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The Push to Get More Teachers of Color in Special Education Classrooms

Teacher of color working with two students

The excerpt below is taken from an article originally published in Ed Week and is reprinted with permission.

It’s a constant struggle for school districts across the country to find qualified special education teachers. An extra challenge: finding special educators of color to help meet the needs of a student population that can be disproportionately nonwhite.

Just over 82 percent of special education teachers in public schools are white, according to 2011-12 federal data, the most recent available. Meanwhile, only about half of students receiving special education services are white, according to 2017-18 data.

Yet teacher diversity matters: Decades of research has shown that students often perform better academically when they are taught by teachers of the same race.

“The special education field is really prime to recruit faculty of color,” said Jacqueline Rodriguez, the assistant vice president for programs and professional learning at the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education. “We do have a disproportionate representation of students of color and students with second-language acquisition in special education programs and being identified as students with special needs. We also know that … we have a dearth of certified and qualified special education teachers in the field.”

Rodriguez is leading a networked improvement community with 10 teacher-preparation programs that have pledged to find ways to enroll more aspiring special educators and reduce the shortage of special education teachers by fall 2022. A priority is bringing people of color and people with disabilities into the special education teaching ranks.

“Of course we want to strategize to decrease the shortages, but we also want to strategize and do something that’s sustainable and ensure that every child has a profession-ready teacher as a special educator in their classroom, who also reflects our demographics in America,” she said

Read the full article.


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