How Do You Get a Special Education Certificate in Illinois?


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Special educators have one of the toughest—and most rewarding—roles in education. They are also in high demand. But before you take the lead in a Land of Lincoln classroom, you’ll need to obtain a special education certificate in Illinois.

Obtaining a special education teaching license in Illinois generally includes four steps:

  1. Complete an accredited teaching program and/or earn a related bachelor’s degree.
  2. Complete required coursework and spend some time as a student teacher.
  3. Pass the EdTPA performance evaluation.
  4. Pass the Illinois Licensure Testing System exams.

Let’s start from the beginning.

How to Get Started in Special Education

Almost all special education teachers start by earning a related bachelor’s degree (consider a major in special education), though there are some accredited teacher preparation programs that can serve as an alternative to the traditional path.

As you work toward your degree, you will take courses in reading instruction, English language learning and special education. At the end of your program, you’ll participate in a student teaching experience. You’ll spend time participating in special education settings and classrooms working with students.

Next up, you’ll take the exams.

The EdTPA and Testing

The first one is, technically, not a test. The EdTPA (Educative Teacher Performance Assessment) aims to ensure that new teachers have the skills they’ll need to be successful in the classroom. It’s not a sit-down exam, but a performance evaluation. You will submit a collection of artifacts—lesson plans, video, rubrics, assessment results—that cover planning, instruction and assessment.

A scorer evaluates your EdTPA. Each of the three tasks (planning, instruction, assessment) is broken into five rubrics, for 15 total, and those are scored between 1 and 5. The overall passing score, in Illinois, is 39.

Now, for the actual test: The Illinois Licensure Testing System exam. There are a multitude of ILTS assessments, and they cover academic skills, subject-specific knowledge and teaching abilities.

For students seeking licensure in early-childhood special education (newborn to third grade), Test 152 is required. It’s a four-hour multiple-choice test, and the cost is $99.

For students seeking licensure in special education, kindergarten through age 21, you’ll take Test 163 on general curriculum, which lasts three hours and costs $99. Then, you’ll tackle one of the following, which take four hours:

  • 155: Learning behavior specialist ($99)
  • 150: Teacher of students who are blind or visually impaired ($122)
  • 151: Teacher of students who are deaf or hard of hearing ($122)

What to Know About Licensure

Once you’ve passed, give yourself a minute to enjoy your accomplishment. But you’re not quite finished with the certification process yet.

A little paperwork is required. Or online work, to be more accurate.

Apply for your professional educator license online through the Illinois Educator Licensure Information System. You will also submit your transcript and completed forms from your university verifying that you have completed the required coursework.

Once that’s all been approved, you have to register in the region where you’ll be teaching. The license is valid for five years and can be renewed as long as you complete 120 hours of professional development.

That feels like a lot, right? But don’t worry. Your educational institution will walk you through every step. You just supply the hard work and study time. In return, you will have the opportunity to influence the lives of countless children and young adults!

Find out more about Elmhurst University’s special education program. Complete the form below today!

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