A qualitative case study examining the factors that contribute to the retention of experienced special education teachers in Texas public schools

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The special education teacher shortage in the U.S. continues to grow and the implication of this shortage is multifaceted. First and foremost, students that are eligible for special education may not be receiving the educational supports and services that they deserve and legally require. Additionally, this shortage may cause great financial burdens on school districts that are continually having to hire and train new special education teachers. There also may be negative financial obligations when districts are sued because there are inadequate or uncertified teachers supporting these students. There are many studies that have inquired why teachers leave the field of education, however, there are minimal that have explored special education teachers specifically, and according to Billingsley and Bettini (2019) current studies of special education teachers that leave or remain are largely quantitative. The purpose of this qualitative study was to investigate the perceptions and experiences of special education teachers that have remained in the field. The research questions revolved around intrinsic and extrinsic motivation factors regarding why they have remained. Using both in person and a video conference platform, five participants were interviewed with an open-ended interview protocol. The researcher then analyzed the interview transcripts which revealed two intrinsic (work itself and achievement) and three extrinsic (supervisor/leadership quality, working conditions, and coworker relations) emergent themes. Overall, the findings of this qualitative study revealed interventions for education leaders and authors/instructors of educator preparation programming to assist in reducing the special education teacher shortage.

special education teacher shortage, special education teacher retention, special education teacher attrition, qualitative study