Special Education

Survey Offers Front-Line View Into Special Education

By Christina A. Samuels — February 26, 2019 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Special education teachers feel mostly competent in their own ability to work with students who have disabilities. But they have less confidence that their general education peers and supervisors have the same skills—a deep concern when inclusion in general education classes is a priority for most children with special needs.

That finding is one of several from a survey of special education teachers conducted by the Council for Exceptional Children and released at its recent national conference in Indianapolis.

Only 14 percent of the special education teachers who responded to the survey said they felt they were given sufficient time to plan with partners. And despite the interest in recent years in co-teaching, just over half of respondents, 54 percent, said they felt highly confident in their co-teaching skills.

See the Data: Special Education Teachers, Surveyed

Mary Ruth Coleman, a former president of CEC, who spearheaded the survey along with William K. Bogdan and Susan Fowler, also former presidents of the organization, said even the sobering findings have an upside: They show that special education teachers expect a lot from themselves and others.

“They feel competent, they understand the role of the [individualized education program], they understand collaboration and they value it. They want to do it more, and better,” said Coleman, a senior scientist emerita at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute in Chapel Hill, N.C.

System Change Needed

Nearly 1,500 teachers responded to the survey; general education, self-contained, or resource-room settings each accounted for roughly 30 percent of respondents’ teaching environments, with the remainder saying they taught in other places. Fowler said she was gratified to see how many teachers saw the student’s IEP as an essential document—not just paperwork.

“We were delighted and maybe even a little bit surprised that the IEP is a living, useful, frequently referred-to document,” Fowler said. More than half of respondents said they referred to the IEP daily to weekly; more than 70 percent said they individualized their curriculum using the IEP as guidance most or all of the time.

Bogdan, a retired special education administrator with the Hamilton County Educational Services Center in Cincinnati, which provides support to local school districts, said the findings underscore that there must be a systemwide change in education so that teachers can have the collaboration time, planning time, and other resources they say they need.

“It’s not just one resolution that’s going to take care of problems,” Bogdan said. “It’s how we think about the entire system of education.”

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the February 27, 2019 edition of Education Week as Survey: Ground-Level Perspectives on Spec. Ed.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Reading & Literacy Webinar
Your Questions on the Science of Reading, Answered
Dive into the Science of Reading with K-12 leaders. Discover strategies, policy insights, and more in our webinar.
Content provided by Otus
Mathematics Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table: Breaking the Cycle: How Districts are Turning around Dismal Math Scores
Math myth: Students just aren't good at it? Join us & learn how districts are boosting math scores.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Achievement Webinar
How To Tackle The Biggest Hurdles To Effective Tutoring
Learn how districts overcome the three biggest challenges to implementing high-impact tutoring with fidelity: time, talent, and funding.
Content provided by Saga Education

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Special Education Whitepaper
Inside IEP: Actionable Insights and Innovations for Student Support
Explore virtual solutions, educator burnout, parental support, and ways to create an inclusive learning environment.
Content provided by DotCom Therapy
Special Education What the Research Says One Group of Teachers Is Less Likely to Identify Black Students for Special Ed. Why That Matters
Researchers say their findings argue for diversifying the teacher workforce.
4 min read
Full length side view of Black female instructor in mid 40s with hand on shoulder of a Black elementary boy as they stand in corridor and talk.
Special Education Video Inside an Inclusive Classroom: How Two Teachers Work Together
This model for inclusive education benefits students of all abilities, and the teachers instructing them.
1 min read
Special Education Using Technology for Students in Special Education: What the Feds Want Schools to Know
Assistive technology can improve outcomes for students in special education, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
4 min read
Black students using laptop in the lab with white female teacher- including a female student with special needs.