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School of Education

Special Education Admission and Application Information

Admission as a Pre-Professional Student

New freshmen and transfer students are admitted directly to the School of Education and assigned a “pre” classification of some sort—Pre-Elementary, Pre-Kinesiology, etc. Students interested in Special Education receive a pre-classification of PSR. This classification indicates that a student is interested in Special Education, but hasn't completed the eligibility requirements for admission into the professional program.

On-campus students wishing to be admitted to the School of Education while working on a program’s eligibility requirements can apply for admission to the School of Education by completing a pre-professional application form. A minimum GPA of 2.5 is required, based on UW-Madison course work. It is not necessary to be a "pre" before applying to any of the School of Education's professional programs.

It is strongly recommended that students interested in a School of Education program meet with an academic advisor in Education Academic Services (EAS), 139 Education Building, 1000 Bascom Mall, 608-262-1651.

Admission to the Professional Program

Resources limit the number of students who can be served by many UW–Madison teacher education programs. Thus, admission to the Special Education program is limited and may be competitive. Obtaining or exceeding the minimum criteria for eligibility does not guarantee admission. Students will be admitted to the program once a year, and will begin the professional sequence in the fall. Selection is made in the spring and students will be notified of their status in April. Over the last few years approximately 30–35 students have been selected each year from among the qualified applicants. Requirements and admission criteria may be modified from one admission period to the next.

Program Admission Eligibility Requirements

The application period runs from October, 2013, through February 1, 2014. To be eligible for admission to the professional program, applicants must

  1. Complete at least 40 transferable college-level credits by the end of fall semester 2013.
  2. RP&SE 300 Individuals with Disabilities (3 credits) must be completed by the end of summer 2014.
  3. Earn a minimum 2.5 grade point average (GPA) on a 4.0 scale on all transferable college-level course work attempted. Note: Both the cumulative GPA and the cumulative GPA based on the last 60 credits will be calculated to determine program eligibility. Grade point averages are based on all college-level course work and calculated from all course work attempted
  4. Submit Pre-Professional Skills Test (PPST)/Praxis I scores by March 1, 2014. The PPST is a basic skills test offered by Educational Testing Service (ETS) and required for admission to all state teacher preparation programs by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. Designed to measure reading, writing, and mathematics skills, the PPST is available in two formats, paper-based and computer-based. A fee is required of the student. State minimum scores on the PPST/Praxis I are Reading, 175; Mathematics, 173; and Writing, 174. While all applicants must submit scores, applicants who have not earned minimum scores will be considered for admission. Find important registration information at the ETS website. Important note: The UW–Madison School of Education's institutional recipient code is 1846; use of another code will prevent Education Academic Services from receiving scores.
  5. Submit the following application materials to Education Academic Services by February 1, 2014:
    • Program application.
    • Transcripts for any off-campus course work (if not currently a School of Education student).
    • Résumé, including a description and dates of educational and work experiences, awards, and accomplishments, and a list of references.
    • Statement of purpose. Applicants must provide a written statement of reasons for wanting to be a special education teacher. Students should pay particular attention to the statement of purpose as it is an important part of the application. This statement might include information about employment goals, such as the student population which the applicant aspires to serve and the type of school or geographical area in which the applicant may desire to work. The applicant may also wish to share contributing factors from their life experiences or background that led them to the teaching profession. This is an open-ended document with no page or style limitations; however, both the information presented and the writing skills demonstrated will be factors considered in the selection process.
    • Letters of recommendation. No more than three letters of recommendation must be submitted from individuals who have observed the applicant working in an instructional or other helping capacity. These may be either paid or volunteer experiences.
    • Any additional documentation that may address or provide insight into any of the following: the applicant's background, experiences, stated professional goals, places where the applicant has resided, future commitment to multicultural education, trends in college grades or course selection patterns, and grade point average or PPST/Praxis I scores.

Transfer Students

Applicants who are not already enrolled on the UW–Madison campus must be admissible to the University to enroll in a School of Education program; program admission is contingent upon admission to the campus.

Admission to UW–Madison requires a separate application and admission process. See UW–Madison Admissions and Recruitment for application information. More detailed information for prospective transfer students is available here.

Prospective transfer students are strongly advised to meet with an Education Academic Services advisor in advance of their application.

Program Selection Criteria

The Special Education Area faculty will review all completed applications that meet eligibility criteria. When reviewing an application, Special Education faculty want to learn as much about the applicant as possible and will make every effort to take into account the whole person. Applicants are encouraged to provide, in writing, whatever they would want to share in a face-to-face interview.

The selection committee members will consider several factors when selecting students for the program. grade point average (GPA) and Praxis I: Pre-Professional Skills Test (PPST) scores will be a part of the evaluation process. Although these numerical scores are considered important indicators of success, they are not the only basis on which applicants will be selected for admission. Trends in the applicant's grades, difficulty of course load, and outside work load will be considered (see factors 1, 2, and 3 below). The PPST was designed primarily to assess mastery of basic skills in reading, writing and mathematics. High or low PPST test scores may be considered in marginal situations. In addition to GPA and PPST scores, faculty will consider the following factors:

  1. College grading and course selection pattern. Transcripts will be examined individually. Account will be taken whether an applicant has clearly followed an unusually easy or difficult pattern of courses or if the GPA reflects a poor grade in an exceptionally difficult subject area.
  2. Trends of college grades. An applicant who started very poorly or showed a decline in their early phases of college, but performed strongly in later college years, may be judged more favorably than another with the same GPA but level or declining record.
  3. Diversity of experience or background. Work/life experience, college activity, political activity, and other experiences or background that add a diverse perspective to the special education student body may work in the applicant's favor. Volunteer or paid work with people with disabilities will be taken into account in the selection process. Volunteer or paid work with people from a background different than the applicant's may also be taken into account in the selection process.
  4. Writing sample (Statement of Purpose). Application materials must include an essay in which the applicant gives reasons for becoming a special education teacher. Writing is so important in the professional life of teachers and in the teacher education program that the quality of the applicant's writing will be taken into account in making admissions decisions.
  5. Letters of recommendation. Recommendation letters will play an important role in helping the selection committee judge the applicant's prospects for academic success in the program. Careful, thoughtful letters from mentors, teachers, or employers will provide information about the applicant's intellect, imagination, or prospects for becoming a successful teacher. Working with people with disabilities will be taken into account in the selection process. Working with people from a background different than the applicant's may also be taken into account in the selection process.
  6. Other factors. The program's quest for diversity leads the selection committee to take into account fully qualified applicants from under-represented groups. Race, ethnicity, cultural, geographic background, and economic disadvantage are among the factors that will be considered, taking into account the needs of the schools. A full-time or extra heavy part-time work load will be considered a factor in close cases.

Last 60 Credits Rule

Two grade point averages will be calculated to determine candidates' eligibility and selection to programs. GPAs will be calculated using (1) all transferable college level course work attempted, and (2) the last 60 credits attempted. The higher GPA of these two will be used for purposes of determining eligibilibty. If fewer than 60 credits have been attempted, all credits will be used to calculate the GPA. Graded graduate course work will also be used in all GPA calculations. ("Attempted" course work indicates course work for which a grade has been earned.) More information on this rule is available here.

Criminal Background Investigation and Disclosure Statement

Criminal background checks will be run on all students at admission. Applicants must also complete a disclosure statement. More information is available here.

Students with a Previous Degree

Persons who already hold an undergraduate degree are admitted to the School of Education as either an Education Special student or a Second Degree student, depending on their interests and academic background. The term Special student indicates that the student has an interest in pursuing certification in a subject area studied during the initial degree; the student does not receive a degree for this "certification only" course work. Second Degree students are seeking a second, unrelated degree from the School of Education, which may, or may not, include teacher certification. Candidates for limited enrollment programs must meet all admission eligibility requirements for the program and must compete with the eligible applicants for program admission. More information is available here.