Alleviating the special education teacher and SISP shortage requires a multi-faceted approach. Mitigation efforts focus on the two factors that exacerbate shortages:
- Recruitment of professionals into their schools
- Retention of professionals who are employed
Local school districts, and state and federal agencies all have an important role to play in reducing the acute shortage of these professionals. The following recruitment and retention strategies are supported by NCPSSERS.
Additionally, these policy recommendations may be a helpful starting point for policymakers, and state and local school leaders to consider replicating.
System-wide comprehensive recruitment strategies to attract special education
Comprehensive retention strategies for special education teachers and SISPs.
Policy recommendations focused on identifying schools’ needs, professional licensure and accreditation, increasing funding, and professional development can help local, state and federal policymakers to recruit and retain special education teachers and SISP.
Hawaii Develops Leaders Who Lead the Way to Recruitment and Retention
With many of the school districts separated by the Pacific Ocean, the Hawaii Department of Education has instituted lead or coordinator positions for special education teachers and specialized instructional support personnel (SISP). This model supports staff, streamlines the dissemination of information, and creates strategies to encourage retention of staff. Positions include the speech/language coordinator, district-level special education resource teachers, and district specialists who supervise school social workers and school psychologists.
These leaders train and orient new staff, ensure a thorough understanding of school-level, district, and state policies and procedures, and support cultural competence. The lead or specialist serves as a connector between the state department of education and school staff. Support that SISP and special education teachers receive helps in attracting new staff. Contact Melissa Friscia, Speech/Language Coordinator, Hawaii Department of Education at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Iowa Area Education Agencies Partner to Grow Their Own School Psychologists
The University of Northern Iowa (UNI) partners with two area education agencies (AEAs) to create a distance education program that will increase the number of school psychologists in these areas by 20% across a five-year grant period. The partnership serves high-need rural areas with high poverty rates and fewer options for referrals for school psychologists. The program will train existing K-12 educators who already have a master’s degree. They will complete the program and earn an education specialist (Ed.S.) degree in 18 months, while working full-time, and commit to working in their AEAs for three years. Contact Nicole Skaar, Associate Professor & Coordinator, School Psychology Program at the University of Northern Iowa at email@example.com for more information.
Ohio District Grows Their Own School Psychologists and SLPs
Because of a shortage of school psychologist candidates to interview for openings in the Mid-Ohio Educational Service Center, they engaged in a relationship with the University of Toledo. A 3-year program was developed to allow individuals already employed in schools to maintain some level of employment in the schools while pursuing their coursework to become a school psychologist. Funding for tuition is provided by Mid-Ohio Educational Service Center funds. The students’ tuition is paid in exchange for a 5-year commitment as a school psychologist, a $38,000 commitment. Adding 3 more school psychologists into their region is a game changer. Mid-Ohio ESC is looking for candidates who are invested in the region and their superintendent is fully committed to growing their own providers.
Mid-Ohio Educational Service Center has developed a similar program for speech-language pathologists (SLPs). They have a 2-year grad program and then their 3rd year is their clinical fellowship. That’s a $41,000 commitment and those SLPs also give a 5-year commitment to being an SLP for Mid-Ohio ESC. For more information, contact Jonathan Burras, Director of Student Services at Mansfield City Schools, at firstname.lastname@example.org or Jennifer Crum, Mid-Ohio Educational Service Center at email@example.com.
Wisconsin District Implements Two Changes to Attract and Retain Speech-Language Pathologists
The Speech, Related Services and Assistive Technology Coordinator for Racine, WI developed a relationship with other administrators to address a chronic shortage of speech-language pathologists. After many meetings, making multiple requests over time, and sharing the
data of how staff retention was impacted using information from neighboring districts, the school district’s administration agreed to:
- add a budget item to pay for ASHA dues for speech-language pathologists (SLPs) including all new clinical fellows (CF) and those with their certificates of clinical competency (CCCs)
- provide a clinical fellowship (CF) supervisor for any new CFs.
Once word spread that ASHA dues were paid, and a dedicated CF supervisor was available, more SLPs applied, and the school district is at full capacity for SLPs. Contact Ann Barry, Coordinator of Speech, Related Services and Assistive Technology in Racine, WI at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.