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Washington: Number of SPED students "growing rapidly"; huge demand for teachers/aides

Nov 8, 2019, CrossCut: Washington schools can’t keep up with a growing need for special education teachers https://crosscut.com/2019/11/washington-schools-cant-keep-growing-need-special-education-teachers Earlier this year, a state board affirmed what many educators already knew: Washington is facing a teacher shortage…. Data in a 75-page PESB report released in March show a 309% jump in the number of conditional and emergency teaching licenses issued by the state in the decade preceding the 2017-18 school year. The writers of the report pointed to this increase as further evidence of a teacher shortage. A shortage of special education teachers is particularly acute, and presents extraordinary challenges. As Washington contends with a sparse teaching force, the number of students requiring special education services is growing rapidly. Washington schools served nearly 170,650 students in special education programs during the 2018-19 school year — a 15% increase since 2014-15 and triple the overall enrollment growth. But the amount of trained, licensed teachers available to support them isn’t keeping pace; the percentage of temporary teaching licenses issued with special education endorsements nearly tripled between 2013-14 and 2017-18…. For teachers like Patterson, paraeducators — aides who assist with classroom teaching — play a key role in providing individualized instruction by helping give students one-on-one attention. Washington school districts employed approximately 25,500 paraeducators during the 2018-19 school year. But only slightly more than half of those positions were full-time. … Nationally, the number of college students graduating each year with undergraduate education degrees has dropped by 51% since 1970, according to data published by the National Center for Education Statistics. The outlook is bleaker for the attainment of special education-related degrees…. There’s a correlation between these shortfalls and a national increase in emergency special education-related certifications, Skalski added. Schools experiencing special education staff shortages often turn to this short-term solution….

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