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Becoming a Special Educator: Specialized Professional Training for Teachers of Children with Disabilities in Boston, 1870-1930


by Robert L. Osgood ó 1999

This article examines the origins of the development of a separate professional identity as special educators for teachers of children with disabilities in the United States, focusing particularly on the Boston, Massachusetts public schools from 1870 to 1930. The article first traces emergent professionalization among teachers in institutions for individuals with disabilities, identifying specific training programs as well as the growth of professional knowledge and professional associations. It then discusses efforts by the Boston public schools to provide specialized training for teachers recruited to work in four special education programs: the Horace Mann School for the Deaf, conservation of eyesight classes for children with vision impairments, speech improvement classes for students with identified speech disorders, and special classes for children considered mentally retarded. Each program is examined in terms of desired teacher characteristics, requirements for hiring or certification, in-service programs to enhance professional knowledge, and other professional opportunities such as associations, publications, and mentoring. The article concludes with a brief discussion of how teacher training has contributed to the separation between general and special educators and how it might be redesigned to facilitate a reintegration of these separate professional worlds.


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 101 Number 1, 1999, p. 82-105
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 10426, Date Accessed: 12/13/2017 4:10:10 AM

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About the Author
  • Robert Osgood
    Indiana University
    E-mail Author
    Robert L. Osgood is an Assistant Professor of Education at the Indiana University School of Education, Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis. His research focuses on the history of special education in the United States. Portions of this article are adapted from his forthcoming book on the history of special education in Boston, to be published in the spring of 2000 by Gallaudet University Press.
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