The TExES Special Education Supplemental Exam is a certification examination that is designed to determine whether or not an individual possesses the knowledge necessary to teach students with disabilities and special needs at any grade level within the Texas public school system. This exam is very similar to the TExES Special Education EC – 12 Exam except that this exam does not assess the individual’s knowledge of basic subject content related to English language arts, reading, and mathematics. Instead, this exam only assesses the individual’s understanding of what it means to work with students with disabilities, methods to evaluate the individual needs of a student with a disability, and methods to teach a variety of subjects to students with special needs. This exam may be taken instead of the Special Education EC – 12 Exam in order to meet the requirements necessary to become certified as an entry-level special education teacher as long as the individual taking this exam also takes a content-related exam as well. The exam consists of 90 multiple-choice questions, 80 of which are scored and 10 that are not scored, that are related to the following areas:
- Understanding Individuals with Disabilities and Evaluating the Individual’s Needs (16 questions)
- Promoting Learning and Development for Students with Disabilities (40 questions)
- Professional Roles, Responsibilities, and Concerns (24 questions)
The exam-taker will have 2 and ½ hours to complete the exam and the exam will be scored on a scale of 100 – 300 with 240 set as the minimum score considered as passing for the exam. The Special Education Supplemental exam is only offered in a paper-based format and the registration fee for the exam is $82. However, there are almost always other exams and fees that are required in addition to this exam in order to become certified as an entry-level special education teacher within the state of Texas.
Sample Study Notes
1. Discuss the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Individualized Educational Program (IEP).
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a federal law that declares that children with physical, psychological and learning disabilities are entitled to a “free and appropriate public education.” Every state and territory is required to provide educational opportunities for children between the ages of 3 and 21 no matter how severe their learning problems or physical challenges.
The Individualized Educational Program (IEP) is a comprehensive written document mandated by IDEA. Schools are required to conduct an evaluation that includes various assessment tests to determine the child’s strengths and weaknesses; the results of interviews with the child, parents, teachers and other significant adults; and notes from conferences with professionals familiar with the child. IEP provides a review of his medical history and current educational performance and comments from direct observation in various settings. It describes annual goals and sets short-term objectives. The IEP spells out the type and length of special services required, and establishes methods for evaluating progress. From the age of 16, it must also include a plan to move the child out of school into the real world.
2. Describe behavior that may indicate a student has a learning disability.
Since teachers have regular contact with students and can usually be objective, they are in a unique position to observe students’ behavior. Awkward interactions with peers, difficulty with normal classroom requirements, and frustrated attempts to master tasks all suggest potential problems.
However, these signs are not diagnostic tools and should be considered in light of the student’s age. They should be considered hints rather than markers. Other warning signs include:
Trouble understanding and remembering new data
Difficulty getting and staying organized, following clearly-defined directions, and remembering and honoring deadlines
Problems using basic reading, writing, spelling and math skills
Making inappropriate comments; difficulty interacting with peers and teachers
Problems expressing thoughts; inability to use proper grammar in speaking and writing
It is normal for children occasionally to exhibit some warning signs of a learning disability and not have a problem. However, if several signs are observed over a period of time, it is wise to take a closer look and have the student tested.
3. Discuss how the brain functions.
In order to truly understand learning disabilities and their many manifestations, it is helpful to understand how the brain functions. This can be confusing, since the different professions that deal with students who have learning disabled students may use the same words but apply different meanings as the terms relate to their area of expertise.
There are four basic steps the brain must take for learning to happen. Each is important; if one is missing or doesn’t work properly, learning may be delayed, difficult or disabled. The first step is to get the data from the eyes and ears into the brain (input). The brain then must make sense of the data received (integration). Once received, the data must be stored and available for retrieval (memory). When needed, the brain must make sense of the data and send the message to the nerves and muscles (output). The process:
INPUT > INTEGRATION > MEMORY > OUTPUT
4. Discuss input and integration disabilities.
The brain receives information as impulses from the eyes (visual input) and the ears (auditory input). This process is called perception. If there are problems with the process, it has nothing to do with vision or hearing issues; in other words, perception takes place in the brain, not the eyes and ears. Children may have one or both disabilities. Some children have problems when required to use both processes simultaneously.
The information received by the brain must be understood in order to be useful. This process is known as integration, and is accomplished through sequencing and abstraction. Sequencing is the process of putting data symbols in the correct order. From that unique order, the brain determines the meaning of the information. Once the brain determines the correct order of the symbols, it must figure out the meaning of the symbol, because a word can have both a general meaning and a specific meaning. “A” cat is different from “my” cat. The ability to understand the differences in the subtle meanings of the same word is called abstract thinking (abstraction).
5. Discuss short and long term memory and language output.
Short-term memory is an individual’s ability to retain data for as long as he is focused on the particular information. A person with a short-term memory disability has a hard time retrieving information that has been learned recently.
Long-term memory is where information is stored until it is needed and retrieved. If someone has a long-term memory disability, he would be diagnosed with some type of retardation, because he would be unable to function in daily life without assistance.
In spontaneous language expression, the speaker chooses the topic, organizes his thoughts, and puts together words before he speaks. In demand language expression, the listener is expected to get his thoughts together, find the correct words, and answer appropriately in a split second. A child with a language disability has no problem with spontaneous language. When he voluntarily answers, he may sound normal. But when called on to answer, he may respond with “Huh?” or “What?” or not answer at all. The child chattering just a moment earlier may be completely unable to respond. The inconsistency can be startling.
6. Discuss mental retardation.
The American Heritage College Dictionary defines mental retardation as “subnormal intellectual development or functioning due to congenital causes, brain injury, or disease, and characterized by any of various deficiencies, ranging from impaired learning ability to social and vocational inadequacy.” There are many causes. The most common are:
GENETIC CONDITIONS: abnormal genes or errors in gene combination
PROBLEMS DURING PREGNANCY: improper brain development because cells divide incorrectly; the mother is an alcoholic, contracts rubella or doesn’t get adequate prenatal care
COMPLICATIONS AT BIRTH: baby doesn’t receive enough oxygen
HEALTH PROBLEMS AFTER BIRTH: measles, meningitis, malnutrition; exposure to lead, mercury or other poisons
Mental retardation cannot be cured, but someone who is mentally challenged can learn to do many things; it just takes him longer. It takes patience and repetition, getting his attention and keeping him interested. Teachers should make sure he is involved in all classroom situations and encourage him to interact with the other students in group activities and extracurricular clubs. This will help him grow mentally and emotionally while learning the life skills necessary to function independently in the world.
7. Define Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder – ADHD.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder – ADHD – is a behavior problem that affects all areas of life: home, school, and social relationships. While some children with ADHD also have other learning disabilities, ADHD is not classified as a learning disability. Scientists are making a case for ADHD to be included because it directly impacts functions needed to learn.
The main characteristics of ADHD are inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. At times everyone can be absent-minded, fidgety or impulsive, so why are some children diagnosed with ADHD while similar behavior in others is considered normal? The difference is the degree of the behavior: when, where, how much, and how often. For people with ADHD, these behavior patterns are the rule not the exception.
ADHD is a complex behavior disorder, and so symptoms vary. Some individuals are hyperactive; some under-active. Some children may be unable to pay attention for more than a minute or two but have few problems with impulsive behavior. Some children may only have minor problems with paying attention but are unable to curb impulsive actions. Some may have problems in all three areas.
8. Define the term direct teaching and explain how it applies to special-needs students.
The idea behind direct teaching is to shift the emphasis from teaching to learning; the focus is on the student acquiring and integrating knowledge, rather than the teacher’s particular instructional methods. To maximize learning, several questions should be asked. These questions are important when preparing lessons for any students, but are especially critical for special-needs students:
What is the main concept? Are the students ready to learn it? Will students need specific foundational knowledge to understand and integrate it?
What resources are needed to prepare required activities? What steps are necessary to explain the information clearly? Are examples and prompts concrete and easy to understand?
How will progress be monitored? Are students on task? Will they work independently or will they require lots of assistance? How will feedback be provided?
What evaluation methods will be used? Observation? Questions? Demonstrations? Tests?
If follow-up instruction is needed, how will it be provided? Intervention? Remediation? Reviewing? Repeating?
9. List some evaluation strategies for special-needs students.
To obtain an accurate picture of the progress of special-needs students, testing, grading and evaluations should be conducted in a slightly different manner. Tests should be given in a quiet place with as few distractions as possible. Accommodations for asking verbal questions and receiving oral answers should be provided. Tests should be divided into short sections, with visual prompts whenever possible. Avoid giving a timed test; give students however much time they need to complete each section before moving to the next one. Schedule monitored breaks between each section. Teachers should grade spelling, organization and presentation separately from content. When evaluating content, highlight key concepts, creativity, and original thinking so the students and their parents recognize the knowledge gained and progress made. Teachers need to find something specific to identify and praise to encourage the student for his accomplishment, and as an incentive to learn more. Exempt students from district- and state-mandated tests if permitted.
10. Discuss the role and responsibilities of a special education teacher.
Teachers of special-needs students have a unique role in the life of the student. These educators are not only responsible for providing academic instruction, but they are expected to monitor the student’s social, emotional, and mental development, and keep parents, colleagues and administrators informed of his progress on a regular basis. A vital part of this communication process is maintaining current anecdotal records, accurate progress reports, and assessing the social, behavioral, and independent-living skills acquired.
Special education teachers are members of the interdisciplinary team that develops the student’s Individualized Educational Program (IEP) and designs appropriate responses to address the goals and objectives outlined in this mandated evaluation. Based on the recommendations in the IEP, the teacher must develop, organize, and execute lesson plans using a variety of methods, resources and materials to communicate academic data. The teacher must also maintain a calm, orderly, harmonious learning environment and inform teachers in mainstream classrooms of any changes in the student’s situation that might indicate a need to modify their instructional approach.