Praxis Special Education: Core Knowledge and Applications Ultimate Guide and Practice Test
Preparing to take the Praxis Special Education: Core Knowledge and Applications test?
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The Special Education: Core Knowledge and Applications exam assess the knowledge of the examinee on the basic principles of special education (preschool to 12th grade). The following five content areas are assessed:
- Development and Characteristics of Learners
- Planning and Learning Environment
- Foundations and Professional Responsibilities
Give yourself at least 2-3 months to prepare. Create a study plan with a specific timeline so that you are able to cover all of the content categories and competencies.
What test takers wish they would’ve done:
- Create a study plan
- Buy a study guide and flashcards to study
- Practice explaining key concepts
- Take a practice test
- Study with others
- Collect books, course materials from previous classes, and other items that you can use to study each content area
Information and screenshots obtained from the ETS Praxis website.
There are 120 selected-response questions on the Special Education: Core Knowledge and Applications test.
The test has 5 content categories:
- Development and Characteristics of Learners
- Planning and the Learning Environment
- Foundations and Professional Responsibilities
So, let’s talk about those content categories.
Development and Characteristics of Learners
The Development and Characteristics of Learners content category has 20 selected-response questions, accounting for about 16% of the entire test.
This content category tests your knowledge of understanding human development and its impact on behavior, characteristics, and impacts of disabilities and their families, as well as how nature and nurture components can contribute to students learning.
Let’s explore three specific concepts from this content category that is highly likely to appear on the test.
Developmental Delay versus Developmental Disability
A developmental delay is a condition when a child is less developed mentally and/or physically compared to his/her same-aged peers. A developmental disability is a group of conditions (physical, learning, language, and/or behavior delays) that impact a child’s day-to-day tasks and will usually last throughout the child’s life. Even though these two terms sound very similar, they are different. A developmental delay is when a child is behind on developmental milestones (i.e. sitting, walking, talking, etc.), but then, later on, will catch up to his/her same-aged peers. A developmental disability is a disability that will impact a child’s education and day-to-day skills for life and is diagnosed when the child is older. Some examples of this would be ADHD, ADD, dyslexia, dyscalculia, etc.
Major Disability Categories
The major disability categories under IDEA are autism, deaf-blindness, deafness, emotional disturbance, hearing impairment, intellectual disability, multiple disabilities, orthopedic impairment, other health impairment, specific learning disability, speech or language impairment, traumatic brain injury, and visual impairment (including blindness). The table below provides additional information for each disability category.
It is also important to note that another major disability category is multiple disabilities. Multiple disabilities are when a child has two or more disabilities that severely affect the student’s educational needs.
The timeline of when development ends in adulthood varies from person to person. It can end at age 18 but can continue until the adult is in his/her mid-20s. Physical development ends when a doctor has determined that the adult has reached his/her adult height (looks at growth plates that have closed). Cognitive development never ends
Planning and the Learning Environment
The Planning and the Learning Environment content category has 27 selected-response questions, accounting for about 23% of the entire test.
This content category tests your knowledge of developing effective lesson plans, implementing them with the usage of effective classroom management, providing access to the curriculum to all students, and providing a safe and supportive classroom.
Check out these concepts.
The components of a measurable goal are the following: specific, measurable, attainable with the time and resources provided, relevant to the student, and targets student’s level of learning for each goal written. An example of a measurable goal would be: By May 26, 2020, when the student is given an untimed math assessment with 20 single basic addition problems and a pencil, the student will write the correct answer on the math assessment with 18 out of 20 correct for 3 consecutive trials. This example shows the goal date (when the goal should be completed), what the student will be assessed on, what will be provided, the conditions of the assessment (i.e. untimed), the evaluative criteria (90% accuracy) and the period of time (i.e three consecutive trials).
An inclusion program is a program in which children with special needs receive instruction in the least restrictive setting. When they are in the general education classroom, the student will usually receive accommodations, modifications, and possibly the assistance of a paraeducator. The important thing to remember is that inclusion program may vary depending on children’s needs. Listed below are examples of inclusion programs:
- Inclusion in general education classroom with collaboration
- Part-time placement in a general education classroom with support in a special education classroom
- Full-time placement in a special education resource room (and would have
- opportunities to interact with peers at lunch, recess, hallways, P.E., etc.)
- Part-time placement in a self-contained special education classroom
- Part-time placement in day treatment, therapy program, or special school
- Full-time placement in day treatment, therapy program, or special school
- Placement in a residential, hospital, or home program
There are several characteristics of successful inclusion programs. These characteristics can include the following:
- Leadership at many levels working together (i.e. superintendents, principals, speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, psychologists, parents, etc.)
- Collaboration among special educators and general educators
- Take a look at the purpose of assessments (Why are the assessments being used? How are they being used? Are students spending more time on assessments than instruction?)
- Provide support for students and staff (i.e. training, open communication, providing necessary materials, etc.)
- Help parents become involved in making educational decisions for their children (i.e. communicate their rights, provide information and supports, etc.)
- Use collaborative teaching models (i.e. co-teaching, parallel teaching, consultation, teaming, etc.)
- General education teachers use classroom adaptations and instructional strategies
- Provide needed funding (i.e. services, technology, cost of paraeducator, training for special educator and paraeducator)
Structuring the Learning Environment
There are many factors that special educators need to consider when structuring the learning environment for their students. The following are factors for structuring learning environments:
- Physical space – Make sure you have different parts of the classroom identified (i.e. large group learning area, reading area, teacher’s desk, computer area, school supply locations)
- Warm and inviting classroom – Use light colors (not too dark nor bright), open path to each area as described in physical space, greet students as they come into the classroom, be there for students if they have questions or concerns
- Match teacher’s philosophy of learning – Share this information with students, staff, and parents
- Students have access to needed materials
- Eliminate distractions (headphones for loud sounds, dim lights if it is too bright, rewards placed out of site, only have materials that are needed for instruction at that time, etc.
- Cognitive space – Large group learning, small group learning, independent learning areas
- Provide expectations, rules, and procedures – Share these with students on the first day of school
The Instruction content category has 27 selected-response questions, accounting for about 23% of the entire test.
This content category tests your knowledge of implementing age and ability appropriate instructional strategies in order to provide individual academic success, teaching strategies that are research-based and can be generalized in many settings, knowing when and how to use assistive technology, providing strategies to support transition goals, and providing proactive strategies for at-risk learners.
Here are some specific concepts you need to know.
There are several ways that a special educator can determine how to establish groups for a particular lesson. First, it is important to determine what the goal for a particular lesson is. If the goal is to provide instruction in an area that students are struggling with and have an IEP goal on (i.e. reading, writing, math, behavior, etc.), then the grouping should be done according to students’ instructional levels. This provides an opportunity for students to receive the educational assistance that is needed. If the goal is to teach social skills or a unit study (i.e. science, social studies, etc.), then it would be fine to have a mix of a variety of learners (neurotypical, exceptional needs, etc.). This type of grouping will be beneficial to all students regardless of abilities.
Cooperative learning or small group learning is a way to teach a small group size of students to work on a task. The benefits of cooperative learning are providing active learning, encouraging problem-solving, improving social interactions with peers, encouraging student discussion, and increasing students’ confidence and motivation. Students in special education benefit in the same ways as their peers, but they also learn how to develop social skills with their peers and are exposed to different settings, skills, and teaching methods. This is true with all students with special needs, but especially for those that are in a self-contained setting more than in a general setting. It also provides an opportunity for neurotypical students to learn that everyone is different and that is okay.
According to the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), assistive technology is any item, piece of equipment or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of children with disabilities. There are two types of assistive technology: high tech assistive technology and low tech assistive technology. High tech are the most complex devices or equipment, that have digital or electronic components that will possibly require training and effort to learn how to use them as well as cost the most money. Some examples of high tech assistive technology are electronic augmentative communication devices, hearing aids, computers, and different computer features (text to speech, voice recognition, word prediction, etc.).
Low tech assistive technologies are devices or equipment that do not require much training, are less expensive, and does not have complex features. Some examples of low tech assistive technology are large font worksheets, audiobooks, sandpaper to place under writing paper to receive sensory input while writing, pencil grips, raised line paper or highlighted paper, graphic organizers, reading guide highlighter strips, highlighter tape to assist with note-taking, colored transparencies to use for reading, grid paper for math (assists children with making sure their numbers are in neat rows with doing math), kitchen timers, visual schedules, and velcro that can be used for folder activities or visual schedules.
The Assessment content category has 22 selected-response questions, accounting for about 18% of the entire test.
This content category tests your knowledge of identifying various assessments that are effective and appropriate for students, being able to interpret and understand assessment results, and utilizing the assessments’ results effectively.
Let’s talk about three really important concepts.
Recording observations is a way to track students’ academic progress and behaviors. It is important to record observations as a mean of assessment because it will give the special educator a simple, but a resourceful way to determine students’ progress in behaviors and academic progress. It also allows the special educator to see where students are at in those areas in many different settings (i.e. special education classroom, general education classroom, recess, hallways, a community for vocational and life skills, etc.). The table below identifies the different ways to record observations and what they are.
There are many items that can be included in a portfolio assessment for a student with special needs. Photographs in the classroom (with parents’ permission), brief notes about accomplishments, samples of artwork and writing, written recordings of what the student says, projects that were completed are all examples of items that can be included in a portfolio assessment. Not only are there many types of items that can be included in a portfolio assessment, but there are many different types of skills that can be assessed. The skills that can be assessed while using portfolios are the following: reading, writing, math, social skills, daily living skills, prevocational skills, vocational skills, speech and language skills, fine motor skills, etc.
Using Assessment Measures
Special educators can use assessment measures to identify students’ progress as well as instructional levels in the area that is being assessed. This information allows special educators to see where their students are at (in areas that are being assessed), whether or not the current instructional strategies and techniques are working (and if not, it needs to be changed), identify skills that have been mastered, determine whether or not the skills can be generalized in different settings, and explain the purpose for negative behaviors. Special educators can use the following assessments:
- Curriculum-Based Assessments (used to determine students’ progress in a various area) that are either provided by the school district or developed by the special educator
- Alternate Assessments (used by students with severe/profound special needs that are unable to take statewide and district-wide assessments with peers) are created by the special educator (it is important to note that special educators will be told which skills need to be assessed, but how they are assessed is up to the special educator as long as there is documentation)
Foundations and Professional Responsibilities
The Foundations and Professional Responsibilities content category has 24 selected-response questions, accounting for about 20% of the entire test.
This content category tests your knowledge of understanding federal definitions, requirements, legislation, and safeguards in regards to special education, understanding the roles and responsibilities of the special educator as well as other members of students’ IEP team, identifying strengths and limitations of different collaborative approaches, communicating with others involved in students’ IEP team, and identifying bias issues that may impact teaching and communicating with students and their families.
Make sure you know the following concepts for the test.
Nondiscriminatory Testing Procedures
The provisions for nondiscriminatory testing procedures in IDEA are the following:
- Use a variety of non-biased of evaluations to effectively and appropriately assess students
- Do not discriminate on the basis of race, culture, or native language
- Must be given in the child’s native language
- Identification and placement decisions cannot be made from one test score
It is important to note that nondiscriminatory testing procedures need to be done in order for the special educator and the rest of the IEP team members to truly understand the instructional curriculum and strategies to best help students with special needs.
You can discuss your students and their needs to anyone on the students’ IEP team. These members can include the following: special educator, general educator (that has student with special needs), parents, students with special needs, school principal, paraeducator, occupational therapist, physical therapist, speech and language pathologist, school nurse, bus driver (especially if students have medical and/or behavioral needs), etc. Students’ therapists, specialists, and physicians can be in communication with the school only if parents have filled out a release of information form. It is important to keep students’ basic information and needs confidential. If it is not, communication and collaboration (especially between the school and students’ families) will break down.
IEPs, Individualized Education Plans, are developed by IEP team members to provide appropriate instructional services in the least restrictive environment. The members of the IEP team may include the following individuals: special educator, general educator (that has students with special needs in), parents, students with special needs, school principal, paraeducator, occupational therapist, physical therapist, speech and language pathologist, school nurse, bus driver (especially if students have medical and/or behavioral needs). The school is held accountable for students’ IEPs. The school must provide special education and appropriate services to children with special needs as well as must make their best effort to assist students to achieve their IEP goals, objectives, and benchmark.
It is also important to note that those that are on students’ IEP teams must provide services, instructional services, accommodations, modifications, etc. as stated on students’ IEPs.
And that’s some basic info about the Special Education: Core Knowledge and Applications test.