Term Paper: Special Education Teachers

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[. . .] The key element is the teachers' perception of threat (either this is self-imposed or imposed by others)." (Kyriacou, 1987).

Further, occupational stress that occurs at high levels leads to dissatisfaction, absenteeism, and ultimately turnover. Kyriacou & Sutcliffe concluded that the work conditions were the contribution factors to teacher dissatisfaction and leaving, rather than the experience of teaching itself. (Kyriacou & Sutcliffe, 1979). The work conditions referred to in this case include the combination of the wage structure and the job responsibilities and the inequities between the two.

Multiple studies have identified causes of teacher stress, identifying commonalities such as a high pupil to teacher ratio, limited pupil progress, unreasonable workload, role overload and role conflict, relationship issues with colleagues, a poor working environment, insufficient wages, status and growth opportunity, difficulties with time and resources, and professional recognition. (Borg et al. 1991; Kyriacou & Sutcliffe, 1979; Kyriacou, 1987; Manthei & Solman, 1988; Laughlin, 1984; Travers & Cooper, 1996; Guglielmi & Tatrow, 1998).

Some have embarked on the quest to address the same issues for teachers of special needs students. Among them are: teachers in special schools (Chaplain, 1995; Manthei & Solman, 1996), newly qualified teachers, heads of department or head teachers (Cooper & Kelly, 1993; Friedman, 1995), special needs children and additional pressures on teachers (Galloway, 1985, Upton, & Varma, 1996), hearing impaired students (Luckner, 1989; Fraser, 1996) children with severe difficulties (Sutton & Huberty, 1984; Ware, 1996) and reading difficulties (Carlile, 1985).

Other significant mainstream research revealed that for secondary school teachers negative feelings were associated with the location of the school, conflicts with teacher's goals (financial and occupational) and gender (more prevalent for women than for men) (Papastylianou, 1998). When teacher burnout was compared with other typically high stress professions such as nurses, doctors, social workers, and ergo therapists, the teachers were found to have exceptionally high levels of emotional exhaustion, but "low levels of depersonalization and high levels of personal accomplishment." Overall, in this context the burnout ratings for teachers fared lower than United States norms. This was attributed to less demanding work (comparatively speaking) and longer holiday periods. (Kantas, 1996).

Occupational stressors for Special Educational Needs (SEN) teachers are similar to those identified for all teachers, and include such common complaints as excessive paperwork requirements, increasing caseloads, low salaries, lack of administrative support, challenging student behaviors and lack of visible student progress (Cooley & Yovanoff, 1996). In addition to situational factors inherent to teaching itself, SEN teachers confront the individual learning and emotional needs of students who are mentally, physically and/or sensory impaired.

Kyriacou and Sutcliffe identified job satisfaction, absenteeism and intention to leave as three primary measures of occupational stress. Male & May conducted as study in 1996 which concluded that 80% of the head teachers of special schools believed the occupation to be very stressful and greater than 50% of those surveyed did not plan to remain in the profession. (Male & May, 1997) In addition, Cooley & Yovanoff cited declining enrollments in Special Ed. Programs in America coupled with an increasing population of children requiring special needs services, indicating a crises of a shortage of special education teachers. (Cooley & Yovanoff, 1996)

In the state of Texas, the Texas Education Agency embarked on a statewide set of studies to assess (TEA, 2001):

The current status of special education personnel needs.

Critical issues for maintaining an adequate supply of qualified special education professionals.

Professional development needs of special education professionals.

The TEA sample population included special education directors, shared service arrangement (SSA) administrators, and charter school administrators. 608 surveys were sent to special education directors and 1,201 surveys were sent to H.R. And charter school administrators. Of the 608 surveys sent, 263 responded (a 44% response rate.) 491 responses emerged from the H.R./charter school pool (a 41% response rate).

Composition of Special Education Teachers

The survey results provided information regarding the amount and type of special education teachers in the population area (TEA, 2001):

Single districts and SSAs had special ed teachers for children age 3-5 (96% and 89%), students with severe disabilities (93% and 92%), and students with visual impairments (74% and 82%).

SSAs (57%) are less likely than single districts (77%) to have teachers for students with emotional disturbance.

Small percentages of single districts and SSAs employ specialized teachers for students with auditory impairments and limited English proficiency (12% to 36%).

Charter schools most commonly identify "other" special education teachers (96%), such as non-specialized or generic special education teachers, resource teachers, multi-age teachers, and adapted physical education teachers.

Special Education Vacancies

The study elicited the following information regarding vacancy rates for special education teachers in Texas:

The area of specialization with the highest vacancy rate was in bilingual and limited English proficient (LEP) students (11-18%).

The next ranking categories are:

Bilingual educational diagnosticians (10-12%)

Bilingual SLPs (9-16%)

Emotional disturbance (9-14%)

Severe disabilities (7-17%)

Auditory impairments (14%).

In addition, Charter schools were found to have critical vacancy rates: special education teachers (23%), educational diagnosticians (25%) and paraprofessionals (67%).

Recruitment, Hiring, and Retention

Respondents who specialized in human resources expressed in their experience what they felt were the most effective strategies for recruiting special education personnel. Their answers included:

Utilizing the internet

It was reported that these specific strategies were used more often to recruit special education teachers.

Barriers to Hiring

H.R./Special Education Directors reported that the most common barriers to recruiting and hiring personnel were:

Insufficient supply of candidates with minimal requirements (i.e., certification and licensing.

Competitive salaries, benefits or incentives in alternative options.

The directors identified strategies that they used to cope with shortages in available personnel. The answers differed slightly for single districts and SSA's versus Charter schools.

Single districts and SSAs

Use more paraprofessionals

Use contractors

Use personnel who are in the process of getting full credentials

Use alternative certification program (ACP) interns

Charter schools

Use contractors

Use personnel who are in the process of getting full credentials

Use retired personnel

Blend funding to create inclusive settings

Barriers to retaining special education personnel.

Barriers to retaining special education personnel were identified separately by H.R. Directors and Special Education Directors as follows:

Special education directors

Burnout or job stress

Amount of paperwork.

Human resources directors

Better salaries, benefits, and/or incentives elsewhere

Geographic location of the LEA.

Incentives used to improve retention.

The survey revealed that less SSAs use incentives to retain special ed teachers as compared to single districts, and further, that the types of incentives offered varied by LEA type. Specific survey results are as follows:

Single districts most frequently fund professional development and support mentoring for inexperienced employees.

SSAs fund professional development and improve salaries and benefits.

Charter schools use incentives to improve salaries and benefits and fund professional development to address CEU requirements.

Recommendations to Improve Recruitment and Retention

The purpose of the study was to assess the status of special education personnel needs. In addition to creating a telling snapshot of the composition of the pool of special education personnel as well as the approach by human resources to attract and retain such personnel, the study brought forth the following Recommendations by Special Education and Human Resources directors for improving recruitment and retention. The suggestions fell within four specific areas of focus: 1. Financial support, 2. Non-Financial support, 3. Paperwork and legal issues and 4. Teacher preparation and certification.

Financial support can take many forms, including the most obvious, that being salary adjustments. Other financial incentives can include stipends and increased benefits. Non-financial support can include opportunities for professional development and recognition, reduced class sizes or caseload limits, mentors and training. With regard to paperwork issues, streamlining the paperwork process to eliminate redundancies was a primary suggestion. Reductions in red tape and less confusing laws and regulations were also cited as areas for attention. As for teacher preparation and certification, some survey respondents suggested reviewing the certification process to provide added flexibility.

Adequate Supply of Special Education Professionals

To summarize, the TEA study revealed the steps recommended by human resources professionals to increase and retain a sufficient supply of special education teachers. Among the recommendations offered, the human resources personnel suggest offering financial and non-financial incentives, improving the workplace environment, offering professional recognition and advancement opportunities and streamlining the certification process.

The TEA report developed the following recommendations with regard to special education candidates:

Enhance recruitment of secondary students and career changers through exposure campaigns, information dissemination, and financial incentives, such as grants, scholarships, tuition reimbursement, and loan forgiveness

Attract minority candidates to meet increasing bilingual demands by providing financial incentives and academic support

Promote special education as a desirable career choice by exposing potential candidates to special education experiences, such as tutoring, service learning projects, or dual credit courses related to special education

Conduct campaigns to disseminate educational and employment information through job fairs, the Internet, and college and university contacts

Seek legislative support to ensure teacher salaries are competitive and reflect degree and certification requirements

Provide signing bonuses and annual stipends for educators serving… [END OF PREVIEW]

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