Frequently Asked Questions

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1. What is a high-needs school?

High-needs schools serve children who are at risk of educational failure or otherwise need special assistance and support. Our seven partner schools in the Franklin Pierce and Sumner school districts in the South Sound have disproportionately high numbers of students who come from low-income households, and their student populations are culturally and ethnically diverse. Children who attend high-needs schools are also more likely than all children to have disabilities, to be English language learners, to perform below grade level, and to experience family dysfunction such as homelessness and foster care.

2. What is a high-incidence disability?

High-incidence disabilities are those disabilities most prevalent in public schools. These include several common categories of special education including learning disabilities, communication disorders, and emotional or behavioral disorders. Children with these disabilities—about 70% of all children with disabilities—are likely to be placed in a general education classroom and might receive additional services in reading or math in a general education classroom or in a special education resource room. Our partner schools typically provide multi-tiered systems of support for children diagnosed with one or more of these high-incidence disabilities.

3. How do I know if I am a good fit for this program?

The most important question we ask is this: Do you have a passion for teaching students living in poverty who may be experiencing academic challenges? The graduate students who excel in our program are those who are eager to help close the achievement gaps experienced by so many low-income and academically challenged school-age children. They are prepared to undertake UW Tacoma’s intense fieldwork in a high-needs school environment and to use the research-based teaching approaches we offer in our curriculum. Our students are also seeking the career flexibility that our dual-track approach provides (see below). They are interested not just in making a difference but in making life-long impacts on the children they teach.

4. What type of teaching experiences will I have?

All students begin our program in the summer and receive their initial field placement in the first fall quarter. At the beginning of the public school year, they undertake two weeks of full-time observation during which they observe classes of different grade levels as well as take part in the screening and assessment processes in their schools. Following this experience, they are placed with a small group of children to teach literacy using the Direct Instruction method four mornings a week. During winter quarter, students continue with small group instruction and begin to work in a general education classroom. During spring quarter, students work all day in a general education classroom in our partner schools. From the first fall quarter and throughout their entire field experience, all our students are paired with an instructional coach who provides feedback and support throughout their entire field experience.

5. What will I be qualified to teach?

Our dual-track leads to a certification in K-8 elementary education with an endorsement in K-12 special education. We often hear from prospective students who are worried that if they begin teaching in special education, they will be “stuck” there. This has not been a problem for our graduates. About half of our graduates begin teaching in special education and half in general education. Many move back and forth during their teaching careers. The research-based teaching methods our students acquire in their courses and field experiences work equally effectively in general education, learning support positions, and reading specialists’ positions, among others. Our dual track program broadens rather than narrows teaching options.

6. Can I speak with a faculty member?

We welcome inquiries from all those applying to our program. You can reach us here.

7. How and when do I apply to the program?

See the UW Tacoma School of Education website for up-to-date application information, which may be found here.