Behavior Management Skills as Predictors of Retention among South Texas Special Educators

By Mitchell, Ann; Arnold, Mitylene | Journal of Instructional Psychology, September 2004 | Go to article overview

Behavior Management Skills as Predictors of Retention among South Texas Special Educators


Mitchell, Ann, Arnold, Mitylene, Journal of Instructional Psychology


A survey of South Texas Special Education teachers was conducted to determine how they perceived their behavior management skills in the classroom and what effect, if any, this had on their job satisfaction. The majority of teachers were confident in their ability to accomplish the management demands of the classroom. The teachers who showed the least confidence were the novice teachers. Most teachers had a variety of disabilities in their classroom during the same class period. No one disability appeared to affect behavior management, but grades two through seven appeared to be the most difficult to manage. Since novice teachers seemed to have the least confidence in their ability to manage the class, the recommendation was that mentors and/or extra training during the school year might help these teachers build their skills and confidence.

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One of the most important goals of the Bush Administration has been to support State and local communities in creating and maintaining a system of public education where no child is left behind. Under Section 3, Duties and Commission Report, the Order continues to state that an analysis of, and recommendations regarding, how the Federal Government can help State and local education agencies provide a high-quality education to students with disabilities, including the recruitment and retention of qualified personnel and the inclusion of children with disabilities in performance and accountability systems. With reflections of this Order, Texas A&M University-Kingsville initiated a study to evaluate the retention of special educators in South Texas. A survey was distributed to school districts throughout Educational Service Center Region 11 to poll teachers in the field of Special Education concerning teacher satisfaction. These criteria may provide insight on factors affecting teacher retention and a possible means to promote teacher longevity.

Statement of the Problem

School districts need to determine why their teachers are leaving if they hope to improve teacher retention. Teacher job satisfaction has been shown to be a predictor of teacher retention, determinant of teacher commitment, and, in turn, a contributor of school effectiveness (Shann, 1998). Moreover, special education attrition is considered to be the most troublesome issue facing the field of special education today. Special educators leave the classroom at about twice the rate of their regular education colleagues and some areas report attrition rates as high as 50% yearly. Reasons for attrition among special educators vary but some citings include (White, 1999):

* Support of teachers

* Classroom management

* Behavior management of students

According to the Texas Board for Educator Certification (2000, November), Texas is facing a serious teacher shortage because of increasing student enrollment coupled with decreasing rates of teacher retention. In the 1998-99 school year, Texas school districts had to fill over 63,000 teaching positions. No organization should be satisfied with losing its best personnel at anytime, and yet evidence suggests that education is indeed losing many of its most talented people.

Over the past 8 years, professionals in special education have contributed a growing body of research to this knowledge base, examining factors related to decisions of special educators to remain or leave the field and describe the exact nature of special education teacher attrition. A national survey of over 1,000 special educators recently conducted by the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) concluded: Poor teacher working conditions contribute to the high rate of special educators leaving the field, teacher burnout, and substandard quality of education for students for special needs (Gersten, 2001).

A review of research conducted on the relationship of behavior management and teacher outcomes by Paul Barton (2001) led him to conclude that discipline does make a difference in teachers leaving. …

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