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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.

    Read more
    CEC Releases Two New Sets of Standards

    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.

    2020 Updates

    CEC released two sets of CEC Standards for special educator preparation programs in July 2020. These standards establish a vision for what professionals do in practice to deliver effective instruction that improves the learning of children and youth with disabilities.

    Both of these Practice-Based Professional Preparation Program Standards are designed for candidates in their first special education preparation program at the bachelor’s, post-baccalaureate, or master’s level.

    The standards include:

    CEC has submitted these standards to the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) for inclusion in the specialized professional association (SPA) Program Review Process. Pending CAEP’s acceptance, they will become optional for use for reports submitted in spring 2021 and required in spring 2023 for use in the SPA Program Review Process.

    Ethics, Guidelines, Program Review, and More

    Professional Practice Guidelines

    Our Specialty Sets, Ethical Principles, and Professional Practice Guidelines are used in conjunction with CEC’s Standards by special educator preparation programs as they develop their curriculum and create performance assessments.

    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.

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