Teacher Retention: A Qualitative Analysis of Issues Surrounding the Retention of Special Educators

Date of Award

Spring 5-10-2024

Document Type

Project Abstract (696 or 796 registration)

Degree Name

Master of Science in Special Education


Graduate Studies

Committee Chair

Dr. Marci Glessner


Teacher Retention, Survey, Qualitative


This study was conducted as a way to determine the reasons for increasingly high rates of attrition amongst special educators. Teacher turnover in general has seen a significant increase since COVID-19 and in the area of special education, that turnover has been even more significant (Bastian, 2023). An increase in duties as a result of increased caseloads, lack of continued training, and lack of mentorship programs have been factors in these critical rates of attrition (Baker, Revera, & Sasser, 2023).

The State of Minnesota is currently experiencing critical numbers in both the supply of licensed special educators and individuals pursuing special education as a profession (PELSB, 2023). This twofold issue shows that this situation is not temporary but likely an indication of an unsustainable educational structure. At this time there are nearly 500 open special education positions in the state of Minnesota as well as over 1,500 licensed special education teachers teaching in areas outside of special education such as math, or social studies (Hawkins, 2023). Other studies have highlighted possible factors affecting attrition, among these: Insufficient financial compensation based on increased duties (IRIS Center, 2024), depersonalization (Madigan, 2021), and the lack of support from administrations (Kelly, 2023).

This research was specific to the state of Minnesota and aimed to not only discover the underlying issues surrounding these alarming rates of attrition amongst special educators but to also help cultivate possible solutions by inviting those in the field to provide us with possible solutions from their perspectives. The qualitative study consisted of the creation of an anonymous, online Qualtrics survey consisting of 16 open-ended statements and rating scale of factors that cold influence a teachers decision to stay in the field. After being approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB) at the local university, it was anonymously distributed through local Area Special Education Cooperative (ASEC) and to its 11 member districts. Participants took the 16-question survey with results being delivered to researchers to compile the data for presentation and distribution to school districts and legislative representatives.

At press time, over 50 responses were collected and a preliminary analysis of the results was formulated using 10 randomly selected responses. Themes, including unmanageable caseloads, exhaustion, lack of training and preparation , and continued training opportunities along with positive themes such as support from administration and school staff, positive student interaction and relationships, and the feeling of making a difference highlighted the preliminary findings. A full-scale analysis will be forthcoming in coming months.

Key Words: Teacher retention, survey, qualitative

Abstract only: No full text available.