Special Educator Attrition and Inclusion
Obviously, becoming a skillful special education teacher requires years of experience, as well as ongoing professional development. However, there is a chronic special education shortage in the United States (McLeskey et al, 2004). Because of this shortage, socioeconomic diversity in future cohorts of special education teachers is tenuous.During the 1990s, the population of students with special needs rose significantly; however, the number of special educators in the United States failed to rise accordingly.
Teacher attrition pays a big role in special educator shortages nationwide (McLeskey et al, 2004). Quoting an Ingersoll study (2001), McLeskey reiterates that special educators are more likely to either leave the profession, or move to another position as general educators. Teachers who transfer to general education mention lack of student gains, low administrative support, and a heavy paperwork load as reasons for leaving special education.
Ensuring special education teacher quality is admittedly a more complicated task (Brownell et al. 2009). Special educators surveyed in their first year seemed unprepared to teach literacy effectively. Brownell et al. point to several reasons for this perceived lack of preparedness on the park of special educators. One of the most far-reaching suggestions the researchers make is that the nature of special education certification programs hinders special education teachers from doing more effective, targeted interventions. Because most special education teachers are prepared through teacher education programs that target students between kindergarten and 12th grade, special educators are exposed to a broad spectrum of potential teaching techniques. However, Brownell et. al. suspect this broadened scope of study comes at the detriment of a more specific focus for special educators during their teacher training that could lead to me effective teaching practices earlier on. Like general educators, turnover for special educators is especially hight during the first few years of teaching. However, "far more special educators transfer to general education than vice versa. teachers (Brownell at al. 2009)."
For contemporary special educators, general education remains an attractive alternative to the diverse, sometimes frustratingly confusing world of special education roles within collaborative and self-contained classrooms. Nonetheless as we have seen, both general and special education teacher perceive their respective positions to lacking in support and coherency.
Contributing Factors to Success of Inclusion
Teacher perception, training, and administrative support all influence the success of an inclusion setting. These factors all tie into making the student feel like a member of the class, which translates to a higher degree of attention and motivation to learn. Over the past decade, there has been increased pressure to educate special education students in general education classrooms (Weiss and Lloyd 2002). The movement towards the inclusion model stems primarily from IDEA’s emphasis on promoting the least restrictive environment for students. As a result, team teaching, or collaborative team teaching, has gained in popularity, particularly in public schools in New York City. While the team-teaching model may be gaining more visibility, critics remain. One of the biggest challenges in current special education is successfully implementing the co-teaching model, and carving a place for both general and special education teachers to use best practices in the classroom.
Successful implementation starts with teacher training, positive teacher perception, and ongoing administrative support. “Staff development or training is considered to be one of the key factors in not only the success of implementing inclusion, but it is regarded as one of the reasons for its continued success,” (Raj, 2002). General education teachers often worried about low efficacy when trying to serve all students in inclusion settings. They cited lack of training and professional development opportunities, as well as a lack of planning time with special educators, as two of the biggest reasons for this lack of confidence. “Training should include awareness level presentations, skill practice workshops, follow up lessons on application, and dialogue,” (Raj, 2002). For inclusion to work, general education teachers must feel empowered, supported, and most importantly, involved in both the referral process and the delivery of services.
The support comes from the administration whether directly or indirectly. “When attempting to implement inclusion in the schools, the administration must attempt to include the teachers in the change process,” (Raj, 2002). Teachers forced into a situation where they haven’t had an opportunity to take ownership through personal opinions and ideas will generate resistance. This is very similar to forcing a student into a classroom environment where they don’t have the opportunity to take ownership through generating the class rules or guidelines. Resistance is more likely to occur in this situation because there was no student buy-in. Just like students, teachers need the opportunity to feel they have some ownership of the environment or situation to allow buy-in and create a successful inclusion setting. “The role of the school administration in preparing for inclusion must capture the individual talents of each discipline and then be able to capitalize on those talents into forming an environment of shared responsibility for student learning,” (Raj, 2002). Overall through staff training and development, in conjunction with the administrative support in allowing teachers ownership opportunities of the setting, then the inclusion environment can flourish. The school leadership is vital to inclusion succeeding or failing, prinicipals piece together collogegues and make important decisions about student placement, teacher training, and the overall attitude towards inclusion. As Michael Raj stated in 2002, “One should not underestimate the influential power of the schools’ leadership. The support and leadership of principals has been documented as integral for successful school change…and successful inclusion.”