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Limited University Programs For Arizona Special Education Teachers A Challenge

KJZZ reported Monday the number of Arizona special education students sent to private schools paid for by public districts is growing.

Traditional public schools often identify special education teaching jobs as some of the hardest to fill and finding people to work with the most challenging students can be harder still.

Rob Gilmore is the principal the Tempe campus of ACCEL, a non-profit that serves kids and adults with disabilities. He said says every teacher at ACCEL has a master’s degree in special education.

One challenge to recruiting is not all of Arizona’s public universities offer the training to work with students with severe needs.

The University of Arizona is the only public state university to offer a degree that prepares students to work with children who have intense behavioral and emotional issues.

Other universities offer a more general approach to special education or focus on mild to moderate disabilities.

NAU discontinued its severe/profound master's of special education program due to low enrollment in 2015. Three students were signed up for the class in 2014 according to an email from NAU Communications.

Grand Canyon University and Arizona State University are developing master’s level certification to prepare teachers to serve students with severe and profound needs and expects to enroll students starting in fall 2019.

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Mariana Dale rustles up stories as a senior field correspondent based out of KJZZ’s East Valley Bureau in Tempe. She’s followed a microphone onto cattle ranches, to the Dominican Republic and many places in between. Dale believes in a story’s strength to introduce us to diverse perspectives, inspire curiosity and hold public leaders accountable for their actions. She started at KJZZ on the digital team in 2016 and still spends a lot of time thinking about how to engage with our community online. Dale has learned from stints at Arizona Public Media, The Arizona Daily Star, The Arizona Republic and as an intern at NPR’s Morning Edition in Culver City. She graduated from the University of Arizona with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Dale is grateful for the mentoring of the New York Times Student Journalism Institute, the Chips Quinn Scholars program and AIR’s New Voices Scholars. A desert native, she loves spending time outside hiking, tending to her cactus and reading.