Changing the Tide: Supporting and Retaining Residency Licensed Special Educators

For decades, nearly every U.S. state has reported shortages of special education teachers. Compounding the overall shortage, there is a 13% attrition rate for special education teachers annually (US DOE, 2021). To address these issues, alternative licensure has become a viable means to increase the number of special education teachers. These programs set forth meticulous requirements to educate and transform recent college graduates and mid-career professionals into licensed teachers within one year. North Carolina has 48 state-approved alternative licensure programs (also called residency programs); 36 of these programs offer licensure for Special Education: General Curriculum (K – 12). While preparation for residency licensed teachers is rigorous, these beginning teachers are often expected to complete the same job responsibilities as veteran special education teachers from their first day in the classroom. As a result, the turnover rate among this population of teachers is higher than teachers prepared within traditional preparation routes. Failure to create support mechanisms for these teachers threatens opportunities for students with disabilities to experience high-quality instruction from trusted and well-trained professionals, further marginalizing a group of students who often have the greatest need. This project focuses on the continuing education needs of special education teachers licensed through a residency program in NC; in particular, the supports that are needed for them to effectively work with exceptional children. An assessment of needs allows for better programming, development and support of residency licensed teachers. This project will address the following research questions:

Research question 1: What are the current perceptions of special education teachers licensed through a residency program in NC on their preparedness and efficacy for supporting Exceptional Children?

Research question 2: How do residency licensed teachers support the academic and social-emotional needs of Exceptional Children? (i.e., partner with staff and families to support the Exceptional Children in their classrooms)