Master of Science in Special Education

Four children reading in the grass

Master of Science in Special Education with a Focus on Literacy

Bryn Athyn College’s Master of Science in Special Education is focused on literacy. Students with language-based differences aren’t the only students who struggle with learning to read and write. Our program’s emphasis on the research behind teaching literacy will equip you with in-depth knowledge about how to best help all students learn to read and write. Virtual attendance for this program is available.

Upcoming Information Webinars

Learn more about our dynamic graduate program designed for the working professional to meet the needs of students with learning differences. These free, live interactive webinars are hosted by the program director and include a Q&A to address your individual questions.

For more information, contact Kelly Ballard, EdD. or call 267-502-2416


The mission of the Master of Special Education, Literacy Concentration Program at Bryn Athyn College is to provide certified educators with the knowledge and skills necessary to meet the needs of diverse learners in an inclusive environment, especially the needs of learners with language-based learning differences. In cultivating the capacity to observe and perceive the students in their care, teachers gain new perspectives on the teacher-student relationship and on the spiritual dimension of human development. The mission of the college to contribute to human spiritual welfare is supported thereby.

Expertise that Makes the Difference

The knowledge and skill you will gain from a master of science in education will prepare you to bring a much-needed expertise into the classroom. Sixty percent of fourth graders in Pennsylvania are reading below grade level. Whether your students’ challenges come from physical impairments, specific learning disabilities, or the lack of opportunity to learn (“environmental dyslexia”), they need the help our program prepares you to offer.

The Science of Reading at Bryn Athyn College

Decades of research on the science of reading have resulted in clear evidence regarding what constitutes effective reading instruction. The undergraduate Dual Certification program and the Master’s of Special Education program at Bryn Athyn College equip teachers with the knowledge and skills to implement evidence-based reading instruction. Studies show that 75% to 80% of reading difficulties can be prevented through reading programs that develop phonological awareness, teach phonics, and give plenty of practice reading connected text1. These three components make orthographic mapping possible, the process which builds sight word vocabulary and therefore makes fluency possible.

“As a result of extraordinary scientific progress, reading and dyslexia are no longer a mystery; we now know what to do to ensure that each child becomes a good reader and how to help readers of all ages and at all levels.” -Dr. Sally Shaywitz, Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity2

Unfortunately, it takes time for research on the science of reading to impact what happens in classrooms where children are learning to read. Literacy courses in both the undergraduate program and the Master’s of Special Education program put this research into the hands of future and current practitioners for immediate application. Our graduates are part of a growing community of teachers able to greatly reduce the difficulties many students face when learning to read.

For more information on the base of research that informs literacy courses at Bryn Athyn College visit The Reading League’s website

Our Commitment to You

Whether you are looking to add the Pennsylvania Pre-K to 8 special ed certification to your existing general education certification or to deepen your knowledge of how to meet the needs of students with learning differences, our curriculum is designed with you in mind. Providing one-on-one advising ensures a graduate program that is tailored to your professional experience and needs. We provide extensive support to teachers already in the field both during and after completion of our program. Additionally, our cohort model gives you the ongoing support and collegiality of a professional learning community. We also offer virtual attendance and online participation for this Masters program, in addition to the great classroom atmosphere.

Educate with a Purpose

At Bryn Athyn College education is studied in a spiritual context. Each child in special education comes to us with unique challenges. How can we help? Opening our hearts and minds to the question of how best to serve each child calls for a reflective practice of careful observation. Our program begins with a course designed to cultivate the art of awareness in the work of a special educator.

BAC Teacher Residency Program, Depth of Experience

Becoming an expert practitioner takes time and expert mentorship. Bryn Athyn College Teacher Residency program is an optional full-time 6-9-month placement in a school setting, designed to support struggling readers and students with language-based learning differences. Throughout the residency experience, you will have the opportunity to master critical skills through practice and mentorship under a skilled practitioner on site.

BAC Distinguished Special Educator Fellowship

We believe in recognition of excellence and welcome graduate students to apply for consideration of our Special Educator Fellowship. This distinguished honor includes the opportunity to present their Graduate Capstone poster at the Pennsylvania Association of Colleges and Teacher Educators conference and a personal invitation to the Pennsylvania Council for Exceptional Children and the national Teacher Education Division of the Council for Exceptional Children conferences.


View the course information for many of the classes offered in this program.

SpEd 500 Spiritual Perspective on Special Education
1 Credit

How do we move beyond the labels that are required for securing special education services and meet students for who they are as human beings? This course explores the lens through which we view students. It provides tools for helping educators to see the whole student instead of seeing just someone with a disability. By working on our own attitudes and assumptions, we can transform our classrooms into places where students of all abilities can thrive.

SpEd 511 Contemporary Issues
3 Credits

This course is designed to provide students with a general understanding of the history of education of individuals with disabilities and the development of special education law and policy over time. It presents current issues and trends highlighting the goals and challenges of special education today. Additionally, a foundation of major disability categories and factors that contribute towards under-and over- representation of diverse students in special education will be addressed.

SpEd 512 Family and Community Partnerships
3 Credits

This course provides the knowledge and skills to form useful, collaborative relationships with families, paraeducators, service providers, and other educators to best serve the needs of children with disabilities. Students will learn to implement federal and state mandates for special education and related services to develop effective school programs. High-Leverage Practices (HLP) related to collaboration will be emphasized. Additionally, students will explore procedures for developing, implementing and evaluating (a) instructional accountability between general and special education personnel and programs, (b) roles and responsibilities (c) interdisciplinary team planning including families (d) coordinating, educating and supervising paraeducators, and (e) general management responsibilities associated with instruction of children and youth with disabilities.

SpEd 534 Universal Design for Learning and Assistive Technology
2 Credits

This course is designed to introduce the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and incorporation of assistive technology to accomplish UDL, in meeting needs of all children in an inclusive classroom environment. It will provide hands-on, application experiences to utilize these principles in a variety of settings through multiple strategies and devices. Through the creation of a website portfolio, the course will enable students build a resource of tools for themselves and others.

SpEd 570 Social-Emotional Development for Students with Language-Based Learning Disabilities
3 Credits

In this course, students will develop an understanding of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) as an essential consideration in child development. An overview of the concept of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) and related High-Leverage Practices (HLP) will be provided with an emphasis on developing individualized strategies and establishing a supportive classroom culture.

SpEd 520 Educational Assessment
3 Credits

In this course, standardized and functional assessments are emphasized. Students are introduced to educational assessment procedures, including norm-referenced, criterion-referenced, and curriculum-based assessments. An emphasis is placed on gathering information to answer specific referral questions, and the use of assessment tools, which meet legal and ethical guidelines. Students will learn to measure an individual’s present level of performance, interpret the data and provide recommendations for instruction, by creating assessment driven learning goals and objectives. High-Leverage Practices (HLP) related to assessment are emphasized.

SpEd 550 Methodologies: Specially Designed Instruction for High-Incidence Disabilities
3 Credits

This course introduces the assessment and identification processes for understanding and serving children with high-incidence disabilities. Students will explore initial instructional and behavioral interventions necessary for meeting the needs of children with high incidence disabilities, with a focused introduction to children identified with language-based learning disabilities. Curriculum resources and High-Leverage Practices (HLP) related to instruction will be emphasized for the development and implementation of individualized education plans.

SpEd 560 Foundations for Literacy
3 Credits

Students will examine the essential components of literacy instruction: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary development and comprehension and its connection to writing. Students will learn the foundations of the reading process, developmental levels, theories, models, and instructional strategies to support all children’s literacy development, with an emphasis on children identified with language-based learning disabilities.

SpEd 513 Research-Based Intervention Strategies
4 Credits

The focus of this course is to look at models of effective specialized instruction in a variety of content areas, with a particular focus on literacy interventions. Students will study means by which teachers and schools collect assessment data to inform and guide effective instruction for all children, in particular those who experience significant learning challenges. Students will examine the most current research, related High-Leverage Practices (HLP), and various models of both in-classroom and out-of-classroom multi-sensory intervention techniques. Students will identify an area of research related to language-based learning disabilities and explore possible research questions in preparation for SpEd 600 Graduate Capstone.

SpEd 585 Comprehensive Literacy Instruction for Students with Language-Based Learning Disabilities
3 Credits

In this course students will develop skills to implement a comprehensive approach to literacy instruction. Students will explore evidenced-based instructional methods, study strategies, and technology that supports the integration of literacy instruction across the curriculum for children with language-based learning disabilities. An emphasis on supporting this population in inclusive settings through high-leverage collaborative practice will be provided. Additionally, students will explore literature relevant to their research questions formulated in SpEd 513 in preparation for SpEd 600 Graduate Captsone.

SpEd 690 Graduate Capstone
3 Credits

This course provides students an opportunity to complete a study on a topic of interest related to language-based learning disabilities. Capstone projects may involve quantitative or qualitative data collection or syntheses of literature. Early in the course, students refine research questions generated in SpEd 513. After questions are clearly delineated, students learn methods of data collection that will assist in answering their questions. Finally, students develop and present their key findings to the class.

SpEd 691 Student Teaching in Special Education
3 Credits

This course provides the student with practical experiences as a special education teacher. These experiences include systematically designing and delivering effective, goal-driven instruction, utilizing various sources of student assessment data, creating a safe and responsive learning climate that promote social-emotional learning, and implementing collaboration skills to work with major stakeholders to ensure student learning.

SpEd 692 Teacher Residency in Special Education
6-9 Credits

This course provides the student with practical experiences as a special education teacher. These experiences include systematically designing and delivering effective, goal-driven instruction, utilizing various sources of student assessment data, creating a safe and responsive learning climate that promote social-emotional learning, and implementing collaboration skills to work with major stakeholders to ensure student learning.


Application Requirements

  • Official sealed transcript(s) of undergraduate/graduate coursework
  • BA or BS degree from an accredited college or university
  • Personal Statement:
    • Highlighting their professional endeavors, motivations for pursuing their graduate degree in special education, and how they will utilize their degree to enhance their teaching practice upon program completion.
  • GPA – 3.0
  • Three Letters of Recommendation:
    • One must be from the candidate’s building administrator demonstrating support for graduate student or if not currently employed in a school district, a school administrator from their previous field placement.
    • One must be from a faculty member from the candidate’s undergraduate program.
  • Resume
  • Additional Documents:
    • Required Pennsylvania Clearances
    • To be Eligible for Special Education Certificate: Copies of PreK-4 and/or 4-8 Level I/II Teaching Certificate(s)

Advisement Sheet (PDF)

For more information contact Dr. Kelly M. Ballard, Head of Master of Special Education program, at 267-502-2416 or



1Kilpatrick, D. (2015). Essentials of assessing, preventing, and overcoming reading difficulties. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

2Shaywitz, S. (2003). Overcoming dyslexia: A new and complete science-based program for reading problems at any level. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf.