Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Dereck Schroll


School leaders across the United States have documented a shortage of special education teachers, and special educators are leaving the field at double the rate of their general education peers. Researchers have indicated that this shortage is due to inadequate training and education, work load, and lack of administrative support. However, it is unclear what supports are needed to increase retention rates of special educators. This qualitative case study was designed to explore the perspectives of special educators regarding supports needed to improve special education retention rates in relation to the job characteristic theory and teachers' reasons for staying in the literature. Purposeful sampling was used to select 15 special education teachers with resource or self-contained teaching experience from 3 public schools of varying levels in 1 school district. Data were collected through semi structured interviews and open and a priori coding were used to develop themes. Key results from the study extended current knowledge related to the job characteristics framework of social support, autonomy, feedback, task significance and interdependence. The participants identified specific supports needed as additional time for tasks, awareness and understanding from colleagues, provision of peer mentors and peer observations, specific and meaningful assistance from administrators regarding behavioral issues and feedback regarding work performance. All participants reported remaining in the field because they enjoyed helping students succeed. The recommendations provided in this study might be used by school leaders to make informed decisions to retain special educators. Improving retention rates of special educators could save school districts money on new hires while increasing the number of highly qualified special educators needed to meet the needs of students with disabilities.