ERIC Identifier: ED262515
Publication Date: 1984-00-00
Author: Smith-Davis, Judy
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Handicapped and Gifted Children Reston VA.
Personnel Development in Special Education: Quantity Versus
Quality. 1984 Digest.
Approximately 2,380,000 teachers are employed in the United States today. Of
this number, 6 percent (or around 142,800) leave the profession each year.
Although public school enrollments have declined in the last decade, census
figures show that the school-aged population will again begin to burgeon in the
mid to late 1980s. Moreover, though the overall enrollment did decline in the
1970s, the number of students identified as handicapped increased. By the end of
this decade, it is estimated that the demand for new teachers to fill all roles
will be 200,000 per year (National Center for Educational Statistics 1983).
Among colleges and universities in the United States, 1227 (or 70 percent)
have teacher education programs. Most of these programs have been experiencing a
gradual decline in enrollment (Feistritzer 1983). The number of new teachers who
graduated from these programs was 313,000 in 1972-73, but only 141,000 in
1980-81 (Kluender 1984). Approximately 698 of the nation's teacher education
programs are engaged in preparing special education personnel (Geiger 1983);
one-tenth of all bachelor degrees awarded in education in 1980-81 were in
The overall supply of teachers produced annually is already 4 percent short
of demand (American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education 1983). The
greatest shortages are in math, physics, vocational education, bilingual
education, and special education. The most pressing needs reported by school
districts are for occupational therapists; physical therapists; speech
clinicians; personnel to work with students who are emotionally disturbed,
behavior disordered, severely retarded, severely emotionally disturbed, multiply
handicapped, visually handicapped, or hearing impaired; and personnel for
special education in the secondary schools (Smith-Davis, Burke, and Noel 1984).
These data demonstrate the reality that the current supply of qualified
personnel does not meet demand, particularly in such important areas of
instruction as special education.
In recent years (and, in most cases, prior to the National Commission on
Excellence report), 85 percent of colleges and universities offering preparation
in teacher education have initiated efforts to improve the quality of their
programs by upgrading the curriculum (National Center for Educational Statistics
l983), by lengthening the teacher education program to five years, and/or by
expanding the clinical and field experience components of their programs
(Kluender 1984). Seventy-four percent of these colleges and universities have
increased admissions standards (National Center for Educational Statistics
In special education, personnel preparation programs have been greatly
enhanced in the past decade by these and other steps. Among the new strengths in
preservice training programs in special education are greater emphasis on
trainee acquisition of competency objectives, as evidenced by the trainee's
ability to effect change in learners; greater collaboration with parents and
interdisciplinary professions; and improved field-based training with clinical
supervision and the measurement of performance objectives.
Any limitation on numbers of available personnel promotes mediocrity because
it limits selectivity. In special education, the already existing shortages are
constraining selectivity in hiring. Indeed, "in special education, the most
widespread solution to problems of personnel shortages and recruitment problems
is the issuance of certificates to persons who do not demonstrate the
preparation, experience, qualifications, and other criteria ordinarily used for
certification. Up to 30 percent of the personnel in some jurisdictions are thus
working with children with whom they have had minimal experience or preparation,
and no jurisdiction is free of the need for provisionally certified personnel"
(Smith-Davis, Burke, and Noel 1984).
Meanwhile, higher education must deal with the continuing decline in teacher
trainee enrollment at the same time that it endeavors to raise its admission
standards, the quality of its programs, and its graduation criteria.
A major factor in decisions not to choose a teaching career is the low salary
level (Dresap, McCormick, and Paget 1984). According to reports from the Bureau
of Labor Statistics, Endicot, and the College Placement Council, beginning
salaries for teachers with a bachelor's degree are lower than in any other
The depopularization of public education in politics and the press also
reportedly discourages many high caliber individuals from entering the
profession. In 1969, 75 percent of respondents in a Gallup poll said they would
like their children to become teachers. By the time of the 1983 Gallup poll,
only 45 percent of respondents wanted their offspring to become teachers
(Cresap, McCormick, and Paget 1984). Out of the effort to rivet public attention
on the mediocrity ascribed to public education, perhaps a self-fulfilling
prophecy is evolving.
Under the prevailing conditions, higher education's potentially greater
selectivity in admissions, retention, and graduation stands to further limit the
available personnel who are and will be needed, and thereby limit the
selectivity of employers. If we desire not only to have enough teachers but also
to have good ones, higher education cannot be held exclusively accountable for
both goals. Colleges and universities cannot alone guarantee a teacher for every
vacant position in every school everywhere, as long as other factors create
shortages for both trainees and teachers.
What colleges and universities can and should guarantee is that every special
education graduate is indeed an accomplished professional. What states,
districts, and national policy makers should guarantee are the incentives and
conditions that will make education an attractive, lucrative, promising, and
respectable profession. Until issues of quality can be disentangled from
problems of quantity, the overall excellence of teacher education and its
graduates will be impeded, and the tide of mediocrity in the public schools will
continue to rise.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education. TASK FORCE ON
SHORTAGE/SURPLUS QUALITY ISSUES IN TEACHER EDUCATION: REPORT ON A SURVEY OF
CHANGE IN TEACHER EDUCATION. Washington, D.C.: American Association of Colleges
for Teacher Education, 1983.
Business/Higher Education Forum. THE NEW MANUFACTURING: AMERICA'S RACE TO
AUTOMATE. A REPORT SUBMITTED TO PRESIDENT REAGAN. Washington, D.C.:
Business/Higher Education Forum, 1984.
Cresap, McCormick, and Paget. TEACHER INCENTIVES: A TOOL FOR EFFECTIVE
MANAGEMENT. Reston, VA: National Association of Secondary School Principals
(with the National Association of Elementary School Principals and American
Association of School Administrators), 1984.
Feistritzer, C. E. THE CONDITIONS OF TEACHING: A STATE BY STATE ANALYSIS.
Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1983.
Geiger, W. E. NATIONAL DIRECTORY OF SPECIAL EDUCATION TEACHER PREPARATION
PROGRAMS. A SURVEY CONDUCTED BY THE TEACHER EDUCATION DIVISION OF THE COUNCIL
FOR EXCEPTIONAL CHILDREN. Rosslyn, VA: National Information Center for
Handicapped Children and Youth, l983.
Kluender, M. M. "Teacher Education Programs in the 1980's: Some Selected
Characteristics." JOURNAL OF TEACHER EDUCATION 34 (1984):33-35.
National Center for Educational Statistics. THE CONDITION OF EDUCATION, 1983.
Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1983.
National Commission on Excellence in Education. A NATION AT RISK: THE
IMPERATIVE FOR EDUCATIONAL REFORM. Washington, D.C.: U. S. Department of
PROFESSIONAL STANDARDS AND CODE OF ETHICS IN SPECIAL EDUCATION. Reston, VA:
The Council for Exceptional Children, 1983.
Smith-Davis, J., P. J. Burke, and M. Noel. PERSONNEL TO EDUCATE THE
HANDICAPPED IN AMERICA: SUPPLY AND DEMAND FROM A PROGRAMMATIC VIEWPOINT. College
Park, MD: University of Maryland, Institute for the Study of Exceptional
Children and Youth, 1984.