Attrition and retention of special education self-contained teachers: Should I stay or should I go?




Rousseau, Stephen Anthony

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The field of special education has emerged as an area of significant research over the last decade. One area that has been targeted for study within the body of research relates to the high rates of attrition of staff. With the advent of the federal legislation requiring school districts to locate and employ highly qualified teachers, the need to retain staff has come to the forefront. This study focused specifically on factors that may moderate the decision of special education teachers to stay in or vacate their self-contained special education teaching position. It was hypothesized that increased access to professional and paraprofessional staff, level of educational training, ability to successfully cope with stress, and salary would impact positively upon overall job satisfaction and intent to remain employed in self contained classrooms. For this study, educational staff teaching in Social Adjustment Classes, Preschool Programs for Children with Disabilities, and Life Skills Classes were interviewed.

The results suggested that paraprofessional support had a moderate to high impact on self-contained teacher's outlook regarding ability to adequately provide services to students. However, only tentative conclusions could be drawn regarding the relationship between paraprofessional support and teacher's intent to remain in their positions. Mixed results were obtained regarding the impact of educational training on job commitment. The benefits of formalized educational training were noted by participants, but were eclipsed by the perceived benefits of on the job training, targeted in-service opportunities and prior work experiences in the educational fields. In self-contained classrooms the most frequently reported stressors included working with challenging administrators, lack of relevant training and paperwork and legal requirements. The most significant moderating factors to these stressors included a collaborative relationship with campus administration and well trained paraprofessional staff willing to work cooperatively with self-contained teachers to educate students. The impacts of salary were also examined. Limited support was obtained for salary as an incentive to remain in self contained positions.



Education, Psychology, Attrition, Job commitment, Paraprofessional support, Self-contained, Special education, Teacher retention