A r c h i v e d  I n f o r m a t i o n

To Assure the Free Appropriate Public Education of All Children with Disabilities - 1996

Personnel Serving Students with Disabilities

To ensure that all students with disabilities have access to a free appropriate public education, there must be an adequate supply of teachers and other instructional and noninstructional staff with appropriate training or certification. Each year, States report to OSEP the number of special education teachers and other personnel employed to provide services to students with disabilities. They also report the number of additional staff needed due to staff vacancies or instances when positions are filled by staff members who are not fully trained or certified for their position. Data are not collected on the number of regular education teachers who work with students with disabilities.

In 1993-94, the data collection formats were changed for these personnel data. The revised formats were necessary to meet the changes mandated in the 1990 Amendments to IDEA (P.L. 101-476) to provide 5-year projections of personnel demand. A task force was convened to identify the best method to collect data and to review models that could be adopted for this purpose. See Appendix G for a discussion on the methodology that was used. The new categories designed to capture data about personnel employed and needed to serve students with disabilities are discussed below.

  • Employed/Fully Certified or Licensed. The number of FTE personnel employed or contracted who had appropriate State certification or licensure for the position held.

  • Employed/Not Fully Certified. The number of FTE personnel employed or contracted who were employed in an emergency, provisional, or other basis if they did not hold standard State certification or licensure for the position to which they were assigned.

  • Vacant Positions. The number of unfilled vacancies in funded positions that existed at the time the count was taken.

  • Retained/Fully Certified or Licensed. The number of fully certified teachers retained from the previous year. That is, the number of employed or contracted personnel providing special education and related services, who had appropriate State certification or licensure for the position held, and who were employed in the same school district in the same position during the previous year.

  • Retained/Not Fully Certified. The number of teachers not fully certified, retained from the previous year. This includes personnel employed on an emergency, temporary, or other basis and who were employed by the same school district in the same position during the previous year under the same circumstances.
  • This section presents the first year of data for which States used these new categories. In addition, States were allowed to report these counts either by the Federal disability categories or by some other classification scheme used in the State, such as assignments/placement categories or staff certification. Personnel data for both teachers and related services personnel are reported by the States in full-time equivalents (FTE).

    Special Education Teachers Serving Students with Disabilities

    Each year States allocate resources for a specific number of positions for teachers who will provide special education to students with disabilities. Those positions can be filled by teachers that are fully certified (i.e, have appropriate State certification or licensure for the position held) or by teachers who are not fully certified (i.e., were employed on an emergency, provisional, or other basis and did not hold State certification or licensure for the position to which they were assigned). The latter group of teachers includes those teachers seeking certification but who must teach a specified number of hours in their area of specialization prior to receiving certification. In some cases, positions remain vacant because schools are unable to find appropriate personnel.

    Figure 1.4 shows the configuration of special education teachers employment for 1993-94. Over 90 percent of the special education positions are held by fully certified teachers. Only 1 percent of the positions were vacant as of December 1,1993.


    FIGURE 1.4 Percentage of Special Education Teachers' Positions (Funded to Serve Students with Disabilities Ages 6-21) and Related Services Personnel Positions (Funded to Serve Students with Disabilities Ages 3-21) by Employment Classification During School Year 1993-94

                               SPECIAL EDUCATION TEACHERS                        Employed-Fully Certified 92.6% (310,338)                     Employed-Not Fully Certified 6.3% (21,054)                     Vacant Positions 1.1% (3,643)                           RELATED SERVICES PERSONNEL                      Employed-Fully Certified 92.9% (311,142)                     Employed-Not Fully Certified 6.0% (20,214)                     Vacant Positions 1.1% (3,653)  SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education,         Data Analysis Systems (DANS) 


    Approximately 6 percent of the teachers were employed on a provisional or emergency basis. This same employment pattern (92 percent fully certified, 6 percent not fully certified, and 1 percent vacant) holds for personnel supplying related services.

    During the 1993-94 school year, 331,392 special education teachers were employed (fully certified and not fully certified) to work with students ages 6-21, 6.5 percent more than in 1992-93.9 In 1993-94, the number of teachers needed (employed not fully certified and vacant positions) was 24,697, a 4.4 percent decline from the previous year.

    The majority of States and Outlying Areas reported data using the Federal disability categories, which includes a category for teachers providing services across disability categories. Five States and Outlying Areas--Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Palau, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands--used taxonomies other than the Federal disability categories. Table 1.8 shows how each of these five jurisdictions reported special education teachers.


    TABLE 1.8 Teacher Classification Schemes Used by States Electing Not to Use Federal Disability Categories
                           Classifications Used to Report  State                    Special Education Teachers
    -----                  ------------------------------ Oregon                 Modified Student Disabilities:                          Handicapped Learner                          Hearing-impaired                          Visually impaired                          Speech-impaired                          Speech/language therapist                          Other                          Total    Pennsylvania           Staff Certification:                          Special Education-Comprehensive                          Speech/language                          Deaf/Hearing impaired                          Blind/visually impaired    South Dakota           Staff Certification                          Speech therapists                          Total special education teachers  Palau                  Total special education teachers      Commonwealth of                 the Northern           Staff Certification Mariana Islands           Elementary teachers of exceptional students                           Secondary teachers of exceptional students                           Resource teachers                           Teachers of students with severe disabilities                           Teachers of the hearing impaired                           Teachers of the seriously emotionally                              disturbed                           Consultant teachers 

    Source: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, Data Analysis Systems (DANS).


    The largest category of special education teachers employed in school year 1993-94 was teachers of students with specific learning disabilities; they accounted for 85,853 FTE (27.6 percent) of all employed fully certified teachers and 6,897 FTE (32.7 percent) of employed not fully certified teachers (see table 1.9). The next largest category of special education teachers employed (84,534 FTE or 27.2 percent for fully certified and 4,501 FTE or 21.4 percent of not fully certified) taught students in cross-categorical classes. Cross-categorical classes are defined as classes in which students with several disabilities are served. In part, this category is large because Idaho, Massachusetts, and Texas report all special education teachers as cross-categorical. An additional 11 States report 50 percent or more of their special education teachers in this category. Due to changes in report formats, i.e., States being allowed to use other reporting categories, comparisons to this year's teacher classification data to that of previous years would be misleading.


    TABLE 1.9 Special Education Teacher Positions Funded to Serve Students Ages 6-21 Under IDEA, Part B by Employment Classification: School Year 1993-94
                                            FTE Employed
    Disability/                      Fully    Not Fully    Vacant    Total
    Other Classification           Certified  Certified  Positions Positions
    --------------------           ---------  ---------  --------- --------- Specific learning disabilities    85,853      6,897     771      93,522 Speech or language impairments    36,807      1,655   1,097      39,559 Mental retardation                39,342      2,530     353      42,225 Serious emotional disturbance     26,171      3,608     373      30,151 Multiple disabilities              7,118        520      67       7,705 Hearing impairments                5,738        285      84       6,107 Orthopedic impairments             2,684        239     126       3,049 Other health impairments           2,065        239      43       2,347 Visual impairments                 2,433      1,439      68       2,640 Autism                             1,418        285      24       1,727 Deaf-blindness                       102         13       3         118 Traumatic brain injury               110         23       2         136 Cross-categoricala/                84,534      4,501     559      89,594 Other classificationb/             15,962        119      74      16,155    TOTAL                            310,338      21,054   3,643    335,035    

    a/ Three States, Idaho, Massachusetts, and Texas, report all special education teachers as cross-categorical.

    b/ Includes counts of special education teachers for the five jurisdictions--Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Palau, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands--not using Federal disability categories.

    Note: The total FTE shown in both the row and column totals may not equal the sum of the individual States and Outlying Areas because of rounding.

    Source: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, Data Analysis System (DANS).


    The largest number of vacant positions was in the area of speech or language impairments (1,097 FTE or 30.1 percent of all vacant positions), followed by specific learning disabilities (771 FTE or 21.2 percent), and cross-categorical (559 FTE or 15.3 percent). The number of teachers needed (employed-not fully certified and vacant positions) declined for the second year; 4.4 percent fewer teachers were reported being needed in 1993-94 than in 1992-93.

    The 1993-94 school year was the first year that data were collected on the number of personnel retained from the previous year. This category represents a subset of the total number of personnel employed. In 1993-94, States reported that 270,027 (87 percent) of the employed-fully certified teachers were retained from the previous year. Additionally, States reported that 13,169 (62.5 percent) of the teachers not fully certified were retained from the previous year.

    Related Services Personnel Serving Students with Disabilities

    For the 1993-94 data collection, in addition to the changes mentioned above, the formats for collecting related services personnel data were expanded to include the two new personnel categories described below.

    In 1993-94, 331,356 personnel other than special education teachers were employed to work with students with disabilities ages 3-21 (see table 1.10). Teacher aides accounted for three-fifths of all positions for staff other than special education teachers, representing 60.7 percent of those employed-fully certified, 64.2 percent of those employed-not fully certified, and 35.2 percent of the vacant positions. In addition, psychologists (20,104 FTE or 6.5 percent), nonprofessional staff (18,844 FTE or 6.1 percent), and other professional staff (18,053 FTE or 5.8 percent) were the next largest numbers of related services personnel employed-fully certified by the States. Twenty-two percent of personnel employed-not fully certified were in the categories of other professional and nonprofessional staff. Nearly one-third of all reported vacancies were in positions requiring occupational therapists, physical therapists, and psychologists. Year-to-year variations in the number of related services personnel needed tend to be greater than the year-to-year variations in the number of special education teachers needed to serve students with disabilities ages 6-21. However, in 1993-94 the increase in the number of related services personnel needed was significantly greater than the changes that occurred in the last 5 years: 9,394 more related services personnel (67.5 percent) were reported as needed in 1993-94 over the previous year. This national increase can be attributed primarily to increases reported by California and Texas. California reported an increase of 5,124 (545 percent) in staff other than special education teachers needed; Texas showed an increase of 3,035 (699 percent).


    TABLE 1.10 Special Education Personnel Positions Other Than Teachers Funded to Serve Students with Disabilities Ages 3-21 Under IDEA, Part B by Employment Classification: School Year 1993-94
                                      FTE Employed
                                 Fully    Not Fully    Vacant      Total   Type of Personnel          Certified  Certified   Positions  Positions
    -----------------          ---------  ---------   ---------  --------- School social workers       11,026      463         106       11,595 Occupational therapists      5,331      207         459        5,997 Recreational & therapeutic  recreational therapists       256       61           8          325 Physical therapists          3,536      131         390        4,057 Teacher aides              189,011   12,968       1,286      203,265 Physical education  teachers                     4,971      251          60        5,282 Supervisors/ administrators (LEA)        14,502      344         161       15,007 Other professional staff    18,053    3,002         139       21,194 Psychologists               20,104      424         336       20,864 Diagnostic & evaluation   staff                        8,464       76         167        8,707 Audiologists                   836       22          22          880 Work study coordinators      1,407       85          42        1,534 Vocational education  teachers                     4,123      115          97        4,335 Counselors                   7,269      127         108        7,504 Supervisors/ administrators (SEA)         1,021       10          39        1,070 Rehabilitation counselors      179        6           8          193 Interpreters                 2,209      470          60        2,739 Nonprofessional staff       18,844    1,452         165       20,461 TOTAL                      311,142   20,214       3,653      335,009 

    Source: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, Data Analysis System (DANS).


    9 This comparison to the number employed in the previous year may be slightly inflated due to the changes in data collection categories.
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