Comprehensive recruitment strategies must be implemented to address existing shortages of special education teachers and SISP.
Role of Policymakers in Supporting Comprehensive Recruitment Strategies
Policymakers can offer a key role in ensuring that students have access to services by supporting efforts to improve the recruitment of special education teachers and SISPs by:
- Alerting constituents and others of recruitment strategies and their importance.
- Introducing legislation and supporting regulatory efforts to address and fund these initiatives.
Strategies for Policymakers
- Support Telepractice
Provide tax incentives for home and technology expenses incurred by educators providing virtual educational and telehealth services.
- Build Multiple Pathways to the Profession
By increasing the volume and quality of alternative routes to certification, a greater number of candidates are available to meet the growing demands. For example, programs that enroll paraprofessionals in teacher training programs can help address shortages.
- Encourage Portability of Licensure and Certification
Reciprocal agreements between states may help alleviate shortages of qualified special education teachers and SISPs including shortages in rural and underserved areas.
- Strengthen Partnerships with Higher Education Institutions
Partnerships between local educational agencies and institutions of higher education increase local community access to personnel preparation programs. Distance learning programs can also help to reach potential SISPs candidates.
- Support Loan Repayment and Loan Forgiveness Programs
Repayment grants serve as incentives for SISPs to enter the workforce. Tuition assistance programs can be structured to include service in high-risk areas upon graduation.
- Provide Financial Incentives
SISPs who are offered contingency-based financial incentives, such as scholarships and fellowship programs, must serve in high-need schools for specific timeframes. This helps support underserved students in areas with critical shortages.
- Access Grants to Meet Demand
State and federal grants are often available to state education departments. Receiving grant funding to implement a comprehensive recruitment strategy may help districts develop an incentive plan to hire qualified professionals to meet the needs of students with disabilities.
Considerations for States and Districts
- Provide Specialized Instructional Support Personnel, especially those working in itinerant roles, with appropriate technology training, hardware, and software supports (i.e. computers, data and project management software, assessment scoring systems, internet stipends, virtual conferencing software, etc.) and mentoring focused on improving work efficiency and productivity.
- Ensure candidates for positions are aware of your state’s certification/licensure requirements.
- Market incentive programs to attract a larger pool of qualified applicants.
- Evaluate and revise recruitment strategies as needed. Before implementing any recruitment effort, it is important to research its effectiveness in other states and districts. States and districts should compile a list of effective strategies to use in revising and implementing recruitment efforts as needed.
- Use social media–including Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn– as well as websites to implement recruitment strategies. Utilizing the internet to market your recruitment efforts is an inexpensive way to reach a broad pool of applicants.
- Automate your application process. The use of electronic tools streamlines the hiring process and eliminates delays in processing information.
- Ensure any alternative route to certification program that is utilized to attract special education teachers and SISPs provides a rigorous curriculum, meaningful clinical experiences, and adequate support.
- Encourage policies that support flexible hiring processes for special education teachers and SISP.
Benefits of Implementing Comprehensive Recruitment Efforts
- Strong recruitment efforts help states and districts attract a more diverse and culturally competent workforce.
- Comprehensive recruitment efforts help schools hire qualified special education teachers and SISPs. These staff members are highly educated and trained to help students meet social and academic goals. Chronic shortages lead to the hiring of underqualified individuals and limits the quality of services delivered to students with disabilities.
- Comprehensive recruitment strategies–including an emphasis on recruiting professionals in hard-to-staff, high-poverty, and rural and urban areas–improve the equitable distribution of qualified special education professionals. Schools with high percentages of minority and low-income students have difficulty attracting qualified professionals.