Supporting the needs of special populations within the K-12 public school system is vital to the success of today’s educational landscape. The effort to effectively engage and assist these student subgroups requires dedicated teachers with unique academic and professional training.
What Are Special Populations in Education?
According to the United States Department of Education, the term “special populations” refers to students who “must overcome barriers that may require special consideration and attention to ensure equal opportunity for success and in an educational setting.”
While treating each student as an individual with unique needs is always the best practice, it can be beneficial for teachers, especially when designing curriculum or planning lessons, to group students according to commonalities. Here are some of the many characteristics that fall under the heading of special populations:
- Individuals with disabilities
- English language learners
- Individuals from economically disadvantaged families
- Students experiencing homelessness
- Students in foster care
According to demographic data on Arkansas school districts, special populations represent a significant portion of the overall enrollment. Nearly a quarter of all enrolled students are classified as either special education students, students who are homeless, or limited English proficient (LEP) students. Additionally, 60% of all students qualify for free or reduced-cost lunches, suggesting at least some degree of economic stress at home.
What Are the Challenges Facing Special Populations?
There are many challenges students in special populations face on a daily basis, and some of them, if left unaddressed, can lead to serious mental health issues. There are often social biases or harmful stigmas attached to special populations, potentially exposing these students to bullying or harassment. Special populations may lack adequate support networks. Anxiety over the challenges they face, or the disadvantages they must overcome, may lead to depression, making it difficult to fully engage socially or academically.
How Can an MSE in School Counseling – Special Populations Help You Make a Positive Impact on Students?
Arkansas State University’s Master of Education in School Counseling online program provides “individualized, advanced practical experience working with K-12 students so they can thrive in school and beyond.” Some of the training included in the curriculum will help future counselors better understand:
- Ways to appropriately level coursework to motivate and unlock the potential of the gifted and talented school community
- The nature and needs of students at all development levels in a multicultural society
- Career development and related life factors
- Best practices in enhancing students’ communications skills as English language learners
- Research methods, needs assessments and program evaluation
School counselors equipped with these skills stand to make a significant contribution to the improvement of the academic and personal lives, as well as the futures, of special population students.
With so many students in need of emotional or academic support, schools continue to have a pressing need for professional educators with the legal, cultural and ethical understanding required to ensure special populations thrive.
Education professionals who wish to become better involved with special populations at their schools will want to consider A-State’s online MSE in School Counseling – Special Populations. The degree program can be completed in as few as 24 months.
Learn more about A-State’s MSE in School Counseling – Special Populations online program.