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Special Education: Early Childhood Special Education

About the Program

Graduates will be prepared to obtain MN licensure for Early Childhood Special Education. Candidates will show that they have met the Standards of Effective Practice, and will have the necessary foundation to work with infants and toddlers and young children with disabilities ages birth through the age of six.

The ECSE courses at the 400-level are offered in an online format. Collaboration among students and instructor is a high priority.

Since licensure to teach is a professional program, formal application for admission to the Teacher Preparation Program is required during the sophomore year. There is a minimum GPA requirement of 2.8 in entry level professional education courses from all colleges and universities attended. Other information on requirements and applying to the Teacher Preparation Program can be found on the School of Education website. Persons with previous degrees and/or current licensure interested in adding a licensure field or endorsement may apply to SMSU and have their transcripts sent (if not from a Minnesota State school) to have a  transcript review completed.

Teacher candidates may choose to take SPED courses before formally being accepted into the Education Program. SPED 290 Introduction to Special Needs & Lab is the prerequisite course for the other SPED courses.


Each year the School of Education awards several scholarships to students who have demonstrated excellent potential as teachers, including the Winston Gittens Diversity Scholarship in Education. Other scholarships are the Carr Properties Scholarship, Geneva Emblem Scholarship, Keigh Hubel Rural Education Scholarship, Golden Rule Scholarship, the Doug Sweetland Memorial Scholarship, and the Robert Schwerin Memorial Scholarship. Incoming students may be eligible for a number of academic and leadership scholarships through the Office of Admission. The scholarships are awarded based on a student’s past academic record including the ACT, class rank, GPA, and leadership potential.

Career Opportunities

Graduates with the ECSE SPED-licensure may pursue teaching in an Early Childhood setting working with children 3-6 years old as well as an opportunity to service children in their homes birth to 3 years. Working with birth to 3 year old children will give you the opportunity to collaborate with the child's parents as well as service providers and work hand-in-hand assisting with the growth of the child. It is an opportunity that benefits not only the child, but the family as well.

Assessment of Student Performance

Assessment of teaching skills begins when applicants are reviewed for admission to the Teacher Preparation Program. Ability to work with children and/or adolescents, strong scholastic achievement, and solid communication skills are examples of characteristics that students entering teacher education must have. During the program candidates receive specific feedback from professors and classroom teachers. At the time of student teaching, each student receives a comprehensive assessment by the classroom teacher and the university supervisor. Mastery at the appropriate level for a beginning teacher must be demonstrated in the Standards of Effective Practice. Collaborative skills and attitudes are emphasized. Candidates are also required to complete the edTPA (Teacher Performance Assessment). A portfolio is required in the Special Education Program.


The Education Minnesota Aspiring Educators (EMAE) is an active student organization that develops a variety of projects each year. Other leadership opportunities are also provided, such as serving as a student representative on the Teacher Preparation Advisory Council. Professors also encourage candidates to attend professional conferences when available. Teacher candidates participate in university-wide activities including music, theatre, marching band, student government, athletics, and much more. The Global Studies Program and other special projects provide additional opportunities for education majors.


A unique aspect of the Teacher Preparation Program at Southwest Minnesota State University is the open-space resource center. This Academic Commons serves as a workroom, resource center, classroom, and laboratory. The open-concept facility houses reading materials, technology stations, a media lab, and numerous places in which education students learn in a comfortable, personal, and friendly atmosphere. Students have wireless access to e-mail and the Internet via SMSU and PC labs, as well as through the library’s on-line computer system.

Clubs & Organizations  

  • Education Minnesota Aspiring Educators (EMAE)
  • American Sign Language Club

Last Modified: 5/30/23 3:37 PM | Website Feedback