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New Special Education Program

New license will allow teachers to better serve K-12 special education students.

Minnesota State University, Mankato Media Relations Office News Release, 5-23-2012

Mankato, Minn. – A new undergraduate special education program at Minnesota State University, Mankato will qualify graduates for an “Academic and Behavioral Strategist” (ABS) license that will enable new special education teachers to better serve kindergarten through 12th-grade special education students.

The new program, offered through the Department of Special Education in Minnesota State Mankato’s College of Education, is the first approved undergraduate program in Minnesota that will prepare students to apply for an ABS license.

Teachers with an ABS license will be prepared to immediately serve students in more than one disability area, to include those with mild to moderate needs in the following areas: Autism Spectrum Disorders, Developmental Disabilities, Emotional or Behavioral Disabilities, Learning Disabilities and Other Health Disabilities.

The Minnesota Board of Teaching approved Minnesota State Mankato’s curriculum for the ABS license at its May 11 board meeting. The board’s report stated that “it is far more common for teachers to serve students across categorical areas throughout the course of the day or year, and teachers holding an ABS license will be equipped with understanding of multiple disabilities and the necessary assessment tools and instructional strategies for each.”

“The new ABS license will be helpful to school districts, students and teachers in Minnesota since it is a cross-categorical license,” said Teri Wallace, associate professor and chair of the Department of Special Education at Minnesota State Mankato. “Districts will have well-prepared teachers, students will have teachers ready to meet their needs and teachers will be more marketable within the job market – ready to serve students with different types of disabilities right away.”

Karen Letcher, a teacher on special assignment for Mankato Area Public School’s special education services, said the new degree “is a plus because it aligns the pre-service training to what actually goes on in the field.”

Coursework for Minnesota State Mankato’s program started this spring. The first cohort of students will complete the five-semester program and be eligible to apply for ABS licenses in the spring of 2014.

The field experience component of the program begins earlier and lasts longer, ensuring teacher candidates benefit from opportunities to apply their learning and model effective teachers. Field experience will begin in the first semester, giving students opportunities to observe the various settings in which students with disabilities are served – general education inclusive classrooms, resource rooms and self-contained classrooms.

Previously, a Minnesota State Mankato student graduating with a bachelor’s degree in special education was able to apply for a Minnesota K-12 teaching licensure in the area of Developmental Cognitive Disabilities (DCD). A teacher with this license served students with mild to severe needs.

With the addition of the new ABS license available to Minnesota State Mankato undergraduates, the DCD license will now be offered within the school’s graduate program.

Minnesota State Mankato’s special education graduate programs are offered at two different sites – on the main campus in Mankato and at 7700 France Avenue South in Edina, Minn.

For more information, contact Teri Wallace, associate professor and chair of the Department of Special Education at Minnesota State Mankato, at 507-389-5381 or at

Minnesota State Mankato, a comprehensive university with 15,649 students, is part of the Minnesota State Colleges & Universities system, which comprises 32 state institutions.

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