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The Special Education Teacher Shortage: A Look at Recent Data

Grow Schools

May 24, 2023

Special Education Teacher Shortage Data Charter Schools

In a recent survey by ABC News, forty states, along with Washington D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands, reported staffing issues in special education. The shortage of qualified teachers in these critical areas has raised concerns among school leaders, who are thinking through obstacles such as recruitment challenges, funding shortages, and how to implement better support.

According to ABC, special education has historically been one of the most vital yet underfunded teaching positions in public schools. The lack of adequate financial support, either at the local or federal level, creates additional challenges. The pandemic further exacerbated the workload of special education teachers, many of whom transitioned to remote teaching and had to adapt their practices and provide individualized education plans (IEPs) and special services remotely. Then there’s the fact that post-pandemic demand for their services has only increased, students with diverse needs saw sharper declines in test scores than their peers during the pandemic.

ABC interviewed Jahsha Tabron, the 2022 Delaware teacher of the year, who emphasized the immense workload that comes with being a special education teacher. While the “winning moments” of student growth provide inspiration and fulfillment, the demanding nature of the job can make it a tough sell for prospective candidates. Special education teaching requires expertise in not only general instruction but also specialized needs and disciplines that some teachers don’t encounter as often. While policymakers may focus on the lack of applicants, experts say schools need to create more targeted recruitment strategies rather than increasing recruitment efforts in general.

According to a monthly survey by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) School Pulse Panel, a significant portion of K-12 public school principals reported difficulty filling fully certified special education teaching positions at the beginning of the school year. This shortage affects the quality of education provided to students with special needs, particularly those from low-income and minority backgrounds. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona has highlighted the importance of collaboration and the need to address shortages in bilingual education, special education, and STEM fields, which disproportionately impact marginalized students.

The shortage of special education teachers is a significant concern affecting education across the United States. To address the issue, schools are turning to better collaboration and increased financial support. By providing special education teachers with better resources, improving their working conditions, and supporting their professional development, schools hope to attract and retain qualified teachers who will make a lasting impact on the lives of students with special needs.


Most of the US is dealing with a teaching shortage, but the data isn’t so simple

Why there’s a special education and STEM teacher shortage, and what can be done

Special Education During the Pandemic, in Charts

What School Staffing Shortages Look Like Now

School Pulse Panel

Want to attract and retain special education teachers?

Watch the free webinar with expert Ingrid Wulczyn of Project IDEA to improve your school’s special education teacher recruitment, hiring process, and ability to provide ongoing support.

Webinar takeaways:

  1. Support your special education teachers so they grow with your school.
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  3. Ensure each step of the hiring process reflects an understanding of special education teachers’ unique roles.

Watch for free here.

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