Districts and schools have expressed a concern in the last decade or so about lack of teacher candidate for job openings. Many states have noted a shortage in certified teachers to fill positions that they have within their schools. This problem is definitely growing as some colleges have cut teacher programs. What is becoming worse is the shortage of teachers that are specifically trained in Special Education.
Short-Term Ways to Help
When there simply are not enough candidates to fill special education teacher spots, districts must get creative. Schools can’t simply say they don’t have the classrooms, they must teach all children within their classrooms.
In some cases, the schools have been forced to put many special education students in traditional classrooms. While some children may do well with this, they may be better served within a self-contained environment. Another outcome has been larger overall class size. This is true for all classrooms, including special education rooms.
To try to help with the increased class sizes, districts are aware that they must do something. If they are unable to hire special education teachers, they are hiring additional paraprofessionals. These individuals do not hold a special education degree and are typically paid an hourly wage. These employees are often hired quickly and unable to do much if any training in relation to special needs children.
Working on the Teacher Shortage
The short-term fixes are not a solution. Paraprofessionals may be able to assist teachers in working with more students. They may help with classroom management and skill building assistance, but they do not replace the role of the certified teachers. Paraprofessionals are unable to do assessments, write IEP reports, and other requirements with the larger number of students.
Schools need to work on recruiting more individuals to special education degrees. This may be done with a partnership between school districts and local colleges. Perhaps individuals working within the district want to go back to school for a special education degree. Partnerships may be built so individuals in the programs can become student teachers and interns. It is a great project that will help over time.
With the increased number of students that have been identified with special needs, it is more important than ever to address this teacher shortage. Current special education teachers need to reach out to future teachers and share reasons why they should focus on this area. Employment opportunities, the rewarding moments with students, and more will help if they are able to observe in your classroom. Do you have a special education teacher shortage in your area? Please share how your schools are working through this problem if you do.