A profile of the qualifications of special education teachers among high poverty, urban, and rural schools
Mason, Loretta Marie
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The purpose of this study was to provide a descriptive profile of special education teachers from the 2003-04 Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS:04) and to examine how their qualifications varied among K-12 public schools according to urbanicity or school poverty quartile. Scrutiny of the distribution of special educators among schools was judged in light of the equal opportunity principle, a component of Berne and Stiefel's (1984, 1994) equity framework. To do this, variables related to teacher qualifications, demographic characteristics, teaching positions, and school characteristics were identified. Descriptive statistics and logistic regression analysis were used in this study. The findings demonstrated statistically significant differences in the qualifications of special educators among many of the analyzed subgroups. Profile of the demographic characteristics revealed that minority group members, younger special educators, and male special educators were less qualified than other special education teachers. Inspection of qualifications by school level and teaching assignment also identified statistically significant differences. The analysis by school poverty quartile and urbanicity revealed a relationship between the school characteristic (such as high poverty or urban) with the qualifications of special education teachers working in these schools. These findings indicate that as a field we are not meeting the equal opportunity standard of equity (Berne & Stiefel, 1984, 1994). This study contributed to our understanding of the supply and distribution of special education teachers by utilizing the SASS:04 dataset, profiling the state of the special education workforce as state education agencies and teacher preparation programs made the necessary changes to allow teachers to meet the HQSET provisions. The examination of the distribution of qualified special education teachers among school poverty quartiles and urban areas provides evidence that special education teachers were not equitably distributed across schools. Policymakers should address this through policies related to the preparation of special educators, especially those trained through non-traditional or alternative preparation programs.