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CEC Professional Standards

Standards book with post-it notes

The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC)'s Professional Preparation Standards define the specialized expertise special educators must master for safe and effective practice. These standards are used to inform special educator preparation programs, accreditation organizations, and credentialing agencies.

From our earliest days, we've recognized the critical role of standards in defining special education as a profession. In 1922, at its inaugural meeting, the founders of CEC identified the establishment of professional standards as one of the primary aims of the organization. We’ve embraced this responsibility to have been a leader among education associations in the development of Ethical Principles, Preparation Standards, and Resources for using the Standards.

CEC has and continues to use a collaborative process that ensures that its standards are current, research-based, and designed to fully address the knowledge and skills special educators must master.



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    As the recognized leader for special education professional standards, we develop standards, ethics, practices, and guidelines to ensure that special educators are better prepared for successful, long-term careers.

    Our Standards

    2012 Initial Special Education Preparation

    The Initial Special Education Preparation Standards are designed for programs that prepare beginning special educators for their careers in the field.

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    Advanced Special Education Preparation

    The Advanced Special Education Preparation Standards are designed for programs that help special educators progress in their teaching careers or pursue new roles within special education.

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    Initial Gifted Educator Preparation Standards

    The Initial Preparation Standards for Gifted Education Professionals define what a gifted educator must know and be able to do to begin teaching.

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    Preparation for Advanced Gifted Education Roles

    The Advanced Preparation Standards for Gifted Education Professionals lay out the knowledge and skills that teachers in gifted education should master as part of their preparation for advanced professional practice.

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    2020 Initial Practice-Based Professional Preparation Standards for Special Educators

    This 2020 revision of the Initial K-12 Standards contains similar content categories to those of the 2012 Standards, but the seven standard statements and the 23 component statements of the 2020 Standards differ from the 2012 K-12 Standards. The focus of these Standards has been narrowed to preparing educators who will be working with students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

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    Initial Practice-Based Professional Preparation Standards for Early Interventionists/Early Childhood Special Educators (EI/ECSE)

    The EI/ECSE Standards represent the first Standards to focus specifically on the preparation of early interventionists and early childhood special educators who work with young children ages birth through 8 who have or are at-risk for developmental delays and disabilities and their families, across home, classroom, and community settings.

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    Advanced Administrator of Special Education Professional Leadership Standards

    The Administrator Standards represent the first set of stand-alone CEC Standards developed specifically for advanced-level programs preparing special education administrators and leaders in all exceptionality areas.

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    Please refer to this style and branding guide for information related to CEC standards and standards related processes such as definitions, nomenclature, and citations.


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    Ethics, Guidelines, Program Review, and More

    Standards Resources

    CEC regularly assess materials to identify needs for resource development and revision

    Program Review and Recognition

    Special educator preparation programs can seek National Recognition from CEC as part of the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) Accreditation Process by demonstrating mastery of CEC's Standards.

    CEC Accreditation

    CEC Accreditation provides an exclusive opportunity for special education programs to seek accreditation directly from the definitive leader of professional preparation standards for special educators.

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