Master's in Special Education
Personalized Teaching and Learning
Break barriers. Change communities.
Special educators not only impact the lives of their students, empowering them to achieve their dreams, but they also play the role of an advocate, changing perspectives on social barriers within communities. At GSEHD, we acknowledge each individual's uniqueness, need to belong, and right to learn. We invite you to join us in creating an enhanced vision for special education that focuses on an individualized learning experience, promoting increased equity for all students. Develop knowledge and skills to infuse social justice ethics, culturally responsive practices, strength-based strategies, and disability rights lenses into your teaching and educational experiences.
Within our individualized teaching and learning approach, we focus on the tenets of positive psychology, personalized learning, and disability studies. With 20+ years of experience training exemplary special educators, the program balances rigorous training in evidence-supported educational practices with a robust clinically supervised hands-on experience. By way of a one- or two-year synchronous cohort experience, graduates develop the skills to deeply understand how personalized teaching and learning benefits all students and sustains teacher well-being and resilience, enabling them to become teachers who transform lives.
Develop philosophical and practical expertise to promote inclusion and advance equitable opportunities for all learners.
Learn from faculty members who are active in the field and can provide their own real-world insights and diverse perspectives.
Accessible & Accommodating
Courses are fully online and scheduled once a week in late afternoons and evenings (Monday-Thursday) to accommodate internship experiences in schools.
Develop a professional portfolio and be prepared to sit for the SPED Praxis and Grade Level PLT exams at the end of your program.
Take advantage of our unique location in the heart of our nation’s capital. Whether attending on-campus or online, a GW education is unlike any other. Take part in our mentorship program and connect with renowned alumni, and benefit from the University’s extraordinary access to leading national and international organizations. Join the ever-expanding GW community who leaves the world a better place for those who follow after.
Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in the Field of Special Education
Special Education and Disability Studies
Spring, Summer, Fall
- Our Mission
The Special Education Program is committed to preparing knowledgeable, effective, and ethical K-12 license-eligible special educators to teach and serve diverse students with disabilities and their families. The program seeks to help teachers of students with disabilities understand their students, themselves, their curriculum, their assessments, their colleagues, and their communities. Our graduates develop deep understandings of child and adolescent development and individual differences to respond effectively to the multidimensional needs of students with disabilities. They understand and leverage learners’ full range of abilities, maintain high expectations for all learners, and learn to implement instructional and behavioral strategies to create learning environments to maximize success for all students. Graduate students explore and understand their own personal profile as educators, its interaction with their students’ and families’ strengths and aspirations, and become culturally mindful and responsive special educators in the communities in which they teach.
The following requirements must be fulfilled: 36 credits in required courses, successful completion of the master of arts in education and human development comprehensive examination, and completion of the relevant teacher licensure assessments (see below).
Course List Code Title Required SPED 6200 Foundations of Reading Instruction SPED 6201 Overview of Legal Issues in Educating Students with Disabilities SPED 6202 Researching Current Trends in Special Education SPED 6203 Research and Practice of Diagnostic Reading for Students with Disabilities SPED 6204 Analysis of Personalized Teaching for Professionals Working with Students with Disabilities SPED 6210 Universal Design for Learning and Assessment SPED 6233 Culturally Responsive Curriculum in Special Education SPED 6260 Developmental Assessment in Special Education SPED 6288 Understanding the Characteristics and Needs of Students with Disabilities SPED 6290 Affective Development and Behavior Management for Teaching Students with Disabilities SPED 6990 Practicum in Teaching Students with Disabilities SPED 6991 Internship in Teaching Students with Disabilities Additional Requirements Successful completion of the comprehensive examination. Completion of the relevant teacher licensure assessments (i.e., PRAXIS) required by the District of Columbia Educator Licensure Services Office
- Program Outcomes
The program leads to a Master of Arts in Education and Human Development and eligibility for District of Columbia special education teaching licensure for students in grades K-6 or 7-12. (DC currently has reciprocity with over 40 states).
As a graduate of GW’s Master’s in Special Education program, you will be prepared to work with students who have disabilities utilizing skills that span knowledge, diversity, assessment, and collaboration, including:
- Understanding the effects an exceptional condition can have on student learning
- Developing individualized instructional plans based on a student’s abilities and needs as well learning environment
- Demonstrating knowledge and skills to apply and evaluate assessment information for diverse educational decisions
- Understanding of the legal policies and ethical principles of measurement and assessment related to referral, eligibility, program planning, instruction and placement for students
- Ability to work collaboratively with peers, family, service providers and community agencies to improve learning and support for students
- A Note About State Approval/Accreditation
- The Online Master's in Special Education program is currently seeking state approval as a special education preparation program. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our educator preparation model draws on the most effective aspects of U.S. special education practices, but we expand students’ training to include relationship-based approaches, the application of disability studies lenses to empower neurodiverse learners, and systems change to push special education reform “from the inside, out” to address and improve persistent gaps in outcomes for individuals with disabilities.
Our small cohorts and relationship-based education model create a supportive, caring, cohesive grad school experience. Members of each years’ cohort quickly evolve into professional learning communities who encourage, support, and bond with classmates as well as dedicated faculty. Our students become members of our academic family tree and disability rights-focused special education teacher professional network which sustains our graduates over the course of their careers.
To be considered for admission, applicants must submit the online application form as well as the following required supporting documents. There is no application fee.
Prerequisite: Bachelor's Degree
Statement of Purpose
Two Letters of Recommendation
Transcripts from all previously attended colleges or universities
*Additional application requirements may exist for international applicants.
There is a national demand for teachers who are knowledgeable about the needs of students with disabilities. Our GSEHD graduates have a 100% hire rate following graduation and many receive early hires in multiple states. Graduates are often later selected for key leadership roles in schools.
Within this field, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports job growth of 4% over the next ten years1 with better screening and identification of various disabilities in children increasing the demand for special education services. In addition, children with disabilities are being identified earlier and enrolled into special education programs.
1Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Special Education Teachers, at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/special-education-teachers.htm (visited September 08, 2022).
- Special Education Career Opportunities
In addition to becoming highly effective Special Education Teachers, our graduates are prepared to take on other critical roles in the education of students with disabilities, including:
- K-12 Special Education Teachers
- Compliance Coordinators
- Special Education Curriculum Developers
- Diversity coordinators
- IEP Team Leaders/Coordinators
- Instructional Coaches/Leaders/Coordinators/Administrators
- Policy Researchers/Advocates
- Special Education Department Coordinators/Chairs
- Behavior Specialists
- Researchers/Faculty in Higher Education
- Educational Consultants
- Potential Employment Settings
- K-12 Charter, Public, Private Schools
- Alternative Schools
- Curriculum Development and Publishing Companies
- Residential or Correctional Facility Schools
- Tutoring Companies
- Early Intervention Programs
- In-Home or Hospital Settings
- Specialized Agency Programs
As a disabled person who didn't really understand my disability until later in college, my biggest fear going into graduate school was that I wouldn't be able to handle it because I always felt like I was barely staying above water trying to navigate school. I was surprised but grateful to learn that GW's SPED program has professors that don't just talk the talk, but who put their teachings into practice for every single class.
NATALIA MAZZA (MA '24)