National Institute on Aging

Special Education Teacher Shortage Has Huge Impact on Black Students

A new study led by LaRon Scott, an associate professor in the School of Education and Human Development at the University of Virginia, finds that special education is the No. 1 teacher shortage area in 48 states. At the same time, a growing number of students of color have been identified as having a disability. The result is a potentially bigger gap between the number of teachers and students of color in special education than the gap in the general teacher-student population.

Earlier studies have shown that students of color, especially Black students, achieve more when they are matched with a teacher of color. “Black students who are exposed to a Black teacher by grade three have a higher likelihood of going on to post-secondary education than those who are not,” Dr. Scott said.

The study showed that special education teachers of color reported receiving a higher level of support than majority teachers, including support from administrators, colleagues, and even families. However, the study also found that there are reasons unique to teachers of color that contribute to why they do not come into the profession and why they leave it.

“Special education teachers of color report that they experience things such as microaggressions, isolation, or lack a sense of belonging compared to White teachers,” Dr. Scott’s survey found. “And these are some racialized factors that contribute to why they may leave the profession. This is a novel finding.”

Dr. Scott is a graduate of Radford University in Virginia. He holds a master’s degree in education from Virginia Commonwealth University and an educational doctorate from Walden University.

The full study, “Special Education Teachers of Color Burnout, Working Conditions, and Recommendations for EBD Research,” was published on the website of the Journal of Emotional and Behavior Disorders. It may be accessed here.


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  1. Teresa Walker says:

    This does not surprise me. Having worked as a school psychologist I have seen that racism is alive and well in all areas in the schools. I have also seen first hand that school personnel are not only hesitant, but also out right refuse to address the issue or offer support for those who are the victims of discrimination.

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