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Fewer Teachers Entering Special Education Nationally

New trend ahead? California notes marked increase in ed specialist credentials

The nationwide teacher shortage has hit special education especially hard, with the number of special ed teachers down more than 17 percent in the past decade, according to a story by Education Week. This despite a slight uptick in overall teachers across the United States during the same time period.

For the 2015-16 school year, the special education student-to-teacher ratio has been 17 to 1 nationally—higher than the overall student/teacher ratio, which has been about 16 to 1 for the past 10 years, according to Education Week. With packed classrooms and smaller numbers of education specialists, many school districts are feeling the pinch and nearly a third of districts nationwide are reporting difficulty hiring special education teachers, the story notes.

The bars indicate the number of initial preliminary and clear credentials; the line indicates total interns, permits and waivers. Source: California Commission on Teacher Credentialing

Recent data here in California may signal a welcome new trend, though. According to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, education specialist credentials are up nearly 14 percent from 2015-16 to 2016-17 and ES interns, permits and waivers are up almost 15 percent. After years of stagnancy, the credentials issued were at the highest level in five years, though even with this increase the special education teacher shortage is still severe.

With a renewed focus statewide on public education, equity and opportunity for all, elected officials have committed to providing the resources to ensure schools have the educators that students need. Will the recent upturn in special education teachers be a one-off or will California experience a wave of new educators and lead a national trend that builds on the power of the Year of the Educator?

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