Why Special Educators Really Leave the Classroom
It’s easy to feel sorry for special education teachers.
Challenging students, prickly parents, crushing paperwork: They all go with the territory, and contribute to a level of attrition among special educators that is said to be much higher than that of their regular education teaching peers.
But those problems are only part of the reason special educators struggle. In surveys, research papers, and interviews, special educators say their jobs are also made difficult by factors that are well within school and district leaders’ power to change. Those include a lack of support from principals, difficulty balancing competing priorities from various supervisors, ignorance (and sometimes disrespect) of the job from peers, and a workload that takes special educators away from what they really want to do: teach children.
‘We Don’t Really Know What You Do’
These views are not universal, but they’re common. And without understanding that these are problems that schools and districts can address, holding on to special educators—whose ranks have declined by more than 17 percent between 2006 and 2016—will end up being even more of an uphill battle.