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The Extent of Autism Knowledge of Novice Alternatively Certified Special Education Teachers in Texas

Description: An increase in the prevalence rate of autism is not necessarily matched by a concurrent increase in the rate of highly qualified special education teachers. The low ratio of highly qualified teachers to the number of students with autism has resulted in chronic teacher shortages in this area. Alternative certification is used as a mechanism to alleviate the demand for highly qualified teachers in special education. However, alternative certification routes have often left novice teachers underprepared for teaching students with autism, more specifically in the implementation of evidence-based practices necessary for instructional effectiveness. The purposes of the study were: a) to assess the knowledge of novice alternatively certified (AC) teachers in the area of autism education; and b) to determine the extent to which age, credit hours of instruction, formal hours of instruction, amount of professional development, and number of students with autism predict the variance in knowledge scores. Participants included all novice (i.e., first-and second-year) alternatively certified special education teachers in the state of Texas. Data were collected through an electronic survey instrument disseminated state-wide to approximately 33 individuals. Multiple regression was conducted in order to determine the strongest predictors of autism knowledge scores. In addition, a multi-way ANOVA was performed to identify differences between groups. The largest predictor of knowledge of autism was hours engaged in self-directed learning. Overall, AC programs in Texas need to provide basic and core content in the area of autism to increase the knowledge of novice teachers.
Date: December 2013
Creator: Alward, Jennifer A.