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.


Budget & Finance Webinar Leverage New Funding Sources with Data-Informed Practices
Address the whole child using data-informed practices, gain valuable insights, and learn strategies that can benefit your district.
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.
Classroom Technology Webinar
ChatGPT & Education: 8 Ways AI Improves Student Outcomes
Revolutionize student success! Don't miss our expert-led webinar demonstrating practical ways AI tools will elevate learning experiences.
Content provided by Inzata
Classroom Technology K-12 Essentials Forum Tech Is Everywhere. But Is It Making Schools Better?
Join us for a lively discussion about the ways that technology is being used to improve schools and how it is falling short.

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

Special Education Photos A Day in the Life of a School Designed to Support Students With Dyslexia
An independent school uses art and movement to set students with learning differences up for success.
1 min read
Students in the hiking club explore during an early morning walk around the campus before the start of the school day on March 30, 2023.
Students in the hiking club explore during an early morning walk around the campus before the start of the school day on March 30, 2023.
Jaclyn Borowski/Education Week
Special Education Quiz How Does Special Education Funding Work? Test Your Knowledge
What is IDEA? How much can the federal government contribute to special education funding? Take our quiz.
1 min read
Image of a student working with a teacher.
Special Education How Teachers Can Help Students With Dyslexia: What Our Readers Say
EdWeek's social-media followers weigh in on how to support students with dyslexia, a learning disability that interferes with reading.
5 min read
Young school boy writing in a notebook while sitting in a library with an educator.
Special Education Explainer How Special Education Funding Actually Works
Special education is among the most complicated and misunderstood facets of America’s sprawling K-12 school landscape.
6 min read
Illustration of a desk with a calculator and budget sheet.