Quickie training to fill special-ed jobs

With special-education teachers in short supply, some districts are hiring teachers who’ve received only a few weeks of training in teaching students with disabilities, notes the Hechinger Report.

For example, 12.5 percent of Teach for America corps members are hired as special-education teachers.

Milwaukee Public Schools draw on four alternative programs to fill special-ed slots: About one quarter of the city’s 1,100 special-education teachers last year held emergency licenses.

On One Foot in Reality, a special education teacher writes about the many duties that come with the job.

Often we have between 15-30 students on our caseload, have a full teaching schedule (usually English Language Arts or Math), help our students with Science, Social Studies or any other subject the student is having difficulty with, we are expected to put out fires (behavioral issues) that come up, advise administrators and teachers about laws/regulations, liaison between parents and the school and all the other stuff we seem to be responsible for.

Special-ed teachers spend a lot of time filling out paperwork.

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  1. Special education teachers are handed quite a load. To be honest, I don’t think that this post accurately describes just how much is expected of them. To me it sounds too much like the duties of a classroom teacher, which already push teachers to burn out quickly. On the teaching staff, fulfilling the role of special educator and doing it well is probably the most difficult job.

    That they “spend a lot of time” on paperwork is a gross understatement where I work. Because NYC’s central bookkeeping system is stuck in 1975, the amount of paperwork special education teachers are required to complete is mind-numbing. Should we be recruiting new teachers with very little training to fill these roles? Probably not.

  2. The term “special ed teacher” is not specific enough to be informative to the general public, either. Although the paperwork is similar (in type if not amount), the actual job responsibilities vary greatly depending on the type and extent of the disability. Some special ed teachers have (or should have) extensive, disability-specific training; others have a few courses and will end up either teaching in mainstream classrooms, doing some pull-out, or being assigned to a mutli-disaiblity classroom.

  3. The TFAs sent to teach sped are by far the least qualified of the bunch–the ones who can’t get jobs teaching math, science, or compete with other teachers in English and History (I know a number of TFAs at my current job who are in that first list somewhere). If the only option for a TFA is sped, then that person probably shouldn’t be teaching at all.

    Instead, they teach sped and write blogs that make TFA look horrible.

    If there’s a determination to use these least qualified TFAers, then they should be used to move more qualified teachers to sped and give these guys “easier” classes. Of course, more qualified teachers don’t want to teach sped–and there, finally, is the problem: there aren’t enough teachers who want to teach special education involving highly disabled or deeply disturbed students.

    So rather than use wellmeaning but close to ineffectual kids to plug holes, we should be re-evaluating whether public schools are meant to teach any but mildly disabled kids.

  4. Huh. Shortage of sped teachers? Not in my area. Then again, I live close to a couple of well-regarded programs, including one in the top 10.

    As to why there’s a shortage…methinks that only a crazy person would go into sped these days, given the atmosphere of NCLB, Race to the Top, and merit pay. Special education teachers are specialists who won’t get credit for individually based merit pay under most proposals I’ve seen.

    I think the shortage is a myth, myself. I can’t believe the number of times I’ve been told “oh sped is a sure thing” while sped is one of the heaviest cut budgets in my district. The cost of special ed isn’t the internal programs, though, it’s the cost of sending kids out to private programs because the district has cut back on teacher and aide services so severely under the notion that they’ll save money by doing so. During my short time teaching I’ve seen the accepted caseload norm in my district for my level of sped (resource room) go from twenty-five students to almost fifty for full time.