Faculty from UNC Greensboro, Virginia Tech, the University of Wisconsin Madison, and the University of Central Florida, joined by U.S. Department of Education officials, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation representatives, North Carolina Department of Public Education Exceptional Children Division personnel, and frontline practitioners convened for the first-ever American Educational Research Association (AERA) Conference at the UNCG School of
Education recently to identify innovative solutions to the longstanding special education teacher and leader workforce crisis.
In the US, over 6 million school-age students with disabilities receive special education services through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. However, 51 percent of all school districts and 90 percent of high poverty schools report difficulty attracting qualified special education teachers. Teacher shortages have been reported in 49 states.
According to UNCG School of Education Professor and conference organizer Dr. Marcia Rock, “the intention of the conference was to strategically connect key stakeholders that are typically siloed, and take a ‘Leading by Convening’ approach that provides guidance toward authentic engagement. Participants learned from professionals in other disciplines, drawing on workforce development solutions they have found effective.”
Other key players, including UNCG doctoral, graduate, and undergraduate students; individuals with disabilities; leaders and personnel from The University of Florida’s CEEDAR Center; the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC); The Teacher Education Division of the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC-TED); The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE), the Higher Education Consortium for Special Education (HECSE),
the North Carolina New Teacher Center, and The Early Childhood Personnel Center (ECPC) participated in the conversation.
Personnel from UNC Chapel Hill’s National Implementation Research Network (NIRN) facilitated the meeting, using the Liberating Structures framework.
By Eden Bloss
Photo by Martin W. Kane