Date of Conferral

1-1-2011

Degree

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)

School

Education

Advisor

Michael Raffanti

Abstract

Attrition of special education teachers is a national problem resulting in lost monetary resources, school climate discontinuity, and lower student achievement. Within a small, rural district in southern Indiana, special education teacher attrition has risen since 2008 and continues to rise. District administrators want to retain teachers to ensure a continuity of instructional services for students with special needs. To explore this problem, an intrinsic qualitative case study was employed, guided by a research question that investigated the factors that special education teachers and administrators perceived as influencing special educators' career decisions. Herzberg's motivation-hygiene theory and Billingsley's schematic representation of special education attrition and retention comprised the conceptual framework. Data collection included one-on-one semistructured interviews with 7 teachers and 5 administrators and teacher retention documents. Data analysis involved in vivo coding and an inductive process to collapse data into the 3 following themes: (a) daily challenges, (b) retention factors, (c) transfer or leaving factors. A project arose from the study. Using salient interview data, a professional development plan was designed to address teachers' needs of relevant professional development (PD) and collaboration. The PD plan will establish a professional learning community and utilizes free evidence-based online training modules to support reading comprehension of students with special needs. Positive social change may result from improvements in PD support provided by the district to retain its special education teachers, resulting in greater continuity of instruction for students with special needs who depend on high quality, experienced educators.