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UIC Receives $1.14 Federal Grant to Address Special Education Teacher Shortage

Deborah Bayliss | 12/26/2013, 12:31 p.m.
According to researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), public schools nationwide face a shortage of special education ...
According to researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), public schools nationwide face a shortage of special education teachers, disproportionately affecting populations of minority students particularly in metropolitan areas like Chicago because of the large African American and Latino student body that exist there and because minority students are placed in special education programs disproportionally higher than students of other ethnicities.

Michelle Park-Katz, Ph.D., Clinical Professor, Masters Programs Coordinator and Special Education and Teacher Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Michelle Park-Katz, Ph.D., Clinical Professor, Masters Programs Coordinator and Special Education and Teacher Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

According to researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), public schools nationwide face a shortage of special education teachers, disproportionately affecting minority students particularly in metropolitan areas like Chicago because of the large African American and Latino student body that exist there, and because minority students are placed in special education programs at a disproportionally higher rate than students of other ethnicities.

“A large percentage of these kids are African American and Latino who are impacted by this nationwide special education teacher shortage,” said Michelle Parker-Katz, Ph.D., Clinical Professor, Masters Programs Coordinator and Special Education and Teacher Education at UIC who took part in research on the matter. “Chicago Public Schools (CPS) is mirroring the dismal outcome that we see nationwide. This is terribly sad and terribly wrong, these inequities for students of color,” said Parker-Katz.

UIC received a $1.14 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to recruit and prepare seven doctoral students who will train special education teachers and who will also study students with disabilities in urban schools.

“For Congress to continue funding like this, the need is extreme,” Parker-Katz said. “Chicago has huge vacancies in elementary and high school special education, and there are only two special-education doctoral programs in Illinois.”

CPS spokesperson, Joel Hood responded to Parker-Katz statements saying that, "CPS is committed to providing a high quality education for every student in every part of the city. Due to a national shortage of qualified special education teachers and clinicians, the District continues to expand its recruiting pipeline to address the gap and fill our teacher positions. Through partnerships, including those with accredited universities, we can ensure that we are able to hire the most qualified professionals to deliver services that will accommodate the unique needs of all of our learners.”

CPS officials also provided the following strategies to address the shortage of special education teachers:

• CPS plans to visit 14 colleges and universities with special education programs in and out of state including Vanderbilt University, Michigan State University, UIC, and the University of Texas-Austin, and will hold recruitment fairs, informal on-campus information sessions with a staff members from CPS’s Office of Diverse Learner Services and Supports.

• Added six new out-of-state university partners as a way to expand exposure to potentially 400-500 additional spring graduates and thousands of future Special Education Teachers and is working with its alternative teacher certification pipeline programs to recruit and train candidates for high-need focus areas within special education, bilingual and early childhood special education.

• Transition more CPS student-teachers into CPS special education teachers through higher touch recruiting efforts, Diverse Learner information sessions, specialized job fairs, podcasts and a spring Social Media campaign.

According to Parker-Katz and Marie Tejero Huges, UIC associate professor of special education who partnered in the research, there are not enough qualified university professors, nationwide, currently training special education teachers.

Other factors related to the shortage include:

• Possibly 50 to 60 percent of special education faculty retiring within the next 10-15 years