Special Education Program

We develop early childhood interventions and put the best into practice
A Day in the Life of Special Education Master's student

Follow grad student Shane Watson, M.Ed Elementary & Special Education, '20 as he shared a day in his life. Shane works at Centennial during the school year!

Taking a person-centered approach to education and including all people with disabilities in school and society.

Whether you have a Master’s degree or not, we have options for you to be a top professional in the area of special education. We prepare highly-qualified and competent special education teachers, behavior analysts, and researchers. Our graduates are highly recruited: our master’s students are highly sought out by area schools/school districts; our Ph.D. graduates hold positions in higher education, research institutes, and school districts.  

Allyse Hetrick, M.Ed. '10, Ph.D. '18  video testament
Learn more about our program from our students!

Allyse Hetrick, Special Education, M.Ed. '10, Ph.D. '18

Centennial School

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Many of our current master’s students who are pursuing their Special Education Master’s degree and/or certification work at our highly acclaimed and nationally recognized lab school: Centennial School. A primary goal of Centennial is to prepare special education teachers to work with youth with emotional and behavioral needs, students with autism spectrum disorder, and their families. Graduate students work full time as teacher associates, under supervision, while completing their Special Education Master’s degree and/or certification. Graduate students who work at Centennial School also receive an additional two hours of on-site training every week on topics specific to the education of children and youth with emotional disturbance and autism spectrum disorder. The workshops are usually presented by professional staff who work at the school and on occasion from one of Centennial's outstanding cadre of professional consultants. 

Centennial School offers our graduate students optimal opportunities to be engaged in hands-on learning and immersed in evidence-based practices including positive behavior support strategies and data-based explicit instruction. 

Click here for Centennial School employment opportunities. Benefits include a stipend, 18 graduate credit hours of tuition remission annually, plus full medical and dental benefits.

Guiding Principles

We are strongly committed to the preparation of highly qualified educators who are skilled practitioners, researchers, and leaders in establishing effective teaching and learning environments for individuals with disabilities in their schools and communities. 

The philosophy that underlies the program curriculum and faculty activities includes the following:


The program offers a data-driven approach to teacher education with an emphasis on using data to individualize and monitor instruction. Graduate students in the program gain expertise in using student data for curriculum development, selecting instructional strategies, and planning behavioral support that are applicable to students with a variety of needs, including those with learning disabilities, emotional/behavioral disorders, intellectual disability, physical disabilities, autism spectrum disorder, traumatic brain injury, and other disabilities.

Experiential Learning

The best way to learn how to teach and support individuals with disabilities is through a combination of course work and direct experience. All course work in special education involves fieldwork experiences. The program is affiliated with university-operated programs and local schools that provide opportunities for student funding and fieldwork.

Preventive and Proactive Strategies 

The most successful approaches for individuals with disabilities focus on prevention. Programming should focus on early identification and intervention to avoid the development of serious challenges. Interventions should build supportive environments that are instructive and maximize positive learning opportunities for individuals with disabilities.


Programs and educational experiences for individuals with disabilities should encourage self-determination and competence. Skills that facilitate autonomy and personal freedom are critical. Our faculty are committed to the enhancement of quality of life for people with disabilities.


Our faculty are uniquely involved in the development of research-supported and innovative practices. As researchers, they investigate new instructional methods and ways of supporting students with disabilities. All of our students learn to design instruction and other forms of support based on research and best practices. Opportunities to collaborate with faculty on research endeavors are available to doctoral students.

Our courses are held in the late afternoon and early evening to accommodate working professionals.

Click here for more information about Special Education Degrees and Certification Programs.

Pennsylvania Department of Education Approved

Our program is fully accredited by the Pennsylvania Department of Education and offers special education certification at the Master's level. This means we have met the rigorous criteria and standards designed by this governing board to ensure that our programing provides a top education for students in our programs.

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