Shortage of Special Educators in the Northeastern District of Columbia: A Qualitative Descriptive Study

Date of Award

Summer 2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership (EdD)

Committee Chair

Wanda Fernandopulle

Committee Member

Donis Toler

Committee Member

Bora Pajo


This qualitative descriptive study explored how special education teachers described their retention practices in a specialized school in the northeastern District of Columbia. The most significant issue districts face in staffing schools with qualified teachers is not the lack of certified teachers overall but a chronic and continuous misalignment of teacher supply and demand. Two conceptual frameworks guided this study were: (1) Schematic Representation of Special Education Teacher Retention, Transfer, and Attrition and (2) Conceptual Model of the Influences of Teachers' Career Decisions. The study's guiding research question asks how special education teachers (grades 3 - 12) describe their own retention practices used in a specialized school? This study conducted semi-structured in-depth interviews with 12 special education teachers in the northeastern District of Columbia using convenience sampling. Data were analyzed using MAXQDA. Thematic analysis, with the use of a preliminary codebook, revealed the following themes: (a) training and preparation, (b) compensation and peer support, and (c) commitment to special education.