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Focusing on Special Education Teacher Retention May Help Address the Teacher Shortage

In tackling the persistent staffing crisis in special education within public schools, attention must shift from merely recruiting and training new teachers to the critical task of retaining those already in the field. With special education reporting higher levels of staff shortages compared to other teaching areas, innovative solutions are imperative. Some districts are exploring higher pay incentives tailored for special education teachers acknowledging the unique demands of the role. Meanwhile, states and districts are implementing programs like grow-your-own initiatives and teacher apprenticeships, which provide candidates with practical experience and credentials while preparing them for the complexities of special education. Additionally, administrators are combatting workplace isolation and burnout among special education teachers by investing in professional development and soliciting regular feedback, fostering a supportive environment crucial for teacher retention and student success. By addressing retention alongside recruitment and training, public education can work towards a more sustainable and effective special education system, benefiting teachers and students alike.

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Twenty-one percent of public schools reported that they were not fully staffed in special education at the start of the 2023-24 school year, higher levels of reported shortages than for any other teaching specialty, federal data show. And about 8 percent of teachers who work with children who qualify for services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act are not fully certified.