To address the severe shortage of special educators in school districts across Maine, the UMF Special Ed Alternate Route to Certification (SPARC) offers a program of on-line courses taught by experienced Special Education faculty and professionals.

The UMF Special Ed Alternate Route to Certification (SPARC) program’s foundation is rooted in one major principle: The credits in the program must focus on specific sets of skills and bodies of knowledge relevant to Special Educators. To ensure we offer what is needed, we turned to leaders in the special education field, who designed this SPARC program.

Maine requires 24 credits of coursework for Special Education 282 Certification. Participants in the Alternate Route to Certification program may take eight courses or only selected courses, depending on how many credits they need to reach the required 24 credits.


UMF Special Ed Alternate Route to Certification (SPARC) courses are open to all practicing Special Education educators holding a baccalaureate degree, including in-service educators, those working in Birth to Age 5 intervention settings, Ed Techs, and others.

Participants must have access to students with special needs in order to complete assignments for courses. Click here for an enrollment form.

For this program, there is no need to apply for admission to UMF.

Course Schedule

  • SED 505 Achieving High Standards with Universal Design and Assistive Technology
  • SED 507 Curriculum and Instructional Programming for Students with Disabilities
  • SED 515 Early Intervention: Working with Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities and Their Families
  • SED 516 Advanced Topics in Curriculum and Program Design: Mild to Moderate Disabilities

More Information

Check with the Maine Dept. of Education Certification Office for additional requirements for Special Education 282 Certification beyond coursework. Or visit the Rule Chapters for the Maine Dept. of Education, specifically Part II of Chapter 115 to access Requirements for Specific Certificates and Endorsements for additional requirements.

Fourteen online graduate courses are offered on a rotating schedule through this program. Most courses are appropriate for Pre-K through grade 12 educators; all but SED 503 and SED 508 are also appropriate for Birth to School Age 5 teachers; modifications of assignments will be made based on the grade level each participant teaches. However, SED 508 may be appropriate for Age 3-5 teachers.

Course Descriptions

SED 503  Transition for Youth with Disabilities: From High School to Adult Life

This course prepares future special education teachers at the middle and secondary level to meet the transition requirements of IDEA by exploring issues and strategies for preparing adolescents and young adults with disabilities for the transition from school to adult life. We will explore these issues and strategies within the context of ecological models of human development. Students will: understand federal and state mandates for transition planning and historical perspectives of transition, explore and describe the five areas of transition, implement effective strategies for dealing with diversity and gender equity issues, implement key transition assessments and curricula, develop student-centered transition plans and demonstrate awareness of how community agencies can collaborate to improve outcomes for youth with disabilities. Fall.

SED 504 Collaborative Partnerships Among Individuals with Disabilities, Families, and Professionals

This course focuses on collaboration and teaming strategies among individuals with disabilities, their families, general and special educators, school psychologists, paraprofessionals, and other related service providers in inclusive school and community settings. Fall.

SED 505  Achieving High Standards with Universal Design and Assistive Technology

This course introduces students to the concept of universal design (UD) and technologies that provide educators with powerful ways to create flexible methods and materials to reach diverse learners. We’ll begin by exploring UD for professional productivity and then look at the use of UD for teaching and learning. Course participants also will investigate the use of assistive technology (AT) devices and services for children with disabilities.  A range of technology will be examined from “low tech” devices that are inexpensive or easily modified to “high tech” devices that are expensive and may be available on loan from specialized companies. Evaluation approaches and determination of appropriate uses of assistive technology will be discussed.  Methods and strategies for infusing assistive technology within infant/toddler playgroups, preschool, elementary, and secondary programs will be stressed. (Course participants will select the age group on which they wish to focus.) Each person is expected to bring previous professional knowledge and experiences regarding standards, practices, and instructional strategies. Spring.

SED 506 Assessment in Special Education

This course examines assessment practices for children and youth from 3-20 years and provides a variety of hands-on experiences in using various assessment approaches including observations, curriculum-based measurement, and standardized instruments. This course includes opportunities to construct and use both formative and summative assessments, emphasizing the links between pre-assessment, program planning and instruction, and monitoring progress. Each student will work with a focus child or youth in their area of specialization to gain practice in constructing, evaluating, and implementing informal assessments, evaluating formal assessments and interpreting assessment information for other educators and parents. Each student will build skills and knowledge in increasing cultural competence related to assessment practices. During this course, we also will explore a variety of current issues including universal design, test accommodations, modifications, and assistive technology. Fall.

SED 507 Curriculum and Instructional Programming for Students with Disabilities

Students will explore basic principles of curriculum development and instructional programming for students with disabilities.  Students will focus on how to develop clear instructional goals and objectives for Individual Education Plans and then how to construct daily instructional programs to accomplish these goals and objectives.  Students will explore current theory and practice regarding direct instruction as it applies to teaching reading and related skills. Spring.

SED 508 Classroom and Behavior Management of Students with Disabilities

Students will explore basic principles of classroom and behavior management from prevention of problems through the development of a variety of positive responses to chronic misbehavior in special education and regular classroom settings.  Students will develop and conduct a number of classroom application projects designed to improve the behavior of individuals and groups of students.  Students will also review current research on effective classroom and behavior management. Fall.

SED 509 Understanding and Applying Maine’s Special Education Rules and Regulations

Students will understand the federal and state laws and regulations that have an impact on how educators design and implement programs for students with special needs, how to organize and conduct pupil evaluation team meetings, how students become eligible for special education services, the procedural safeguards involved in all aspects of special education from referral to termination of services, develop skills in writing individual educational plans and linking these plans to daily instruction, record keeping, and evaluation, and become aware of some critical issues in special education. Varies.

SED 511 Mathematics Instruction for Students with Disabilities

This course, for practicing teachers, focuses on methods and strategies for introducing mathematical concepts to children and youth with disabilities, preschool through high school. Issues of concern, major curriculum thrusts, such as the Common Core State Standards, Maine Early Childhood Learning Guidelines, promising practices, methods to differentiate instruction, linking instruction and assessment, accommodations, modifications, and assistive technology are addressed in this course.  Approaches for children of different age levels from preschool through secondary are included. Students will select course projects appropriate for the setting or grade level in which they work.  Summer.

SED 513 Early Childhood Speech & Language: Development, Disorders & Interventions

This course is designed to introduce future early childhood special and general educators to the development of speech and language in young children. Content includes an overview of the ages and phases of typical speech and language development and the link between speech, language and literacy. We will explore disorders and delays in speech and language and learn about research-based techniques for assessment, identification and intervention. Summer.

SED 514 Literacy Development for All Students

This course introduces research-based approaches to (1) the assessment of and for literacy, and (2) the implementation of methods, materials, strategies, and techniques for supporting literacy learning of all individuals, including those with disabilities.  Although this course focuses on the special needs of individuals with disabilities or who are at risk, individuals taking this course will learn ways to address the needs of all students in grades Pre-kindergarten through 12 and adults who struggle to read and write or to improve their reading and writing skills. Topics include: assessment, print awareness, phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, comprehension, spelling, writing, and teaching reading and writing to English language learners. Opportunities will be provided for participants to explore independent learning on key course topics. Varies.

SED 515 Early Intervention: Working with Infants & Toddlers w/Disabilities & Their Families

This course addresses various aspects of early intervention services including teaming with families; understanding development and risk during prenatal, natal, and postnatal stages; studying models for working with young children with disabilities and their families in natural environments; and examining infant and toddler program development and curriculum. Students will identify and use current research to increase personal knowledge and skills, applying their findings to present work settings. Spring.

SED 516 Advanced Topics in Curriculum and Program Design: Mild to Moderate Disabilities

This course is designed for special education teachers who wish to extend their skill and understanding of selected curriculum and program design topics introduced in prior courses.  In consultation with the instructor, each participant will develop and conduct three instructional improvement projects.  Examples of such projects include, but are not limited to the following: 1)Implementing positive behavioral supports to improve the daily classroom behavior of a group of students; 2) Working with a team of teachers to improve a targeted area of student behavior or academic performance; 3)Analyzing current instructional practices for a specific group of students and then identifying and implementing newer instructional practices in response to identified needs. Spring.

SED 517 Professional Ethics, Cultural Competence, and Evidence-based Practices in Early Intervention and Early Childhood Special Education

This course examines professional and ethical practice within the range of delivery systems from early intervention to special education in community and school-based programs for children with disabilities, from birth to eight years of age, and their families.  Case studies increase understanding of various medical conditions and related care on family concerns and on child development and learning. Students examine and practice developmentally appropriate methods and strategies, as well as develop skills in effective supervision and evaluation of others.  Through the course, students engage in reflective inquiry regarding developing personal cultural competency.  Students identify and use current research to increase personal knowledge and skills, applying findings to present work settings. Related to course objectives and required assignments, students spend a minimum of 20 hours working in an early intervention or early childhood special education setting. Summer. 

SED 518 Special Education Law

This course will provide prospective and practicing educators and school administrators with a working knowledge of relevant laws, policies, and regulations related to students with disabilities. Laws and regulations pertaining to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Maine special education regulations, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act will be discussed. Major course topics include Special Education eligibility and IEP development, student discipline, and curriculum access. The historical significance and practical application of laws affecting students with disabilities in school will be emphasized.  In particular, the focus of the course will be on making effective educational decisions for students with disabilities. Varies.