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Addressing the Special Education Teacher Shortage

CSU joins national initiative to improve education for those with special needs


Cleveland State University has been selected by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education as one of the founding members of its Reducing the Shortage of Special Education Teachers Networked Improvement Community (NIC). 

This select group of higher education leaders from across the country will examine effective ways to address special education teacher recruitment and retention. The NIC will focus on ways to increase enrollment, particularly with candidates of color and those with disabilities, strengthen partnerships between colleges of education and P-12 schools to address special education teacher turnover, and create new programs in partnership with P-12 schools to prepare and retain diverse special educators for specific vacancies.

“Half of all schools and 90% of high-poverty schools struggle to find qualified special education teachers,” says Jacqueline Rodriguez, AACTE assistant vice president for programs and professional learning, who leads the new program. “This initiative is critical for helping to improve access to learning for students with disabilities from all backgrounds, and to better equip special education teachers to become more effective in the classroom.”

Cleveland State was one of ten universities to be selected nationally to participate in the NIC. CSU was chosen due to its innovative, clinical-based preparation model, which immerses special education teacher candidates in the field from day one to graduation. This includes placing students in rotations in K-12 classes where they receive mentoring, hands-on experience and feedback as they apply what they have learned in a classroom setting. CSU also offers paid student teaching placements, through a program funded by the Cleveland Foundation, and opportunities to substitute teach in city schools while completing a degree.

“Cleveland is experiencing an acute shortage of special education teachers that mirrors the national trend,” notes Tachelle Banks, chair of the Department of Teacher Education at CSU. “Our work through the NIC will allow us to help our community better meet this need, while also assisting in expanding and disseminating our proven, experiential-based model of teacher education.”

NIC participants will work together to conduct critical research and analysis to examine and document best practices in special education teacher development and disseminate the findings nationally. This will include a case study assessment of various teacher preparation strategies, outcomes and results, with a particular focus on underserved communities and communities of color.

“AACTE members are deeply committed to advancing the work of diversity, equity and inclusion through special education programs,” says Lynn M. Gangone, AACTE president and CEO. “We are proud to have 10 institutions engaged in promising strategies to reduce the special education teacher shortage.”

AACTE is partnering with The Collaboration for Effective Educator Development, Accountability, and Reform (CEEDAR) to implement the NIC. CEEDAR is a technical assistance center funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs, and works to collaborate with national organizations, technical assistance centers, and stakeholders across the country to ensure that every student with a disability has an equitable opportunity to achieve.

To learn more about the AACTE Reducing the Shortage of Special Education Teachers NIC, visit