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Professional Preparation Standards

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. CEC has and continues to use a collaborative process that ensures its standards are current, research-based, and designed to fully address the knowledge and skills special educators must master.

Special Education Professional Preparation Standards

2 women reading "What Every Special Educator Should Know," the "red book" on CEC Standards

The Initial and Advanced Special Education Preparation Standards define what special education professionals must know and be able to do to begin practice. 

Gifted Education Professional Preparation Standards


The Initial and Advanced Preparation Standards for Gifted Education Professionals lay out the knowledge and skills that professionals in gifted education should master.

Initial Practice-Based Professional Preparation Standards for Early Interventionists/Early Childhood Special Educators (EI/ECSE)

Female early intervention teacher talking to young female student

Newly released in 2020, the Initial Special Education Preparation Standards are designed for programs that prepare beginning special educators for their careers in the field of Early Interventionists/Early Childhood Special Education.

Practice-Based Professional Preparation Program Standards

We also 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.


Last Updated:  27 August, 2020

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