Effective Personnel for ALL: Attract, Prepare, Retain

Logo: Effective Personnel for ALL Attract, Prepare, Retain

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 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.


  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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!

  4. 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.

  5. 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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