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Special educators' perceptions of teacher preparation and retention

Kimberly R Rothwell-Carson, Johnson & Wales University


Attrition is the greatest factor necessitating additional teachers in the United States (Berry, 2001; Billingsley, 2004b; Boe, Cook, & Sunderland, 2008; Dove, 2004; United States Department of Education, 2004). Retention and attrition are vital to understand when addressing teacher shortages in special education (Payne, 2008). The quality or type of preparation programs for special education teachers are factors in assessing retention (Payne, 2008)."Teacher retention is important not just because of the difficulty of finding replacements, but also because of the impact on instruction for students with disabilities" (Billingsley, 2004b, p. 370). The purpose of this study was to explore the key factors of two types of special education teacher preparation programs, alternative and traditional, that contribute to the quality of the teachers produced and the retention of these teachers in the field (Boe, Shin, & Cook, 2007; Rosenberg, Boyer, Sindelar, & Misara, 2007; Rosenberg & Sindelar, 2005). A qualitative, descriptive case study methodology was used to assess teachers' perceptions regarding their type of preparation program and their views on retention. Personal interviews were used to collect data. Research participants were six special educators (N = 6) that completed either an alternative teacher preparation program (n = 3) or a traditional program (n = 3). The study explored to what extent teacher preparation influenced retention. Thematic analysis was used to examine the data collected from the interviews. Program documents and student state assessment data were used to confirm the patterns and themes that emerged from the interviews. Alternative teacher preparation programs are seen as a way to solve attrition issues. This study showed that different models of teacher preparation attract different candidates with distinct perceptions of retention in special education. This study indicates that teacher preparation should be seen as a continuum in which quality programs offer choices to meet the needs of all teacher candidates. Results from the analysis show that quality teacher preparation programs need to increase the rigor and scope of their pedagogical courses and link them to the realities of the classroom and to fieldwork. This study gives further impetus to examine how the characteristics of teacher candidates sustain them in the field.

Subject Area

Educational leadership|Special education|Teacher education|Higher education

Recommended Citation

Rothwell-Carson, Kimberly R, "Special educators' perceptions of teacher preparation and retention" (2009). Dissertation & Theses Collection. AAI3387045.