Reducing the Shortage of Special Education Teachers Networked Improvement Community

Through the support of the CEEDAR Center, AACTE has launched a Reducing the Shortage of Special Education Teachers Networked Improvement CommunityYou can learn more about NICs from the Carnegie Foundation’s web site.

This NIC aims to address the problem of the shortage and lack of diversity of fully prepared and credentialed special education teachers in public schools across the nation. Eleven preparation programs in higher education have been selected to participate in this NIC and implement a range of strategies which will positively impact the special education teacher shortage by the Fall of 2022.

AACTE is proud to be partnering with the following institutions in reducing the special education teacher shortage:

  • Boston University
  • Cleveland State University
  • Eastern Michigan University
  • Texas State University
  • University of Central Florida
  • University of Nebraska at Omaha
  • University of Northern Colorado
  • University of Oregon
  • University of Wisconsin at Madison
  • Virginia State University
  • Western Kentucky University

Learning Fellows

  • Appalachian State University

In January of 2020, AACTE added the role of learning fellows to the NIC. Learning fellows are 1-2 faculty representatives from an institution interested in pursuing the strategies being addressed by the NIC. Learning fellows are invited to participate in the NIC convenings to acquire knowledge about improvement science and strategies for recruiting more teacher candidates into their programs. Learning Fellows are expected to take their learning back to their institution and build the capacity of their colleagues to address their own problems of practice using the improvement science methodology. Additionally, the Learning Fellows will contribute to the community in an advisory role and will be asked to share their perspectives on the NIC problem to be solved and the strategies identified to address it.


The Need for Improvement

The most significant impact of the special education teaching shortage is the resulting curtailed access to learning for students with disabilities. Multiple research studies indicate that fully prepared teachers in special education are more effective than those who are not fully prepared and are more likely to remain in teaching than those prepared in fast-track routes.  Special education teachers with more extensive pedagogical preparation and practice teaching are better prepared to handle teaching duties such as managing the classroom environment and using a variety of instructional methods.

Phase I:  This phase will encompass two years and engage our 10 preparation programs drawn from the AACTE membership. The aim of phase one is to identify a range of best practices in place, or in conception, which are or will address the shortage of special education teachers and the lack of diversity in the field.  The participating programs represent a range of strategies, a range of types of institutions, and geographic diversity.

Phase II:  Phase II will encompass the second two years of the project. It will include the original 10 institutions as they engage in data collection, research and analysis to examine and document the impact of the strategies including the outcomes produced.

For more information about the Special Education NIC, explore the Charter and the Timeline in our resource library.