Special Education Today Newsletter 2(15)
Want to read the SET news and info for 12 September 2022?
Welcome to the 12 September 2022 issue of Special Education Today. Some readers may characterize this week’s edition as another “slack” version. That’d make sense, because I’ve been doing other things recently. But I don’t think that characterization will hold once I show you what I published this week. I hope readers see this issue as including some valuable content!
In the past week, five folks have subscribed to the free version and no one has unsubscribed. Since the end of August, there are a dozen new subscriptions.
Mentioning this reminds me that I want to express my appreciation to the paying subscribers. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Your paid subscriptions are greatly appreciated. You help cover the costs of producing SET. And, let me give a special shout-out to those who took advantage of the introductory paid subscriptions, and (even louder) to those who became a founding supporter. I hope current "free" subscribers will step up and help create a financial foundation for SET both to continue and enhance its services. I want SET to reach special educators and parents in developing areas of the world, so please help support this effort.
Special Education Today is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, please become a paid subscriber.
Flashes of the electrons
You know, if you're a regular visitor, that SET is getting increased numbers of interactions. Thanks to the interactors! This is important, because casual visitors (there are ~80-100 a day) and regulars, too, can see that the content is worth discussing, etc. So, please keep on chipping in your likes and comments.
Here are this past week's acknowledgements of folks who posted comments, slapped likes, or disseminated content across social media. Regular readers of this newsletter will probably recognize many of the names: Jane B., Michael K., Kate P., Betsy T., Ed M., Laura McK., Clay K., Tina C., and Kathryn S. I suspect I’ve overlooked folks. Sorry if I missed you, but I greatly appreciate y'all taking the time to drop comments or click ‘‘like” buttons—and many of you multiple times. At least I know y'all are reading this, uhm, drivel.
Table of contents
This week I dropped six new posts on SET. Here is a catalog.
Robert Reich on a teacher and teachers— https://www.specialeducationtoday.com/p/robert-reich-on-a-teacher-and-teachers
Plasticity in the brain and science—https://www.specialeducationtoday.com/p/plasticity-in-the-brain
JAMA Pediatrics editorial about a crossroads in treatment of autism—https://www.specialeducationtoday.com/p/jama-pediatrics-editorial-about-a
Simplifying test questions—https://www.specialeducationtoday.com/p/simplifying-test-questions
NJCLD symposium on transition to higher ed—https://www.specialeducationtoday.com/p/njcld-symposium-on-transition-to
Robert Reich's tribute to a teacher [again]—https://www.specialeducationtoday.com/p/robert-reichs-tribute-to-a-teacher
As usual, please be sure to check the Website. Even if I’m in slack mode, I might post something in the next day or two. Subscribers only got notices about a coupla-few of those six posts.
Well, here we are, into the new school year, and there have been lots (and lots) of talks about teacher shortages. Every few days, there are reports in the mainstream media about the difficulty with finding teachers. Not only have education-focused publishers weighed in (e.g., Will, 2022), but big dogs such as the New York Times (Fortin & Fawcett, 2022) are on the story, too. But few of them reflect how serious the problem is in special education.
In my view, the image of teacher shortages is great in other areas (e.g., math and science, for example) and among certain demographic groups (e.g., teachers of color, especially men). These are great areas of need, and I support recruiting, preparing, and retaining teachers in these areas.
But special educators are among the most needed, the most shorted of the teachers we need (and especially teachers of color and men—see Laron Scott, with whom I had lunch a while ago, as in Friday Photos from December 2021) who really (no joke) pays attention to teacher shortages. Professor Scott’s research provides substantive support for the importance of addressing the teaching shortage in special education. It’s terrically imporant work.
I used to publish to the special education community at UVA an annual analysis of the need for teachers in Virginia. I drew data from the Virginia Department of Education’s annual surveys of local education agencies asking about teacher demographics and openings for teachers (How many do you have? How many fully certified? How may openings? Etc.). The number of open special education teacher positions or positions filled by provisionally qualified special education teachers in Virginia was regularly the top priority. I see that this year, the need for elementary is greater than sped (still in the top two)…and math and other areas!
Readers of SET know a lot about this concern. Readers who are administrators of local education agencies know how hard it's been to hire competent, qualified teachers. Teacher educators know how difficult it is to recruit and prepare competent teachers. Parents know how hopeful they are that their children will have competent, qualified teachers.
And teachers know how freaking hard the job is, how poor the pay is, how much abuse they must take for their actions. They may be attacked politically and even physically. This can't be fun, so it's no surprise that they are fleeing in droves
I am not just making up the image of the besieged educator or cherry-picking popular media reports. There are independent reports of assaults by parents (Edwards, 2021) and also actual research about teachers being attacked by students (see, e.g., National Center for Education Statistics, 2022).
How in the world do we the public think we are going to keep teachers down on the farm when they not only make salaries that are markedly too low—average salary for a teacher in Virginia is just north of $60K—but they are abused left and right? Is that a winning formula? I don't think so.
At a time when one can pay anywhere from $50 to $150 per hour for auto maintenance (i.e., up to $20K a month, including deducting for a shops' profit and overhead)1, I don't think so.
I'm not dumping on automobile mechanics. I led a weekend shift as an auto mechanic shortly before I became a special educator. I understand that we entrust auto mechanics with our well-being and safety; making our vehicles safe for us and others is important work. So is teaching, as Robert Reich explained in his posts and video, listed in the posts for this week.
So, I hope you'll entrust your automobiles to competent mechanics and your children to competent teachers—and pay them both damn well, tell them “thanks” for the help and care, and give them flowers, candies, or good whiskey or wine periodically.
I end with my familiar recommendations with an addition: Wear your seatbelts (listen to your mechanic!) and encourage other passengers in your vehicle to wear them, too, just in case your mechanic’s great work doesn’t prevent an accident. Get vaccinated and help others to do so, too. Wash your hands frequently. Prefer gathering in well-ventilated spaces. And, of course, teach your children well.
Edwards, B. (2021, 19 August). Teachers reportedly endure physical assault, verbal attack by parents in regard to district mask mandate. Click2Houston.com. https://www.click2houston.com/news/local/2021/08/19/teachers-reportedly-endure-physical-assault-verbal-attack-by-parents-in-regard-to-district-mask-mandate/
Fortin, J., & Fawcett, E. (2022, 02 September). How bad is the teacher shortage? Depends where you Live: Urgently needed: teachers in struggling districts, certified in math or special education. Perks: maybe a pay raise, or how about a four-day week? New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/08/29/us/schools-teacher-shortages.html
National Center for Education Statistics. (2022). Teachers threatened with injury or physically attacked by students. Condition of education. U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences. https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator/a05.
Will, M. (2022 September 06). How bad is the teacher shortage? What two new studies say. Education Week, https://www.edweek.org/leadership/how-bad-is-the-teacher-shortage-what-two-new-studies-say/2022/09
Peace and love!
SET Editor guy
SET should not be confused with a product with the same name that is published by the Council for Exceptional Children. SET predated CEC’s publication by decades. Despite my appreciation for CEC, this product is not designed to promote that organization.
FN1 If you don't believe these data are accurate, ask you local automechanic to show you the current labor rates. Alternatively, ask him or her to show you the number of hours and rates shown in the current version of Motors Manual (or equivalent) used to estimate labor costs. There really are standards here, folks!
If you don't believe these data are accurate, ask you local automobile mechanic to show you the current labor rates. Alternatively, ask him or her to show you the number of hours and rates shown in the current version of Motors Manual (or equivalent) used to estimate labor costs. There really are standards here, folks!