The Virginia Department of Education has received a federal grant to train and retain special education teachers in the state. The Superintendent of Public Instruction at the VDOE announced last week that the U.S. Department of Education had awarded the $1 million grant to the state agency.
“Special education has been the commonwealth’s most pressing critical shortage area for 15 consecutive years,” Superintendent James Lane said. “Reducing turnover and retaining special educators is even more critical now as all of the commonwealth’s schools prepare to reopen for in-person instruction and address the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, especially on students with disabilities and other vulnerable learners.”
As the country finds itself in the middle of national teacher shortage, qualified special education teachers are in especially short supply. School divisions in Virginia have reported special education as the biggest shortage area.
This five-year grant will support efforts in two to three school districts that have the most shortages in this area. Along with mitigating the factors that have led to a high retention rate among special education teachers, this grant will support professional development. Teachers will work on establishing evidence-based systems in the classroom meant to help diffuse disruptive behavior and utilize data-based decision making processes for a better overall environment.
Recruiting More Teachers
In April, it was reported that the Virginia Department of Education was spearheading a statewide campaign to recruit more teachers. The campaign followed data from the VDOE pointing to 1,000 openings statewide for public school teachers. The Virginia Department of Education said subject areas where shortages were massive included:
- Special Education
- Elementary Education
- Middle Education
- Secondary Mathematics
- Career and Technical Education
- Secondary Science
- Foreign Language
- Secondary English
- Library Media
- Secondary History and Social Science
Overall, the focus on reducing turnover, increasing hirings, and creating incentives for retention that this grant brings will help ensure that special education students have highly qualified teachers.