Growing need for special education teachers in North Dakota has UND program looking for candidates – Grand Forks Herald

GRAND FORKS – UND and special educators say the need for special education teachers has become critical in the state, and some are calling for changes that will allow for on-the-job training.

While UND has developed a variety of educational pathways for the rapid release of qualified teachers, directors of special education units deal with open vacancies. The lack of special education teachers, including special educators and other related positions, puts a strain on teachers working in the field and their students.

“I have vacancies everywhere and you can no longer apply for these positions,” said Dan Juve, director of the special education department of the Upper Valley. The unit covers the needs of school districts in special education in several counties, including the cities of Cavalier, Emerada, Grafton, Park River, Larrymore and others.

Juve said it has about 70 full-time staff, but at least five vacancies left. One man, he said, has retired to work a few hours a week – Juventus does not consider the post filled. He said he did not know why people do not apply for vacancies.

“I don’t know the answer,” he said. “I’d like to, because then I’d have an answer on how to fix it.”

Juve has been operating for 23 years. When he was just starting out, he said he was told that special education teachers usually stay in office for seven years. He said that figure has dropped to three, and now it’s one year.

When teachers prepare, morale is low and students lack the necessary component of their education: consistency. When teachers leave work, students need time to connect with a new person.

“They need to get that relationship back,” Juve said.

According to data sent to the Herald by Elizabeth Shockley, an institutional researcher from the University of North Dakota system, school districts remain constant in their need for special education teachers at least from the 2019-2021 school year, and probably much earlier. In that year, about 1,640 full-time teachers in various specialties worked in special education.

Of these teachers, about 63 worked with irregular certification – people who worked with temporary, temporary or emergency certification. Fifty-three positions that year remained unfilled. If we add to the number of irregularly certified teachers, the state lacked 116 full-time employees. In 2020-2021, the state needed about 107 people, and in the 2021-2022 school year – 112 people, and most of these jobs fell into categories that do not require special powers, such as training for the visually impaired or the provision of psychological services . .

Juve said that training people – people who are embarrassed to get a license or have another education – can take some of these positions, and they can get a license while working. The current rules of the State Council on Education Standards and Practice do not allow him to do so.

Juve said he would like to hire a university student in August – a student who has completed most of the coursework but has not yet completed the student training component – but he will have to wait until December when they graduate so he is missing an intermediate.

Accelerated program in UND

To meet the needs of specialties for education in the state, UND has developed accelerated programs that allow the student to work while earning a master’s degree, through a university program of permanent special education teachers. Applicants for the program include people who have a teacher’s degree but have recently graduated or are unemployed.

SERTP is a subset of the school’s master’s program in special education. It provides people with a scholarship and then places them in a school district in the state. Students work full-time in practice, and all classes are online. What students learn one day, they can use in their work the next.

This is a one-year program designed to help fill special education positions with qualified candidates. Rural candidates are also welcomed because of the online component and because of the need for teachers in these fields. The program can accept an entrance class of 25 people, and the application deadline is March 15.

“We’re literally done,” said Amy Jacobson, director of SERTP. “As soon as you named this place, we were either there or are there.”

SERTP also has a mentoring aspect. Students have a personality in their school that acts as a teacher and helps the student implement in the classroom what they are learning in school. The mentoring component is twofold, as they also work with a UND tutor who regularly visits students and acts as an advisor who can connect the student with other people in the program. Jacobson said SERTP participants almost always hire the school district where they are doing their internship.

Jacobson turns to people like Juve to assess their needs. She searches the region for candidates to participate in the program and then turns to special education principals to find out if they have a place. They often do. Jacobson said this year they first placed a man in the Baula district, North Dakota.

Jacobson said she is aware of the critical need for special education teachers. This has continued throughout her career, but has recently reached a turning point. She hopes the resident program for teachers can help meet the needs of the state and northwest Minnesota.

“We are always looking for special teachers,” she said. “I would say we need them today more than ever before.”

Amy Jacobson, Director of the Special Program for Permanent Teachers at UND.

Contribution / UND

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