What is Inclusive Childhood Education?

Our Inclusive Childhood Education program provides you with the opportunity to become certified in both Childhood Education and Special Education grades 1-6. With a foundation set in liberal arts, it also incorporates coursework in a professional manner and experiences that involve you in local elementary schools.

While the course load is packed with content and numerous field placements, the IEC program will promote lifelong learning skills, experiences to collaborate with teachers and families as well as equity and excellence in education.
Through a combination of childhood education and special education, you will learn several tools and strategies that benefit all students and will contribute to your success in a classroom.

Tips for Incoming Freshman

Language Requirement

Candidates must complete the 102 level in a foreign language. There is a chart in the CARP (Cortland Advisor Resource Packet from Advisement and Transition) that can help you decide what level of language courses you may need. If you have any questions, you can contact the Modern Languages department directly. One option is to take American Sign Language (ASL), but SUNY Cortland’s sections tend to fill quickly. You may choose to take ASL 101 at a community college elsewhere. If you have completed 101, it is often possible to pick up ASL 102 here, which would then fulfill the requirement.


IEC candidates must be fingerprinted before taking FSA 212, which includes a field experience. All local school districts require candidates to be fingerprinted before you will be allowed to set foot in their schools. Fingerprinting is no longer offered on campus. Candidates must have a TEACH account, and then apply through Identogo website or by calling 877-472-6915. The cost to be fingerprinted is currently $102.00. Once fingerprints are submitted, these become part of a NY State database, and you will not have to be fingerprinted again. For more information on fingerprinting, check out Career Services-Fingerprinting website.

TEACH Account

Candidates are required to make a TEACH account in order for fingerprints to be processed. You will also use your TEACH account to obtain your certificates and throughout the course of your professional career.

Create a NY.gov TEACH account. (In order to create an account you must have your social security number on hand, and it is free to make an account.)

General Tips

Course Retakes

If you fail a course and need to retake it, a course retake flag must be lifted by the department offering the course before you can register for it again. You may also retake a course because of a low grade, even if it is not an E. Re-taking a course for a higher grade is a useful strategy for improving GPA, because the new grade replaces the old grade.

Transfer Credit

You may have entered the IEC Program with Advanced Placement (AP) credit or college course credit. If you think you should have credit for something that does not appear on your DegreeWorks audit, call or visit the Advisement and Transition office for help.

If you would like to take a course elsewhere (for example at a community college over the summer) and transfer the credit here, you should first make sure that the credit will count. On the transfer equivalencies chart, you will find a list of both SUNYs and private colleges. Select the college where you want to take (or have taken) a course. If the course has an equivalent at SUNY Cortland, the chart will list it. In the unusual circumstance that a course does not appear in the list that you believe should count, you can obtain a syllabus and ask the appropriate department on our campus to evaluate whether or not they will accept the course as equivalent.

Before taking a course elsewhere, you should complete the permission to Transfer Credit process. Once coursework elsewhere is completed, you must arrange to have an official transcript sent to the Registrar's Office before the credit will appear in DegreeWorks. There are limits on the amount of credits that can be transferred in, but they are high and only likely to affect transfer students. One purpose of the form is to allow the Advisement and Transition Office to evaluate the request and make sure the credit will count.

Registering for Courses

Registering for courses your first time can be confusing and stressful. To look at potential classes for the upcoming semester, go to MyRedDragon, select the Student tab and then browse to Public Course Schedule. Check off the semester you are looking at courses for and then pick the course prefix, or subject.

Summer or Winter Sessions

Many online courses are available during summer or winter sessions. If it is a SUNY Cortland version of the course, you can register for it just as you would for a spring or fall semester course (except that you will have to pay additional tuition). When you log in to MyRedDragon, select the Student tab and then select Register (Drop and Add Courses), which is located on the left-hand side of the screen. If you take another institution’s course, either online (e.g., through Open SUNY) or at a community college, follow the procedures above for transferring credit.

SPE 270

Transfer students—both internal (from another major) and external transfers (from another school)—may enter the program having completed SPE 270: Introduction to Special Education or its equivalent. Please note that this is not considered an equivalent course to FSA 212: Introduction to Inclusive Education.

Advising Resources


Although the IEC program seems to have little space for electives, you will need at least one elective course to meet the total credit requirement of 126 credit hours. Also, many IEC majors enter SUNY Cortland with some college credit, or they place out of some requirements (such as language or CPN), which allows space for more electives. Below are ideas you might consider when deciding on electives to add.

Feed a Passion

So much of college coursework is taken in order to satisfy a requirement. An elective is an opportunity to take something simply for the joy of it! Go further in a GE category that you find intriguing, or to try something new or creative.

Improve GPA

If you are concerned about meeting our GPA requirement (at least a 2.80), an elective can be chosen strategically, as a course where you expect to be highly successful.

FSA Electives

Faculty in our department offer many courses that candidates may wish to consider as electives. Those at the 500-level are considered grad courses, but juniors and seniors are permitted to take them as well. A 500-level course can work well for the fall semester of juniors in the spring student teaching cohort (just before Block I), or for the final semester of candidates in the fall student teaching cohort (see the Program Plans section).
  • FSA 250 – Foundations of Peace Education
  • FSA 305 – Contemporary Issues in Education
  • FSA 326 – Democratic Models of Urban Schooling
  • FSA 333 – International and Comparative Education
  • FSA 347 (also listed as POL 347) – The Politics of Educational Policy
  • FSA 505 (also listed as SOC 505) – Sociology of Education (offered every other year)
  • FSA 515 – Introduction to Disability Studies in Education (an online course)
  • FSA 525 – Teaching the Inner City Child (an online course)
  • FSA 545 – Teaching Students with Severe or Multiple Disabilities (an online course)
  • EDU 552 – Gender Issues in Education
  • FSA 560 – Supporting Students with Autism

ENG 373 - Literature for Children

A worthwhile course for anyone teaching in an elementary school. Note that the course has prerequisites, specifically CPN 101 and any 200-level ENG course. If you take an intro to a literature course (such as, ENG 200, 202, 203 or 204) for GE7, the prerequisite requirement for this class can be satisfied for any concentration. There is also a course PWR 323 (Writing Children’s Literature). While there is no prerequisite, it is offered occasionally.

Psychology Courses Related to Students with Disabilities

Consider choosing coursework from the PSYX minor. These courses offer rich information about the needs of students with disabilities. If you are able to take many electives, consider adding the PSYX minor.

REC 293 or 330

These have an inclusion focus and make excellent electives for IEC majors. Note that you must register for the 700-level sections (600-level ones are reserved for Recreation majors).

Laying the Groundwork for an Additional Certification

After graduating from our program, it is possible to apply for an additional certification for “grade 7-12 generalist, teaching students with disabilities.” With the IEC coursework on their transcript, a candidate generally only needs an additional 6 credit hours of college coursework related to adolescent education and an additional certification test related to adolescent education to qualify. Please note that it is not SUNY Cortland that offers this certification pathway, and the additional coursework must be evaluated by the NYS Education Department. We cannot guarantee that any specific course will be accepted. However, Cortland courses that have been allowed in the past include PSY 232 Adolescent Psychology and LIT 449 Literacy in Middle and Secondary School, so these are good choices for candidates who might have an interest in teaching at the secondary level.

An additional certification for “teaching students with disabilities, birth to grade 2” is similarly possible, but early childhood coursework on our campus is not currently offered to non-majors. Candidates interested in an additional certification for early childhood can take relevant coursework in the summer at a community college, and then transfer those credits here as electives.

For any questions about additional certifications, the best place on campus to get good information is the Career Services Office.

Progress Through the Program

Program Plans

There are five color-coded IEC program plan packets, one for each concentration. These packets include two idealized four-year plans, one with student teaching in semester eight, and the other with student teaching in semester seven (better for those potentially interested in student teaching in Australia – see student teaching section below). Please note that your program does not need to exactly match the ones in the packet. The program plans in the packets are meant as a starting place only, and will change based on prior credit, electives, need for re-takes, etc. It is wise to take the time to plan with your advisor. The program plans can be found in the FSA Department office, located in Cornish Hall, Room 1213.

Structure of the Concentrations

The last page of each of IEC program plan packet lays out requirements for that concentration. Generally, all have a similar structure: a mix of courses at lower (100-200) and upper (300-400) levels. Math is an exception; all but one of the courses in the math concentration are prescribed.

Each concentration has some quirks and these are described in a bit more detail below. The sooner you have a clear sense of which concentration will work for you, the easier it is to determine what courses to take in a given semester. We ask that you commit to a concentration when applying to the program, that is, after completing FSA 212 and are ready to change from IECW to a “full-fledged” IEC major.

Note: To be eligible for student teaching, two-thirds of your concentration courses should be completed. Exceptions to this rule can be made, but no more than four concentration courses should be saved for the semester following student teaching for candidates in that fall student teaching cohort. All the program plans with fall student teaching list three concentration courses in that final semester. That final semester can also include HLH 265, some GE work, or electives.

Tips Related to Each Concentration

See individual color-coded program plan packets to learn about each concentration in more detail. All of the concentrations “double dip” in various ways with other program requirements. Here are a few concentration-specific tips:

English Language Arts and Writing Concentration (ELWC)

  • Two of the introductions to writing options (PWR 212 - Writing Fiction and PWR 213 - Writing Poetry) are also GE8 courses. Those taking the ELWC concentration can save 3 credit hours (not need another GE8) if you take one of these two courses.
  • Anyone with the ELWC concentration should try to include ENG 373 Literature for Children as one of their upper-level concentration courses!

Environmental Sciences Concentration (ESTC)

  • EST 100 Environmental Studies is required for this concentration, and often does not have many seats. Once you choose ESTC, start looking for this course.
  • Many suitable courses in this concentration have prerequisites, so some careful planning may be required to be able to take the courses of your choice.

Humanities Concentration (HUMC)

  • One lower-level requirement is for a Philosophy course. Lots of students seem to go for PHI 140 - Prejudice, Discrimination and Morality. However, there is much content overlap with FSA 103, and you could learn more by choosing a different course. Also, some upper level philosophy courses require PHI 201 or above as a prerequisite, so using one of those 200-level courses for the philosophy requirement will create more options later.
  • Many suitable courses in this concentration have prerequisites, so some careful planning may be required to be able to take the courses of your choice. For example:
    • If you might want upper level philosophy courses, take PHI 201 or above for the philosophy requirement.
    • If you might want upper level art history courses, take ATH 121 or 122 at the lower level.

Mathematics Concentration (MTC)

  • There is very little choice for courses in this sequence; the only math elective is one upper-level course at the end of the sequence.
  • The first course in the sequence is MAT 121 - Calculus A, which has a prerequisite (“MAT 115 or four years of high school mathematics”), so if you do not bring in this pre-calculus equivalent, you will need an additional course for the concentration.
  • If you bring in the equivalent of MAT 135 - Calculus I, it can be substituted for Calculus A. The content of the two courses is similar; Calculus I and II are for math majors, and Calculus A and B are for everyone else.

Social Sciences Concentration (SOSC)

  • Although GE5 is optional for everyone else, it is still required for SOSC.
  • This concentration is fairly friendly with regard to prerequisites. The only upper level courses where you are likely to have missed the prerequisite are for Economics courses. So, if you are interested in economics, we recommend ECO 105, 110 or 111 as your final lower-level course.

Urban Studies Concentration (URSC)

  • FSA 103, which you need to take for your IEC major, is required in this concentration.
  • Many other FSA courses (FSA 250, FSA 305, FSA 333, FSA 437, FSA/SOC 505, FSA 326) are also options in this concentration.

Moving from IECW (“Waiting”) to IEC

In order to apply to the IEC program, candidates listed as IECW must complete FSA 212 with C or above, have a minimum overall GPA of 2.80 and otherwise be in good standing. At the close of FSA 212, all eligible IEC candidates are provided applications to the program. The application packet includes a “Change of Major” form on which you request a change from IECW to IEC. A concentration is also added to the program on the same form, if it had not been added previously. Once this paperwork is processed, the “W” is dropped. If a candidate has not met all requirements (for example, if you do not meet the GPA requirement), you can apply later, once all requirements have been met. If you think your major should have changed from IECW to IEC and has not, please let your advisor, the Department Chair or Department Administrative Assistant know.

Study Abroad

Studying abroad has phenomenal benefits! SUNY Cortland offers several opportunities to study abroad in numerous countries all year round. Want to study abroad in a specific country but Cortland does not have a program for it? Not a problem. Thanks to the SUNY system, you have access to ANY study abroad program at ANY SUNY School. To get started you must attend a Study Abroad 101 information session held every Wednesday from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. and every Friday from 3 to 4 p.m. in Old Main, Room 220. Please note that because of the strict program process, there are specific courses that must be taken at specific times within our major, specifically your block semester courses. Therefore, it is recommended that when studying abroad, you take courses that fulfill GEs or concentration credits. Remember, you can also study abroad over the winter or summer as well. For more information, visit the Study Abroad website.

Block Semesters

Are you ready for the block semesters? To enter Block I, a candidate should be in good academic standing, have no incompletes, have completed FSA 103, 212 and 340 with grades of C or above, and have an overall Cortland GPA of 2.8. Ideally, you should also have completed at least two-thirds of the coursework in your concentration (21 credit hours), as this is required for student teaching. If you have not, a summer or winter coursework in the concentration may be required.

Block I

  • EDU 373 - Teaching Elementary School Mathematics
  • EDU 374 - Teaching Elementary School Science
  • FSA 400 - Foundations of Education: The School in American Society
  • FSA 411* - Planning and Instructional Strategies for Special Educators (register for 1 section plus the associated lab)
  • LIT 371 - Teaching Elementary School Reading and Language Arts I

Block II

  • EDU 315 - Critical Media Literacy: Values, Education and Society
  • EDU 375 - Teaching Elementary School Social Studies
  • FSA 437 - Assessment of Learners with Diverse Needs
  • FSA 479* - Social Curriculum and Behavioral Support (register for 1 section plus the associated lab)
  • LIT 372 - Teaching Elementary School Reading and Language Arts II

* includes 75 field hours that are shared between all five courses; the associated lab section allows all block courses to make up hours of class time that would otherwise be lost during the immersion weeks.

Both block semesters use an immersion model, meaning you will be placed full-time in a school for at least 16 days. Additional “lab” classes, both during and before immersion, allow the affected courses to make up the hours in the college classroom that would be missed during the immersion.

Block semesters consist of 15 credit hours of coursework. Although a maximum of 18 hours is allowable in a semester, the scheduling of the immersion experience makes it quite challenging to include a sixth course. Block semesters are also fairly demanding in general, so it is not advisable to add a course, even when possible. If for any reason, one more course is necessary to complete the program, consider looking at summer or winter options.

Block students are placed in PDS partner schools. Our goal is to give every candidate a variety of experiences during their two block semesters. Each candidate should have one of their immersion experiences in an urban classroom, as well as having at least one placement in a classroom that serves a student with an IEP.


Before student teaching, IEC majors must complete three workshops: CARR, SAVE and DASA. These are all offered on our campus, and candidates can register for them just like registering for a course. Even though the workshops are required, they carry no college credit. Each workshop is a one-session experience, and the SUNY Cortland versions are scheduled on weekends. SUNY Cortland’s DASA workshop also includes an online component that precedes the face-to-face meeting. You may choose to complete any of the workshops elsewhere, but if you do not take them at SUNY Cortland, you must have an official transcript sent to the Registrar's Office, as the workshops are a program requirement. These workshops must be paid for. The prices at Cortland are: CARR ($35.00), SAVE ($35.00) and DASA ($100.00). If you register for a workshop on campus, the cost is automatically folded into your tuition payment. For more information, visit the Mandated Workshops page.

Certification Tests

Descriptions of NY State certification tests, prep materials, info about registration, etc. are all available at the New York State Teacher Certification Exam website.

Candidates must pass all the exams listed below to become certified. You can retake most of the exams as often as desired, although you must pay the fee again.

Some vouchers for certification exams may be available to reduce cost for students experiencing significant financial hardship; check with the Associate Dean.

All the tests are timed assessments offered in a computer format only. Memorial Library on our campus is one of the sites where the tests are offered.

Educating All Students (EAS)

The EAS includes content about diverse students, students with disabilities, and English language learners.

Two Content Specialty Tests (CSTs)

  1. Multi-subject: Teachers of Childhood (#221, 222 and 245): A content knowledge test in three areas: Literacy and English Language Arts, Mathematics, and Arts and Sciences. Each part can be taken separately or you can take them all altogether. Note, taking them all at once is a little more than a 5-hour exam, but can be done if you wish.
  2. Students with Disabilities CST (#060): This is a test based on different disabilities, appropriate services and special education law.

IEC Student Teaching

To be eligible for student teaching, a candidate must be in good academic standing, have no incompletes, completed all prerequisite education courses (FSA 103, 212, 340 and all Block courses), an overall Cortland GPA of 2.8, and have no grade lower than a C in required education courses. You should also have completed two-thirds of the coursework in your concentration (21 credit hours).

Student teaching consists of two placements, one for seven weeks and the other for eight. You should register for FSA 493: Student Teaching as a Special Educator, FSA 494: Student Teaching as a Childhood Educator, and FSA 495: Student Teaching Seminar. Our student teaching supervisors are all certified educators in NY State, and typically you will have one supervisor for both student teaching experiences. Because IEC is a dual certification program, both certification areas are addressed during student teaching. However, the placements might come in either order; FSA 493 does not have to precede FSA 494. Also, note that one of the placements will be at the grade 1-3 level, and the other at grade 4-6.

All teacher candidates are expected to follow the SUNY Cortland Student Teaching Calendar with respect to the beginning and ending dates of each quarter of student teaching (for student teaching placements in NYC-SUTEC and Queensland, Australia, students should consult and follow each applicable student teaching calendar schedule). Teacher candidates follow the public-school calendar and are expected to be present each day that the school is in session during the semester of student teaching.

Candidates may request certain kinds of settings, such as an urban classroom, an inclusive classroom, or a self-contained special education classroom. You may also request specific cooperating teachers or teaching teams. Please be aware that we cannot guarantee to accommodate such requests, but we do consider them.

Please note, student teachers are responsible for all expenses associated with their commute to the schools where they will student teach.  Currently we support student teaching in following regions:

Central New York

Student teachers can live in Cortland and commute to their schools, usually within a radius of up to an hour’s drive from Cortland. Candidates should know that their placement could very well be a 50 - 60 minutes drive from campus.


Student teachers can elect to student teach in the Rochester area.  At this time, students are only placed in districts east of the city of Rochester.

Rome/Utica/Oneida Areas

Student teachers can elect to student teach in these areas east of Syracuse.

New York City

Candidates can choose to apply to the SUNY Urban Teacher Education Center (SUTEC) to student teach in New York City. The Field Experiences and School Partnerships Office (FESP located in the Education Building 1105) facilitates this process. FESP typically schedules an informational meeting about student teaching in the city early in the semester, but candidates can always make an appointment to discuss their interests.  Securing housing is the responsibility of the student teacher.  You may contact SUTEC directly about housing options and they will assist in providing information.

Long Island

Candidates can elect to student teach in Suffolk County or Southeast Nassau County.  Students may be placed in one school district for both placements or two different school districts.  Students may need to travel up to 50 - 55 minutes to their assigned placement.

FSA Writing Handbook

This handbook is intended to describe the approach to writing adopted by the FSA Department at SUNY Cortland. In this handbook, we will describe our beliefs about writing; the kinds of writing assignments that you might have as a student in the Inclusive Childhood Education (IEC) major and FSA undergraduate course offerings; and offer suggestions that we believe can help to improve your writing

Why writing is important as future teachers

Faculty in the FSA Department believe that writing is important because writing is an important part of teaching. To be a teacher is to be a writer. You will communicate with children and families through your writing. You will advocate for the needs of all children and for justice and equity through your writing. You will express your thoughts about what you teach, how you teach, and why you teach through your writing. With these beliefs about teaching and writing, faculty in FSA believe it is important to help you develop your writing in order to communicate effectively and passionately with the broader world. 

Reflective Writing

You may be asked to do reflective writing assignments as an IEC major. Learning how to reflect on your observations, on assignments, on readings or engagements with other media is an important skill to develop as a teacher. Some reasons that FSA faculty may assign reflective writing assignments are:

  1. Reflection helps us to remember what happens in a busy teaching day so important moments and ideas don’t slip away. 
  2. Reflective writing can help us to re-evaluate our perspectives and our teaching, to consider alternatives, to move in a new direction with our thinking and teaching.
  3. Reflective writing is a way to think deeply about what we observe, experience, and think.
  4. Reflective writing can be a bridge between experiences you are having in schools and classrooms and the coursework at SUNY Cortland. Acting upon and implementing your reflections are key tools for improving your practice as a teacher/teacher candidate. 

Professional Writing

As an Inclusive Educator, some of your major responsibilities will be created and communicated through professional writing. Some kinds of professional writing that every teacher learns to do are lesson planning and communicating with parents and colleagues. IEC majors will also learn how to write IEP goals and behavior plans. 

Scholarly Writing

An argument or perspective is established through the use of literature, especially peer reviewed sources. This kind of writing requires the use of a bibliography/reference list and appropriate citations. In the field of education, citations typically use the American Psychological Association (APA) format. Scholarly writing requires the use of formal and precise language, and avoids the use of slang. Your scholarly writing will rely primarily on research as support for assertions rather than personal opinion. 

Main types of writing assignments that IEC Majors can expect

Reflection Papers

Good reflection papers are not a simple recounting of events or summary of course materials. Do not simply report what happens day to day. An excellent reflection entry will often have the following three parts:

  1. Reporting on things you have observed or learned - As you report on your day, you will rely on two main sources of the information: (a) your direct observations of classroom events, and (b) conversations with your host teacher, students, and others at the partner school. It is a good idea to make it clear whether you are presenting your observations or reporting on a conversation.
  2. Making connections - Connections can take many forms. Look for connections to your personal experiences growing up in schools, other placements or experiences working with kids, and readings from this semester. You may also find and notice connections between courses (e.g., when you are in Block 1 and 2) or other coursework.
  3. Analysis and/or reflection - Analysis is writing from the head. It means finding or explaining a pattern, or talking about how different things you have written about in your reflection might fit together. Reflection is writing from the heart. It means careful consideration and questioning of a topic in light of your feelings and values.

Analysis Papers

Analysis Papers are a type of writing where you try to make some sense of what the material(s) are about. It is not a summary nor is it a review as in “I liked or didn’t like such and such.” Instead try to think about why the author argues as he or she does. What can be gained from what the author has to say? What did you learn from reading this text? How did or might the author’s experiences and/or perspectives influence your own practice and thinking about teaching from an inclusive and multicultural perspective?

Analysis papers should draw connections between readings. If you choose to disagree with what you have read, include the evidence upon which your disagreement is based. If you choose to agree with a text, apply one of its ideas in explaining some aspect of your world or life. 

Analytical writing relies on a clear structure: Point, Example, Explain! If each body paragraph - those that go between the introduction to and conclusion of your analysis - has a clear topic sentence (“point”), and is supported by evidence (“example”) and analysis (“explain”) that ties the evidence back to your thesis overall, you can’t go wrong!

Don’t make vague references to texts by referring to pages or chapters (i.e., “I agree with what the author says in chapter two...”). Make your connections specific and concrete, so any reader can read your entry and understand your points.

Reaction Papers

One other kind of writing that you might be asked to do is a reaction paper, which is a particular kind of paper where you are expected to respond to a particular text. It combines analysis and personal response.

The following guidelines for reaction papers are taken directly from The Exceptional Teacher: Transforming Traditional Teaching through Thoughtful Practice, E Aaronsohn (2003) San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, pp. 250-253.

Reaction papers are different from other writing. Their intent is to allow you to become a more active reader. They capture your own thoughts as you read, encouraging you to explore your own insights into the reading. A reaction paper invites you to ask the questions that take you deeper into the text. Reaction papers will also provide you with ideas and questions that you can bring up in class.

What a reaction paper isn’t:

It is not a traditional summary or “book report” of the reading. It is not note taking on “important facts” for a test. It is not simply agreeing or disagreeing with certain points the authors make. But this is not about censoring your reactions. If the writer’s viewpoint makes you feel uncomfortable, say that, and say exactly why! You’re not in debate with the author, not out to win or defend your position; you are in the process of figuring out why you think what you think. Being in collision over ways of seeing is a good way to examine that. Be open – not to swallowing whole whatever you read but to rethinking assumptions.

What a reaction paper is:

A reaction paper is the written word of a personal engagement with the text, of having really listened to both someone else and yourself. A reaction paper starts from thinking about what you already know about what the writer is talking about, from your own personal direct experiences with learning and teaching, in and out of school. It is a way to discover what you think.

To do these writings, it is necessary that you use the word “I.” Do not distance yourself from these readings. You don’t need to worry about saying something intelligent in these papers; you do need to let yourself be passionate, reflective, and thoughtful. Carefully reading the text is necessary (which means skimming is not enough) so that what comes through in the paper is your personal experience of reading the text.

Professional Assignments

IEP Writing Project

In FSA 437 (Assessment for Learners with Diverse Needs), you will learn how to develop Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) for students with disabilities using data from various assessments. As a part of an IEP, you will write Present Level of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance statements describing a student’s strengths and needs related to academic areas and functional skills. These description statements should not be based on your opinion but be based on the information gathered from formal and informal assessments. In this assignment, you will also develop appropriate annual goals for a student based on the student’s academic and social needs. In order to write the most meaningful annual goals for the student, you should include multiple elements of IEP goals that are discussed in class: context, success criterion, evaluation plans, specific performance, and supports for generalization or maintenance. An IEP is a legal document for providing students identified as having a disability with appropriate education and services. You're writing in this document should be formal rather than personal. You will refer to official disability categories from the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) and use other specialized educational language related to assessment results and student services.

Lesson Plan Writing 

Throughout the program, teacher candidates will learn how to develop lesson plans. The lesson plan is a detailed step-by-step guide that outlines the teacher’s objectives for what students will accomplish during the course of a lesson and how they will learn it. Within our program, we utilize the FSA department’s lesson plan template that integrates the principles, guidelines, and checkpoints of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) in order to support access to learning for all students. The lesson plan template also includes key proficiencies, strategies and skills that are learned throughout the program, including pre-planning preparation, objectives, activities, assessments, co-teaching models, grouping strategies, specific adaptations, and materials that should be used to support and assess your students’ knowledge of content and standards.

Writing about disability

In FSA, we tend to utilize person-first language when writing about people with disabilities. In part because the language used to describe individuals with disabilities (most often their disability label and/or special needs etc.) has been used to define the individual with a disability as inherently different. Person first language provides a framework for describing what a person with a disability has or is labeled with, as opposed to defining what a person is.

Although our program tends to prefer the use of person first language, there is debate within the disability community about language preference. Many individuals with the disability community may prefer identity first language (i.e. Autistic person, Deaf person etc.).  Since many people with disabilities see and understand their disability as an inherent aspect of their identity and are trying to reinscribe disability as having inherent value and worth. Nevertheless, within our program, unless the individual with the disability themselves prefers identity first, please use person-first language when writing.

Examples and rationale for person-first language

  • Say people with disabilities instead of the disabled or handicapped. Place emphasis on the person.
  • Say people/students with disabilities instead of Normal / Healthy / General Education / Typical. These words (e.g., abnormal, unhealthy, atypical) assume the opposite for students with disabilities.
  • Say Ella, the fourth-grade student instead of Ella, the student with down syndrome. Omit the label whenever possible; it is most often not relevant or helpful.
  • Say Communicates with her eyes/ device, and so forth instead of Is nonverbal. Focus on strengths.
  • Say Use a wheelchair instead of Is confined to a wheelchair. Use possessive language to refer to assistance technologies; the non-preferred language implies the person is “stuck.”
  • Say Accessible parking spot instead of Handicapped parking spot. Accurate representation.
  • Say Beth has autism instead of Beth is autistic. Emphasize that disability is one attribute—not a singular defining characteristic.
  • Say Ben receives special education services instead of Ben is in special education. Special education is a service, not a place.
  • Say The student who is blind instead of The blind student. Place the person before the disability
  • Say Dennis writes using the computer instead of Dennis can’t write with a pencil. Focus on strengths.
  • Say Needs a magnifier, laptop or cane instead of Problems with vision; can’t write or walk. Focus on needs, not problems.

How to Write Well as an IEC student:

College students often say, “I don’t know how to write, because each professor wants something different. It’s too hard to learn how to write for each one.” Faculty in FSA do sometimes have different goals for assignments, and different lengths or requirements about the number and kind of sources to use. However, there are certain rules and guidelines that are important for high quality writing across the board, whether you are writing for a professor, to communicate with colleagues or parents, or as you take your certification exams. In this FSA Writing Handbook, we refer to these guidelines as writing mechanics.

In the next section, we provide some online resources you can use to improve writing mechanics. You can use this section as a review, or your FSA professor might guide you to these resources to address an issue or concern in your writing.

In order to use these online materials well, you have to do more than just watch the video. Here is an example of the ways that you can use this resource

  • If your professor indicates that you have issues with using the correct form of it’s/its, use the chart below to find that skill. 
  • Then look in the Video Resource Column and click on the link to access the video. 
  • Next, use the link in the Practice the Skill to get some experience applying what you have learned. 
  • Finally, return to the writing assignment that you are working on and see if you can determine how to correctly use its/it’s.

Writing Mechanics

Using commas

Video Resource: using commas  | Practice the Skill: using commas


Video Resource: apostrophe  | Practice the Skill: apostrophe

Difference between its and it’s

Video Resource: its and it's  | Practice the Skill: its and it's (PDF)

Sentence fragments

Video Resource: sentence fragments  | Practice the Skill: sentence fragments

Run-on Sentences

Video Resource: run-on sentences  | Practice the Skill: run-on sentences


Video Resource: semicolons  | Practice the Skill: semicolons

Passive Voice

Video Resource: passive voice  | Practice the Skill: passive voice

Consistency in verb tense

Video Resource: consistency in verb tense  | Practice the Skill: consistency in verb tense

Getting feedback about your writing

In this next section, we outline the process for you to follow when you receive feedback from a professor about your writing. If you don’t understand or agree with the feedback, consider the following: 

  1. Make sure that you have read through the feedback from your professor. It’s a good idea to read through this several times. Highlight or make a list of the parts that you don’t understand or agree with. It might be helpful to talk about your feedback with someone you trust. Another good strategy is to take your feedback to the Writing Center. 
  2. Is there a rubric? If there is, make sure that you check to see what parts of the rubric you lost points in and if this description helps to clarify the feedback.
  3. If you still don’t understand the comments or feel the grade is unfair or unclear, you should contact the professor during office hours. Bring with you to the office hours your paper, the feedback from your professor, and a clear list of the questions you have and the areas that you would like explained. 
  4. During the conversation, make sure that you understand what you need to do in order to either revise this paper or to avoid the same mistakes in the future. You may want to write down a few ideas you understand from the meeting and check them with your professor before you leave. For instance, do you need to address mechanics (see section 2), logic (see section 1a) or professional language (see part IV)?


Your computer has built-in accessibility features. Whether you are using a Mac or a PC, you’ll find some very useful (and free) accessibility features that are built right in. On your Mac, click on the apple, then click System Preferences, then Accessibility. Learn more about Mac accessibility.

On your PC, most Ease of Access options are available in Settings. Select the Start button, then select Settings > Ease of Access. Commonly used options are also available from the sign-in screen. Select the Ease of Access button in the lower-right corner to see them. Learn more about PC accessibility.

Assistive Technology for Reading and Writing

All SUNY Cortland students have access to the reading and writing software described below.


Read&Write is a suite of reading, writing, and study tools that appear in a toolbar on your screen. It includes a text-to-speech app that will read your textbooks aloud to you while highlighting each word on the screen. All SUNY Cortland students may download and install Read&Write on their own Mac or Windows computers.

Text-to-Speech Mobile Apps

These free or low-cost apps will read your e-text aloud to you on your tablet or phone.


  • Speak Selection Built into iOS
  • Voice Dream for iOS
  • Prizmo for iOS will allow you to take a photo of a document, recognize it as text, and have your device read it aloud.



You may have text-to-speech software read your exams aloud to you. You may schedule your exams with this accommodation through the Test Administration Scheduling System. More information about receiving equal access on your exams may be found on our Test Accommodations page.

Free Accessible E-text

Bookshare has a wide catalog of hundreds of thousands of popular books available for download in a variety of accessible formats. It also offers apps and computer voices you may use to listen to Bookshare books. The Office of Disability Services must verify your registration with SUNY Cortland for you to get a free membership from Bookshare.

Public domain books (old books out of copyright) are available for free from Project Gutenberg, Amazon, and Google Books. These are often accessible through text-to-speech software.

Please note that most ebooks will not work in text-to-speech software. This includes Google Books, Kindle, Nook, and most e-textbook formats. If you wish to purchase an accessible ebook, contact Jeremy Zhe-Heimerman, Assistant Director for assistance [zhej@cortland.edu].

Dragon Naturally Speaking

Dragon Naturally Speaking is a speech-to-text software program that you can purchase independently. Dragon transcribes your spoken words into text faster than typing, with up to 99% recognition accuracy. It allows you to dictate homework assignments, send email, surf the web and more—by voice. There are several versions available, ranging in price from about $30 to $200.

Disability Resource Office

The Disability Resources Office leads SUNY Cortland’s commitment to create a diverse, accessible, and socially just community that welcomes all students, whether or not they identify as disabled. 

SUNY Cortland offers a variety of technologies that help students process information in the classroom, take notes, and study from them later. Note-taking tools may be useful for students who have difficulty with attention, processing speed, or handwriting.

The Disability Resource Office has also compiled resources and suggestions for students who use accessible readings.

Campus Resources to Improve Writing

Here are some important resources that you should know about when you are trying to improve your writing:

SUNY Cortland Writing Center

At the Cortland Writing Center, we believe writing is a process of invention, drafting, and revision that happens in sometimes linear, sometimes circular ways. We recognize that each individual approaches this process differently, and we value those differences and strive to work with them — helping writers develop their own abilities in ways that help them succeed. We also believe that, while every writer is an individual, writing does not take place in isolation; we value the benefits that conversation, feedback, and collaboration can have for the writing process.

Whether brainstorming for an essay, negotiating new and different rhetorical situations and genre expectations, or just looking for a new perspective about a piece of writing, our writing consultants are happy to talk with any writer about any writing at any stage of the process. Ultimately, our goal at the Writing Center is to provide a supportive, comfortable, and safe environment where, through thoughtful response and facilitation, we help writers develop as they develop their writing.

The Writing Center is located in Brockway Hall and you can make an appointment on their website using the link above.


What is ASAP?

  • Academic Support and Achievement Program (ASAP) provides tutoring and other academic support programs to undergraduate and graduate students.
  • ASAP will help you discover your learning preferences and build successful academic behaviors. Students who regularly use our services tend to show increased academic confidence, stronger learning skills, and improvement in coursework.
  • We welcome students of all ability and achievement levels to use our free services.
  • Professional tutors coordinate and supervise all peer-led programs.
  • SUNY Cortland students can access free Read&Write software to support reading and writing skills.