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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 preparation programs, accreditation organizations, and credentialing agencies.

About CEC Standards

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 and have been a leader among education associations in the development of Ethical Principles, Professional Practice Guidelines, and Preparation Standards for special educators. 

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.

    Our Standards

    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.

    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.

    Specialty Sets for Specific Practice Areas

    The CEC Specialty Sets delineate the essential knowledge and skills that beginning special education professionals must possess to be ready to begin their practice in specific areas. The Specialty Sets are used in conjunction with CEC’s Standards by special educator preparation programs as they develop their curriculum and create performance assessments to demonstrate that their candidates have mastered the Standards.

    Learn more

    Ethical Principles and Practice Guidelines

    Paraeducator Guidelines

    To ensure that paraeducators have the required skills for their expanded roles, CEC, in collaboration with the National Resource Center for Paraeducators, developed and validated the Specialty Set of Knowledge and Skills for Paraeducators in Special Education, the essential knowledge and skills that paraeducators serving individuals with exceptionalities should possess. CEC also validated an additional set of knowledge and skills for paraeducators interveners who serve individuals with deafblindness.

    View guidelines

    Ethical Principles and Practice Standards

    CEC’s Standards for professional special educators are designed for use by special educators within their own practice.  Professional special educators are guided by the CEC professional ethical principles, practice standards, and professional policies in ways that respect the diverse characteristics and needs of individuals with exceptionalities and their families.

    View principles and standards

    Program Review and Recognition

    CEC Program Review and National Recognition

    Standards Landing

    CEC partners with the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) for its program recognition processes. Programs pursuing CAEP Accreditation that engage in the specialized professional association (SPA) program review process seek National Recognition by demonstrating mastery of the CEC Standards.  

    Resources for Programs Pursuing Recognition

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    Resources designed for program developers and faculty pursuing National Recognition.

    Resources for Volunteer Program Reviewers

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    Resources designed for use by volunteer program reviewers and auditors in the evaluation of program reports. 

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