The Choice to Stay: Special Education Teachers' Perceptions
thesisposted on 07.12.2012, 00:00 by Emily Chambers
The shortage of fully certified special education teachers is a significant problem in the United States that may jeopardize the quality of education for students with disabilities. This shortage is most evident in areas where children are living in poverty. The goal of this study was to better understand the shortage issue from the perspective of highly qualified special education teachers’ regarding why they remain teaching students with disabilities in low-income schools. The study involved nine Nationally Board Certified special education teachers from Cook County, Illinois, who were teaching students with disabilities in low-income schools in kindergarten through eighth grade and teaching students with various disabilities across multiple settings. All the participants were special education teachers for six or more years and had expressed their intent to remain in the field. Study participants were selected purposefully based on certain characteristics relevant to the study. Participants were interviewed twice face to face, utilizing a narrative interview, a general interview guide, and follow-up phone interview. Particular themes were identified as a result of participants’ frequent comments upon a certain topic that became central to understanding why experienced special education teachers remain teaching students with disabilities in low-income schools. The result of this process is represented by seven themes that emerged from the data revealing certain qualities. Two central categories represent the themes that captured experienced Nationally Board Certified special education teachers’ perceptions of why they remain teaching students with disabilities in low-income schools. The two central categories that synthesize and explain the research findings are labeled: “Go-Getter” and “Professional Fit.” The “go-getter” qualities these participants believed they possess as well as the extent to which teaching is a good “professional fit” appeared to play a large role in teachers’ decisions to remain in the field. A better understanding of why good teachers choose to remain has implications for recruitment and retention policies at the school district level, and for the design of professional development activities that may encourage teacher candidates, novice teachers, and experienced teachers to remain teaching students with disabilities in low-income schools.