., should take a long look at the online teaching opportunities with community colleges, state universities, for-profit colleges or technical schools. Every post-secondary academic institution has a website, and on each academic website is a link on the first page that will lead to the faculty application section. It is in this section of the school’s website that information about available online teaching jobs can be found by prospective online adjunct instructors.

When an online adjunct college professor is teaching online college classes from a laptop computer while sitting in the lobby of a small hotel in Paris the freedom afforded by online teaching positions is palpable. It is possible for an academic with a graduate degree, a master degree or Ph.D., and an online teaching schedule to teach college and university students all year long from practically any geographic location in the world. While many teachers would not travel or move to Paris, there are many educators who have been the subject of budget cuts that would like to simply move to a less costly town or small city. The problem with traditional teaching is that the same academic labor problems are magnified in the less populated areas. Teaching at the post-secondary level of the academy in numerous online adjunct professor jobs is a goal that can be achieved by making many applications for online adjunct jobs every day. The way to make these applications efficiently and effectively is to navigate the Internet to the websites of community colleges, state colleges and four-year universities. Inside these academic websites is a faculty application section. This section of the post-secondary website is designed to accommodate the submission of classroom experience and academic achievement.

The broad consensus about online education is that it satisfies a great number of needs for college and university students and the academic administrators that must meet the enrolled students’ educational needs. Teachers working in physical classrooms should understand the function of online degree programs insofar as they meet the new academic employment dynamics as they are defined by the cost-efficiency of distance education technology. The simple fact of the matter is that online adjunct jobs are less burdensome on public education budgets than traditional teacher salaries. The alert educator will understand that the way to continue teaching and still earn a decent living in the face of continuing layoffs is to learn how to apply for and acquire online college classes. An online teaching schedule populated with six to twelve online courses can generate multiple online adjunct income streams throughout the calendar year. Granted, teaching online will require a graduate degree, a master degree or Ph.D., and increasingly sophisticated computer skills, but the academics that make it a professional goal to access the growing number of online teaching positions will be able to earn a living long after the teachers on the physical campuses have been told to go home.

It is becoming harder than ever to remain in the physical classroom since the budget cuts to public education seem to have no end. As more traditional educators lose their salaries from teaching it is important for them to realize that online teaching jobs can relieve academic hardships. The truth of the matter is that distance education technology is relatively easy for academic administers to deploy since it is a mature technology and the post-secondary level of the academy, community colleges, state universities and for-profit colleges, utilize it as a way to replace the expensive physical classroom on the traditional campus. The result of the emergence of online college degree programs is a great deal of online adjunct employment that needs the participation of academically qualified and technically adroit online adjunct instructor to accept it. Every online college class that is developed in order to allow a college or university student to earn an academic degree from a personal computer must be taught by an academic with an earned graduate degree. However, if a teacher with a bachelor degree is willing to earn a master degree or Ph.D. it will be possible upon graduate to start building an online teaching schedule populated with numerous online college courses.

It is not at all necessary to exit the physical classroom in order to start teaching online for online bachelor degree programs and online master degree programs. In fact, it would be a very good idea for an educator that is still teaching on a traditional campus to stat investigating how online adjunct jobs are being created each time a new online college degree programs is made available to college and university students. The fact o the matter is that each online college courses within an online degree program must be taught by an online adjunct instructor with an earned graduate degree, a doctorate or master degree, and at least a moderate level of computer skill. It is possible to teach as few as one or two online courses at a time, and since many online degree programs offer classes that last only five to eight weeks long and are offered to college students twelve months of the year, the online adjunct income streams can certainly come in handy in the event of another round of teacher layoffs. The best search strategy for locating adjunct teaching positions online is to navigate the Internet to the faculty application sections in the websites of community colleges, state universities and for-profit colleges.

Why We Need College Leader To Step Up

Some college leaders seem to believe that issues such as college costs, student debt, learning outcomes, and placement rates for graduates are sensationalized by the media and not nearly as serious and important as they are made out to be. (Maxwell, Dr. David, President, Drake University, “Time to Play Offense”, Inside Higher Education, 2/4/13).

When parents and students have both made sacrifices and borrowed mightily to finance the student’s college education, how can college leaders trivialize or ignore the fact that students typically must pay back $25,000 to $100,000 in college loans and credit card debt? Furthermore, parents with more than one child have probably done one or more of the following to cover college costs and related expenses: 1) Taken out personal loans, 2) Borrowed against their house, 3) Increased their credit card limits, 4) Tapped into their retirement savings, 5) Postponed large purchases, repairs and vacations, and 6) Ignored needed medical and dental procedures.

Many college leaders apparently have little idea how much debt students and their parents must take on to complete a four or six year education. Does your college know exactly how much debt each student has built up by the time they graduate? Do they know how much money each parent now owes because of college expenses for their children? Try adding all of that student and parent debt together to get a total. Do your leaders express any concern? Are they doing anything about the problem? By the way, for most students, student loans are not financial aid. They are student debt that has to be paid back. If a typical student owes say $35,000, you can estimate the monthly payments for 5, 10, 15 or 20 years.

In perhaps 60+ percent of the families with two, three or four children, money is tight. Of course these families care about college costs, student debt, learning outcomes, and placement rates for graduates. Parents want their children to graduate with job offers that will enable them to live independently, take care of their own expenses and begin to pay back the money they borrowed, and rightly so.

The preponderance of students want to graduate with a good job, ideally one in their field of study, at a salary on which they can live. To accomplish their goals, students need more help than they are receiving from most colleges today. It is time for large numbers of college leaders to wake up, step up and pay more attention to the employment needs of their financially stressed students. To effectively meet these needs, college leaders will have to mobilize and refocus their college communities, provide resources and implement methods and systems that can improve student employment results.

Ignoring such a significant issue speaks poorly of college leaders. Great college leaders put students first, take on the difficult problems and solve them. Poor leaders deceive themselves and others, put other priorities ahead of students, make excuses, shift blame, resist change and never realize how many students they have prevented from maximizing their success in the job market.

Importantly, far too many colleges fail to accumulate, analyze, utilize and share the statistics and information that will show them how well they are serving the employment needs of students. To serve students effectively, colleges must know how they are doing in areas other than academics. The factors used to evaluate student employment success and a college’s job search preparation performance can be displayed on a spreadsheet chart with the following column headings. (See Below) For columns 2 – 15, a number should be inserted for every major offered.

Student Employment Success Chart

Column 1 – “Majors” – List each major (All 60 – 100+) offered by your college.

Column 2 – “Graduates” – Number of graduates in each major?

Column 3 – “Related” – Number who accepted job offers directly related to their majors.

Column 4 – “Unrelated” – Number who accepted job offers unrelated to their majors.

Column 5 – “No Job Offer” – Number who received NO job offers by graduation.

Column 6 – “Received” – Average # of job offers received by students in each major.

Column 7 – “Percent” – Percent of students in each major receiving one or more job offers.

Column 8 – “Improvement” – Percent improvement (+) decline (-) from the previous year.

Column 9 – “Dollars” – Average $ amount of job offers received by students in each major.

Column 10 – “National” – National average $ amount offered to students in each major.

Column 11 – “Employers” – Number of employers visiting campus to recruit each major.

Column 12 – “Interviews” – Student interviews on campus for Full-Time jobs in each major.

Column 13 – “UnRel Int” – Student interviews on campus for jobs unrelated to their major.

Column 14 – “Internships” – Number of internships that were available in each major.

Column 15 – “P/T Jobs” – Number of Part-Time Jobs that were available in each major.

Note: Colleges should complete this chart as students graduate each year. Columns 3 – 9 can be resurveyed after six months (using Columns 16 – 22) to see how many additional students have been employed and how much the numbers have changed.

Column 16 – “Related” – Number who accepted job offers directly related to their majors.

Column 17 – “Unrelated” – Number who accepted job offers unrelated to their majors.

Column 18 – “No Job Offer” – Number who received NO job offers.

Column 19 – “Received” – Average # of job offers received by students in each major.

Column 20 – “Percent” – Percent of students in each major receiving one or more job offers.

Column 21 – “Improvement” – Percent improvement (+) decline (-) from the previous year.

Column 22 – “Dollars” -Average $ amount of job offers received by students in each major.

Some colleges will be uncomfortable with this tool and may refuse to use it, try to discredit it or keep the results confidential. However, great college leaders utilize analytical tools that will help them evaluate performance and make better decisions. They do not ignore or obfuscate the numbers and facts. They stay on top of them, value them and continually take steps to improve them. Smaller leaders ignore or even hide these numbers and try to shift the focus away from their college’s performance.

College leaders who only provide students with the most basic career and job search assistance seldom track their performance and can only guess how well their students are doing in the job market. It is likely that some college leaders do not want to know. At the other extreme, whenever a college leader says something like, “97% of our students are employed within six months of graduation”, it raises questions. Colleges that boast exceptionally high placement rates seldom provide any details to backup their statements. It would be interesting to know whether the statement is true, what job titles those students now hold and how much they are being paid (Would you like fries with that?).

Those college leaders either do not care what happens to their students or they are unwilling to face the truth. Such leaders are clearly ignoring the needs and wants of their students. The best leaders recognize that students do not simply attend college to obtain a good education, they need, want and expect colleges to guide them through the job search preparation process, so they can effectively compete for employment opportunities.

Question 1: How much money will students need to earn in order to live on their own, cover all of the normal living expenses and pay back their college loans?

Whatever it is, that number is critical. Students who are not able to obtain a job which offers a living wage rate will immediately start off in a big hole. Students and parents already know that. Not all colleges seem to care about that fact.

Question 2: How many majors does your college offer where few jobs exist and/or the starting rate is very low?

Colleges that offer many majors in fields where there are few jobs or only low paying jobs are also likely to provide students will little useful job search preparation assistance. They send students out into the job market unprepared to compete for the few positions that pay a living wage. Some would ask why a college would offer so many majors that have very few employment opportunities and do so little to help students with their job search, although we all know the answer.

Question 3: Why would a college that does a good job of preparing students for their field of study not do an equally good job of helping students identify, prepare for, pursue and land good jobs?

The leaders of each college should think about and answer this question. Since very few students know how to prepare for and conduct a comprehensive and effective job search, they need help. Because grades alone are no longer enough for most employers, students need to hear (from day one) that there are things they should be doing during each semester to make themselves stronger employment candidates. Thereafter, students need ongoing training and coaching, so they can achieve the level of readiness that is needed to compete for the best jobs.

Question 4: Does your college say, “It is not our responsibility to help students prepare for and conduct an effective search for employment? or “We really don’t care if our students obtain good jobs. or “We aren’t going to devote the time, money and resources to student job search preparation assistance.”

College leaders do not verbalize those negative sentiments. However, some of those leaders make their distant, uncaring approach known by ignoring this important issue and by starving the functions that try to help students prepare for their senior year job search.

Question 5: Does your college ever survey students and parents to find out what is important to them, like graduating with a good job?

Of course, college leaders should not ask those questions if they do not want to know or do not intend to do anything about the issues they identify.

The Most Important Question: Why would any college leader ask students to work so hard toward their dreams, let them get close but not allow them to touch those dreams?

Unfortunately, that is exactly what happens to many students when a college does not provide the help, concern and guidance that students need to get ready to pursue and win the job offers they deserve.

Colleges that have delegated the job search preparation and student employment functions to a single department with a one employee or less for each one thousand students cannot possibly believe that they are being successful in providing the information, training and guidance that students deserve and need.

Students want only three things: 1) A good education, 2) An enjoyable college experience, and 3) A good job when they graduate. With that in mind, students need and want leaders who believe in them, stand up for them, fight for them and want them to be successful in everything they do. For students, success means not only graduating with a good education, it also means graduating with a good job, one that will help fulfill their dreams and launch their careers. College leaders who will not or cannot effectively address the needs of their students in all three areas will be remembered for their inflexibility, shortcomings and failures rather than their effectiveness, forward thinking and successes.

Students need college leaders who not only claim innovation, agility and flexibility in their strategic plans, they need leaders who demonstrate those qualities by fully and enthusiastically addressing the employment preparation needs of their students. Unfortunately, too many college students see leaders who accept and even encourage understaffed, underfunded, uninspired and very limited employment preparation efforts that reach too few students and force many good students to enter the job market unprepared to compete for the jobs that pay a living rate. For large numbers of students to find employment success, the entire college community must come together to provide the information, training and guidance that is needed. Does that happen at your college?

College leaders must be expected to anticipate and adjust to the changing needs of students. Helping large numbers of students prepare for their senior year job search is an important part of the job. When two thirds (or more) of your students do not know how to prepare for and conduct a comprehensive and effective job search and have not done the things that employers need, want and expect, something is terribly wrong.

The willingness of college leaders to go the extra mile and help students successfully launch their careers will always be seen as adding great value to the college experience. No longer can colleges, even those with praiseworthy academic programs, ignore what is obvious to students and parents. Students want and need good jobs when they graduate. It is time for college leaders to step up, recognize the need and address that need with enthusiasm and determination.

Insight About Special Education

Special education professionals work to promote students’ overall behavioral, social and academic growth. Special education professionals aide students in developing socially appropriate behavior within their family, school and community. Teachers of special education help students become more confident in their social interactions. Special education professionals administer activities that build students’ life skills.

What Does the Job Entail?

Are you interested in helping others? Can you handle and care for people who learn differently and have other behavioral problems? Do you want to make a difference in a young child’s life? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then you might consider a career in special education. Below is a breakdown of the short and long-term responsibilities of a special education teacher.

First and foremost, special education teachers focus on the development and academic needs of children with disabilities. They encourage learning in disabled students by implementing educational modules and behavioral techniques. Special education teachers work alone or with general education teachers to individualize lessons, develop problem-solving techniques and integrate children into group projects with other students. Furthermore, special education teachers are responsible for ensuring that the needs of disabled children are met during assessment periods.

Did you know that special education teachers work with a team of professionals, qualified staff and family in order to fulfill their job requirements? It is true. In fact, special education teachers work in conjunction with these entities to create an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for each student. An IEP is designed in collaboration with a child’s parents, school principal, social worker, speech pathologist and general education teacher to ensure effective implementation. An IEP targets a student’s needs and growth areas for maximum response. The specialized goals set by the IEP are woven throughout all aspects of a child’s daily activities. Teachers of special education must monitor a child’s setbacks and progress and report back to parents and administrators. Planned goals and tasks are outlined for family members to refer to while a student is at home as well.

The types of disabilities a special education teacher might encounter are difficult to predict. For one, the qualifications for special education services vary greatly from mild disabilities to extreme cases of mental retardation or autism. Types of disabilities include, but are not limited to, the following: speech impairments, hearing disabilities, emotional disturbances, orthopedic impairments, brain trauma cases, blindness, deafness and learning disabilities.

Do You Exhibit These Qualities?

Now that you have an idea of the job’s demands, let’s see if you have the right qualities to be a special education teacher.

Recognize the symptoms and needs of special needs students


Ability to work with one or more parties to achieve short-term and long-term goals

Strong communication skills

Ability to motivate others

Ability to multi-task

Knowledge of the most recent education modules, medical research and behavioral practices

  • Creativity

Knowledge of the latest medical technology relevant to special education

Taking the Next Step toward a New Career

Once you have decided to enter the field of special education, you will need to follow several steps. Due to the specialization of the field, special education teachers in all 50 states must receive licensure before employment. Licensures are approved by each state’s board of education, and the requirements for certification differ between states. Nevertheless, the growing shortage of special education teachers has led institutions of higher education to offer more special education degree and certification programs. In fact, special education degrees are offered at the bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels throughout the nation. Not to mention, the booming field of distance learning has made certification more accessible from any location in the United States.

In many cases, hopeful special education professionals do not meet the requirements of special education licensure due to their prior completion of degree programs outside of the field of education. Therefore, several states have begun to offer alternate forms of certification. The hope of these programs is to attract new special education professionals and fill the growing need for teachers. The chance to positively impact the lives of special needs children is one of the driving motivations and benefits of entering this field.

After several years, some special education teachers look for new opportunities within their field. In the most common situations, special education professionals transfer to administrative or supervisory positions. Others, after receiving a higher degree, become college professors and educate new students in the field of special education. Experienced teachers of special needs students have also moved up to serve as mentors to incoming special education teachers.

As for the future of special education and employment, there are many changes on the horizon. Most significantly, the job market in special education, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), is projected to “increase faster than the average of all occupations by 2014.” Due to the new emphasis on education and training in legislature, special education professionals will become even more valued.

Can I Make a Living as a Special Education Teacher?

As mentioned previously, the special education job market is on the rise. In 2004, the BLS reported 441,000 employed special education teachers in the nation. While only 6 percent worked within private schools, over 90 percent were employed by public schools or districts. In rare cases, special education professionals were involved in home or hospital care.

Several factors determine a special education teacher’s financial compensation. Such factors include experience, educational background, area of specialty and geographical location. In May 2004, the BLS reported the following breakdown of median annual earnings of special education teachers:

Preschool, kindergarten and elementary school level: – $43,570

Middle school level: – $44,160

Secondary school level: – $45,700

Special education teachers receive increases in salary through additional involvement in their schools’ educational activities and through coaching school athletic teams. In some districts, being a mentor to a new special education teacher carries additional monetary benefits. However, the most common way to increase earnings is through the completion of a higher degree, which can also make a teacher’s instruction more credible and valuable.

All About Online Education

More and more young people are choosing non-traditional education to start and advance in their careers while completing and furthering their formal education. “Typical distance learners are those who don’t have access to programs, employees who work during scheduled class hours, homebound individuals, self-motivated individuals who want to take courses for self-knowledge or advancement, or those who are unable or unwilling to attend class” (Charp, 2000, p. 10). Three key elements surround the online learner: technology, curriculum, and instructor (Bedore, Bedore, & Bedore, 1997). These elements must be keenly integrated into one smoothly and operationally functional delivery tool.

While an online method of education can be a highly effective alternative medium of education for the mature, self-disciplined student, it is an inappropriate learning environment for more dependent learners. Online asynchronous education gives students control over their learning experience, and allows for flexibility of study schedules for non traditional students; however, this places a greater responsibility on the student. In order to successfully participate in an online program, student must be well organized, self-motivated, and possess a high degree of time management skills in order to keep up with the pace of the course. For these reasons, online education or e-learning is not appropriate for younger students (i.e. elementary or secondary school age), and other students who are dependent learners and have difficulty
assuming responsibilities required by the online paradigm.

Millions of students use e-learning solutions in over 140 countries: corporations such as Kodak and Toyota and education providers like ExecuTrain, New Horizons, the Enoch Olinga College (ENOCIS), Phoenix University amongst the hundreds of schools and colleges.

Studies have shown student retention to be up to 250% better with online learning than with classroom courses. Several recent ones have helped frame the debate. The Sloan Consortium published a widely distributed report titled “Growing by Degrees: Online Education in the United States in 2005” that examined the growing prevalence of online education across U.S. institutions.

In addition, a study conducted by the Boston-based consulting firm Eduventures found that, while about half of institutions and more than 60 percent of employers generally accept the high quality of online learning, students’ perceptions differ. Only about 33 percent of prospective online students said that they perceive the quality of online education to be “as good as or better than” face-to-face education. Ironically, 36 percent of prospective students surveyed cited concern about employers’ acceptance of online education as a reason for their reluctance to enroll in online courses.

But what actually drives quality? A March 2006 report released by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Education identifies six quality indicators: mission, curriculum and instruction, faculty support, student and academic services, planning for sustainability and growth, and evaluation and assessment.

The debate rages on while the Pros and Cons of Online Adult Education for today’s international students are constantly analyzed to determine if this type of education platform can deliver predictable and measurable results.

The Enoch Olinga College (ENOCIS) is one institution which uses this type of delivery system. ENOCIS enhances their learning experience by offering many other “value added”, cost reducing benefits to students. Online pupils can apply for scholarships available to students of excellence and other financial aid programs like the Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students (PLUS), with attractive interest rates. They also provide convenient payment facilities, on line banking, Western Union Quick Collect, bank cards and a student who is granted a loan can start repaying it after two months if they have a corporate guarantor.

Pros of Online Education:

The key advantages of the online education experience are briefly explained below:

1. Cheaper: Online courses may be more affordable than those offered at colleges or trade schools. You may also save on transportation costs like gas, bus passes, and parking permits because you don’t need to commute to school and there are no housing or meals plans to worry about since you do not need to live on or near a college campus. Housing expenses and other costs associated with living expenses are usually the most expensive aspects of a college education, so by taking an online course you could save quite a bit of money.

The best part of online education is the absence of travel and immigration problems. Some students may prefer not to pursue traditional on campus education, as it involves traveling to attend lectures. With online education, an applicant does not need to travel. Courses simply require accessing the internet in order to begin the learning process.

2. More Convenient: By taking courses online, you’re able to decide when you study and for how long. You are also able to schedule your studying around your work or social schedule.

Since you’re not bound to a classroom, you may do your work wherever you have access to a computer and the internet. You’ll be able to set your own pace and decide exactly how fast you want to go over the material.

Take online courses when you need them, not based on some college’s annual or semester schedule. You can learn when you need it (Just-In-Time) A course is as close as a computer with an Internet connection.

3. Flexibility: with no set class times, you decide when to complete your assignments and readings. You set the pace. In some programs, you can even design your own degree plan. The online students can carry out their private or official work, along with the online education. As it provides the convenience of time flexibility, a student can login and logout as per his desire whereas, the traditional education do not provide such flexibility in learning.

Flexibility of online education allows the student control over their studies. They can allot more time in the topics, which they feel comparatively hard and vice versa. The speed of learning depends solely upon the students.

4. Technology: With the help of the scientific technology, students can do their online education at any place. The only mandatory pre-requisite is the availability of computer along with an internet amenity. Side benefits include the learning new technologies and technical skills

5. Availability: distance-learning opportunities have exploded over the past few years, with many accredited and reputable programs.

6. Accessibility: with an online course, you can work on the course just about anywhere you have computer access. Your learning options are not constrained by your geographic location. The new virtual classrooms have created a myriad of learning opportunities for global learning and education center. On line education is a new era experience adapting to the needs of the world citizen.

7. Self-Directed: you set your own pace and schedule, so you control the learning environment.

8. Time Spent in Classroom: now you can take a course on just about any subject without ever having to be in, or travel to, a classroom so you have very little wasted time. Note, however, that some distance-education programs still do have an in-class component and normally to receive a fully accredited US university degree an international student must spend one or two semesters on campus.

9. High Quality Dialog: Within an online asynchronous discussion structure, the learner is able to carefully reflect on each comment from others before responding or moving on to the next item. This structure allows students time to articulate responses with much more depth and forethought than in a traditional face-to-face discussion situation where the participant must analyze the comment of another on the spot and formulate a response or otherwise loose the chance to contribute to the discussion.

10. Student Centered: Within an online discussion, the individual student responds to the course material (lectures and course books, for example) and to comments from other students. Students usually respond to those topics within the broader conversation that most clearly speak to their individual concerns and situations resulting in several smaller conversations taking place simultaneously within the group. While students are expected to read all of their classmates’ contributions, they will become actively engaged only in those parts of the dialog most relevant to their needs. In this way, students take control of their own learning experience and tailor the class discussions to meet their own specific needs. Ideally, students make their own individual contributions to the course while at the same time take away a unique mix of information directly relevant to their needs.

11. Level Playing Field: In the online environment learners retain a considerable level of anonymity. Discriminating factors such as age, dress, physical appearance, disabilities, race and gender are largely absent. Instead, the focus of attention is clearly on the content of the discussion and the individual’s ability to respond and contribute thoughtfully and intelligently to the material at hand.

On line adult education can be more effective and better for certain types of learners (shy, introverted, reflective, language challenged, those that need more time). Distance education courses are often better for people who learn through visual cues and experiential exercises.

12. Synergy: The online format allows for a high level of dynamic interaction between the instructor and students and among the students themselves. Resources and ideas are shared, and continuous synergy will be generated through the learning process as each individual contributes to the course discussions and comments on the work of others. The synergy that exists in the student-centred virtual classroom is one of the unique and vital traits that the online learning format posses..

13. Access to Resources: It is easy to include distinguished guest experts or students from other institutions in an online class as well as allow students to access resources and information anywhere in the world. An instructor can compile a resource section online with links to scholarly articles, institutions, and other materials relevant to the course topic for students to access for research, extension, or in depth analysis of course content material in the global classroom.

14. Creative Teaching: The literature of adult education supports the use of interactive learning environments as contributing to self-direction and critical thinking. Some educators have made great strides in applying these concepts to their on ground teaching. However, many classes still exist which are based on boring lectures and rote memorization of material. The nature of the semi-autonomous and self-directed world of the virtual classroom makes innovative and creative approaches to instruction even more important. In the online environment, the facilitator and student collaborate to create a dynamic learning experience. The occasion of a shift in technology creates the hope that those who move into the new technology will also leave behind bad habits as they adopt this new paradigm of teaching. As educators redesign their course materials to fit the online format, they must reflect on their course objectives and teaching style and find that many of the qualities that make a successful online facilitator are also tremendously effective in the traditional classroom as well.

Cons of Online Education:

Briefly explained are some factors that could negatively affect your success with distance learning courses:

1. The Technology:

a. Equity and Accessibility to Technology: Before any online program can hope to succeed, it must have students who are able to access the online learning environment. Lack of access, whether it be for economical or logistics reasons, will exclude otherwise eligible students from the course. This is a significant issue in rural and lower socioeconomic neighborhoods and educating the underserved peoples of the world. Furthermore, speaking from an administrative point of view, if students cannot afford the technology the institution employs, they are lost as customers. As far as Internet accessibility is concerned, it is not universal, and in some areas of the United States and other countries, Internet access poses a significant cost to the user. Some users pay a fixed monthly rate for their Internet connection, while others are charged for the time they spend online. If the participants’ time online is limited by the amount of Internet access they can afford, then instruction and participation in the online program will not be equitable for all students in the course. This is a limitation of online programs that rely on Internet access. Equity of access to learners of all backgrounds and parts of society

b. Requires New Skills/Technologies: if you’re not computer-savvy or are afraid of change or new technologies, then online education will probably not work for you. The online students are required to learn new skills, such as researching and reviewing the internet. For the online students, they need to learn the techniques of navigation on an online library for necessary information. Technical training and support of learners and instructors

c. Computer Literacy: Both students and facilitators must possess a minimum level of computer knowledge in order to function successfully in an online environment. For example, they must be able to use a variety of search engines and be comfortable navigating on the World Wide Web, as well as be familiar with Newsgroups, FTP procedures and email. If they do not possess these technology tools, they will not succeed in an online program; a student or faculty member who cannot function on the system will drag the entire program down.

d. Limitations of Technology: User friendly and reliable technology is critical to a successful online program. However, even the most sophisticated technology is not 100% reliable. Unfortunately, it is not a question of if the equipment used in an online program will fail, but when. When everything is running smoothly, technology is intended to be low profile and is used as a tool in the learning process. However, breakdowns can occur at any point along the system, for example, the server which hosts the program could crash and cut all participants off from the class; a participant may access the class through a networked computer which could go down; individual PCs can have numerous problems which could limit students’ access; finally, the Internet connection could fail, or the institution hosting the connection could become bogged down with users and either slow down, or fail all together. In situations like these, the technology is neither seamless nor reliable and it can detract from the learning experience.

2. The Institution: Many online education facilities are relatively new with many courses and hence, lack in modern instructors for instructing the new curriculum. Estimates show that there is still a need for an increase of more 50% of qualified instructors for online education.

b. The Administration and Faculty: Some environments are disruptive to the successful implementation of an online program. Administrators and/or faculty members who are uncomfortable with change and working with technology or feel that online programs cannot offer quality education often inhibit the process of implementation. These people represent a considerable weakness in an online program because they can hinder its success.

3. The Facilitator :Lack of Essential Online Qualities: Successful on-ground instruction does not always translate to successful online instruction. If facilitators are not properly trained in online delivery and methodologies, the success of the online program will be compromised. An instructor must be able to communicate well in writing and in the language in which the course is offered. An online program will be weakened if its facilitators are not adequately prepared to function in the virtual classroom.

4. Perceptions/Reputation: while slowly changing as more and more mainstream colleges and universities embrace distance learning, there still is a stigma attached to distance education to the student’s interaction in the online education. Some of the students believe that, there are few opportunities with regards to face-to-face interactions and feedbacks.

5. No Instructor Face Time: If your learning style is one where you like personalized attention from your teachers, then online education will probably not work for you.

6. Little Support: students are expected to find their own resources for completing assignments and exams, which is empowering for some, but daunting for others.

There is little support and limited guidelines provided in online education system. Online students are required to search as per their own imaginations for completing exams and assignments.

7. Lacking Social Interaction: while you often interact with classmates via email, chat rooms, or discussion groups, there are no parties or off line get-togethers.
If you enjoy meeting new people and learn better while you’re interacting with other people, you may want to reconsider online education.

8. No Campus Atmosphere: part of the traditional college experience, of course, is the beauty of the campus, the college spirit, but you have none of that with distance-education courses.

Since you’re not on campus or in classes, you may lack opportunities to meet other students. You will not have many opportunities to interact face-to-face with your professors, so they may not have a real sense of who you are as a person.

9. Making Time: if you are a procrastinator or one of those people who always needs an extra push to complete work, you may have a hard time making time for your online classes. On line learning requires new skills and responsibilities from learners

10. Academic honesty of online students: requires a new mindset to online assessment. Most education experts agree that rote memory testing is not the best measure of learning in any environment and new measurement and evaluation tools are evolving.

11. Types and effectiveness of assessments: The importance of outcomes in online learning cannot be over emphasized. Does the program have measurable results? Are students learning what you say they should be learning? Then there are institutional outputs: course completion rates, job placement rates (if that’s the goal of the institution), graduation rates, student success on third-party tests, and student satisfaction scores.

These factors, both the pros and cons, contribute greatly to making an informed decision about the direction of your career path and how you are going to accomplish your goals: on line, in the classroom or a combination of both.

Institutions and companies that use continuing education to meet their needs also face similar decisions. Institutions that deliver online education are confronted with a series of challenges, including the search for good faculty, use of technology, and provision of adequate student services.

The Sloan Consortium report “Growing by Degrees: Online Education in the United States in 2005” found that 64 percent of chief academic officers and faculty believe that it takes more discipline for a student to succeed in an online course than it does in a face-to-face course.

More and more major business and industry is turning to on line continuing education as a viable and cost effective resource for training its personnel. Hilton Hotel has 380 hotels worldwide and is represented in 66 countries.

When you weigh the benefits and advantages of on line adult continuing education the cost of study and flexibility of scheduling tip the scales of programs like the Enoch Olinga College, Capella and Phoenix University’s distance learning program on line adult continuing education is becoming a world wide respected form of education.

However, as with any situation, there are both pros and cons with the concept of online education and the benefits of the virtual or global classroom. You may want to evaluate both before you decide on an online education program. By examining the advantages and disadvantages, you will be able to make a more informed decision. But, at the end of the day, online learning is independent learning. A lot of structure has been put into online programs, but it still comes down to a learner sitting in front of a computer by him or herself. The knowledge you receive or the benefits it will generate either in development of self esteem or increasing earning capacity will depend sole upon you the student.

All About College Planning

College Planning

Graduation ceremonies abound this time of year. It is a reminder that college expenses are just around the corner.

18 years ago, parents might have begun saving for their child’s college costs with a Uniform Gift to Minors Act (UGMA) or a Uniform Transfer to Minors Act (UTMA). This is an account that is set up in the minor’s name. A parent may be the custodian on the account.

These were popular because the earnings were taxed at the child’s tax rate. Tax laws eventually changed and now the first $1,000 is tax exempt. The amount between $1,000 and $2,000 is taxed at the child’s rate. Amounts over $2,000 are taxed at the parent’s rate.

The amount you may accumulate in an UGMA is unlimited. However, the annual gift tax amount does apply which is currently at $14,000.

There aren’t any restrictions on how the money may be used. It can be used for travel costs to the college, off campus housing, clothing, medical insurance etc. Monies can also be used on behalf of the child prior to college such as private schooling and summer camps. However, basic needs of the child need to be paid by the parents or guardians.

Unlike some college savings programs, you can’t change the beneficiary on the account. The child, for whom you set the account up, is the one who needs to use ALL the assets. Ownership of the account is the student’s.

This has 2 drawbacks. If you apply for financial aid, the monies are counted as the child’s and 30% of the assets will be included in the family contribution. As the parent’s asset, only 10% of the assets is included.

The second drawback is the control of the assets transfers to the child at the age of majority, which may be 18 -21 depending on the state. At 18 years of age, a car can be much more appealing than a college education.

Fortunately, Congress has established other tax favored means of saving for college expenses.

We will explore those options in the next few weeks.

Educational Savings Accounts

Are college expenses looming on your horizon? Educational Savings Accounts are another option available to save for college costs.

This savings account is a nondeductible contribution limited to $2,000 per year, per child. The earnings on the contribution grows tax deferred and can be 100% tax free if used for qualified expenses. The $2,000 limit is from all sources, including grandparents.

Qualified college expenses include tuition and fees, books, supplies, equipment, and room and board if the student is attending at least half time. Educational Savings Accounts may also cover expenses for K-12.

Contributions may be made until the child reaches 18. And the monies must be used by the time the child/beneficiary reaches 30. However as the asset is the parents’, the beneficiary may be changed to another family member. This allows flexibility in planning for the child’s further education. Some children may choose other routes like military, or receive scholarships.

And since the asset is the parents, it is counted as such in the financial aid family contribution.

The money may only be withdrawn tax free if it is used for qualified expenses. If it is used for other purposes, the earnings are included in taxable income, and is subject to a 10% penalty. Be careful to not overfund.

529 Plans

A more commonly known college savings plan is the Qualified Tuition Program or 529 plans. What is less well known is there are 2 types of this plan under this program.

A lesser known program is the prepaid tuition plan. Prepaid tuition plans allow you to buy future tuition at today’s prices. With 6% inflation per year in college costs, locking in a price has some advantages. The drawback is, knowing which college your child will want to attend. Once you fund at a college, you are locked in – very few exceptions for refunds.

The more recognized 529 plans act similarly to the educational savings plan. The contributions are not deductible. But the earnings grow tax free. The monies are withdrawn tax free if they are used for qualified college expenses and ONLY for college expenses. If they are used for other purposes, the gains on the funds are included in taxable income and subject to a 10% penalty.

The amount you may fund is limited to the $14,000 annual gift tax exclusion. Unless you select the 5 year election, then your maximum is $70,000. The collective maximum you invest is determined by the program and may be as much as $300,000 per beneficiary.

Nearly every mutual fund family has a 529 program. However, your state may have a specific plan. For example, Idaho has the Ideal plan. If you contribute under this program, you may deduct up to $8,000 per year on your Idaho income tax return. You are restricted to the investment choices of the program.

The 529 plans maintain some flexibility. There is no age restriction of when you have to use the funds. Also, you can change the beneficiary on the plan to another family member.

One key to college planning is flexibility. Life brings changes and you need to be able to adapt your plans.

U.S. Savings Bonds for College

Double the money! Another college savings option with relatively low risk is the U. S. Savings Bonds. These types of bonds are usually purchased and redeemed at your bank. They are issued in denominations of $50 to $10,000. For example a $50 bond would cost you $25.

The typical bond issue is Series EE. The earnings are usually tax deferred for Federal and tax free for state. Some post 1989 EE bonds may be redeemed federally tax free if used for qualified higher education. To be federally tax free, the bond owner must be at least 24 years old before the bond’s issue date. Bonds purchased for grandchildren in the grandchild’s name usually won’t qualify for this exemption.

Parents have a restriction of income for the bonds to be tax free. If you are married filing jointly, your phase out range for tax exemption of savings bonds for education currently is from $113,950 to $143,950. As head of household, the range is $76,000 to $91,000.

However, giving a series EE bond to grandchildren may build a nice fund for the child. There is more flexibility in how the money can be spent – without penalty. And anybody can give a gift of a bond. Parents may encourage gifts of this kind to keep children from being over indulged with the latest, greatest toys.

The series EE bond has a 20 year cycle. It can be redeemed before the 20 year period. However, if you redeem within the first 5 years, you will have a penalty of 3 months interest – similar to a Certificate of Deposit. To determine the value of your Series EE bond you can go to the bond calculator at

Roth IRA for College

Roth IRA’s are another option that can be part of your game plan for college funding.

One of the challenges in planning for college is to know what your newborn’s talents will be, what college they should attend, or will they get scholarships or have great athletic talent. Add the fact, that if you over fund your 529 plan or educational savings account, you will have a 10% penalty to use the monies for non-qualified expenditures.

I know of an instance where the child attended college in England in order to absorb the monies accumulated in the 529 plan.

So how do you adequately fund without over funding? One means is to use a Roth IRA. You can withdraw principal contributions from a Roth, if it has been established for at least 5 years, without incurring income tax or a penalty. This is a means to save tax free and use it for college if necessary.

You can fund a Roth IRA up to $5,500 a year. There are income restrictions. Your contributions is phased out if you are married filing jointly and your Adjusted Gross Income is over $167,000. And you aren’t eligible if your income is over $181,000. If you are single, your adjusted gross income phase out range is between $105,000 and $120,000.

A word of caution is careful to not jeopardize your own retirement to fund your child’s college. Or you may decide to work a few years more to replenish the funds distributed from your retirement account.

Tax Credits and Other Options

College funding is often like a chess game. You have to move pieces around carefully. Tax laws are chess moves that can be played in the years the dependent is a student.

The American Opportunity Credit gives you a tax credit for college expenses. The first $2,000 of college expense is credited to your taxes – 40% is refundable, 60%reduces your taxes but is not refundable. 25% of the next $2,000 is eligible for credit. The total credit is $2,500 in one year. This credit can be used on first 4 years of undergraduate courses.

Lifetime Learning Credit may also be used to offset college expenses. This credit is non-refundable, but does reduce your tax bill. The credit is 20% of college expenses up to $10,000 or maximum of $2,000. This credit can be applied to both undergraduate and graduate work.

Both credits are applied to qualified college expenses defined as tuition and fees, books, supplies, and equipment. Room and board is not qualified expenses. These tax credits do have income limitations. But they can be used for taxpayer, spouse or dependents.

Another savings option available to some parents comes from their employer’s stock purchase program. Frequently, these programs allow employees to buy at a 10% – 15% discounted price. And you can payroll deduct giving you disciplined savings. This is another way to accumulate assets, leave it as an asset in your financial aid calculation with only 10% counting towards family contribution. It is also in your name, so if it isn’t needed for college, you can use it as you please. Several clients have had this option work well for them. One client set aside stock from a previous employer for his children. Both children received full ride scholarships. The clients now own a cabin. FLEXIBILITY!!!

Another option you can use similar to the Roth IRA is a traditional IRA. While this will come out as taxable income to the parent, it can be withdrawn free of the 10% early distribution penalty. A word of caution: The 1099R will be issued with reason listed as unknown. Higher education expenses are one of the penalty exemption reasons. Be sure you, or your tax preparer, are aware of this and complete the early distribution form correctly. Again, be careful to not jeopardize your own retirement in helping your child.

After all these many suggestions of HOW to save – WHAT investments do you use? To receive tax deductions on your state income tax return, you may have to use the state program. Regardless of which fund family you use, the investing philosophy is the same. It is similar to retirement planning. The younger the child is, the more aggressive you can be in your investing. The closer to college the child is the more principal preservation becomes your focus. In the 2008 melt down, I called my clients with children nearing college age to tell them to take a couple years tuition to cash. They did not have recovery time before tuition would be due. You want the funds to be there when the child is ready to start college. And you want to sleep peacefully.

Benefit Choosing The Right College

With the high cost of a college education, no one wants to pay more than they must. Yet thousands of families pay too much for college every year because they don’t understand the basics of financial aid and don’t know the right questions to ask. So let’s learn the basics and then what questions to ask.

Basics Part I

There are three types of financial aid for college: grants or scholarships, loans and work-study.

Grants and scholarships are free money that you do not need to pay back.

Most grants and scholarships come from the federal and state government or from the individual college.

Loans need to be paid back after college.

There are many loan programs available from the federal and state government. Most of these loans have fairly low interest rates. There are also private loans available although these generally have a higher interest rate.

Work-study is a job offered on the campus of the college.

Basics Part II

Need based aid vs Merit based aid

Need based aid is given by all colleges to students who have need. Anyone who can’t pay the full cost of the college has need.

A form called the Free Application for Federal Student Assistance (FAFSA) determines the amount of need for federal grants and scholarships. Many highly selective colleges also require a form known as the Profile form The FAFSA form is filled out after January 1 of the year the student will first attend college.

The FAFSA and Profile forms ask questions about the income of the parents and student using information that you gave on your tax returns. These forms also ask questions about the amount of money you have in savings or investments. The Profile form is more detailed than the FAFSA form. Once these forms are completed the government uses the FAFSA form to determine how much your family can pay for college. This is your expected family contribution or your EFC. Your EFC is the same regardless of the cost of the college. Similarly the individual colleges who use the Profile use that form to determine what your family can pay for college.

Your need is the cost of the college you are looking at minus your EFC. For example, if you are looking at a college that costs $20,000 a year and your EFC is $5,000, your need at that college is $15,000. If you are looking at a college that costs $40,000 a year your EFC is still $5,000. Your need at this college is $35,000.

Merit-based aid includes scholarships typically for students who have good grades or have some other special talent such as athletic or musical talent. Most highly selective colleges offer little or no merit-based aid.

Finally, in looking at colleges you should ignore the cost of the college. Yes, you read that right. Ignore the stated cost of the college when you are first deciding which colleges to investigate further. You will see why later in this article.

So now you know the basics. Now comes the fun part: How to save money by asking the right questions.

Questions to ask the colleges

Question 1What percent of my need do you meet?

Remember that EFC, or expected family contribution that the FAFSA determined? Some colleges will meet 100% of your need. Need again is defined as the cost of the college minus your EFC. So what does it mean if a college says they will meet 100% of your need? It means that once the FAFSA or Profile form has determined how much you can pay for college, the college will pay 100% of the rest of the bill.

Colleges will typically meet the need you have using a combination of grants, loans and work study. Most colleges will award work study and loans first and if there is a need after that, the remaining need will be supplied by grants. The colleges will typically have a standard loan and work study amount that they award and you should ask about what these numbers are when investigating the college.

Let’s see an example of a financial aid award from a college that provides 100% of need with a student who has an EFC of $5,000.

Total cost of college $40,000

Expected family contribution $ 5,000

Need $35,000

Financial aid award

Work study $ 2,000

Loans $ 4,000

Grants $29,000

At a college that meets 100% of your need you pay $5,000.

But what happens if the college doesn’t meet 100% of need? Many less selective colleges don’t pay the total amount of need that their students have. Let’s use the example of our imaginary college from above only this time assume that the school only provides 90% of need.

Total cost of college $40,000

Families expected contribution $ 5,000

Need $35,000

This college only provides 90% of the $35,000 need or $31,500. Thus, your out of pocket expenses are the $5,000 EFC plus an additional $3,500 for a total cost of $8,500.

This example makes it easy to see why a school that meets 100% of need is often a better financial aid deal than a school who doesn’t meet all of the families need.

Many of the most expensive private colleges meet 100% of the students need while cheaper public colleges usually meet less than 100% of the need. This means that for many students it can be cheaper to go to an expensive private college than to attend a cheaper state school. Until you know what percent of need the college meets, don’t eliminate a college from consideration just because it is expensive.

Question 2- Do you have merit based aid?

Many colleges that don’t meet 100% of a students need do offer scholarships for some students. If your student is near the top of the application pool for a less selective college they may get some money if they qualify for merit based aid. Thus, in some cases, if the student is willing to look at a less selective college, they may get a better financial aid package. Here are some questions you should ask if the college provides merit aid.

How many merit awards are available?

What is the value of the merit awards available?

What are the qualifications to receive one of these merit awards?

This works even for families that don’t qualify for need based aid at all. If your student can qualify for a merit based award you won’t need to pay the full stated cost of the college.

Question 3- How is financial aid determined after the first year?

Some colleges have a policy of providing good financial aid for the first year and then substantially reducing the grant aid in the following years while increasing the loans. You should ask the college in which you are interested how they determine financial aid after the first year and what the average loan is after the first year. While it is typical that the amount of loans will increase each year if the increase is substantial you will want to take that into consideration.

Question 4- What is the average loan amount at graduation of those students who have loans? This question will give you the best indication of the amount of loans that this college requires compared to other colleges in which you may be interested. Although most students will have some loans when they graduate, you don’t want this amount to be any more than necessary.

Question 5- What is your policy regarding outside scholarships?

Most colleges will subtract money earned in outside scholarships from your financial aid package. Some colleges will reduce the loan burden by the amount of the scholarship, but other colleges will reduce your grant money. If the college reduces the amount of loans you have to take out that is a benefit to you. There is no benefit to you if the college reduces the grant aid.

Question 6- What is your packaging policy?

Most colleges give a financial aid package that includes grant money, loans and work study. But each college combines this money differently. Specifically you want to know:

What percentage of an aid package from your college is grant vs. self-help (loans, work study)?

The greater amount of grants versus loans and work study the better for the student.

Do you have a preferential packaging policy?

Preferential packaging occurs when a college gives a better financial aid package to a student with a stronger academic profile than to another student with the same financial need but with less academic credentials.

Question 7- What is your four year graduation rate?

What difference does a college’s four year graduation rate make? This is an important question that many people never consider. Another way to phrase this is, How many years of college am I going to have to pay for? If the college has a high four year graduation rate, you will most likely only have to pay for four years of college. However, if the college graduates most students in six years then you can plan on paying for six years of college, not four.


Now that you know something about financial aid, including the questions to ask each college you are considering, you can make an informed decision in paying for a college education and hopefully also save some money.