Schools across the country are continuing to look for qualified special education teachers, with many states broadening their search to include out-of-state candidates as a broadly-distributed shortage continues.
Data from the National Center for Education Statistics maintains that there are over 6 million children and youth across the country enrolled in special education programs each year. At the same time, the Department of Education has announced a shortage of qualified special education teachers. According to John Merbler, chairman for the Department of Special Education at Teachers College, the position has been considered an area of critical shortage for the last 20 to 30 years.
Merbler added that students who choose to major in special education typically do so as a result of having personal experience with the subject, such as having a friend at school or a sibling who has a disability, writes Raymond Garcia for Ball State Daily.
However, the National Coalition on Personnel Shortages in Special Education and Related Services notes the difficulties faced by those who choose this profession, which they say has caused a high turnover rate among these educators.
In an effort to handle the shortage, schools are forced to hire individuals who are under-certified and inexperienced. According to the National Coalition on Personnel Shortages in Special Education and Related Services, almost every state reported a shortage for the 2013-14 school year. At the same time, 82% of special education teachers said they were under-certified.
These teachers have been found to be more likely to leave the profession early on after being inundated with extra paperwork, not enough professional support and reported feelings of isolation from other teachers, reports Alisha Kirby for The Cabinet Report.
The nonprofit Lee Pesky Learning Center, working through a partnership with Boise State University, is hoping to help end the shortage by training special education teachers who are prepared to meet the challenges that come with the position. The new training program allows college graduates the opportunity to spend a year working at the Center, which focuses on offering one-on-one help to students with disabilities after the school day. At the same time, graduates can take classes and earn a master's in teaching through Boise State.
The program, called the Special Education Collaborative, will be covered through a scholarship from the founders of the Center, Alan and Wendy Pesky. There are currently two students enrolled in the program with hopes to expand over the next few years to allow for up to 10 participants, reports Lee Hale for NPR.
Merbler noted that children with severe behavioral issues or those who are physically abusive can be challenging for teachers and require individual instruction.
"You will be scratched, bit, slapped, and yelled at numerous times, however, you will also learn to love when love seems impossible," said Tara Alves, a sophomore special education major. "Your view of the world will be changed forever."
Alves added that while general education is structured, special education is individualized, with every student having an individual education program.