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This fall, Point Park University will enroll the first cohort of teachers in its Master of Education in Special Education program. The new M.Ed. offers educators advanced training in teaching special needs students and working in increasingly inclusive classrooms.

Interest in the program has been strong, says Darlene Marnich, Ph.D., education department chair, because of changing state certifications and the need for teachers to develop special education expertise.
"Pennsylvania's special education certification requirements will change in 2013," says Marnich, "Point Park now has full special education programs at both the graduate and undergraduate levels, approved by the state, to prepare teachers for the coming changes.

"Special education teachers and general education teachers increasingly work together in general education classrooms as schools become more inclusive, so this training is crucial," says Marnich, "It enhances the skills of all teachers, particularly now with teachers and school districts facing new challenges due to state funding reductions."

In 2010, Point Park launched a dual certification option that allows undergraduate students to complete the Pennsylvania Department of Education's requirements for special education certification in either pre-kindergarten through grade 8 or grades 7 through 12, along with initial teaching certification. The University's new M.Ed. in Special Education leading to Pennsylvania certification will also be offered for pre-kindergarten through grade 8 or grades 7 through 12.

Point Park is one of only 12 schools in the state approved for undergraduate and graduate students to pursue certification in special education at the secondary level along with initial certification. And the University is one of the few to offer the programs over four years, including the student teaching practicum.

The Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Network (PaTTAN) invited Point Park to give a presentation on its model programs at the organization's fall 2010 meetings. The network assists the state's Bureau of Special Education and supports programs for students who receive special education services.

J. Kaye Cupples, Ph.D., associate professor of special education at Point Park University and board member of the Parent Education & Advocacy Leadership Center, says that Point Park's community partnerships enrich students' learning.

"This semester, for instance, Point Park students are studying Autism Spectrum Disorders on-site at the Watson Institute as well as on campus at Point Park," he says.

Cupples, who has 34 years experience in special education teaching and administration with the Pittsburgh Public Schools, worked with faculty and community and agency experts in designing Point Park's special education programs.
Reciprocity among most states means that graduates can take their Pennsylvania certificates and apply for teaching jobs throughout the country, says Marnich.

"Point Park graduates will certainly be welcomed by school principals who will be looking for the most qualified new teachers with special education certification," Cupples adds.

"Educators with a master's degree in special education will be an asset to any school district. These teachers will better serve all of their students and increase their own employment opportunities as well," adds Marnich.

For information on all Point Park University graduate and undergraduate programs in education, visit