Special Education - Program Review Launchpad

Program Description - UPDATED Plan for Implementation 2021

Narrative Description

Program Design

Leadership and communication within the credential program: The Master’s Degree and Credential in Special Education – Mild/Moderate Disabilities (SPED) program is housed within the Cal Poly School of Education (SOE), under the supervision of the Director. The unit houses five CTC accredited credential preparation programs, as well as four master’s degree granting programs. Leadership within the unit is articulated in the Governance Document, which establishes Program Coordinators as leaders for each individual program and establishes the Coordinating Council as a unit wide leadership body that includes each Program Coordinator and several key staff members. In 2009, Cal Poly restructured the professional education unit (SOE) within the College of Science and Mathematics (CSM) to strengthen teacher development academically and operationally. SOE Director Kevin Taylor reports to the dean of CSM. (Preconditions Report, pp 5-8)

Drs. Stephen Crutchfield and Leah Wood serves as co-coordinators for the SPED program, providing leadership to a team of several adjunct lecturers. As coordinators, Crutchfield and Wood oversee day-to-day leadership of the program, including: disseminating updates and efforts from Coordinating Council to faculty members in the program; advocating for program needs to the Director and to the Coordinating Council; providing leadership for admissions, curriculum development, course scheduling, and selection of adjunct instructors and clinical practice supervisors. (SOE Roles & Responsibilities, pp 4-13)

On a whole, the SOE is a small unit with only 2-4 fulltime/tenure track faculty per program. The coordinators serve a critical role by coordinating and facilitating the efforts of disparate part-time and adjunct instructors and clinical practice supervisors. Additionally, the SOE utilizes a significant staff team to support operations and functions across all programs, in order to ensure that faculty efforts can be more devoted to direct student support and classroom instruction. (SPED Program Org Chart)

Structure and Course of Study (Curriculum and Field Experience): To facilitate the transition to the new TPEs, the SPED program will add an early summer-start quarter to its one-year (three-quarter) master’s degree and credential program, accepting candidates for enrollment during late summer and concluding each spring. SPED candidates progress through the curriculum in a tight cohort model, referred to as Summer Start, CPI, CPII, and CPIII because of the heavy emphasis on the clinical practice field experiences that are the cornerstone of each academic quarter. Although most SPED students do not participate in a residency option, the core program is still ‘residency-like’ because of the way that candidates participate in significant co-teaching experiences during CPI, CPII and CPIII. The SPED program has also begun a pilot of a residency program (TIER) funded by a Department of Education TQP grant.

The theoretical approach reflects the Cal Poly learn-by-doing philosophy and commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), with these core approaches embedded across all courses. The curriculum is further anchored in the Clinical Practice Observation Rubric, based on the Danielson framework, which provides shared language and outcomes across SOE programs.

Because the program combines a credential with a rigorous master’s of science degree, there is also heavy emphasis on research, theory, and writing at a graduate level.

Coursework in Critical Areas:

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) - Historically, individuals with thinking and learning differences have been marginalized by our society and excluded from schooling in meaningful ways. Inherently, special education programs should seek to dismantle barriers to learning and increase access and inclusion for all learners. In this way, many of the courses in the program addresses issues related to inclusivity and equity. Including topics such as: Universal Design for Learning, positive behavioral supports, barriers to inclusion and inclusion frameworks, family support and collaboration, community collaboration and support, and self-determination. Specific courses addressing these topics include: EDUC 588 (least restrictive environment, inclusion, UDL), EDUC 546 and SPED 545 (UDL), EDUC 554 (positive behavioral supports), EDUC 552 (inclusion, self-determination, barriers to inclusion), and SPED 587 (positive behavioral supports, inclusion).

Emergent bilinguals – Students in the program complete EDUC 427 (or an approved equivalent course) as a prerequisite requirement, providing foundational content for all other courses in the program. Students receive additional instruction in supporting emergent bilinguals in EDUC 451. In this course, students read and discuss Levine, Lukens, and Smallwood’s (2013) The Go-To Strategies: Scaffolding Options for Teachers of English Language Learners, K-12. Students view and discuss an online learning module developed by faculty in the School of Education about supporting the needs of emergent bilinguals. Students complete a self-study of the ELD Standards, and they receive a guest lecture by Dr. Briana Ronan from the Multiple Subject and SABE programs. Students then apply what they learn in the EDUC 532 lab course to their clinical practice (via EDUC 442/447/449). Students are taught to write culturally responsive lesson plans that integrate ELD standards as appropriate, and they receive feedback on their plans and teaching from their University Supervisors. Additionally, in EDUC 546, students read and discuss articles and book chapters about teaching literacy to students who have a disability and are emergent bilingual. Finally, in EDUC 588, students learn how to write culturally responsive IEP goals.

Autism Spectrum Disorders – Learners with autism represent a unique population of learners, who are dramatically increasing in prevalence and who often need specific school-based supports to succeed. These issues are covered in detail in the following courses: SPED 587 (characteristics of autism, teaching, social skill development, collaborating with families), EDUC 546 (literacy and systematic and explicit instruction), SPED 545 (math and systematic and explicit instruction), EDUC 552 (self- determination, inclusion, collaborating with families), and SPED TBD CC (consultation and collaboration, collaborating with school and community professionals).

Reading and literacy – EDUC 546 is a course dedicated to literacy instruction for students with disabilities. This course is based on the science of reading with an emphasis on phonological awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension, writing, adolescent literacy, literacy across content areas, and supporting the needs of emergent bilinguals. Students learn to apply explicit, systematic, and direct instruction to develop and teach literacy instruction to students in their clinical placements. Additionally, students evaluate commercial literacy programs and develop a critical analysis of a product. In SPED 545, the importance of literacy across content areas is further developed through a continued emphasis on academic vocabulary and concept building in the content areas of math, science, engineering, and social studies.

Technology integration - Students in the program learn about high and low technologies to support student learning, access, and engagement. Students are all issued iPads to use in their clinical practice that have been loaded with educational apps, instructional tools, and data collection programs. In EDUC 532, students receive training in the apps on their iPads, including the supportive features that provide communication supports (e.g., GOTalk NOW). In EDUC 546 and SPED 545, students learn and practice with a variety of tools. For example, in EDUC 546, students use high tech devices to create adapted text with text-to-speech capabilities. They also practice with low tech supports, including response cards for vocabulary and role cards for collaborative strategic reading groups. In SPED 545, students use virtual and 3-D math manipulatives in teaching demonstrations and in class hands-on workshop activities. Students also practice with augmentated reality apps to teach literacy and social studies, and they learn to use Ozobots to teach coding and robotics. Specifically, after learning to use the bots, students design an activity that uses Ozobots to teach an academic skill to a student with a mild/moderate disability (e.g., answering a comprehension question using an Ozobot). Finally, in SPED 587, students learn how to leverage tech tools to support learners with autism, including speech generating devices, technology managed self-monitoring, and video based instructional tools. They also learn how to evaluate commercially available tech in order to identify technology most likely to benefit learners with autism.

Field Placements: Since 2018, the SPED program has been gradually integrating the universal TPEs into its clinical practice experiences through coordinated cross-programmatic initiatives with the programs in Multiple Subjects and Single Subject Teacher Preparation (MSTEP and SSTEP). Together, the three programs have developed a single Clinical Practice Observation Rubric, aligned to the universal TPEs. Across the SOE programs, Clinical Practice Supervisors and Cooperating Teachers receive initial orientation and training, as well as on-going support through quarterly workshops, online modules, bi-weekly newsletters, and a podcast series. This training emphasizes tuning to the Clinical Practice Observation Rubric, developing shared language and expectations, and support for coaching and mentoring teacher candidates in the preliminary educator preparation programs.

SPED candidates participate in ‘residency-like’ clinical practice placements during each quarter of enrollment (Summer Start, CPI, CPII, CPIII). During CPI and CPII (EDUC 442/447) SPED candidates participate in a primary clinical practice placement at either the elementary or secondary level, with additional experiences in other special education and general education settings through instructional rounds to provide opportunities to work with students across a range of developmental levels. During CPIII (EDUC 449), candidates complete full-time student teaching, sharing in full co-teaching responsibilities with their cooperating teacher.

The SOE maintains a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion in field experiences and has prepared ‘diversity profiles’ for each district with whom we have a Clinical Practice MOU to demonstrate that candidates have experiences in schools that reflect diversity, including: race and ethnicity of the students, students from lower socio-economic income ranges, English learners, and inclusiveness for students with disabilities.

In 2018-19, the SOE piloted a new system of ‘focused observations’ for field supervision and feedback. Following the successful pilot, the Focused Observation Protocol has been scaled up to all candidates in the MSTEP, SSTEP, AgEd, and Special Education programs. Candidates are observed four times by the University Supervisor during each of CPI, CPII, and CPIII. The first three observations are evaluated formatively on a focused selection of prioritized skills from the . The fourth observation further informs a summative evaluation of all skills. This protocol articulates the minimum number of observations and the minimum number of skills that must be evaluated by the Clinical Practice Supervisor.

Assessment of Candidates: Candidate progress is measured formatively and summatively throughout the program, during clinical practice experiences, coursework, and in the SOE Credential Office. Assessment during clinical practice follows the Focused Observation Protocol, including formative and summative evaluations using the Clinical Practice Observation Rubric, the Disposition Evaluation during CPI, and the Induction Plan during CPIII.

During coursework, seminal assessments for candidates include:

  • The IEP Project and Mock IEP Event Experience Sequence – SPED 588, EDUC 550, and EDUC 552
  • Data Based Decision Making and Curriculum Based Assessment - EDUC 550
  • Self-Determination Assessment and Instructional Plan - EDUC 552
  • Evidence Based Practice Demonstration for Learners with Autism – SPED 587
  • Positive Behavior Support Plan Project and Classroom Management Plan Project – EDUC 554
  • Reading Case Study - EDUC 546
  • Math Case Study – SPED 545
  • Integrated Literacy Science Curriculum Project – SPED 547
  • Culminating Consultation and Collaboration Project – SPED TBD CC

Additionally, because the program offers a rigorous master’s of science degree, candidates complete a yearlong culminating research project.

At any point, concerns over a candidate’s progress might prompt a Cooperating Teacher, Clinical Practice Supervisor, or faculty member to document a Memo of Concern which would result in the preparation of an Action Plan for remediation and support.

Candidate progress toward completion of the program and credential requirements is further monitored by the Credential Office, using the SPED Credential Office Evaluation. Credential analysts use these evaluations to regularly inform and advise candidates of their progress.

Recent program modifications to support the transition to the new TPEs, include:

  • Major revisions to the cross-program Clinical Practice model and development of the SOE Clinical Practice Observation Rubric and Observation Protocol; addition of Clinical Rounds Protocol into Clinical Practice for Special Education Candidates.
  • New courses proposed and added to the university catalog:
    • SPED 587 – Autism Methods
    • SPED 588 – IEP Process
    • SPED 545 – Math Methods
    • SPED 420 (undergraduate special education course)
    • SPED 547 – STEM/HSS Methods
    • SPED TBD CC – Consultation & Collaboration
    • SPED TBD IT – Introductory Issues & Trends
    • SPED TBD CP – Introductory Fieldwork for summer start
  • Developed and disseminated a revised Educational Inquiry Project Protocol

Table of Models and Pathways

Credential Program delivery model location

current enrollment

(Fall 2021)



Special Education - Preliminary Mild/Moderate Education Specialist Credential Traditional Main Campus TBD TBD

Course Sequence - UPDATED Plan for Implementation 2021

Proposed Course Sequence

Current Course Sequence from Catalog 
The Cal Poly Catalog does not publish Fieldwork and Student Teaching experiences under the MS in Special Education degree, as these courses are requirements for a credential but not for a Master's degree. (Published Course Sequence from the SOE Website for MS degree & Credential.)

Proposed Course Sequence for AY 2022-23
In order to support the implementation of the universal and mild/moderate TPEs, the Cal Poly program in Special Education Mild/Moderate Support Needs has designed three new courses to add to the curriculum:

As Cal Poly pursues a quarters-to-semesters transition, these new courses are being temporarily proposed as annual Special Topics courses beginning or AY 2022-23, with a plan for permanent integration into the new semester curriculum in AY 2025-26. 

To accommodate these additional courses, the Special Education program is also planning to expand its three-quarter curriculum to add an early stateside summer start (5 week term). This transition is consistent with other programs in the School of Education that have recently added stateside summer offerings. The request to begin stateside summer for Special Education in August 2022 has been submitted via memo to the Provost's office and has received initial support from the Provost.



Summer Start

(6 units)

CPI Fall
(19 units)

CPII Winter
(19 units)

CPIII Spring
(24 units)

Ed Specialist  Core for Mild/Mod Support Needs

KINE 250 - Healthy Living (or approved equivalent)


EDUC 427 - Theories, Methods, and Assessments of 1st and 2nd Language Acquisition in Schools


EDUC 440 - Educating Individuals with Exceptional Needs

Mild/Mod Support Needs:
NEW: SPED TBD IT – Introductory Issues and Trends in Special Education
(3 or 4 units)


Mild/Mod Support Needs:
SPED 588 - Developing Compliant Individualized Education Programs
(4 units)


SPED 587 - Instructional Methods for Learners with Autism
(4 units)





Subject Matter Methods:
EDUC 546 - Reading and Language Arts Instruction in Special Education
(5 units)


Mild/Mod Support Needs:
EDUC 550 - Assessment Strategies for
Special Education
(5 units)







Subject Matter Methods:
SPED 545 - Math, Methods for Students with Disabilities
(5 units)


SPED 547 – STEM/HSS Methods for Students with Disabilities
(4 units)

Mild/Mod Support Needs:
EDUC 552 - Support and Transition Strategies in Special Education
(5 units)

EDUC 554 - Behavior Disorders and Positive Behavior Support Strategies
(5 units)


NEW: SPED TBD CC – Consultation and Collaboration in Special Education
(4 units)

Fieldwork Sequence



SPED CPIntro - Early Fieldwork Seminar in Special Education
(3 units)

EDUC 442- Field Experience in General and Special Education - Elementary OR Secondary
(2 units)

EDUC 447 - Field Experience in General and Special Education - Elementary OR Secondary
(3 units)

EDUC 449 - Special Education Student Teaching
(8 units)

Research Sequence



EDUC 586 - Intro to Inquiry in Education
(4 units)


EDUC 532 - Advanced Field Experiences in
Education (Culminating Research In The Field)
(2 units)

EDUC 532 - Advanced Field Experiences in
Education (Culminating Research In The Field)
(2 units)

Course Matrix & Syllabi - UPDATED Plan for Implementation 2021

Course Matrix

Education Specialist Mild/Moderate Course Matrix - Live Version, PDF Version
In developing hyperlinks to direct evidence within the syllabi, we have observed that links only function properly when viewed in a Google Chrome browser. If using Safari or Firefox, the links will navigate to the first page of the syllabi rather than the targeted evidence. We have annotated all the targeted evidence with comments in order to ease your efforts to search and browse within the syllabi.

Fieldwork and Clinical Practice  - UPDATED Plan for Implementation 2021

Clinical Practice Transition to the TPEs

In 2018, the SOE received a substantial Teacher Quality Partnership (TQP) grant, entitled Pathways & Partnerships, which funded significant research and development of a robust cross-programmatic clinical practice program. Through this work, the SOE began aligning clinical practice experiences across Single Subjects, Multiple Subjects, and Special Education services.  The TQP grant efforts included the development of a TPE aligned Clinical Practice Observation Rubric, and aligned trainings for University Supervisors and Cooperating Teachers across all programs. As a result, the Cal Poly Special Education program was able to be an early adopter in transitioning its Clinical Practice experiences to the common TPEs. 
Robust narrative and evidence for the School of Education's Clinical Practice program is located with materials for Common Standard 3 - Clinical Practice, which were submitted as part of the SOE's successful re-accreditation in March of 2020. Key evidence for the SPED Plan For Implementation is also included below:

    Special Education Services Fieldwork and Clinical Practice Syllabi




    20 hours (4 hrs x 1 days x 5 wks)

    CP I

    140 hours (7 hrs x 2 days x 10 wks)

    CP II

    126 hours (7 hrs x 2 days x 9 wks)
    + 63 hours Clinical Rounds (4 hr obsv + 3 hr guided practice x 9 rounds)

    CP III 315 hours (7 hrs x 5 days x 9 wks)

    Clinical Practice Assessment Instruments 

    Signed MOU & Placement Profiles 

    Supervisor/Cooperating Teacher Training Materials

    Clinical Practice Handbook/Manual 

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    School of Education
    California Polytechnic State University
    San Luis Obispo, CA 93407