In The Politics of Autism, I write about special education and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
Scott MacFarlane, Katie Leslie and Jeff Piper at WRC-TV:
Washington, D.C.-area public schools are suffering a “critical shortage” of special education teachers as students return from the long year of virtual learning, according to a review by the News4 I-Team.
A lack of available special ed instructors has dogged school systems across the country for yearsbut now risks being exacerbated by resignations, retirements and workload increases caused by the pandemic.
A Virginia Department of Education report reviewed by the I-Team lists special education instructors at the top of its list of teacher shortages statewide.A 2018 Maryland State Department of Education report also cites a “critical shortage” of special education teachers. And just last year, the U.S. Department of Education described the shortage of special education teachers as “among the most pressing and chronic problems facing the field.”
The Michigan Department of Education is offering an option to help school districts deal with what State Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice calls a "critical shortage of special education teachers in many Michigan school districts."
The MDE will allow a time limited waiver that enables a district to temporarily fill a vacancy in a special education classroom with a special education teacher whose specialty area - formally called an endorsement - differs from the classroom with an open slot.
The goal is to reduce reliance on substitute teachers in special education programs.
"Allowing for some flexibility will help districts better staff their classrooms and meet the needs of our students with disabilities," said Rice in a written statement.
"We're being given the flexibility to really put people in positions who are a right fit for the position and can support our students' needs," said Abby Cypher, executive director of the Michigan Association of Administrators of Special Education.
"We had a criticial shortage of special education teachers before COVID, but now we have an even more significant shortage," said Cypher. "And this is a short term solution that allows us to utilize other special education teachers in special education classrooms, instead of substitute teachers."
Due to statewide teacher shortages, many of California’s approximately 800,000 special education students are being taught by teachers who haven’t completed teacher preparation programs or have received only partial training.
There were more special education teachers with substandard credentials than in any other subject area in 2017-18, the most recent year for which data is available. About 60 percent of first-year special education teachers were working without a full special education teaching credential, according to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing.
That year, the number of first-year special education teachers without full credentials totaled 5,196. That is the highest number in a decade, said Desiree Carver-Thomas, a researcher with the Learning Policy Institute, a research and policy organization based in Palo Alto.