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Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Burdens on Special-Ed Teachers

In The Politics of Autism, I write about special education and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act:

At NPR, Lee Hale provides some background on special-ed teacher shortages:
Even if you're up for the low pay and noisy classrooms, special education adds another challenge: crushing paperwork.

This is something I understand firsthand. You see, I was a special education teacher and I just couldn't hack it. Though I'm somewhat ashamed to admit it, I lasted only a year in the classroom.

I chose special education for what felt like the right reason. I wanted to help the students who struggle to learn. But I soon realized that was only a part of the job.

The paperwork, the meetings, the accountability. Eventually it got to me. I couldn't do it all and I got tired of showing up to a job I knew I couldn't do. It's that simple.
In 2011, Donald Deshler, a professor of special education at the University of Kansas, set out to examine just how many hours all that paperwork consumes. He and a doctoral student wanted to find out what the typical special education teacher's workload looked like.
They decided to observe a few teachers during their workday. "We followed them everywhere, except the bathroom," Deshler says.
They then broke down the teacher's typical workday into four main categories with the percentage of time spent on each:
  • Management, IEP paperwork and administrative responsibilities: 33 percent
  • Collaboration, co-teaching, assisting other teachers and meetings: 27 percent
  • Instruction, teaching students in their classroom: 27 percent
  • Diagnostic, testing and data tracking: 13 percent