In April, through the 2019 Symposia Series — Effective Personnel for ALL: Attract, Prepare, Retain, the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) kicked off a focused effort to support States in their work to address personnel shortages. The Series focused on three critical areas: attracting new personnel to the field, preparing them for a successful career, and retaining them longer term. It explored what we know from existing evidence and established best practices, as well as innovative approaches across the country that are making a difference. If you have not been able to participate in this year’s Symposia Series, we invite you to view the archived events at the Virtual Symposia Series webpage.
OSEP also continues to engage in a variety of activities designed to support States in addressing personnel shortages, including working with OSEP-funded national centers on providing technical assistance to support States’ efforts to attract, prepare and retain an effective education workforce. OSEP is also working with relevant stakeholders, including researchers, national organizations, and practitioners, to synthesize and share innovative solutions that are making a difference in assisting States in their efforts to build and sustain a strong, effective educator workforce with the knowledge and skills needed to provide the quality education each child deserves.
This blog is meant to further these efforts by soliciting your feedback. We invite you to share your thoughts on how we can best support States in their work to Attract, Prepare, and Retain Effective Personnel. Sharing your challenges and successes can make a difference for others facing similar challenges.
Although we will not respond to individual comments on the blog, OSEP values your feedback and will give careful consideration to all the input we receive. Submitting comments is voluntary and subject to ED blog comment policies.
Blog comments close September 30, 2019.
Blog articles provide insights on the activities of schools, programs, grantees, and other education stakeholders to promote continuing discussion of educational innovation and reform. Articles do not endorse any educational product, service, curriculum or pedagogy.
September 30, 2019
Director, Office of Special Education Programs
U.S. Department of Education
Comment posted to blog: Effective Personnel for ALL: Attract, Prepare, Retain
On behalf of the National Center Center for Learning Disabilities, I am writing to commend the U.S. Department of Education for its attention to our nation’s teacher shortage crisis and to offer recommendations for consideration. NCLD represents and works to improve the lives of the 1 in 5 individuals with learning and attention issues, which are brain-based difficulties that include challenges include trouble with reading, writing, math, organization, concentration, listening comprehension, social skills, motor skills or a combination of these. These students are in every classroom across the country and general education teachers should enter the classroom prepared to meet their needs, as 70% of students with specific learning disabilities and attention issues spend the majority of their time in general education classrooms.
Not only is nearly every state suffering from a teacher shortage, but enrollment in teacher preparation programs is on the decline and some states are turning to lower certification and preparation standards as a way to minimize the shortage. On top of this, recent research shows that educators who are already in the classroom feel underprepared. NCLD and Understood recently released Forward Together, a report highlighting the experiences and insights of general education teachers. From focus groups and surveys, we found that only 17% of general education teachers feel very well prepared to teach students with disabilities in their classrooms. Only 30% feel strongly that when they try their best they can successfully serve students with learning and attention issues. And half of teachers don’t feel strongly that students with disabilities can achieve grade-level standards. These findings signal a troubling trend in the educator workforce: teachers feel underprepared to serve students with disabilities, and many enter the classroom with a negative mindset about what students with disabilities can achieve.
Teachers entering the classroom should be prepared to support students with disabilities by using evidence-based strategies in the areas of multi-tier systems of support (MTSS), positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS), and universal design for learning (UDL). However, according to our recent report, most teachers cited “on-the-job training and trial-and-error learning” as how they learned to teach students with disabilities. As many as one-third of teachers have not participated in professional development on teaching students with disabilities and of those who have, most believe it was not effective. Perhaps most importantly, one-third of educators do not believe that inclusion benefits students.
There is significant need to reform the teacher preparation and licensing system, to change both the skills and mindsets educators enter the classroom with. At the same time, there is a serious need to ensure that districts and schools have the resources to provide high-quality professional development to their general and special educators. Therefore, NCLD encourages OSEP to continue its strong leadership by a sustained focus on ensuring well-prepared, qualified personnel enter the classroom and have adequate resources to effectively support students with disabilities.
● Monitor states and enforce the requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) (under 20.U.S.C. Sec. 1453 (b)(6)) and 20 U.S.C. Sec. 1412) to ensure that states continue to hold high standards for educator preparation and licensure.
● Continue to increase the Department’s investment in programs that provide professional development and other supports to educators and programs that serve students with disabilities by increasing the Department’s annual budget for all of IDEA’s programs, including the Personnel Preparation program, and the Every Student Succeeds Act’s Title I, II, and Title IV programs.
● Continue to invest in technical assistance and resource development through existing centers such as the Center on Great Teachers and Leaders and develop priorities within existing centers to focus specifically on preparing educators to serve students with disabilities.
● Promote and support TEACH grants and loan forgiveness programs including the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program through activities such as public awareness campaigns and to actively engage in recruiting teacher candidates as important recruitment and retention strategies for prospective special education teachers.
● Provide opportunities that will incentivize states to raise the bar on teacher preparation and credentialing, such as through a competitive grant program or other opportunities for districts and states to develop meaningful partnerships with institutions of higher education and encourage teacher candidates to pursue dual-certification programs, residency programs, or other high-quality learning opportunities.
We are pleased to see the issue of teacher shortages and teacher quality receive such attention from the Office of Special Education Programs and we look forward to next steps. We are eager to work with the Department of Education to ensure concrete actions are taken to move the field forward on this critical priority. If you have any questions or would like to discuss these matters further, please feel free to contact me at the email address provided.
Meghan C. Whittaker
Director of Policy & Advocacy
National Center for Learning Disabilities
The Children’s Equity Project (CEP) is a research-to-policy and practice initiative housed at Arizona State University. It is led by a team of researchers from universities across the US including Yale, Metro State University-Denver, Vanderbilt University, Georgetown University, NORC at University of Chicago, University of Oregon, and University of Miami, and others. The goal of the CEP is to close opportunity gaps to ensure that all children have a positive start to life that sets them up for lifelong health, wellness, and success.
We appreciate OSEP’s attention and effort to the critical shortage of special educators. While the child population is becoming increasingly diverse, the teacher workforce remains overwhelmingly homogenous, comprised of majority White women teachers and even more so for special educators. Additionally, men educators represent approximately 23 percent of general educators and just 14 percent of special educators. Black and Brown teachers only represent 16 percent of the educator workforce and just over 17 percent of the special educator workforce. More than 40% of U.S. public schools have no teachers of color at all. Even more alarming is the low representation of Black men teachers in the educator workforce at just 2 percent nationally. While there are nationwide shortages in special educators, some communities are experiencing a much more severe shortage. For example, the special education teacher shortage is 90 percent in high poverty schools compared to 51 percent in all other schools. In addition to the importance of considering recruitment and retention strategies in general, we think it is critical to consider, and identify strategies that specifically address the shortage of special educators of color in the system. The CEP recommends that OSEP:
1. Raise awareness of the shortage of special educators of color and affirm the importance of highly qualified personnel from all backgrounds. OSEP can solicit public comment on this issue alone, host a series of listening sessions or round tables in communities of color and at minority serving institutions (MSI), including Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges and Hispanic Serving Institutions, allot time to this issue at their conferences, and prioritize addressing this urgent need through technical assistance and research priorities. It is important that children of color have access to teachers of color. Research shows that when there is a teacher-child race/ethnicity match, they are represented in fewer numbers in special education, there is a decrease in absenteeism, and parents and students are more involved in school activities. Also, there is evidence that teachers competent in students’ cultural backgrounds may hold students to higher expectations and more effectively provide culturally sustaining instruction.
2. Encourage states to partner with MSIs on their personnel preparation grants to identify barriers and solutions for diversifying the special educator pipeline, and to be at the policy making table in deciding state IDEA related policies. Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) have been shown to use holistic approaches when selecting preservice teacher candidates, including reaching out to students in high school to introduce them to the teaching profession and developing pipeline programs within their colleges and schools. Additionally, evidence shows that while HBCUs make up only three percent of the nation’s colleges and universities, HBCUs prepare 50 percent of the nation’s Black teachers.
3. Highlight, invest in and encourage states to develop pipeline programs for paraprofessionals to become special educators. Today, about one in four children in the United States speak a language other than English at home; whereas about one in eight teachers speak a language other than English at home. This is a significant difference that can affect access and quality of services young children receive. Considering paraprofessionals, one in five speak a non-English language at home. Paraprofessionals are an untapped resource in education more broadly, and particularly in special education. With that said, the vast majority of the states do not have certification/licensure systems for paraeducators. A 2004 study showed that approximately 290,000 paraprofessionals provide services to children and youth with disabilities or other special needs, ages 3-21, and are employed in inclusive general and special education programs, self-contained and resource rooms, transition services, and early childhood settings. While some states and communities have launched “grow your own” efforts to prepare both the teacher aide workforce and the paraprofessional workforce, a more national effort is warranted. OSEP should partner with DOL, higher education, and other relevant partners to explore initiatives that can increase continued education and licensure opportunities for paraprofessionals.
4. Request fully funding IDEA and to increase funding for Personnel Preparation grants in the President’s FY 2021 Budget proposal. As you know, in FY2019 the amount appropriated for Part B accounted for approximately 14.3% of the national average per-pupil expenditure (APPE), less than half of the 40% full funding level. The significant underfunding of IDEA does not give the impression that the system, the profession, and the children that they serve, matter to those making budgetary decisions. More children need services, and children currently receiving services need more services. Fully funding the program and increasing funding for personnel preparation will help with recruitment and retention.
5. Learn from and raise awareness of promising models of recruitment and retention of teachers of color, such as Clemson’s Call Me Mister program, American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education’s (AACTE) Networked Improvement Community (NIC), and urban teacher residency programs. While these programs are not specifically focused on diversifying the special educator workforce, they have proven effective at increasing educators of color. OSEP should investigate the strategies employed through these models and share these best practices via their TA centers with other states and communities.
• Call Me Mister (Mentors Instructing Students Toward Effective Role Models) is an initiative to diversify the teacher educator pipeline from more diverse backgrounds. The primary mission of the program founded in 2000 was originally developed in collaboration with three HBCUs to address the significant shortage of Black men educators. Since 2004, over 90% of the 221 fully certified graduates completing the program have remained as teachers in a public school classroom. Five teachers have been awarded teacher of the year. Student candidates are largely selected from economically distressed communities. The initiative offers incentives such as tuition assistance through loan forgiveness, academic support, and mentorship. https://www.clemson.edu/education/research/programs/callmemister/
• NIC is a learning community that help colleges and universities identify successful strategies for recruiting Black and Latinx men into the teacher educator pipeline. The goal of the NIC is to help institutions identify successful strategies for increasing the number of Black and Latinx men receiving initial teaching certification through educator preparation programs.
• Urban residency programs are teacher training programs that target teacher placement in urban high need schools. These programs offer financial incentives such as stipends and tuition assistance, field experience, and job placement assistance.
We appreciate the opportunity to provide public comment on this critical issue and appreciate your attention and efforts to recruit and retain the special educator workforce. We hope you will consider funding, policies, technical assistance, and awareness building efforts that will increase the recruitment and retention of all special educators, but especially special educators of color and men special educators, given their significant under-representation.
Shantel Meek, PhD, Founding Director, The Children’s Equity Project, Arizona
Evandra Catherine, PhD, Postdoctoral Scholar, The Children’s Equity Project,
Arizona State University
Rosemarie Allen, PhD, CEO Center for Racial Equity and Excellence, The
Children’s Equity Project Partner
Lisa Gordon, Associate Director of Early Childhood Programs, Bank Street
College of Education, The Children’s Equity Project Partner
Camille Smith, EdD, Developmental Psychologist, The Children’s Equity
Veronica Fernandez, PhD, Research Scientist, University of Miami, The
Children’s Equity Project Partner
Mary Louise Hemmeter, PhD, Professor, Vanderbilt University, The
Children’s Equity Project Partner
Elizabeth Ricks, PhD, Assistant Professor, Howard University, The Children’s
Equity Project Partner
Natalie Wilkinson, PhD, Associate Professor, The Children’s Equity Project,
Arizona State University
Hakim Rashid, PhD, Professor, Howard University, The Children’s Equity
Dawn Yazzie, Southwest Human Development Center, The Children’s Equity
Laura Hanish, PhD, Professor, The Children’s Equity Project Partner, Arizona
U.S. Department of Education
Office of Special Education Programs
Via blog comment “Effective Personnel for ALL: Attract, Prepare, Retain”
Our nation is confronting multiple teacher shortages. Special Education is the field with the greatest shortage, leaving states and districts struggling to fill vacancies with qualified well-prepared teachers. Too often those with little to no preparation are serving our students with disabilities who need highly skilled professionals with research-based skills. We know that fully prepared teachers will remain in the classroom long after those with little to no preparation have left. We applaud the Office of Special Education for highlighting this challenge and seeking effective solutions.
The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) is comprised of over 750 schools and colleges of education around the country which work daily to fully prepare our nation’s next generation of educators. We offer our full partnership in your “Attract, Prepare, and Retain Effective Personnel” initiative. AACTE has worked collaboratively with the CEEDAR Center to generate resources that will contribute to your leadership in this area. These include:
• Special Education Tenets of Clinical Practice
• Research to Practice videos highlighting dual certification programs (special education and general education) with extensive clinical preparation at Bowling Green State University and Portland State University
• Reducing the Shortage of Special Education Teachers Networked Improvement Community
AACTE is also working hard on initiatives to diversify the educator profession. Our Holmes Program, which supports students of color in their doctoral programs, and, thus into higher education as teacher education faculty, is an effective strategy which impacts the enrollment of students of color in teacher preparation programs. Our Black and Hispanic/Latino Male Teachers Initiative also provides specific examples of effective work in diversifying the enrollment of teacher preparation programs.
There are multiple federal programs that address the challenge of the shortage of special education teachers. We urge you to strongly support these. Specifically:
• The Teacher Quality Partnership grants support one year residencies for those preparing to become teachers in high need fields, including special education. We urge you to recommend $100 million for this program in the President’s FY 2021 Budget Request.
• Personnel Preparation under IDEA supports the preparation of new special educators, including teachers and higher education faculty. We urge you to recommend $100 million for this program in the President’s FY 2021 Budget Request.
• TEACH grants are critical for teacher preparation programs in recruiting prospective special educators to enroll. We urge you to highlight the importance of this program and promote it broadly.
• Loan forgiveness programs for teachers, including the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program and the teacher loan forgiveness programs, are also critical recruitment and retention strategies. We urge you to highlight these programs as key for recruiting and retaining special educators.
Thank you for the opportunity to comment. We look forward to working with you on this critical challenge.
Lynn Gangone, Ed.D.
President and CEO
American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education
Thank you for the opportunity to share feedback from the National Down Syndrome Congress (NDSC) on how the U.S. Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) can best support states to attract, prepare, and retain effective personnel. NDSC supports the comments submitted by the Consortium for Citizen’s with Disabilities Education Task Force co-chairs on September 25, 2019. We agree that the issue of attracting and retaining effective teachers has a great deal to do with teacher preparation. Individuals who become educators do so to help their students. If they are worried about or frustrated by being inadequately prepared to do that job they will not want to enter or stay in the profession. NDSC is especially concerned about the need for states to ensure that teachers are prepared to educate ALL students, including students with Down syndrome and other intellectual or developmental disabilities, in the least restrictive environment. OSEP has funded important work that can support these teachers on various relevant topics, including Universal Design for Learning and accessible educational materials. OSEP has also funded centers like SWIFT, TIES and the National Center and State Collaborative (NCSC) that work on inclusion and progress in the general education curriculum–the latter two specifically focused on students with the most significant cognitive disabilities. It is critically important that this work continues to be funded and that states make use of all these resource to ensure that teachers are adequately prepared to use the best practices that are generated from these projects. We urge OSEP to do whatever is in its purview to encourage and incentivize states to scale up these best practices through teacher preparation and staff development. Another critical issue in attracting and retaining teachers is ensuring that their students have the supplementary aids and services they are supposed to be provided under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Too often students do not get these supports or the individuals providing them (e.g. aides, specialized instructional support personnel) have not been adequately prepared for their roles. Teachers who are adequately prepared and feel their students are properly supported will not experience the stress and burnout that are contributing to the teacher shortage. Thank you for considering the CCD and NDSC comments. If you have any questions please contact Ricki Sabia, NDSC Senior Education Policy Advisor.
ASHA is the national professional, scientific, and credentialing association for 204,000 members and affiliates who are audiologists; speech-language pathologists; speech, language, and hearing scientists; audiology and speech-language pathology support personnel; and students. Audiologists specialize in preventing and assessing hearing and balance disorders as well as providing audiologic treatment and devices (e.g., hearing aids). Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) identify, assess, and treat speech and language problems, including swallowing disorders. More than half of ASHA members SLPs are employed in educational settings. The services provided by ASHA members help ensure students receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE).
ASHA thanks OSERS for its leadership on the issue of effective personnel for all. A key component to promoting success for children and youth with disabilities includes ensuring that all educators (i.e., teachers and specialized instructional support personnel) have the professional expertise to address diverse academic, social-emotional, and developmental needs. ASHA recognizes the need to attract, prepare, and retain personnel in special education and appreciates OSEP’s efforts in this arena. ASHA members stand front and center in serving students in special education programs, as speech-language services are highly utilized by students with disabilities in schools. According to the U.S. Department of Education’s 2018 Annual Report to Congress (https://www2.ed.gov/about/reports/annual/osep/2018/parts-b-c/40th-arc-for-idea.pdf), speech or language impairments (42.6%) represent the most prevalent disability category of children ages 3 through 5 served under IDEA Part B. Additionally, speech or language impairment was the second or third most prevalent disability category for students ages 6 through 21 in every racial/ethnic group served under IDEA Part B.
ASHA’s participation in the 2019 OSEP symposia series on attracting, preparing, and retaining special education practitioners included the importance of a tiered approach to recruitment into the professions of audiology and speech-language pathology, which targets individuals in secondary and postsecondary educational settings as well as those already in the workforce. ASHA has a resource, Career Recruitment Tools pertaining to recruitment for the professions of audiology and speech language pathology.
ASHA is concerned that some states approach the issue of personnel shortage by lowering standards, even though IDEA requires states to use qualified personnel. State education agencies must establish and maintain qualifications to ensure the availability of appropriately and adequately prepared and trained personnel necessary to meet the needs of special education students and the requirements of IDEA (Sec. 300.156 Personnel qualifications). Those personnel must also possess the content knowledge and skills to serve children with disabilities and provide them access to the regular education curriculum. ASHA recommends that the U.S. Department of Education (ED) enforce state’s implementation of meaningful personnel development that carry out the spirit and intent of the law. Similarly, ASHA recommends that ED identify state initiatives (e.g., loan forgiveness programs, comprehensive professional development programming) that are aligned with OSEP’s efforts to ensure qualified personnel and disseminate such efforts as potential models that other states could replicate, as appropriate.
ASHA urges ED to make this initiative a priority and ensure ED’s budget proposals for the next fiscal year related to both IDEA and for student loan forgiveness programs under the Higher Education Act reflect the need for enhancing access to qualified providers in special education.
Thank you again for the opportunity to provide these comments.
Jaime Daley and Frank Livoy
University of Delaware Alternative Routes to Certification
The ARTC pathway for Special Ed certification has grown much in the past few years for a couple of reasons:
1. There have always been a number of talented SpEd Para-educators in our schools who needed an alternative route to certification but who were stymied by the Praxis I or Core test of reading, writing, and math. Since we were able to change DE regulations to bypass that test and recognize a bachelor’s degree, 30 credits in a core content area and a GPA of 3.0 as sufficient evidence of the ability to handle graduate course work in education, we have had a steady increase in qualified applicants from that pool of para-educators. They often bring first-hand knowledge of what secondary level special ed students need and the confidence of their administrators that they can continue to be an even stronger contributor to the school’s programs and culture. So, eliminating the artificial roadblock of Praxis Core was crucial to that influx.
2. With the increased need for special educators, some of our applicants who qualify in one of the 4 core content areas (English, math, science and social studies) also can qualify in special ed at the secondary level in one of those subjects. They must complete a preliminary module in special education to fully qualify to accept such a teaching position. The prospect of finding an opening in a special ed position is often stronger for them, and the likelihood of the school that hires them keeping them for a second and third year is also stronger. So job security in special ed tends to be stronger – assuming that the candidate performs satisfactorily those first few years.
On another note, quite often, those same candidates, once in the program, struggle with the financial demands of 5 graduate courses, 2 Praxis II exams, and a Performance Assessment. Even with the generous UD College of Education and Human Development Educators Scholarship that reduces tuition for each graduate course from over $5400 to $2200 and the State of DE’s Critical Need Scholarship that reimburses $1300 tuition to 2 courses each school year, several struggle to keep up with tuition payments and often have to go to extreme measures to borrow tuition money or sometimes get dropped from their current courses because of failure to meet payment deadlines. If the US DOE considers finding and preparing qualified special educators, I’d like to see them establish an up-front scholarship that would cover all tuition for all required courses, with the provision that each recipient commit to teaching in a special needs classroom while they are gaining certification and for 3 years thereafter or repay the tuition to the US DOE. This is not a new idea; we have administered such scholarships with the US and DE DOE funds in the past but have seen them disappear with shifting political agendas and budgeting dips. Even if the US or DE DOE would just co-sign a loan through a local bank or credit union, it would go a long way to make the path to certification in special ed less rocky.
September 26, 2019
U.S. Department of Education
Office of Special Education
Via email to: ED blog
Dear Director VanderPloeg:
The National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools (the Center) is dedicated to ensuring that students with disabilities have equal access to charter schools and that public charter schools are designed and operated to enable all students to succeed. The Center believes that the nearly 7,000 charter schools serving over 300,000 students with disabilities across 43 states and the District of Columbia, can create effective, inclusive learning environments and can be exemplars of educational equity, quality, and innovation.
As a leader and partner with state charter authorizers, charter networks, and charter schools across the U.S. and the leading national voice regarding educating students with disabilities in the charter sector, we offer input in response to your request regarding the Office of Special Education (OSEP) initiative to generate innovative solutions to assist States in their efforts to build and sustain a strong, effective educator workforce.
As OSEP knows, general educators are not adequately prepared to teach students with disabilities, which confounds school leaders and teachers as they strive to provide a free, appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment to students with disabilities. A recent report found that only 17% of general education teachers feel well-prepared to teach students with learning disabilities. Instead, most cited “on-the-job training and trial-and-error learning” as how they learned to teach students with disabilities. As many as one-third of teachers have not participated in professional development geared towards teaching students with disabilities. Of those who have, most believe it was not effective. Perhaps most importantly, the majority of educators are not convinced that students with disabilities can reach grade-level standards, and one-third do not believe that inclusion benefits students. (National Center for Learning Disabilities, 2019). Teachers and other providers need strong preparation in order to use evidence-based strategies which we know lead to better student outcomes.
We applaud your effort to support States in addressing personnel shortages and appreciate the opportunity to share our ideas and recommendations so that students with disabilities in charter schools have access to effective teachers. In that vein, we encourage you to:
1. Help and encourage States to increase outreach to charter systems, strengthen opportunities for collaboration and break down silos between general education and special education training and professional development. There is tremendous expertise and experience within and among charter systems that can support the professional learning of all teachers and school leaders. An example is the Strong Start Academy in Utah which was developed by the Utah State Board of Education (USBE) in response to the need to build school-level capacity. To address this pressing need, the USBE launched Strong Start Academy to assist schools to build effective and compliant special education programs through the expansion of district-level coaching and mentoring. The USBE initially designed the program to train and support new charter school special education directors and special education teachers but subsequently has opened the program to traditional public schools as well. (See: Promising Practices, Intersection of Rapid Charter School Growth and Increased Accountability for Special Education Prompts Action: The Utah Strong Start Academy) And, as we report through analyses of the Civil Rights Data Collection, “84.27 percent of students with disabilities in charter schools were educated in the general education classroom for 80 percent or more of the day compared to 68.09 percent of students with disabilities in traditional public schools.” (See: Key Trends in Special Education in Charter Schools: A Secondary Analysis of the Civil Rights Data Collection 2013-2014) A network of mentoring and coaching, encouraged by OSEP and provided by States could help general and special education teachers in charter and traditional public schools overcome the challenges that lead teachers to quit. OSEP can play an important role in proactively helping States build capacity.
2. Work with the Office of Post Secondary Education to ensure the highest quality programs are funded and offered to recruit and train high-quality general and special education teachers.
3. Fund Key Budget Line-Items and Invest in in Technical Assistance:
*Ensure the Department increases annual budget funding for all authorized programs under both the IDEA (e.g. Part D personnel preparation), the Every Student Succeeds Act (e.g. Title II and Title IV) and the Higher Education Act (e.g. Title II, Title IV) in order to address the shortage of special education faculty in higher education and to further incentivize institutions of higher education to promote the training of general education teachers to appropriately educate students with disabilities in the general education setting.
*Expand funding for technical assistance. For example, the Comprehensive Centers funded through the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education should be each include a priority to improve access to high quality training in evidence-based approaches to teaching/learning e.g. Multi-tier Systems of Support (MTSS), Positive Behavior and Support and Universal Design for Learning (UDL). Also, at ED’s Center on Great Teachers and Leaders, priorities should focus resources specifically on preparing educators to serve students with disabilities;
4. Provide opportunities that will incentivize States to raise the bar on teacher preparation and credentialing, such as through a competitive grant program or other opportunity for districts and states to develop meaningful partnerships with institutions of higher education and to encourage teacher candidates to pursue dual-certification programs, residency programs, or other high-quality learning opportunities; and
5. Promote and support TEACH grants and loan forgiveness programs including the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, through activities such as public awareness campaigns that actively engage in recruiting and retaining teacher candidates including prospective special education teachers.
We appreciate this opportunity to comment and look forward to continuing to work with OSEP.
Senior Policy Director
National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools
The Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) adds additional financial hardship for teachers. Schools that do not pay into social security are a complicit part of this ongoing taxation injustice. At the least, schools not paying into SS should be paying teachers more to help make up the deficit. The 7 years I was in teaching that did not pay into SS affects my entire lifetime of what I have paid into SS. Like many, I was not told upon hire SS would not be taken out, nor was I told what the repercussions would be from the WEP. People are better informed and unwilling to work for so little.
September 25, 2019
U.S. Department of Education
Office of Special Education
Via email to: ED blog comment policies
The CCD Education Task Force applauds the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) for prioritizing the teacher shortage problem. Indeed, many have characterized this as a national emergency.
CCD has become increasingly alarmed about the shortage of teachers, particularly special education teachers, as well as early intervention providers and specialized instructional support personnel. The shortage is troubling with nearly every state reporting one; the future does not look bright. Across the country there has been a 35% decline in enrollment in teacher education preparation programs in higher education between 2009 and 2014, the most recent years of data available (Learning Policy Institute, 2017). Too frequently states have responded to teacher shortages by lowering certification standards and allowing those with little to no preparation to teach our nation’s students with disabilities.
Teachers and other providers need strong preparation in order to use evidence-based strategies, such as how to provide multi-tiered systems of support, positive behavioral interventions and supports, and universal design for learning. These are not skills that are learned on the fly. There is a straight line between student outcomes and teacher and specialized instructional support personnel preparation. Unfortunately, few general educators feel adequately prepared, and it is evidenced in their mindsets and practices. A recent report found that only 17% of general education teachers feel well prepared to teach students with learning disabilities. Instead, most cited “on-the-job training and trial-and-error learning” as how they learned to teach students with disabilities. As many as one-third of teachers have not participated in professional development on teaching students with disabilities and of those who have, most believe it was not effective. Perhaps most importantly, the majority of educators are not convinced that students with disabilities can reach grade-level standards, and one-third do not believe that inclusion benefits students. (National Center for Learning Disabilities, 2019).
Our nation’s students and families deserve better. We cannot achieve the outcomes we all desire without a well-prepared workforce. We know that those educators who are fully prepared will stay in the classroom longer and have the skillset as well as the mindset to be effective. As a recently released report concluded: “Evidence shows that under-prepared, out-of-field, and substitute teachers typically depress student achievement and have higher attrition rates… Research has found that special education training significantly improves teachers’ capacity to effectively teach students with special needs.” (Learning Policy Institute, 2017).
A well-prepared workforce is far more than a matter supported by research; it is a requirement of law. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that students eligible for services under the law are taught by “qualified personnel.” (20.U.S.C. Sec. 1453 (b)(6)) It further prohibits anyone from serving as a teacher who does not have at least a bachelor’s degree. (20 U.S.C. Sec. 1412 (14)(C)(iii)) In addition, the U.S. Department of Education (the Department), in the state application for IDEA funds, requires states to assure that: “The State educational agency has established and maintains qualifications to ensure that personnel necessary to carry out this part are appropriately and adequately prepared and trained…” (20 U.S.C. Sec. 1412 (a)(14))
Therefore, the CCD Education Task Force urges OSEP to continue its leadership by sending the clear message to states and all involved in personnel preparation that only fully prepared qualified personnel should teach and support students with disabilities. We specifically urge OSEP to:
● Ensure that IDEA’s requirements are followed by states as they seek to recruit, train, and retain qualified teachers;
● Include increased funding for IDEA Personnel Preparation in the Administration’s FY 2021 Budget Request at the $100 million level;
● Ensure the Department does not eliminate and also seeks to increase funding for all authorized programs under the IDEA (Part D), the Higher Education Act (e.g. Title II) and the Every Student Succeeds Act (e.g. Title II and Title IV) in order to address the shortage and training of special education teachers;
● Continue to invest in technical assistance and resource development through existing centers such as the Center on Great Teachers and Leaders and develop priorities within existing centers to focus specifically on preparing educators to serve students with disabilities;
● Promote and support TEACH grants and loan forgiveness programs including the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program through activities such as public awareness campaigns and to actively engage in recruiting teacher candidates as important recruitment and retention strategies for prospective special education teachers;
● Provide opportunities that will incentivize states to raise the bar on teacher preparation and credentialing, such as through a competitive grant program or other opportunity for districts and states to develop meaningful partnerships with institutions of higher education and encourage teacher candidates to pursue dual-certification programs, residency programs, or other high-quality learning opportunities; and
● Coordinate efforts with the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education in their Teach to Lead initiative and other programs specifically targeting teachers to ensure each has access to the professional learning experiences that will strengthen their capacity to teach all students, including students with disabilities.
Our Task Force, comprised of approximately 50 national special education and disability organizations, is eager to learn more about OSEP’s next steps in this effort. We look forward to working with you.
On behalf of the CCD Education Task Force,
Annie Acosta: The Arc
Kim Musheno: Autism Society of America
Amanda Lowe: National Disability Rights Network
Meghan Whittaker: National Center for Learning Disabilities
Laura Kaloi: Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates & The National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools
CCD, headquartered in Washington DC, is the largest coalition of national organizations working together to advocate for federal public policy that ensures the self-determination, independence, empowerment, integration and inclusion of children and adults with disabilities in all aspects of society. Since 1973, CCD has advocated on behalf of people of all ages with physical and mental disabilities and their families. CCD has worked to achieve federal legislation and regulations that assure that the 54 million children and adults with disabilities are fully integrated into society.
I can totally understand the workload the personnel would have in any level, including state level. I would suggest an open calendar that is shared to state personnel on the tasks and items that have to be done with Due date. I will also make a separate column on the resources and contact person for support the task available to everyone at the same section. It helps to clarify the responsibilities and supporting network for better working efficiency and it also reminds people with deadlines so that people won’t spend time looking for deadlines for each task. Also, the salary/stipend needs to be competitive in order to keep the current personnel stay and attract more people. Just a thought, and I am open for other comments and reflections.
One way that we in Ohio have worked with students going into teacher education programs is to develop blended dual licensure programs. Although this is an intense task, the outcomes are amazing. Teachers are prepared to teach ALL or Each child when they exit their teacher education program. Our first graduating class of blended dual licensured candidates graduated 4 years ago. Superintendents, principals, can’t speak highly enough about the quality of their preparation. They can teach general education or special education and are certainly prepared as general education teachers in strategies and as intervention specialists to teach content. It has been a win-win for out PK-12 students in Ohio. Currently we have 900 teacher candidates in our dual licensure blended program. We also are in the process of developing a middle childhood blended program since the early program had such great results. In Ohio their are numerous blended dual licensure programs at univeristies. We want all teachers to know how to work with all students. Isn’t that what inclusion is all about?
I have taught special education in 3 different schools (elem. and high school) and my colleagues and I experienced similar frustrations at each of them. The administration seemed oblivious to the myriad responsibilities we had and didn’t provide adequate support. In 3.5 years at one school, several special education teachers quit in the middle of the semester or quarter primarily for this reason. When there was a highly skilled new SPED teacher, admin would put them in gen ed which meant SPED would get another new teacher. The SPED classroom (FSC) is often in a portable in the back of the school. SPED teachers are given recess duty and lunch duty when they need every possible moment for paperwork. These are just examples of how SPED teachers’ job satisfaction can become low.
Another primary frustration was the way admin dealt with behavior issues in a resource setting. I remember hearing from a VP, after sending a known-to-be highly volatile student to the office, “Well, he said he didn’t do that. I’m going to come over to your classroom now so you can show me the damage. He admits to throwing the [large, metal] pencil sharpener but he says he didn’t punch….” Many of my colleagues felt that they had to frequently defend themselves.
I think we have to start with impacting how society views teaching and schools. Capitalize on successes, strengths, and effective practices, getting the word out that teachers are highly trained and effective educators, and that education is a valued field. Also, there has been considerable conversation in the past about the inequities in education due to unfair funding practices, but we’ve never actually tackled this issue. Serious changes need to be made. If we can even the playing field for all youth and communities, then education may become more valued in communities in which the current message is their children are second and third-class citizens.
We need incentives to attract college students to the teaching profession early on, particularly teachers of color. We need more hands-on preparation, and we need to show that prep makes a difference in the lives of youth. Campus Mentors (campusmentors.org) is a single showcase classroom located on a college campus that serves youth at risk and provides hundreds of accessible, flexible early hands-on placements for teacher candidates. Youth outcomes have been recognized by AACTE and CAEP, and named “A Vision of Effective Career and Technical Education.” Any teacher preparation program can use this framework for recruitment and preparation.
-some/better incentives (be it money, more vacation days/PTO, other creative ways to do this besides offering higher salaries (reimbursement for gym memberships) – see healthcare models of incentivizing work/performance; token economies for teachers
-not just moving up on salary – but retention bonus at 3 years, 5 years, 10, years etc.; some type of bonus at winter break; bonus for hiring in high need areas;
-more support for teachers (coaching, release in times of need, evidence-based practices/interventions, etc.)
-better healthcare coverage requirements (In Long Beach, California my district offered Blue Cross Blue Shield which covered ~20 $13 60 minute massages per year, 90% dental, coverage, $0 copays for dr and urgent care visits, as well as medications – this was very reinforcing!!
-better collaboration between systems of support (Education, Mental Health, Juvenile Justice, Social Work, Child Services, General Health) – district think tanks bringing a member from each system together to brainstorm and build relationships – find where we are doing duplicate work and cut out, locate cracks in systems, clear roles
-tracking student outcomes and rewards for teachers who have high achievement/gains, who are culturally competent, who have positive classroom climate, who collaborate, etc.
I am replying to this comment to echo and reinforce the idea that special educators need additional recognition and compensation for the hard work they are asked to do. Jessica Simpson’s suggestions appear to me to be creative solutions to retain teachers, including retention bonuses and funding for “self-care.”
As a teacher educator, I hear my students discuss their commitment to the field followed by their fear that they will not be able to survive on a teacher’s salary – an issue that is more pressing in the San Francisco Bay area given the ongoing housing crisis. Some districts are responding with efforts to provide housing to teachers below market rate – these efforts should also be funded in HCOL areas.
At my institution, there have been several efforts to attract students into our credentialing program through the creation of “paraprofessional pipelines.” These sound like a good idea until it becomes apparent that the paraprofessionals do not meet the requirements for the program. There is little funding to support current paraprofessionals returning to school to address the holes in their resumes that are preventing them from taking advantage of the pipeline programs.
Another consideration is the caseload our teachers face (due to the teaching shortage). Candidates are showing up to our program already working on emergency permits (meaning there are no requirements for supports to be provided to them) with caseloads of 25-30 students (above the state maximum for caseloads for RSP teachers). These students are burning out before they even have their credentials. Developing strategies to address the caseload concerns for districts who find themselves in need of hiring non-credentialed teachers could go a long way. Developing strategies so that these candidates can focus on developing their teaching ability before they take on the responsibility of leading IEP meetings and serving as the case manager could go a long way in keeping them in the field after they complete our program.
The Teacher Education Division (TED) of the Council for Exceptional Children is comprised of special education higher education faculty – those who prepare the next generation of special educators. Across the country there has been a decline in enrollment in many special education preparation programs in higher education as too many states have responded to teacher shortages by lowering certification standards and allowing those with little to no preparation to serve our nation’s students with disabilities. Our nation’s students and families deserve better. TED urges OSEP to lead in sending out the message that only fully-prepared qualified personnel should serve students under IDEA. We know that those who are fully prepared stay in the classroom longer and have the skillset and the mindset to be effective special educators.
IDEA requires that students served by IDEA are “qualified personnel.” It further prohibits anyone from serving as a teacher under IDEA who does not have at least a BA. In addition, The Department of Education, in the state application for IDEA funds, requires states to assure that: “The State educational agency has established and maintains qualifications to ensure that personnel necessary to carry out this part are appropriately and adequately prepared and trained…” We urge the Department to ensure that these provisions are followed.
In addition, TED recommends:
The inclusion of a significant increase for funding for IDEA Personnel Preparation in the President’s FY 2021 Budget proposal, ensuring that ample funding is targeted to leadership to address the shortage of special education faculty in higher education;
Strong support for TEACH grants and loan forgiveness programs which are critical incentives to attract students to become special education teachers.
OSEP’s leadership with the “Attract, Prepare and Retain” initiative is much appreciated and much needed. We would be pleased to work with you to further your important leadership in this area.
As a retired Special Education professor, I believe that full tuition loans to either undergraduates or graduate students getting initial certification could attract many new teachers to the field. Provide a requirement for service in teaching to forgive the loan amount. Make the number of years to forgive the loan half of the number of years for teachers working in low performing schools (e.g. six years of service required if hired in high performing schools vs. three years of service in low performing schools to forgive the whole loan amount).
I have taught special education students for over 30 years. Parents have been unhappy, laws have been made, schools have been noncompliant, parents have sued. Instead of hiring and supporting teachers and paying them well, they teach them to make the paperwork look good to stand up in court. Teachers then realize that’s not why they became special education teachers. And the pay sucks and they leave. Give the parents vouchers so they can find the best their money can buy for their children. Foster competition. Salaries will rise and attract high quality teachers, parents will be happy.
During a session on the early childhood workforce at the CEELO 2018 National Roundtable, a cycle was presented that bears some thought:
– Promote (which then returns to Attract for a next tier position)
Too frequently the field has attracted and recruited under-prepared personnel without adequate support, resulting in high rates of attrition or an ineffective workforce.
Grants for critical shortage areas that require those who receive the grant to teach in that area for a minimum of x years would be good. State-wide Education on different certification areas in special education to entice people into our field could also help.
Lastly, our pension crisis in our state is not helping us get new folks into the field. I’m not sure how federal support could be provided but I’ve noticed that it is not state-specific to Ky.
Lift the Michigan retirement earnings cap for retired teachers. Allow all retired teachers the flexibility to come back to work 1, 2, 3, days (teacher choice) without any penalties to their pension checks. It would ease the substitute shortage for local school buildings in districts. A lot of times, re tired teachers would be willing to come back to their former building to sub for one day a week. It would provide continuity for students of a kno wn, experienced teacher. A retired teacher could repay missed preps in a building, which would boost teacher morale, improve school climate, sup port the buildin g principal in day-to-day operations, etc. A retired teach er could go to a new building to provide support. For example, IEP meet ing coverage, support of writing positive IEPs with teachers, etc. Retired Teachers could as sist in mentoring new teachers, career changers, with boots on the ground support, in addition to what’s learned in a college/ online classroom. It would be a win-win situation for everyone. Please consider this untapped labor pool without any pension restrictions.
Administrators need to stop pressuring school staff to not share their genuine opinions in IEP meetings. This makes the work environment intolerable for some people. I conducted a survey in CT with 96 school staff, and 72% reported that they could not make recommendations that were not pre-approved by district administration, with many stating that, if they did this, they would risk being reprimanded or even fired. I have heard from school staff that this kind of stress–wanting to speak up for the child but also feeling pressure from their supervisors to stay silent–has caused them to leave or consider leaving schools. This needs to change. School staff need to be able to share their honest opinions without fear of retaliation.
Please take a continuous improvement approach to this. I am a business professional. I was looking to transition to teaching at one point. I would have had to quit my job and put myself in debt in order to complete the states requirements through a university to get my teaching certificate and then a job was not guaranteed. I explained to the director of the program that the only people they would allow to become teachers were young adults fresh out of college or unemployed adults. She informed me that was true and they never thought of it that way. If we want stronger leaders in our education system, we need to find a way they can transition into teaching. I see far to many schools that have no continuous improvement (true change with various stakeholders involved equally), no engagement (student/parent stakeholder), no mentoring (antibullying, emotional maturity), we will never fix our current problem and create a world class education for our children unless these topics are changed . . . not just talked about or can programs half thrown in. Most schools want student/parent participation on their terms. Not as a true change agent to improve or shake up the current status quo. Without a change in the culture, we will continue to have a broken education system. Thank you for starting the talk on options (school of choice) it is a start, but it is not available to everyone. We have more work to do. Our kids & our future depend on it!
Beth, please be careful to not over generalize. To use “most” or “far too many” would indicate that there are very few schools/districts/staff who do not aim to 1) involve relevant stakeholders, 2) engage parents and students, or 3) mentor or advocate for positive social-emotional development and/or programs in their schools. I am a retired teacher and speech language pathologist and worked in several public school districts over the years. There are always efforts to engage parents and students in the educational process—this is a daily task for teachers. Educators are required to continue their own education via professional development activities and/or coursework. And, especially during the past few years, there has been greater emphasis on anti bullying and positive behaviors in schools (focus on supporting a student’s social-emotional development). ALL staff members are involved in these efforts. Sure, there are districts who have limited access to the necessary experts or tools/programs because they have limited funds available to them. They do what they can with little to no money, but this may not seem like enough when compared to more affluent districts. The perception that public schools are not good is an insult to all those who work endlessly to improve their schools. Those who think our public school funds should be redirected to develop “choice” or “charter” schools are taking valuable resources away from those who are working so hard to improve and enhance our public school system—free and available to all already! I believe there has always been a “continuous improvement approach” from the perspective of educators…they are often overruled and their expertise ignored. Please don’t blame the brokenness on the educators; blame it on those with ulterior motives.
Dear Beth et al, – Right on! We desperately need work-experienced newcomers with older worldly wisdom. Otherwise, the education field is a closed-loop. Too many educators and administrators can´t see the forest for the trees. Everything looks fine to them – so there´s no need to confuse things by inviting outside participation.
Unfortunately, as you say, there are too many barriers to making the jump. I became a teacher at 40 – at an Alternative School of Choice, and after 23 years, I still don´t understand why schools are so opposed to reasonable efficiency and transparency. There is constant change and upheaval – Whole Language, No Child Left Behind, Every Student Succeeds, etc. – the pendulum swings way left and then way right, and rarely hangs in the middle.
My suggestion: listen to Beth. Make it easier for working people to become teachers. It would create great change. Also, offering options is important. By California Ed Code, my school requires that the parent(s), student, and teacher create an individualized plan to ensure success. It´s an option that works. More please!
I am not opposed to career changers entering the field of education. However, the idea that anyone can become a teacher without substantial preparation is disrespectful to the profession. I was a special education teacher in an urban environment for three years before leaving to pursue a Ph.D. in special education. Education professionals are some of the hardest working, passionate people I know, and they contain immense amounts of knowledge. But education, especially special education, is constantly asked to do more with less, so professionals become burdened by having the knowledge but being unable to enact. And now we have school choice exacerbating the income disparities that already plague the system. The funding promised for IDEA has never been fulfilled, and here we are wondering why there is a personnel shortage. The answer is money; financial incentives to get people in the door and full funding of IDEA to better the working conditions to keep them there.
I’m a retired Special Education Director and might like to do some training if needs be.
Utilize the newly available per pupil spending data required under ESSA and data sources on teacher salary to map the variation in district resource contexts for special education and variation in salaries and assess any relationships between more resources overall nd/or higher salaries and retention of special education personnel. I suspect only a small percentage of districts nationally have sufficient resources to effectively implement multitiered systems of support/RTI in a model of co-teaching/push-in support that would theoretically provide special education personnel (and students) with a sense of belonging and connection to the school community, and the professional collegiality that supports retention.
Allowing the flexibility to work from home will be a very attractive incentive. Also, flexibility of four ten hour hour days would increase and support agencies.
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