SPED Shortage Down This Year

SPED Shortage Down This Year

Check out this Chicago Tonight segment and you'll see that CPS claims SPED teaching vacancies are down this year but that turnover is still pretty high so newly minted teachers have their pick of places to go.

Special ed vacancies are down in Chicago -- from over 300 to over 200 -- but the shortages are still pretty severe in CPS and in most districts nationwide, according to this segment from Chicago Public Television's newsmagazine, Chicago Tonight.


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  • The biggest driver in the decline in vacant special education position is the decline in students. Here is some approximate data. In 2010 CPS had about 53,810 students with disabilities (only IEPs not including 504 plans) and by 2013 that number had declined to about 52,544 (using ISBE data). That is a decline of 1,266 disabled students.

    If we assume a 14 student to teacher ratio (less than resource programs and more slightly than self contained programs) this means CPS needed about 90 fewer special education teachers just because of the enrollment decline over that period of time.

    Just so everyone knows the percentage of students with disabilities attending CPS remained stable from 2010 to 2013 at 13.3% of the total enrollment of students. Based on this data I would say most of the decline in unfilled positions was driven by a decline in the need for special education teachers in CPS.

    Rod Estvan

  • In reply to Rodestvan:

    Still confused. Rod, why are there vacancies if they don't need the teachers?

  • Mr. Estvan, I am sure you are aware that during this time, CPS has made it more difficult for students who qualify for special ed services, to get an IEP, so that they can get the needed services. This is also a way to keep the numbers down for both the number of special ed students in CPS and the the number of teachers to serve them.

  • Answer to two questions. 1. CPS attempts to limit the number of student identified particularly as LD are consistent with what is happening across Illinois. Those efforts have not reduced the flow based on district wide data, the primary reason for the reduction in CPS special students is that Chicago's African American population is in sharp decline. 2. Why does CPS still have a special education teacher shortage if the disabled population is declining? The flow of new licensed teachers has declined statewide because of the increased difficulty of the basic skills test and the huge increase in the failure rate on that test is one reason. Another reason is that special education teachers can chose their district of employment and the working conditions are better in many suburban districts.

    There are unfilled special education positions in many districts across Illinois that have high percentages of low income children. The truth is that in many respects it is easier and more rewarding in terms of outcomes to teach students with disabilities from higher income college educated families than it is it teach similar children who are in deep poverty.

    Rod Estvan

  • I have a friend who taught special education in CPS for three years but left for a better offer in a western suburb. She says her paperwork demands have been cut in half. In CPS she says she had to do reams of useless lesson plans etc on top of redundant IEPS. She also says the technology available at CPS was often malfunctioning which would add to her timeline demands. She says she misses the students but not the lack of support for teachers in CPS.

  • Would anyone say that the needs of SWDs in CPS are actually being met, as in "educational results"?

  • CTU weighs in with an even lower number than CPS -- but greater urgency:

    More than 100 CPS classrooms lack permanent special education teachers leading to month-long delays in services for some students

    CHICAGO—More than 100 current teacher vacancies are putting thousands of Chicago Public Schools special education students at risk, according to Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) analysis of district-wide staffing levels of the Chicago Board of Education. Combined with a current proposal by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) to eliminate special education class size restrictions, the shortage of teachers will result in students living with disabilities being added to overcrowded general education classrooms and has led to some special education students not receiving adequate services for months.

    “These changes just give Chicago Public Schools, ISBE and other school districts in Illinois more opportunities to try and solve their budget crises on the backs of our most vulnerable students,” said CTU President Karen GJ Lewis. “We’ve seen over and over how CPS does not work with in the best interests of our students, but instead, forces policies that have devastating long-term effects on them.”

    Without oversight pressure, CPS cannot be trusted to provide the appropriate support for our special education students. ISBE’s proposed change will only make matters worse. This year’s budget included severe cuts in services to special education students, who make up approximately 12 percent of the district. Funding for autism programming was cut by nearly $4 million, a reduction of nearly 10 percent. Much of this decrease—about $3.5 million—is due to last year’s closure of schools with special programming for students with autism, including Lafayette, Stockton, Herbert and Trumbull elementary schools.

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