The Catholic University of America

Special Education - Graduate

Now accepting applications

General Program Information

The Special Education program emphasizes preparation for consultative and teaching roles in public and private K-12 educational settings.  The program provides knowledge, theory, and practice in the development and education of children with intellectual impairments, learning disabilities, behavioral, speech and language difficulties, and related areas of need.

While not required, it is expected that students will come to the program with solid preparation in early childhood, elementary and/or secondary education.  Students will be prepared to act in consultative roles and to foster inclusion of children with special needs within the general curriculum in both private and public schools.  The program has existing partnerships with the Catholic schools of the Archdiocese of Washington, the public schools of both the District of Columbia and Prince George's County in Maryland, and several specialty and charter schools, which provide a variety of choices for practical experiences.  Students who are currently certified to teach and who successfully complete the program should be eligible for special education certification in the District of Columbia and, by reciprocity, in most other jurisdictions.  Students who do not currently hold any teaching certificate may require more course work than is listed below in order to obtain a special education certificate but may become eligible for certification by completing our special education program.  The Catholic University of America does not itself grant certification; this is a prerogative of the state in which one plans to teach.

Graduate Handbook and other Documents

For additional information, contact Dr. Carol Brown:


Program Requirements for the Master of Arts Degree (M.A.) and the Graduate Teacher Certification Program (GTCP)

 CUA's program in Special Education offers graduate students the opportunity to complete a licensure program through our Master of Arts degree (M.A.) or Graduate Teacher Certification Program (GTCP).  The M.A. has a standard requirement of 36 credit hours, the GTCP requires 30 credit hours. 

Students in the special education program are expected to develop expertise in assessment and cognitive learning strategies, as well as skills in fostering and managing change in school environments, advocating for children with special needs, and consulting and supporting parents and other teachers.  Students are encouraged to approach their study and future work reflectively, considering the instructional, ethical, empathic, interpretative, and practical dimensions and consequences of their behaviors.  The special education program at The Catholic University of America is designed to lead students from a child-focused to a system-focused perspective.

There are two prerequisites for this program:

  1. Human Growth and Development
  2. Classroom or Behavior Management
  Number Course Description M.A. GTCP
Spring (initial)
EDUC 581 Educating Diverse Learners X X
EDUC 531 Language and Literacy Development in Children with Disabilities X X
Summer (initial)
EDUC 702 Advanced Foundations of Education (if offered) X  
EDUC 532 Practicum in Modification and Adaptation of Curriculum and Instruction for Exceptional Children X X
EDUC 525 Psychology of Learning for Diverse Learners X X
EDUC 699 Introduction to Educational research X  
EDUC 522 Race, Class, Gender and Disability X  X
Spring (final)
  EDUC 521 Interpersonal Communication, Consultation and the Process of Change X X
EDUC 635 Psychological Measurement X X
Summer (final)
  EDUC 533 Field Experience in Assessment X X
Summer or Fall
    EDUC 534 Field Experience: Collaboration, Consultation and the Process of Change X X
EDUC 535 Legal and Ethical Issues in Special Education X X
EDUC 702 Advanced Foundations of Education (if not already taken) X

Transfer of Credits

University policy permits the transfer of up to 6 credit hours of previous graduate work into the program with the approval of the student's academic advisor and the Dean of the School of Arts & Sciences.  In addition, the Department of Education normally will consider for transfer only credits earned in the five-year period immediately preceding the student's admission to the University and for which the student earned a grade of "B" or better.  Older graduate work will be reviewed for its continued currency in the field of education.  Transfer credits to replace EDUC 525, EDUC 699, and EDUC 702 are not usually allowed.

Research Papers for the M.A. in Special Education

Two Research Papers are required for the M.A. in Special Education.  One research paper is written in EDUC 699: Introduction to Educational Research and the second research paper in EDUC 702: Advanced Foundations of Education.

The Research Papers are scholarly, comprehensive literature review papers on an approved topic.  Each paper must be at least 20 pages in length and include at least 20 scholarly references.  The professor of record for the course will grade the papers.  Students must receive a grade of B or better in order for the paper to satisfy the requirement.  Students who receive a grade lower than B on the paper will have the option of working with the professor of the course to improve the paper to meet the requirement of a B grade.

Completed papers must be approved by the course instructor and by the Department Chair.  They indicate their approval by signing the Research Paper Form, which includes an abstract of the paper.  Approval signatures are due at the completion of the term in which the course is taken.


Field Experience: Graduate Special Education


Special Education candidates are required to complete three field experiences, which ordinarily occur during the summers: the first field experience occurs in the summer term following the first term of coursework; the second and third field experiences occur in the second and final summer semester.  Together, the three field experiences and course fieldwork total 500 hours.

Candidates' teaching practices are observed and evaluated by University supervisors.  The overall evaluation of student teaching is conducted twice; the initial observation occurs during EDUC 532: Modification and Adaptation of Curriculum and instruction of the Exceptional Individual.  The final observation occurs in the final field experience during EDUC 534: Field Experience: Collaboration, Consultation and the Process of Change.  The Midterm evaluation is a formative assessment conducted by the University supervisor, the student's cooperating teacher and the student (three-way assessment).  During this three-way assessment, goals for improvement of the student's performance are developed.  The final evaluation is a summative, three-way evaluation of overall student teaching performance with input from the candidate, cooperating teacher and university supervisor.