College of Education & Human Services

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1871 Old Main Drive
Shippensburg PA 17257
(717) 477-1373
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Department of Educational Leadership & Special Education

1871 Old Main Drive
Shippensburg, PA 17257
(717) 477-1591
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Office of the Provost
OM 308
1871 Old Main Drive
Shippensburg, PA 17257
(717) 477-1371 

The School of Graduate Studies
Shippensburg University
1871 Old Main Drive
Shippensburg, PA 17257
Phone: (717) 477-1148
Fax: (717) 477-4016 

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Special Education

The special education program at Shippensburg University is working to meet the needs of a changing society. The program, an integral part of the College of Education and Human Services and the Department of Educational Leadership and Special Education, has been designed to conform to the Special Education Standards of the Pennsylvania Department of Education, and to the standards and regulations for graduate education at Shippensburg University, National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), and the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC).

Faculty members are highly sensitive to the impact of cultural diversity on the growth and development of children. While these factors are important in the development of curriculum in any educational program, they are especially critical in the educational planning for students with disabilities. The curriculum consistently demands the critical examination by students of the assumptions, both implicit and explicit, made in the selection and use of measurement instruments and instructional procedures and materials for any particular child.


The purpose of the program is to equip special education teachers with the knowledge and skills needed to instruct students from several categorical areas (learning disabilities, intellectual disabilities, and behavior disorders). Participants completing the program of study will possess the necessary skills to provide instruction to students with disabilities in the least restrictive environment. Students’ learning will reflect historical and contemporary knowledge, research, theory, experience, and practice meeting the academic, personal, and social needs of their unique clientele. Specifically, students will be equipped with knowledge about (1) characteristics of children and adolescents with mild/moderate/severe learning disabilities, intellectual disabilities/autism, and emotional/behavior disorders, and (2) methods and strategies appropriate for instruction in the least restrictive environment regardless of the exceptionality category.

The special education program is designed to reflect the current knowledge base, including existing and envisioned practices in educational institutions, and clearly delineated models. Curricular coherence is strengthened through faculty study and dialogue on purpose, course content, and intended student-learning outcomes. The program also uses procedures and problem-solving techniques indicative of the reflective educator model.

The Programs

The master of education degree in special education has four tracks. One can earn comprehensive certification in special education while earning the master of education degree. Alternatively, someone holding special education certification or other educational certifications can pursue work in the specialty areas of behavior disorders, learning disabilities, or mental retardation/developmental disabilities without certification.

The department offers the following graduate degree specializations in special education:

  • M.Ed. in Special Education with Comprehensive Certification (PK-8 or 7-12)
  • M.Ed. in Special Education with an emphasis in Behavior Disorders
  • M.Ed. in Special Education with an emphasis in Learning Disabilities
  • M.Ed. degree in Special Education with an emphasis in Mental Retardation/Developmental Disabilities

The master’s degree in comprehensive certification is a 36-credit program plus student teaching with no electives (total 39-credit hours). It is designed for individuals who already hold either a Pennsylvania elementary or secondary teaching certification. Applicants interested in special education certification must present transcripts that demonstrate that the following courses have been taken at an undergraduate or graduate level. If those courses have not been taken they will be treated as a deficiency (i.e., required background course that must be taken before receiving full admission to the program):

  • Undergraduate or graduate documentation of two math classes;
  • Evidence of a course in English Language Learners (ELL);
  • An undergraduate or graduate course in Introduction to Exceptionalities.

Additionally, applicants should be aware that they must hold a current Pennsylvania teaching certificate prior to applying for the special education certification. Applicants from other states must convert their out-of-state certificates to a PA certificate prior to being granted full admission to the program. The following certifications are approved:

  • Pre-Kindergarten - Fourth Grade
  • Elementary
  • Secondary
  • Middle Level (4-8)
  • Reading Specialist

The master’s degree without certification requires a minimum of 33 credits. This program is primarily for teachers who already hold special education certification or for regular education teachers who wish to develop skills for working with students who have disabilities who are in the general classroom. The master’s degree without certification provides flexibility in tailoring a graduate program based on the past learning experience of the student as well as his or her future personal and professional goals.

Admission Requirements

Admission to the special education program is a process requiring application materials, credentials, references, an on-campus interview, and a writing sample. Students are encouraged to begin this process six months before they begin classes. 

Applicants for admission to any area of specialization must meet the requirements for the special education program in addition to the general requirements for admission to graduate study including:

  • Have a prior certification in education (or are in progress of acquiring one) for admission to the Comprehensive Certification program. All candidates seeking certification in special education are required to obtain a second Pennsylvania teaching certification prior to completion of the program.
  • Have a baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited college or university.
  • Present an official transcript showing at least a 2.75 cumulative grade point average for undergraduate studies. Those who do not qualify will be required to take either the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) or the Miller Analogies Test (MAT) prior to admission. Conditions for continuance in the program may be made at time of admission.
  • Have relevant experience working with individuals with disabilities and demonstrate dispositions appropriate to respectfully collaborating with others.

Each applicant will be required to:

  • Appear for an interview with special education faculty. Faculty interviewing the candidate will make observations relating to: experience in the field, maturity, career goals and appropriateness of our program for these goals.
  • Collaborate with faculty to develop a plan to meet specific requirements for full admission to the program (e.g., providing clearances, evidence of prior certification/requirements).
  • Respond to a writing prompt at the time of the interview to demonstrate ability to write clearly and logically.
  • Agree to a program of study developed during the interview process and sign a memorandum of understanding that changes in state regulations could impact degree requirements.
  • Submit three reference forms.  Form here [PDF]
  • Fill out a questionnaire about his/her background and goals for the future. Form here [PDF]
  • Submit a résumé.

Students will be provisionally approved until they provide evidence that the following are on file with the Office of Field Studies:

  • Pennsylvania Police Clearances
  • FBI Child Abuse
  • Pennsylvania Teaching Certification
  • Passing Praxis I and Praxis II scores
Degree Requirements with Certification

Comprehensive Certification (39 crs.)  

  • EEC483    Assessing Children with Exceptionalities for Curricular Decision-Making
  • EEC525    Technology: Instructional, Assistive, Universal Design to Support Academics
  • EEC548     Direct Instruction
  • TCH600    Elements of Research
  • EEC550    Foundations of Learning Disabilities
  • EEC551    Programming and Instruction for Individuals with Learning Disabilities
  • EEC560    Foundations of Intellectual Disabilities and Autism
  • EEC561    Programming and Instruction for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities and Autism
  • EEC570    Foundations, Proactive Approaches, and Management of Students with Behavioral Disorders
  • EEC571    Programming and Instruction for Individuals with Emotional and/or Behavioral Disorders
  • EEC 590    Practicum I

 For Students Seeking a PK-8 Certification: 

  • EEC 413    Effective Instructional Strategies for Children with Exceptionalities

For Students Seeking a 7-12 Certification: 

  •  EEC 546    Transition to Adult Life for Students with Disabilities

Total Program Hours for Comprehensive Certification 39 crs.  

Degree Requirements without Certification

Behavior Disorders Emphasis (33 crs.)  

  • EEC447   Instructional Content and Practices for Special Education
  • EEC525   Technology:  Instructional, Assistive, Universal Design to Support Academics
  • EEC548   Direct Instruction
  • TCH600   Elements of Research 
  • EEC570  Foundations, Proactive Approaches, and Management of Students with Emotional and/or Behavioral Disorders
  • EEC571  Programming and Instruction for Individuals with Emotional and/or Behavioral Disorders
  • EEC591  Practicum II
  • Electives (12 hours with advisement)

Learning Disabilities Emphasis (33 crs.) 

  • EEC447   Instructional Content & Practices for Special Education
  • EEC525   Technology: Instructional, Assistive, Universal Design to Support Academics
  • EEC548  Direct Instruction
  • EEC550  Foundations of Learning Disabilities
  • EEC551  Programming and Instruction of Students with Learning Disabilities
  • EEC591  Practicum II
  • TCH600  Elements of Research
  • EEC551 Programming and Instruction for Individuals with Learning Disabilities
  • Electives (12 hours with advisement)

Mental Retardation/Developmental Disabilities Emphasis (33 crs.) 

  • EEC447   Instructional Content and Practices for Special Education
  • EEC525   Technology: Instructional, Assistive, Universal Design to Support Academics
  • EEC548   Direct Instruction
  • EEC560   Foundations of Students with Mental Retardation/Developmental Disabilities
  • EEC561   Programming and Instruction of Students with Mental Retardation/Developmental Disabilities
  • EEC591   Practicum II
  • TCH600   Elements of Research
  • Electives (12 hours with advisement)
Special Resources

Shippensburg University has been educating public and private school teachers for more than 120 years; thus, teacher education is part of the very fabric of the university. A number of specialized curriculum laboratories are located on campus. A Curriculum Materials Center provides a wide range of teaching resources: textbooks, multimedia kits, films and filmstrips, audio tapes and records, etc. A Reading Center provides materials for teaching reading and language arts. Departmental and university microcomputers have curriculum software for various areas of study. Two computer labs for use of students are located in Shippen Hall. One is reserved exclusively for graduate students.

On campus, the university maintains the Grace B. Luhrs University Elementary School, one of the finest demonstration laboratories in the country. The school serves a heterogeneous group of children from preschool through fifth grade.

Additionally, schools accommodating special situations such as those for migrant workers are a part of the university network.

Amid the excellence of educational facilities, there exists a professional camaraderie among faculty, administrators, and students--a sincerely personable academic environment.


Christopher Schwilk, Ph.D., chair Department of Educational Leadership and Special Education, Pennsylvania State University, Special Education/Learning Disabilities ( 

 David Bateman, Ph.D., The University of Kansas, Special Education/Learning Disabilities/Special Education Law (

Thomas C. Gibbon, Ph.D., Grambling State University, Special Education/Transition-Intellectual Disabilities and Autism (

Katherine Heeren Fitzgerald, M.S., Pennsylvania State University, Special Education (

Cheryl H. Zaccagnini, Ed.D., West Virginia University, Special Education/Behavior Disorders (