AACTE Launches Special Education Networked Improvement Community

For Immediate Release
Contact: Jerrica Thurman 202-478-4502 or jthurman@aacte.org

Higher education leaders to address national shortage of special education teachers

(May 20, 2019, Washington, D.C.) – The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) has formed a group of higher education leaders from across the country to examine effective ways to address special education teacher recruitment and retention. The AACTE Reducing the Shortage of Special Education Teachers Networked Improvement Community (NIC) will investigate the problem of the shortage and lack of diversity of fully prepared and credentialed special education teachers in public schools across the nation. The NIC members will focus on ways to increase enrollment, particularly with candidates of color and those with disabilities, strengthen partnerships between colleges of education and P-12 schools to address special education teacher turnover, and create new programs in partnership with P-12 schools to prepare and retain diverse special educators for specific vacancies.

“Half of all schools and 90% of high-poverty schools struggle to find qualified special education teachers. Special education teacher shortages often have a disproportionate effect on English learners and African Americans who are overrepresented in special education,” said Jacqueline Rodriguez, AACTE Assistant Vice President, Programs and Professional Learning, who leads the new program. “This initiative is critical for helping to improve access to learning for students with disabilities from all backgrounds and to better equip special education teachers to become more effective in the classroom.”

Through a highly selective process, AACTE invited 10 colleges of education to participate in the NIC that represent the nation’s diversity through institutional size, institutional affiliation, and geographic location. The participants were selected based on several criteria, including their commitment to increase recruitment into special education degree programs and of diverse candidates, to address high quality special education teacher preparation through building capacity with district partnerships, and to ensure special education teacher candidates are fully licensed before they are teachers of record.

AACTE is proud to announce the following member institutions as participants in its new NIC:

  • Cleveland State University (Cleveland, OH)
  • Eastern Michigan University (Ypsilanti, MI)
  • Texas State University (San Marcos, TX)
  • University of Central Florida (Orlando, FL)
  • University of Nebraska at Omaha (Omaha, NE)
  • University of Northern Colorado (Greeley, CO)
  • University of Oregon (Eugene, OR)
  • University of Wisconsin at Madison (Madison, WI)
  • Virginia State University (Petersburg, VA)
  • Western Kentucky University (Bowling Green, KY)

“AACTE members are deeply committed to advancing the work of diversity, equity and inclusion through special education programs,” said Lynn M. Gangone, AACTE president and CEO. “We are proud to have 10 institutions engaged in promising strategies to reduce the special education teacher shortages.”

The participants will work to release a compendium of case studies, which will describe the strategies they are using, the rationale and support for choosing and/or developing the strategies, the outcome goals of the strategies, and any data or results available related to the impact of the strategies to reduce the special education teacher shortage. They will also conduct critical research and analysis to examine and document the impact and outcomes of these strategies.

AACTE is partnering with The Collaboration for Effective Educator Development, Accountability, and Reform (CEEDAR) Center to implement its Special Education NIC. CEEDAR is a technical assistance center funded by the Office of Special Education Programs, and works to collaborate with national organizations, technical assistance centers, and stakeholders across the country to ensure that every student with a disability has an equitable opportunity to achieve.

To learn more about the AACTE Reducing the Shortage of Special Education Teachers NIC, visit aacte.org.


AACTE: The Leading Voice on Educator Preparation
The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education is a national alliance of educator preparation programs dedicated to high-quality, evidence-based preparation that assures educators are profession-ready as they enter the classroom. Nearly 800 member institutions include public and private colleges and universities in every state, the District of Columbia, the Virgin Islands and Guam. Through advocacy and capacity building, AACTE promotes innovation and effective practices that strengthen educator preparation. Learn more at www.aacte.org.

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