A Three Year Study of Special Educator Attrition: WhyThey Leave and Where They Go

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Teacher Education and Special Education





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With chronic and critical shortages of special education professionals evident throughout the United States, the issues of attrition and retention are on the forefront of analysis. Reasons why special education professionals in Utah left their positions were explored in a three-year study of special education attrition. The causes and patterns of attrition have been analyzed, giving valuable insight into how the loss of qualified special education professionals can be prevented. The most common reason for leaving listed by special education teachers and speech language pathologists was that they “moved out of state”. School psychologists reported “retirement” and “moved out of state” as their two most common reasons for leaving public school positions. The most common reasons for leaving listed by all special education professionals were “moved out of state”, “retired”, and “transferred to general education”. Moving and retiring are most likely not preventable, however, assisting special educators who move to obtain positions as they relocate may be an effective method of retaining them in the field of special education. Preventable attrition such as transferring to general education and changing school districts could be addressed by university faculty and school administrators to better understand why special educators transfer and what can be done to prevent the transfers. This understanding could lead to improved strategies to minimize attrition and promote retention of special education professionals.

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