Employment Trend and Shortage of Recreation and Therapeutic Recreation Specialists in Public Schools. (Research Application)
Since the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 (PL 94-142) was signed into legislation, recreation and therapeutic recreation (RTR) careers in the public schools have attracted the attention of researchers on several issues. These issues included the need for qualified RTR specialists, competencies for qualified RTR specialists (e.g., Stumbo, 1990), models for delivering RTR service, and demographics of employed RTR specialists (O'Morrow & Stewart, 1989). The results of these studies were helpful in better understanding the RTR career; however, employment trends of the RTR career based on a longitudinal data series have been ignored.
Although longitudinal data-based studies on employment trends of RTR careers in public schools in the United States were not found in the review of literature, Stewart and Anderson (1990) recommended employment trends of RTR careers in the public schools be investigated because the decrease of RTR students might be in response to a decline in the RTR employment market. They reported that enrollments of students majoring in RTR have decreased substantially since 1979. This decline of enrollments in RTR was first noticed in 1982 (Gitelson & Henkel, 1983) and continued through 1990. Since the employment market has been a basic reason for students to select RTR as their major, the decrease of RTR enrollments might be in response to a decrease in the RTR employment market. Unfortunately, longitudinal data-based studies were not found to support this decreasing trend in the RTR employment market.
Moreover, it seemed there was a problem in the employment market of RTR specialists in public schools. If the employment market of RTR careers has decreased, as proposed by Stewart and Anderson (1990), then the number of RTR specialists hired in the public schools would be gradually reduced year by year. This reduction would indicate that the number of students with disabilities enrolled in public schools had also declined. The fact, however, was that the enrollment of students with disabilities has linearly increased over the years. Clearly, there is a need to document this shortage by a data-based study.
The purpose of this study was to examine the employment market for a career in RTR in public schools. Specifically, this study was to examine (1) the employment trend of RTR careers in public schools and (2) the shortage of RTR specialists for students with disabilities requiring recreation service in public schools based on longitudinal data from 1983-1984 to 1997-1998.
The Study Overview
The data source used for this study was Annual Reports to Congress by the Office of Special Education Programs since 1983 (OSEP, 2000); this was considered to be the most reliable data source.
Three datasets were used in this study: (1) RTR specialists employed--annual number of RTR specialists hired to deliver recreation and leisure service to students with disabilities in public schools; (2) RTR specialists needed--annual number of RTR specialist positions filled by partly certified specialists and those left vacant in public schools; and (3) students with disabilities--the annual number of students with disabilities enrolled in public schools. Each set was from 1983-1984 to 1997-1998. 1983-1984 was selected as the base year since this year was the first time the annual number of RTR specialists employed was required to report as an independent category. 1997-1998 was used as the last year, because this year was the latest year available for these datasets.
Data of RTR specialists employed included those employed RTR specialists who were fully certified, and those who were not fully certified. The data of RTR specialists needed included those employed RTR specialists who were not fully certified, plus those advertised RTR specialist positions left vacant. These data were reported by each state to the OSEP in the annual number of full-time equivalent employed specialists (Boe, Cook, Bobbitt, & Terbanian, 1998). …