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VDOE receives $1 million to retain special ed teachers

Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane announced recently that the Virginia Department of Education has received a $1 million grant from the U. S. Department of Education to expand state and local efforts to reduce turnover and promote retention of special education teachers.

School divisions consistently report special education as their most critical shortage area.

The funding from the federal department’s Office of Special Education Programs will allow VDOE to build upon efforts supporting the recruitment, development and retention of special educators initiated under previous grants.

“Special education has been the commonwealth’s most pressing critical shortage area for 15 consecutive years,” 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.”

The grant will support efforts over the next five years in two to three school divisions with acute shortages to ameliorate the factors contributing to the high turnover rate among special education teachers. Grant-supported professional development will focus on creating evidence-based classroom systems, defusing disruptive behavior and data-informed decision-making practices.

“Special education is one of the most rewarding teaching fields, but it also can be one of the most challenging,” Lane said. “Our efforts to reduce turnover among special educators are grounded in the research that shows that when teachers are prepared to successfully manage the challenges, they are more likely to stay in the classroom.”

VDOE’s grant application was prepared in collaboration with Virginia Tiered Systems of Supports Research and Implementation Center at the Virginia Commonwealth University Partnership for People with Disabilities, and Old Dominion University’s Center for Implementation and Evaluation of Education Systems.

VDOE will announce the participating divisions later this year.