can be done or needs to be done to improve special
education teacher retention?
year, 12% of the teachers in the field of special
education transfer by choice to regular education
teaching positions. This is a costly problem. The
expense of recruiting replacements is one cost,
but the cost to the students also needs to be considered.
With high teacher turnover in special education,
there is a loss in efficiency because teacher turnover
affects student performance.
is a need for an in-depth look at why veteran special
education teachers have been able to remain involved
and committed to working with students with disabilities
for many years. The benefits of this investigation
far outweigh the costs.
research studies have been conducted on teacher
attrition and retention. Bonnie Billingsley has
conducted the most comprehensive review of the factors
that contribute to special education teacher attrition
and retention. Her research points to the challenge
of developing a qualified workforce and creating
school/work environments that maintain special educators’
commitment and involvement.
Office of Special Education Programs publishes online
SPeNSE Fact Sheets. (SPeNSE is an acronym for the
Study of Personnel Needs in Special Education.)
Two important SPeNSE Fact Sheets reviewed for this
action research focus on the need for high-quality
teachers in every special education classroom and
the amount of paperwork associated with special
questionnaires and personal interviews were used
to conduct this action research. The minimum criterion
for participants in this action research was fifteen
years of continuous teaching in the field of special
education. After the teacher questionnaire was completed,
a personal interview was conducted. Attitudes, beliefs,
and perceptions about school climate were the main
topics of discussion during the personal interviews.
Henlopen (DE) School District Reduction in Force
(RIF) list was used to determine eligible research
study participants. Forty-eight teachers were listed
on the RIF list as special education teachers with
fifteen or more years of experience. After further
investigation, it was found that only twenty-five
of those forty-eight teachers were currently teaching
special education students. That meant that 48%
of the teachers listed under special education had
transferred to teaching in the regular education
population. When almost half of the teachers in
a certified area leave that certification area for
another field, there is a problem. A return rate
of 60% was achieved for the completed questionnaire.
Personal interviews were conducted with 100% of
the participants who completed the questionnaire.
and interview participants listed these “C.O.R.E.S.”
as the keys to a collaborative school climate that
increases special education teacher retention: Connectedness,
Optimism, Respect, Empowerment, and Support.
following may reduce stress and burnout that lead
to high attrition rates among special educators:
administrators should reduce teachers’ role overload,
restructuring their jobs and the expectations
placed on them.
makers should think “outside the box” when mandating
programs to be implemented by special educators.