Student Teaching and Teacher Attrition in Special Education

Aug. 20, 2009

Source: Teacher Education and Special Education, v. 32 no. 3 (August 2009) p. 257-269.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

Research suggests that substantial pre-service student teaching is essential for the preparation and retention of special educators.

The purpose of this study to contrast the effects of length of pre-service student teaching received against other variables that exist within a pre-service preparation program.
These factor include aspects of program course-work, self-report measures of a graduate's competence, the existence of a mentor, and demographic aspects when predicting the probability that a beginning special educator will remain in the field during the next academic year.

Research Questions

In this study, the authors investigated two related questions.
1) Are new special education teachers more likely to leave the field if they have less than 10 weeks of student teaching, compared with special educators with more student teaching?
2) Are other characteristics of preparation related to the probability of attrition?

Data Set and Participants

Data for this study were drawn from the 1999-2000 SASS and its companion follow-up survey, the 2000-2001 TFS.

The authors selected only the 168 teachers who reported that they had been teaching less than 3 years when surveyed for the SASS. Majority of them (61.9%) were under 30 years old; 23.8% were 30 to 39 years old and about 14% were 40 and over years old. About 80% were white, 13% were African American
and 4% were Latinos.


It was found that substantial pre-service student teaching experience has a strong effect on the probability that a beginning special educator will remain in the field 1 year. In addition, none of the effects of aspects of teacher pre-service preparation or teacher or school demographics analyzed had an impact on attrition, when controlling for the number of weeks of student teaching.

These results have implications for policy and practice according to three factors known to attenuate teacher quit decisions and aid in retention of qualified beginning special educators. These factors are human capital theory, the rigor of certain teacher training programs, and level of experience.

Updated: Nov. 24, 2009