Special Education Teacher Shortage
The Kansas City Teacher Residency has been preparing and developing Teacher for Kansas City Classrooms since 2016. As we’ve continued to grow our model, we wanted to know more about the educational need of the city. So in 2018 with the help Bellwether Education Partners, we conducted an educational landscape analysis of Kansas City. The findings highlighted the drastic shortage of Special Education Teachers in Kansas City. We found that only 3% of initial teachers were pursuing Special Education (Results were based off of enrollment rates of Kansas City teacher preparation programs during the the year 2017). If there is a shortage of teachers in Special Education, it begs the question: who is teaching our students with disabilities?
Filling in the Teacher Shortage
To answer that question, the Learning Policy Institute found that “when facing these shortages, principals often resort to filling special education vacancies with underprepared teachers. This could mean hiring a teacher certified in a field other than special education, an intern with just a few weeks of training, or—in the most extreme cases—a teacher on an emergency credential who has no training whatsoever.”
Impact of Underprepared Special Eduction Teachers on Student of Color
Hiring underprepared teachers for our Special Education classrooms results in an inequitable learning experience for students. Unfortunately, the inequities are even worse for students of color. Earlier this year, the Center for American Progress reported that “approximately 65 percent of African American, Latino, and American Indian/Alaska Native students with disabilities graduated high school with diplomas, compared with 76.7 percent of white students with disabilities.”
For students of color with disabilities, we are seeing a lower graduation rate overall. This has lasting effects on their ability to find employment after high school or access higher education. This is critical because when our students of color are not given equitable access to postsecondary pathways, it exacerbates inequitable systems that uphold the racial wealth gap.
KCTR’s Response to the Shortage of Special Education Teachers
Our school partners have echoed the results we found in our analysis; they are facing the same challenge the rest of the nation is facing in sourcing highly qualified and diverse teachers for Special Education classrooms. In response to all of this, KCTR is thrilled to announce the launch of our certification program for Special Education.
KCTR’s Special Education certification program will begin with Cohort 6 in Summer of 2021. In preparation for our incoming class of Residents, our team has partnered with Dream Education Consulting, LLC to design the new curriculum, secured $100K in multi-year funding with the Marion and Henry Bloch Family Foundation to support the hiring of additional staff and the active recruitment of professionals, recent college graduates, and graduating college seniors to join our program.
When all students are given equitable access to diverse and highly effective teachers, our schools become more inclusive, making Kansas City a better place to raise our children, and isn’t this the kind of community we all wish to live in?
To learn more about the KCTR Special Education certification program, please visit: kcteach.org/SPED.
Brittney Heverling is a founding member of the Kansas City Teacher Residency and now serves as the Development and Engagement Manager. As a native Kansas Citian, Brittney has a deep knowledge and love for the city and kids of Kansas City.