Special Education Program (SED)

Program Description/Overview 

The Special Education program offers a Master of Science in Education degree in Special Education. Candidates interested in this program can apply for admission into one of the following two graduate programs or endorsement option:

  1. The Special Education Learning Behavioral Specialist – I Master’s Degree Program for Initial Certification: designed for candidates who are new to the teaching profession and do not possess a professional teaching license; or
  2. The Special Education Learning Behavioral Specialist – I Master’s Degree Program for Certified Teachers: designed for candidates who enter the program with valid teaching licensure, usually in the area of general education at the elementary or secondary level.

Completion of all the course work, field experiences, and degree requirements for the two program options specified in the preceding section qualifies candidates for the Illinois Learning Behavioral Specialist - I (K-12) Professional Educator licensure, and a Master of Science in Education Degree.

  1. An Endorsement in Special Education Program Option: is also available for candidates who are already licensed as general education teachers and are only interested in taking, (as graduate students at large), the courses required for adding the Special Education Learning Behavioral Specialist – I endorsement to their current/existing professional educator license.


This program prepares candidates who are interested in working with students with a wide range of learning, cognitive, emotional, and physical disabilities in a variety of educational, community, and private settings.

To apply for admission to this program, candidates should go here and then follow the instructions provided on this homepage in submitting their application online. Official transcripts from all institutions previously attended, (except CSU), are required. Questions about the application process should be directed to the Office of Graduate and Professional Studies at Chicago State University, (773) 995-2404 or grad-admissions@csu.edu

To request for more information:  Please go here.

Candidates interested in admission to the Special Education Learning Behavioral Specialist – I Master’s Degree Program for Initial Certification or Certified Teachers respectively, are both required to:

  1. Hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university.
  2. Have a 3.0 GPA (on a 4-point grading scale) for full admission to the program. A 2.75 GPA is needed for conditional admission.
  3. Provide two letters of recommendation, (which need to be uploaded directly by the referees into the online application system), from school administrators, supervisors, or people familiar with his/her educational background and work experience.
  4. Submit, (in the online application system), their resume and a one-page essay explaining why they are interested in the program and what they expect to learn
  5. Have an Illinois professional educator license (this only applies to candidates who are interested in admission to the program for certified teachers, or those who are only interested in adding the special education endorsement to their current teaching license).
  6. Be admitted to the School of Graduate and Professional Studies (this only applies to candidates who are interested in admission to the program for initial certification or certified teachers)
  7. Be admitted to the College of Education this only applies to candidates who are interested in admission to the program for initial certification, or those who are only interested in adding the special education endorsement to their current teaching license).

Applicants who are interested in the special education initial certification program but do not have the required 3.0 GPA in the last 60 hours can qualify for a master’s plus licensure program by taking 9 hours of graduate-level program course work (which must be completed within one year) and earning a grade of B or better in each of these courses. Grades of B or above in graduate course work completed prior to applying to a CSU licensure program can be used towards eligibility. Applicants who do not qualify after taking 9 hours of course work will be counseled by the Office of Licensure Services to choose another teacher preparation program to pursue at the license-only level.

Additional Required Documents for International Applicants Only:

  1. A course-by-course transcript evaluation from Education Credentials Evaluators (ECE) or World Educational Services (WES).
  2. Proof of English Proficiency: TOEFL/IELTS Official Score Report or Waiver Application
  3. International Student Packet: - Bank Statement; and Notarized Financial Statement Form and Certificate of Sponsorship.


  • SED 5301 Characteristics of Exceptional Children*—15 hours of observation.

Course Requirements at the master’s Level (34 hours)

  • SED 5304 Speech and Language Development and the Classroom Teacher (3 hours)
  • SED 5476 Characteristics of Learners with Behavioral, Learning and Cognitive Disabilities (4 hours/field 15 hrs.)
  • SED 5477 Characteristics and Instructional Adaptations for Learners with Physical and Health Disabilities (3 hours/ field 15 hrs.)
  • ED 5960 Fundamentals of Educational Research (3 hours)
  • SED 5313 Strategies for Teaching Literacy to Learners with Special Needs (3 hours)
  • SED 5481 Adaptive Skills for Learners with Special Needs (3 hours)
  • SED 5482 Curricular Adaptations for Learners with Special Needs (3 hours)
  • SED 5484 Classroom Management for Learners with Special Needs (3 hours)
  • SED 5487 Assessment, Measurement, and Evaluation of Learners with Special Needs (3 hours)
  • SED 5488 Internship in Special Education (3 hours/field 70 hrs.)
  • SED 5494 Special Education Law, Collaborative, and Professional Conduct (3 hours)

Student Teaching Course (6 hrs.):

  • SED 5475* Student Teaching Experience (6 hours)

*NOTE: this course is only completed by candidates enrolled in the Initial certification program. Credit hours earned in this course will not be counted toward the degree.


Candidates Enrolled in the Initial Certification Program Option who are new to the teaching profession and who do not possess a teaching license may also be required to take and complete the following prerequisite and professional education courses (pending their transcript evaluation):

Prerequisites (6 credit hours): 

  • PSYC 2040 – Psychology of childhood & Adolescence (3)
  • PSYC 5300 – Advanced Educational Psychology (3)

Professional Education (22 credit Hours/Field 40 Hours)

  • ED 5312 (3) Education Computing/Presentations
  • SED 5301 (3f15) Characteristics of Exceptional Children
  • ESL 5120/BIL 5005* (3) Teaching English Language Learners
  • ELED 5110* (3f10) Teaching Math in Elementary School
  • ELED 5111* (3f10) Teaching Science in Elementary School
  • ELED 5112* (3f10) Teaching Social Studies in Elementary School
  • READ 5114*(4f10) Teaching Read/LA in Elementary School

Note: Admission to the College of Education and master’s degree program in special education is required prior to registration in any professional education courses other than ED 5312; and SED 5301. Candidates must have a 3.0 GPA for full admission.

Furthermore, Illinois teaching licensure requires graduate students in the master’s degree program for initial certification to complete student teaching in special education, unless they already hold an Illinois professional educator license and have teaching experience.

Dr. Florah Luseno, Chairperson

Department of Advanced Studies in Education

College of Education Building, Room 319

9501 South King Drive

Chicago, Illinois 60628-1598

Phone: (773) 995-2086


Ms. Barbara Belisle

Director, College of Education Licensure Office

College of Education Building, Room 203

Phone: (773) 995-2492




Fall, Summer, and Spring semester of each year.

  • Yes. Student may transfer 9 credit hours of graduate credit earned at other accredited colleges and universities that were not used towards degree requirements or applied to a degree program at Chicago State University.
  • For an evaluation of transfer credit taken prior to admission at CSU, the student must indicate on the application for admission any transfer credit he/she wishes to have considered.
  • All courses must have been taken within the six-year time limit given for completing the degree program prior to the conferral of the graduate degree. Grades earned must be at least a B or above

Yes, the program is aligned to state standards and the Council for Exceptional Children Initial Practice-Based Professional Preparation Standards for Special Educators.

The degree will take a minimum of four (4) semesters, and a maximum of two (2) years. Students are given a six-year time limit within which to complete their degree

Core coursework consists of a total of 34 credit hours. 

Candidates admitted to the program for initial certification may be required to take additional general and professional education courses, pending their transcript evaluation. 

  • Yes. The master’s degree can only be awarded to candidates who have achieved a 3.0 cumulative GPA or better in all required and elective courses applied toward the master’s degree. Students who fall below this standard will be placed on academic probation.
  • A course in which a grade of D of F was obtained can be repeated once to obtain a grade of C or better.
  • Once admitted to a degree program, no more than two grades of C can be earned in any graduate or professional course taken within the curriculum offered in that graduate program, whether or not the courses are part of the student’s program. Where a student has two grades of “I” outstanding on the graduate record, the student will be reviewed for probationary status.


Student Testimonials

Felicia Williams“I came to Chicago State University as a graduate student seeking my master’s degree in Special Education, after receiving a full-ride scholarship from the PEERS program.My professors were not only highly credentialed, but extremely knowledgeable about all aspects of working with children, young adults, and families that have special and diverse needs.

Without exaggeration, the impact of my master’s program has been life changing.  In my final semester, I was tasked with working on a collaborative project that involved creating a tool/method of intervention that would assist a student(s) with meeting their learning and/or developmental objectives. I was able to complete the project successfully, even despite the restraints of the COVID pandemic. In the following school year, I was able to spend more time testing and redeveloping my graduate project - and as of now, I have a provisional patent. Confident that my ideas could be of use on a broader scale, I am currently in the process of launching a business, Seed2Fruit Education LLC, that provides educational products and services. 

My experiences during my graduate studies at Chicago State University ignited something in me that I didn’t even know existed; and I am so grateful to the faculty for expanding my capacity to do more to help children and families who need alternative learning methods of instruction.”

Arbra Gray

Considering I had not been in school for over 10 years, my original perception of the special education master’s degree program at Chicago State University (CSU) was a mixed bag. Since I had been working as a general education teacher for 12 years, I started by thinking it would be a major culture shock trying to be a special education teacher. 

One thing I knew for sure was that there was a high demand for African-American male teachers, especially in special education. On this basis, I determined CSU was the right place for me when I went to orientation and met the professors who taught my courses. My experiences in these classes were challenging at times because of Covid-19 and remote learning. What made my experience great were the PEERS group and the professors who would go of out their way to answer an array of questions to keep students on the right path.  These professors were also so flexible because they knew I had a family, but they kept me on track, even when I had a close family member die from the Covid-19.  They encouraged me and stood by my side during these dark times.

I kept all of my textbooks and use them from time to time to help me through challenging times in the classroom. I would definitely recommend the special education master’s degree program to anyone who is interested in attending CSU. I never thought I would obtain my Master’s degree, but the faculty and staff at CSU helped make it happen!

Kelly Carroll

As an early childhood teacher who was teaching Instructional Kindergarten, I was looking for classes to increase my knowledge in working with students with special needs. I truly enjoyed the professors and courses offered for the Special Education endorsement and I was grateful to work towards and receive my master’s degree in Special Education. I appreciate the small class sizes which lend themselves to discussion based classes. The professors in the Special Education Master’s Degree Program at Chicago State University are fabulous!  They are knowledgeable, insightful and approachable. The special education classes I took equipped me to meet the needs of the various learners I see on a daily basis in my classroom and at my school.  I still feel comfortable in contacting the professors from my classes at Chicago State because they are current on Special Education issues and they are willing to help me gain access to resources I need to better do my work in the classroom. 

Felicia Williams

As a former student of Chicago State University (CSU), I remembered the rigor and quality education I received when I obtained my initial teacher certification. Therefore, when I learned of the opportunity to receive a Master’s Degree in Special Education, I excitedly and readily applied. The knowledgeable and caring professors, the encouragement and camaraderie from my cohort, and the plethora of knowledge I received from this Special Education Master’s Degree Program at CSU have helped to expand the depth and breadth of my pedagogy. The professors had high expectations and set the bar to ensure my peers and I would be consummate and erudite professionals in our field.


The preparation I received from this program is the impetus of my success in addressing the individual and unique needs of my students. My colleagues refer to me as the walking billboard for Chicago State University; I proudly accept this title. I attribute my drive and tenacity for student achievement because the professors with whom I worked modeled these expectations. I am committed and will continue to work tirelessly in the Special Education Community.  Never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn. ~Harriet Beecher Stowe.

Paige Jones

“I was looking for a university where I was accepted for my differences.  I wanted to thrive, not just survive throughout my matriculation process and in my profession.  The staff at Chicago State University welcomed me from the moment I began the enrollment process.  My teachers were so friendly, caring, and flexible.  They cared about my understanding of the content and use real world situations that promoted a growth mindset.  I attribute all my educator success to Chicago State University.”

Cornelius Crossley

I started my post-graduate journey looking for something that could help me boost my career in education. Having a family and working full time, it was extremely important to have a flexible evening class schedule while working during the day. My instructors were very kind and accommodating to the rigorous work-life juggle. They provided an accepting learning environment in which to flourish and excel. Teaching high incidence learners provides many hurdles to overcome. My instructors' experience and knowledge prepared me well for my journey into the field of special education. The professors are amazing and they really treat the entire department like a family. During my last semester at Chicago State University (CSU) I secured a teaching position and have been offered several other positions since. I’m currently in my 5th year as a secondary special education teacher. During my time at CSU I developed amazing professional relationships that I know are a phone call away whenever needed. Chicago State University will forever be dear to me, and I look forward to returning to continue in my learning journey. We are always life-long learners! Thank you CSU!

Tella Roberts

Chicago State University afforded me the opportunity to develop the knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to be an effective educator who works with children with special needs.

I elected to study for my master’s degree program in special education at Chicago State University because of its original mission as well as my personal desire. The professors at Chicago State University and the diverse student population provided me insight into the challenges, needs, and perspectives, as well as the practical experience of employing evidenced-based practices I became familiar with during my studies in the special education program.

Faculty members at Chicago State University are experienced-based practitioners, as opposed to being academic theorists. The field of special education is very dynamic and exciting. My programs of studies and professors at Chicago State University have prepared me to face the local and global socio-economic challenges that impact the education of students with disabilities. The current changes in technology and instructional delivery will require an entirely new set of knowledge, skills, and abilities for this current generation and I am well prepared to teach them.  

Patrice Jones

During my program my fellow students and I would complain about the amount of papers, projects, quizzes, etc. required of us by our Professors at Chicago State University.  However, upon completion of my special education program I left prepared in ways that others were not.  There were several special education teachers from other academic institutions who did not have to complete a Functional Behavioral Assessment nor conduct an ABC analysis, but I did!!  I was prepared for the position of special education teacher because of CSU.  I have been promoted to District Special Education Director because of the knowledge obtained through the Professors at Chicago State University.  All the rigor was necessary toward the development of the Director at PLC Charter Schools.

Robert Meschino

Thank you for the opportunity to share my great experiences while at Chicago State University (CSU).

After my previous Master’s degree from CSU, I knew I wanted to continue and obtain a Special Education Degree as well.  There was no need to look any further for other universities as I knew Chicago State University was the right place for my Master’s Degree in Special Education.

The professors at CSU are the best of the best. I knew that if I wanted to really get the most from a degree program, where better to go than to attend a university that offers real world experience.  All of the professors went out of their way to ensure you gained the proper knowledge and completed the program equipped to succeed.

I thank Chicago State University for the opportunity and knowledge I acquired but I also want to thank all staff and professors for their commitment to the students and profession.

Tia J. Speat

I first started at Chicago State University as an Elementary Education certification student. Even though I had two years of experience working as a paraprofessional in a therapeutic day school, I honestly had not considered pursuing Special Education.  However, a colleague of mine told me about the Master’s of Special Education Cohort and I was intrigued.  I met with the advisor and after that initial meeting, I was sold! I applied to the program and I was ecstatic when I was accepted. 

Deciding to pursue my master’s in special education at Chicago State University was one of the best decisions I ever made.  My professors were not only knowledgeable, but they were extremely supportive and invested in me as a future educator.  Even when work and personal issues and responsibilities arose that interfered with my studies, they were understanding, empathetic and accommodating.  The coursework was challenging, timely and relevant.  I was able to make connections and understand fully the experiences of my previous students.  I had so many refreshing “ah ha!” moments in my classes.  I also began to develop a great passion for Special Education and students with disabilities.  Our assignments and practicum hours prepared us in ways that my colleagues in other programs at other universities did not.  The EDTPA team of professors and mentors at Chicago State were phenomenal.  They provided us the one-to-one support and resources needed to successfully pass the assessment.  I know that without that support, I might not have received such high scores.

Since graduating from the university, I have been a classroom teacher at Chicago Public Schools and have worked in various settings including low incidence cluster program; elementary and high schools; and both instructional and co-taught settings.  I have recently accepted a position as a Special Education Administrator for the district.  I am eternally grateful and thankful for Chicago State University and the amazing faculty and staff for investing in me as a student, preparing me to be an impactful educator, and caring about me as an individual.