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Study Predicts Coming Shortage Of Special Educators


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As the need for special educators continues to rise, there is a severe shortage of PhDs in the field ready to train them, which could have a ripple effect on students with disabilities, researchers say.

Universities are graduating far too few doctoral students in special education to meet the growing demand for faculty in the field, according to a study out this month that was funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs.

And that could spell trouble for students with disabilities who may be underserved as a result, researchers say.

The problem is so acute that to meet the expected demand for new faculty over the next five years, the study indicates that universities would need to triple the number of special education PhD’s they graduate.

“We were surprised by many of our findings,” said Deborah Deutsch Smith, a professor of special education at Claremont Graduate University who led the research. “We hope this study will inform the nation’s policymakers and the special education community of actions that need to be taken to avoid an impending faculty shortage of overwhelming magnitude.”

One reason for the shortage is that half to two-thirds of current special education faculty are expected to retire in the coming years and there are not enough young people to fill their shoes.

As a result, Deutsch Smith and her colleagues found that job prospects and stability for those with a doctorate in special education remain high, despite the poor economy. And, they say action needs to be taken to address the shortage.

“This problem will not go away by itself,” Deutsch Smith said.

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Comments (4 Responses)

  1. luanne livingston says:

    why in the world would a person become a special education teacher?

  2. specialteacher88 says:

    Luanne, I don’t know if you’ll ever see this comment, but here is it for anyone else that wants to know “why become a special education teacher?”. Every single person, disability or not should be able to receive an education. Just because they have a disability, doesn’t mean that they can’t learn. These individuals are the most sincere and genuine people that I have ever been able to work with. I love learning and observing in a special education teacher. I am getting my degree in Special Education and I can’t wait until I’m in a classroom of my own. It’s not the easiest job in the world, but it’s a rewarding one. Might I suggest going and experiencing what it is like to work with an individual with a disability and maybe that will change your view on people wanting to be a special education teacher.

  3. Havandra says:

    I became a special education teacher to make a difference in the lives of the students I teach. The irony is that they have made a bigger difference in my life.
    Over a period of three years I worked with an amazing young lady in senior high school. She did not see herself as having a disability, despite the fact that she needed constant help with even the most basic tasks that we take for granted, like feeding and bathroom needs. She ran her own business while in high school and has gone on to become an accomplished public speaker (through the use of a machine that does the talking for her). There were days when I would drag myself into school feeling tired and unmotivated, until I sat beside this amazing girl who never complained and rarely missed a day of school. Everything she did took so much more effort than anyone else had to endure, but she kept right on going… never giving up. I have learned so much from her determination and endurance.
    And from all my other students over the years I have learned patience, understanding, to laugh, and to love unconditionally. That’s why a person would want to become a special education teacher, and I hope that many more teachers follow the path into ‘special ed’.

  4. theautismguru says:

    For Luanne, who asked why anyone would want to become a special education teacher? I assume you are already a regular education teacher and don’t want to further your own education or perform your job properly. Let me explain why I say that. As any professional teacher “should” know, laws ictate who you will get in your classroom, and who you will teach, not you. Laws state that the child with special needs be in the least restrictive environment, which in many cases,will be in your classroom. When you are not prepared to do your job, it is a reflection on you, not the children entering your classroom. If you choose not to teach them, or lack the skills, you should not be in teaching, because you aren’t following the federal laws to do your job and haven’t done your own homework. That ought to bring a future civil suit against you. I am a mother of 2 children with high functioning autism. And sadly, it has been when I have encountered your attitude in teaching staff that has made myself and countless others stop voting for levies and stopped supporting our public schools. I won’t pay your salary if you cannot perform your job. That’s discrimination and selective teaching. Sorry, but it’s true. Every teacher is a special education teacher under today’s laws, and if the college that gave you your degree failed you by not telling you that major fact, then you ought to go back to your college and discuss the failure to properly educate you.

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