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CEC Program Report FAQ

Standards book with post-it notes

CEC Professional Preparation Standards and Elements

Initial and Advanced CEC Preparation Standards and elements and the specialty Knowledge and Skill Sets are provided in “What Every Special Educator Must Know,” and on the CEC website at exceptionalchildren.org/standards.

There are seven CEC Preparation Standards with twenty-eight key elements. References to “CEC Standards” are to the CEC Preparation Standards.

The elements are labelled 1.1, 1.2, 2.1, 2.2, 2.3-7.3 across the seven CEC Preparation Standards. The elements address the depth and breadth of the given standard. The program review is specific to the program being aligned to and providing evidence the CEC Standards and elements are met.

CEC has developed a flowchart that will guide you to the appropriate standards to use in your program report preparation. Most programs will use the Initial Preparation Standards. Advanced Preparation Standards should only be used by programs where candidates entering the program already have a licensure in special education. Candidates obtaining their first special education licensure (including those who may already have general education licensure) are in Initial programs.

There is also a flowchart that will guide you to the appropriate specialty set(s) that should inform program development, assessment development and rubric design. If you have questions after consulting the flowcharts, please contact prostandards@exceptionalchildren.org.

CEC has developed Advanced Standards and elements and specialty knowledge and skill sets for preparation programs in a variety of areas for advanced special education roles. CEC Advanced Standards are to be used by preparation programs preparing special education candidates for advanced roles and professional practice. Assessments and rubrics should be aligned to the Advanced Standards and elements as informed by an appropriate knowledge and skill set; for example, special education administrator, technology specialist, transition specialist, and others (consult “What Every Special Educator Must Know” for a list of “Advanced Specialty Sets.”).

A program should use the Advanced Preparation Standards and elements if candidates entering the program are already licensed in special education. Programs in which candidates starting the program do not have a special education licensure, even if they hold a general education licensure, should use the Initial Preparation Standards in program development, assessment development, and rubric design and in preparation of the CEC/CAEP program report.

If state licensure for an advanced role (for example, Diagnostician) does not require initial special education licensure and the program is designed to culminate in a credential to practice as a special educator in this role the program is required to demonstrate how it is assuring all program candidates’ meet the initial standards and elements in addition to the advanced standards and elements as informed by the specialty set of knowledge and skills.

CEC Program Recognition

Any combination of courses and experiences that culminate with candidates earning a state professional credential or license or certificate to provide special education services or administer special education programs/services to individuals with disabilities and their families is a preparation program.

All special education programs that culminate with program completers receiving a credential/license/certificate to provide special education services to individuals with disabilities and their families should be designed to meet the CEC Standards and elements as informed by the appropriate knowledge and skill set(s).

Traditional and non-traditional programs, undergraduate, post-baccalaureate, certificate, licensure programs, masters programs and add-ons that prepare special education teachers and specialist, regardless of affiliation, location, or state licensure should be designed to align to CEC’s professional preparation standards and should provide the evidence the Standards and elements as informed by the appropriate knowledge and skill(s) in the submitted CEC/CAEP review process.

Special educators, like all education professionals, have a unique public trust. As a part of this trust, parents of individuals with exceptionalities and the community reasonably expect that special educators are prepared to practice safely and effectively.

The CEC standards are subject to a rigorous, evidence-based validation process involving practicing teachers and teacher educators.

Programs earn “recognition” through submission of a program report that provides sufficient evidence that program candidates meet the CEC Standards and elements. The program review process is an evidence-based program review process. CEC program reviewers are experienced and trained special education professionals.

If a program completer will receive their first licensure in special education, that program is considered an Initial program and a program report should be submitted. The program report should provide the evidence that the Initial CEC Preparation Standards and elements as informed by the appropriate specialty set(s) are met.

Submission of CEC/CAEP program reports

To submit a report, CAEP should be notified of the intention to submit program reports. Instructions for program report submission are provided on the CAEP web site, see “Accreditation/Program Review.”

If the program is seeking CAEP EPP “recognition” there is no additional fee required to submit program reports. 

If the special education program is designed to lead to two or more initial special education credentials and ALL candidate program completers earn the same credentials then only one program report is required.

If the program results in candidates not getting the same credentials upon program completion then separate reports reflecting the program, field experiences, assessments, rubrics and data for the candidates earning each is required. 

If the programs prepare candidates for two different credentials or grade levels, two discrete program reports are required. 

A linked report may be used if two or more programs use the same assessments and rubrics but each program results in differing licensure/certification. Institutions can request that the CAEP program shells are “linked.” Linking provides the ability to submit the parts of the reports that are the same only once. Data sets for each assessment must be submitted specific to each credential/license earned by program completers. More information on linking shells is provided on the CAEP website.

If the assessments are not identical then individual program reports must be submitted for each program. Linking can only be used if the singular difference is the data sets.

If your institution has two preparation programs, i.e. for early childhood teachers and another for secondary teachers, the field experiences and program assessments for the programs should be designed to reflect the knowledge and skills required to provide services to that given age range.

The Advanced Standards and elements as informed by the “Advanced Common Specialty Items” should be used to inform program development and assessment/rubric design. If the program does not result in additional licensures or ability to practice in additional role(s) a CEC specialty association program report is not required. 

Aligning Program Assessments to CEC Standards and Elements

The evidence included in the program report must establish in clear and convincing ways that the assessments, rubrics and data align with the CEC Standards and major elements of the CEC Preparation Standards as informed by the content of the appropriate specialty set(s). Candidate performance data must demonstrate that candidates are meeting the performance expectations as delineated in the Standards and elements as informed by the appropriate knowledge and skill set(s). 

The language to align to the “major elements” of the CEC Preparation Standards is not a new requirement. It is further clarification of the expectation that program reports will clearly and convincingly provide evidence that program assessments align to the Standards and major elements of the CEC Preparation Standards.

The CEC Standards and elements are rich with significant breadth and depth and are interrelated. Given this it is acceptable for indicators of rubrics to be aligned to more than one standard and/or element. 

Using Specialty Sets to Inform CEC Standards and Elements

Both the “Common Specialty Items” and the “Specialty Set” knowledge and skills must be used to inform program development, assessment development, and rubric design and rubric indicators. This is true for both “Initial” and “Advanced” programs.

Program reports must provide evidence of program alignment to the Standards and major elements of the CEC Preparation Standards as informed by the appropriate specialty sets. This is true for both Initial and Advanced programs.

The major elements of the CEC Preparation standards as informed by the appropriate specialty set are to be reflected in the program’s assessments, rubrics, data sets and field experiences and clinical practice.

Without being informed by the appropriate specialty set, every special education preparation program would look and be the same. The content of the Specialty Knowledge and Skill set(s) is what differentiates program assessments. Field experiences should also reflect the specialty area.

Programs can assure that the assessments, rubrics, and data are informed by the appropriate knowledge and skill set(s) in a variety of ways, but the most meaningful way is to assure that the indicator performance levels within rubrics reflect knowledge and skills of the appropriate specialty set(s).

There is no requirement or expectation for explicit or one to one correspondence between the items in a specialty set with rubric indicators.

CEC does not require that program reports cite specific specialty set items. However, CEC expects program reports to provide clear and convincing evidence that the content of the appropriate specialty set(s) is used in the design of field experiences, assessments, rubrics and scoring guides, and Section I narratives.

Field Experiences and Clinical Practice: Candidates in “initial programs” must be engaged in field experiences and clinical practice across the preparation program consistent with the specialty area(s) in which licensure/certification is being earned.

Assessment: Program faculty should assure that the assessments reflect the knowledge and skills essential for safe and effective practice in that given specialty area.

Rubrics & Scoring Guides: Program faculty should assure that the rubrics and indicators reflect the knowledge and skills essential for safe and effective practice in that given specialty area.

The CEC flowcharts: Selecting Specialty Sets for Initial Program Recognition and Selecting Specialty Sets for Advanced Program Recognition, “What Every Special Educator Must Know,” provide guidance in identification of the appropriate specialty area knowledge and skill set(s).

Two of the knowledge and skill set(s) are across categories and severity ranges: Individualized Independence Curriculum (IIC) and Individualized General Curriculum (IGC) knowledge and skill sets. If a program is multicategorical across the severity range both would be used. If a program is multi-categorical focused on mild/moderate then the Individualized General Curriculum (IGC) would be used; if a program is multi-categorical focused on more intense/low incidence then the Individualized Independence Curriculum (IIC) knowledge and skill set would be the appropriate set.

The flowcharts Selecting Specialty Sets for Initial Program Recognition and Selecting Specialty Sets for Advanced Program Recognition from “What Every Special Educator Must Know” to help you identify the appropriate Specialty Set(s). If you still have questions after consulting the flowchart, please contact prostandards@exceptionalchildren.org

If a program prepares professionals to provide special education services to young children and their families it must be informed by the specialty knowledge and skill sets: “Early Childhood Special Education/Early Intervention,” the Individualized General Curriculum (IGC) and Individualized Independence Curricula (IIC).

Preponderance of the Evidence

“Preponderance of evidence” is a standard of proof. The evidence must be clear and convincing. For each of the CEC Preparation Standards and elements as informed by the appropriate knowledge and skill set(s) all of the evidence is considered and a determination is made as to whether it reflects that candidates are meeting the standard and elements as informed by the appropriate knowledge and skill set(s).

A preponderance of evidence cannot be reduced to a simple quantity, i.e. 75% of the elements. Some assessments indicated as providing evidence for a standard may vary in extent of alignment and in the strength of the data provided. The decision for each standard is a reasoned judgment by a set of collegial reviewers and auditors based on all of the evidence presented.

Field Experiences and Clinical Practice

The CEC Field Experience and Clinical Practice Standard does not specify a required number, duration, and hours of field experiences.

Field experiences and clinical practice should be appropriate to the license and roles for which candidates are being prepared. The program report must provide clear and convincing evidence that candidate’s progress through a series of developmentally appropriate and sequenced field experiences with individuals with disabilities across the full range of ages, disability categories and severity, with collaborative opportunities appropriate to the licensure/certification and roles for which candidates are being prepared.

Field experiences must be supervised by qualified professionals, and program faculty should be involved in supervision and evaluation of field experiences.

Field experiences must be sufficient for candidates to develop and apply knowledge, skills, and dispositions essential for safe and effective practice in the special education roles for which they are being prepared.

The standard requires preparation program faculty with their school partners to have designed, implemented, and evaluated sequential and developmental experiences and clinical practica sufficient for prospective special educators to develop and apply knowledge, skills, and dispositions essential to the roles for which they are being prepared.

If the preparation program prepares candidates for K-12 it would be incumbent on the program to have clinical sites across the grade range. Program requirements should ensure candidates have clinical experiences in a variety of these grade levels with individuals with disabilities across disability categories of the license/certificate being earned.

The CEC Initial “Field Experience and Clinical Practice” Standard and elements do not specify that a program must include a course or experience labelled as “student teaching/internship” but it is expected that the field experiences are structured and varied and that the experiences are developmentally sequenced. Field experiences are expected to “provide rich, scaffolded, developmental, and graduated experiences with increasing responsibilities for prospective special educators.” Also, field experiences must be “across the preparation program and connected and sufficiently extensive and intensive for candidates to develop and demonstrate proficiencies in the professional roles for which they are preparing.”

As part of the programmatic assessments an assessment designed to summatively assess each candidate across time in a field experience is required. In an Option A (1) program report this assessment must be the #4 assessment. The field experience in which the candidate’s performance is assessed by this assessment must be across sufficient time for the candidates to demonstrate the proficiencies required for safe and practice in the professional roles for which they are preparing.

Candidate Performance Assessments

Assessments must be designed to provide meaningful and usable evidence that the program meets the CEC Standards and elements as informed by the appropriate specialty knowledge and skill set(s). The rubric and the indicators must focus on “candidate performance” and not on the product itself or parts of the product. Rubric indicators must focus on “consequential attributes” and must address increasing levels of functioning. At each level of performance what the candidate demonstrates (knowledge and skills) must be described and well defined. The sequence of performance levels must be developmental from level to level with increasing expectations for each performance level.

Data generated must be usable for purposes of assessing candidate performance, program improvement, and evidence the CEC Standards and elements as informed by the appropriate knowledge and skill set(s) are met.

There are samples of performance-based assessments on both the CEC website and on the CAEP website.

All assessments and rubrics should be focused on performance, not surface features or parts of the product being assessed.

Indicator language should focus on candidate performance, demonstration of what they know (knowledge) and are able to do (skills). Performance levels should be performance-based using observable behavioral terms.

Indicators should focus on quality of candidate performance, not quantity; should reflect the degree of difficulty or quality of effort; and should be well defined and should provide raters with explicit guidelines. Indicators should be observable, avoiding words like “some,” “all,” “satisfactory,” and other ambiguous words.

The assessment and the rubric should be designed to require observers/raters to make judgements on “consequential attributes” of candidates’ performance. 

While grades may be used specific parameters must be met. The following must be provided when grades are used as a programmatic assessment:

  • A thorough description of the content and context for the grades being used,
  • A chart or narrative reflecting clearly the alignment of the grades with the Standards and major elements of the respective CEC Preparation Standard as informed by the appropriate specialty set(s),
  • The grade data aggregated to demonstrate candidate performance specific to the Standards and the major elements of the CEC Preparation Standard(s) to which it is aligned.

Grades must be reported in a manner that provides meaningful candidate performance data and evidence that CEC Standards and elements are met. See CAEP Guidance (CAEP web site) on Using Course Grades in Program Reports for further guidance on “use of grades.” 

If a State requires a proprietary test and/or the program requires all candidates must take a given proprietary test to complete a program this test must be used to constitute Assessment #1, content assessment, of the 6-8 assessments required in an Option A (1) format program report. The alignment of the test content and the alignment of the subparts of the test to the CEC Preparation Standards and elements must be described in the narrative or a chart reflecting this alignment must be provided in the program report. Aggregated candidate scores and aggregated candidate subtest scores are required to be submitted. The test and the data must be administered, used and reported consistent with copyright and other proprietary standardized test parameters and ethical use.

Assessment #1 and 2 are both expected to be “content” assessments when programs are submitting Option A (1) program reports. If no State or programmatic proprietary test is required for program completion both these assessments must be “content” assessments that are designed to assess content (candidate knowledge) across the CEC Standards and elements.

As a general rule it is not good practice to indicate on the Section III chart that the State test or any other proprietary provides evidence for each and every Standard. Careful consideration should be given to which Standards and elements the assessment reflects the more apparent alignment.

If the proprietary test is a pen and pencil test then the data may provide evidence of candidate knowledge but it will not provide meaningful evidence of candidate demonstration of skills.

Examples of content assessments, other than proprietary tests include: teacher work samples, IEPs, IFSPs, FBAs, and clinical practice assessments. Any assessment that focuses on candidate’s demonstration of content knowledge across standards is an appropriate “content” assessment. These are just examples the selection of what to use as a “content assessment” if the State or program does not require a standardized test this is left to the discretion of the program. 

A portfolio may be used as 1 of the programmatic assessments but if the portfolio is used no part or product included in the portfolio may be used as another of the programmatic assessments. Programs may use portfolio “artifacts” as assessments, or the entire portfolio but not both. For example, programs may use a “lesson plan” that is included in the portfolio as the planning assessment (#3 in Option A (1) and the generated data, OR the entire portfolio, but may not use both the portfolio and the “lesson plan” individually to constitute one of the programmatic assessments included in the program submission.

If a portfolio is used ALL candidates must submit the same set of artifacts. For example, one candidate cannot choose to submit a “lesson plan” to demonstrate planning while other candidates choose to submit a “unit plan.” 

The edTPA is a proprietary test, and must be used as designed, without modification. Discrete edTPA rubrics cannot be used or modified.

As with portfolio assessments, programs may use one of the edTPA “tasks” and the scores for it as an assessment or the entire edTPA but not both. For example, programs may use all of Task 1, Planning for Instruction, and the associated data, OR the entire edTPA, but may not use both the full edTPA and a discrete “task” nor can the “tasks” be individually used to constitute more than one of the programmatic assessments included in the program submission.

Given that when the edTPA if required for program completion or licensure/certification it is a high stakes test it may not provide as meaningful or usable candidate performance data as other programmatic assessments can be designed to generate. 

Rubrics and Scoring Guides

As a general rule it is not good practice to attempt to align an assessment to all the standards and elements or indicate on the Section III chart that an assessment provides evidence for each and every Standard. Careful consideration should be given to which Standards and elements the assessment reflects the more apparent alignment.

When each of the assessments is cited on the Section III chart as providing evidence for each of the Standards generally the assessments are too broad and lack the depth necessary to provide strong evidence. 

“EPP Created Assessments” may be used only if assessment, rubric, and data are aligned in apparent ways to the CEC Standards and elements as informed by the appropriate knowledge and skill (s). Global alignment to CAEP and InTASC and/or State standards is not sufficient.

Rubrics may be 3-tier rank (i.e. “Unacceptable,” “Acceptable,” or “Proficient” or “Unsatisfactory,” “Satisfactory,” or “Superior” or any other descriptive words with a hierchy implied), have 4 levels, 5 levels, or more. (Generally 2 tiers do not provide meaningful and usable data.) Number of levels (tiers) is a programmatic decision.

Rubric indicators must be descriptive and reflect increasing higher level functioning at the given tiers/levels. Each level/tier must provide a description of expected candidate performance at this given level/tier for each discrete indicator. An overall scale of 1-3, 1-4, 1-5 etc. with single word or phrase descriptors cannot be used.

The language of the indicators must focus on candidate performance and the knowledge and skills demonstrated not on the product or parts of the product.

The rubric and its components, the indicators, must focus on “candidate performance” and not on the product itself or parts of the product. Rubric indicators must focus on “consequential attributes” and must address increasing levels of functioning. At each level of performance what the candidate demonstrates (knowledge and skills) must be described and well defined. The sequence of performance levels must be developmental from level to level with increasing expectations for each performance level and the quality of the candidate performance. The language of the indicators and levels of functioning must be sufficient to assure inter-rater reliability and result in generation of data that is usable and meaningful as evidence the CEC Standards and elements as informed by the appropriate knowledge and skill set(s) are met.

Program Performance Data

All candidates who participate in the given assessment and are in the program for which the report is being submitted must be included in the data for each of the programmatic assessments. The disaggregated data must be reported for each administration cycle of each assessment. The data should also be disaggregated by rubric indicator.

The only data set that reflects just the “Program completers” is the data set for the State test or other proprietary test required by the program for which date is reported for Assessment #1, Content Assessment.

Data by individual is not an acceptable format in which to submit data. Providing only means or other whole group statistical data for overall performance is not acceptable. The overall data must be accompanied by indicator and indicator performance level data.

It is very important that the data sets are labelled consistent with the assessment/rubric used to generate the candidate performance data, the number participating in the given application is reflected, and the semester/year the data was collecting is provided.

Samples of data set formats are provided on the CEC website.

Initial submission program reports must include data for at least 2 administration cycles of the assessments.

In the case of state or national examinations that are given multiple times throughout the year, data from two academic terms or aggregated by years must be submitted.

Recognition with Conditions reports must include data from at least 1 administration cycle of the assessments that has been generated by the rubrics included in the resubmission beyond the data in the initial report. The exception is if the first submission provided no data for an assessment then the resubmission must include two sets of data for that given assessment.

Under no conditions is it expected that program reports include data from more than three administration cycles of the assessments.

A program cannot be “Recognized” without data. 

While proprietary tests, if required by the State or program, must be used as Assessment #1 in an Option A (1) program report and the CEC mandated 80% pass rate must be met no proprietary test or the edTPA should be used as the sole or primary evidence a given CEC Preparation Standard or its elements as informed by the appropriate specialty knowledge and skill set(s) is met. State assessments or the edTPA may be used as supplementary evidence for meeting CEC Preparation Standards and elements. State assessments nor the edTPA can be used as a sole source of evidence for meeting any CEC Preparation Standard. 

The first submission of a program report must include data for at least 2 administration cycles for each assessment generated by the assessment and rubric included in the report. “Recognition with Conditions” reports must include data from at least 1 administration cycle of each assessment beyond the data in the initial report. If in the first submission no data was submitted then two sets of data are required in the resubmission.

A program cannot be “Recognized” without data for all assessments.

CEC Standards and Elements and the edTPA

The edTPA is a proprietary test, and must be used as designed, without modification. Discrete edTPA rubrics cannot be used or modified to constitute a programmatic assessment.

The edTPA was designed as a measure of pedagogy. It was not designed to measure ALL aspects of effective teaching for special educators. Other program embedded measures are more suitable for evaluating candidate knowledge, skills, or abilities in these areas.

As with portfolio assessments, programs may use one of the “tasks” and the scores for it as an assessment, or the entire edTPA. For example, programs may use all of Task 1, Planning for Instruction, and the associated data, OR the entire edTPA, but may not use both the full edTPA and a discrete “task” nor can the “task” be individually used to constitute more than one of the programmatic assessments included in the program submission.

The edTPA and the data may be used as supplementary evidence for meeting CEC Preparation Standards, but the edTPA may not be used as the sole source of evidence for meeting any CEC Preparation Standard.

The edTPA is NOT aligned to the “Initial Common Specialty Items” or any of the “Initial Specialty Set knowledge and skills sets.” The edTPA if used within the parameters of its standardization and copyright may be used as an initial program assessment but it is not an appropriate advanced program assessment.

An alignment chart reflecting the alignment of the edTAP to the CEC Standards and elements is provided on the CEC web site. 

If the edTPA is used as a program assessment, the amount of data required of preparation programs will be the same as for other program assessments. In the first submission two sets of data must be submitted; in resubmissions one set of data must be submitted unless no data was provided in the prior submission. If no data was provided in the prior submission then 2 sets of data are required. A data set is constituted by data aggregated by semester or by year not by singular or discrete submissions. 

CEC Standards and Elements and the InTASC Standards

The InTASC standards describe the knowledge, skills, and dispositions that all teachers should demonstrate for effective entry level practice. The CEC Preparation Standards describe the knowledge and skills that all special educators must demonstrate for safe and effective entry level practice as informed by the specialty area sets. While there is a relationship between the standards, it is not sufficient for a program to address the InTASC Standards in apparent ways and not the CEC Standards and elements as informed by the appropriate knowledge and skill set(s).

The CAEP Standards are Standards that must be met across “Educator Preparation Programs (EPP)” in a given institution. The CAEP standards are not program specific.

Given the program review is a review of the program evidence and specific to the candidates in that given program the assessments and evidence must align in apparent ways to the CEC Preparation Standards and elements as informed by the appropriate specialty set(s). It is incumbent on the program to demonstrate this alignment in apparent ways in the program report submitted. 

Recognized with Conditions Program Reports

The “Conditions” must be addressed in the resubmitted report. The resubmission must provide sufficient information and evidence to address each of the “Conditions.” The resubmission must include at least 1 NEW data set generated by the rubrics included in the resubmission and for any assessment cited on the Section III chart as providing evidence a Standard is met that was not met in the prior review. The assessment descriptions, the rubrics, and data sets, aligned to Standards and elements “not met” or “met with condition” and indicated on the Section III Standards chart as providing evidence a Standard is met must be provided in the resubmission.

An additional section is required in the submission to remove conditions; in this section a description needs to be provided of actions taken to address “Conditions” since the prior submission.

As a general rule, it is better to submit more rather than less as the more information and evidence provided the more the reviewer has to use to determine Standards and elements are met.

Further Development or “Not Recognized” Program Reports

If the prior decision was “Further Development” or “Not Recognized” a revised and complete (all parts) Option A (1) report is required. Programs are encouraged to carefully consider all reviewer comments in the prior review and to contact the CEC Program Review Coordinator for guidance as to how to proceed in making programmatic and assessments changes needed to meet Standards and elements.

Program Recognition Outside of the CAEP Process

No, CEC National Recognition is only available to programs pursuing CAEP Accreditation.

Additional Resources

The CAEP and CEC websites both provide multiple resources.

CEC offers multiple levels of technical assistance, ranging from self-help materials, webinars, day-long workshops, individualized on-site support. Further information is available at the CEC Professional Standards Technical Assistance webpage. For more information contact CEC at prostandards@exceptionalchildren.org

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