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Let's Stay Together: A Case for Special Education Teacher Retention


The goal of this study is to identify those factors contributing to special education teacher (SET) turnover that can be directly amendable to intervention by the improved policy and practice at school sites. This study examines the turnover behavior of SETs by including variables clustered as teacher demographics, employment factors, and teacher perceptions of organizational conditions. The responses of SET stayers (teachers who remain on their school from the base year to year two of the survey), movers (teachers who moved from one school to another), and leavers (teachers who left the teaching profession) were compared to general education teachers (GET) in the same groups to identify variables that separated the subgroups.

The data for this research are the teacher reports contained in the Teacher Follow-up Survey (TFS) 2000-2001. This survey is the complement to the Public and Private School Teacher Questionnaire of the School and Staffing Survey (SASS, 1999-2000). These surveys are sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education and were conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau. They were analyzed by the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES). The teacher samples are weighted to produce national estimates. The sample of this study is 4,048 SETs and GETs (N = 4,080 weighted).

This study is unique to others whose focus is SET turnover in that it examines the distinct roles of elementary and secondary SETs. The school levels differ in school organization, academic rigor, and special education law. This study found that these differences appear to have an impact on retention behavior.

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