Special education is an area that requires being prioritized in the national and educational goals as a way to eliminate disparities between students with special needs and those without. However, the fact is that the shortage is acute and such understaffing is putting the academic life of students with special needs in jeopardy. Such a situation is so because, without enough teacher, these students will not be able to maximize their full potential in academics. Further, such a shortages impede necessary preparation of students to join colleges and universities. The reasons behind the shortages range from the high turnover in schools, a lot of work for special education teachers leading them to quit, low funding of special education incentives, low uptake in special education courses in higher learning as well as poor working conditions in areas where special needs are prevalent. As such, the special demands and training that a special education teacher requires to function well limit the number of available special education teachers in the US.
Poor working conditions discourage many from desiring to take up the course of special education. Unlike the typical classroom sessions, students with special needs will require specialized care, more nurturing and employ a lot of patience to ensure that the learning process brings about the desired outcome (Bjorn, Aro, Koponen, Fuchs, Fuchs 2016). However, when teachers in this area experience professional isolation from the other teachers and their work not rewarded accordingly, they may choose to take up the mainstream teaching. Sometimes the workloads are unmanageable because of the already national shortage of teachers. As such the teachers already may opt to seek other ways of getting income that is manageable which leads to high turnovers as suggested by Boe (2014). Special education teachers should have a small teacher to student ratio to be able to give the attention that the students demand. However, when instead of small classes it is more work, then is becomes difficult to remain in the profession sustainably.
Additionally, the shortage of special education tutors can be attributable to the unwillingness of the graduates and professionals to work where the special needs students are found (Peacock Hill Working group, 2017). Unlike in the regular school set up where students can travel from place to place, the special needs students are distributed throughout the country in all regions including among the marginalized communities. Trained teachers are unwilling to live in crime-prone areas of areas of low-income levels. Most young graduates mainly are preferring to live in the cities and predictable areas as opposed to working in rural communities where the special needs students are found.
System barriers that limit the number of teachers working with special needs students are the high cost of acquiring special education training (Peacock Hill Working group, 2017). In the ordinary cases, the cost of training to become a special education teacher is higher than an average teacher in a given subject. In most times one pays more money and takes longer in school than the counterparts. Such a situation proves problematic because of the financial constraints of students who will opt to take the course that wont place unnecessary strain on their pockets. Further, it is not possible for a teacher not trained in special education to teach special needs students unlike where there is a shortage of teachers in the conventional classrooms, and the special education teacher can be of assistance. That emphasis on unique training for special education instructors makes the understaffing a real issue.
Moreover, little support is offered regarding funding to attract graduates into special education. For instance, fees subsidies or loan forgiveness could motivate graduates to take up the teaching of special needs students. Moreover, there is inadequate funding of personnel preparation grants of fresh graduates willing to undertake special education teaching as their profession. The government initiatives that relate directly to the special needs are minimal compared to the number of youths and children who have special needs. Moreover, legislature support of special education is minimal (Shevlin, 2016).This support also in terms of awareness creation among the public about the types of special needs specialists required and that can be trained in institutions makes the shortage a real issue. Some interested people may not have a good understanding of the various opportunities available in special education.
From my view, special education places unique challenges in the lives of the teachers. As such the government needs to pay particular consideration to these teachers by giving them rewards that motivate them to remain in the profession regardless of the challenges that may be prevalent. Moreover, for the cases of special needs students who require learning in their environment without mingling with the average students, the government should invest in the facilities such that they are not in unconducive environments that can hinder the teachers from taking those jobs. Additionally, initiatives like creating awareness in the mainstream media about special scholarships for special education tutors and the like would attract students to pursue that career. The number of universities and colleges offering special education should be increased so that the need can be addressed such that after some few years, the demand for special education teachers and the available teachers will be at equilibrium.
Boe, E. E. (2014). Teacher demand, supply, and shortage in special education. Handbook of research on special education teacher preparation, 67.
Bjorn, P. M., Aro, M. T., Koponen, T. K., Fuchs, L. S., & Fuchs, D. H. (2016). The many faces of special education within RTI frameworks in the United States and Finland. Learning Disability Quarterly, 39(1), 58-66.
Peacock Hill Working Group. (2017). Problems and promises in special education and related services for children and youth with emotional or behavioral disorders. Behavioral Disorders.
Shevlin, M. (2016). Historical Overview of Developments in Special Education in Ireland. In Essays in the History of Irish Education (pp. 181-201). Palgrave Macmillan UK.
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