Each year, the number of identified children requiring special education services increases. However, the number of qualified teachers available to serve the needs of these children is not increasing at the same rate. In addition, reports show that the attrition rates of special education teachers already in the field remain higher than the rates in other areas of education. "Reports from various states indicate that special education teachers leave special education teaching positions at disproportionably higher rates than their peers in general education." (Katsiyannis, Zhang & Conroy, 2003)
Most recent reports indicate that in 1999-2000, 12,241 positions for special education teachers were left vacant or filled by substitutes (Katsiyannis, Zhang & Conroy, 2003). Various sources reflect extreme shortages of fully certified special education teachers. Bergert and Burnette (2001) suggested that 98% of school districts report such shortages; 33,000 special education positions are filled by teachers not fully certified, and 4,000 positions remain vacant. (Katsiyannis, Zhang & Conroy, 2003) Due to the overwhelming shortages of special education teachers throughout the United States, "children with learning disabilities and other disabilities across the nation are being taught by individuals without training, let alone certification." ("Where Will Special Education Find Enough Fully Qualified Teachers? Council for Learning Disabilities," 2002, p. 62)
The special education teacher shortages not only indicate that there are not enough special education teachers to fill the open teaching positions, but that teachers are choosing not to stay in the field. Reasons for a greater number of shortages and larger levels of attrition among special education teachers in comparison to teachers within general education may have much to do with the characteristics of the students that they teach and overall standards and expectations that come with the particular job duties; or demographic characteristics.
A shortage of special education teachers and the retention of those already holding positions as special educators is a problematic situation. Schools in all parts of the nation are experiencing high teacher turnover rates, and the attrition rates for special education teachers are higher than in all other disciplines. In the state of Texas in particular, initial turnover rate of teachers served by Education Service Center-Region II in South Texas, is especially high, perhaps because of teacher characteristics.
This study was conducted to describe the personal and demographic characteristics of special education teachers in South Texas. The expectation of this study is to describe the personal and demographic characteristics of teachers who have remained in the field for a significant period of time. The following assumptions will be made for purposes of the proposed study.
1. The certified teachers of South Texas who participated in the Retention Study for South Texas Educators accurately and honestly and answered each question.
2. The surveys were scored correctly and accurately.
A limitation of this study includes unknown factors, including personal hardships that may have affected the special education teacher's performance while answering the instrument. The respondents' physical and emotional state of mind and the external testing conditions must be taken into consideration as well. The size of the sample is 228 or 30% of subjects from a population of 750 subjects. Therefore, an additional limitation is the size of the sample population may not provide a description which can generalize to the Region, other States, and the Nation.
Review of the Literature
A review of the current literature indicates limited and contradictory research describing the personal and demographic characteristics of special educators in South Texas. …