- Associated Press - Monday, September 21, 2015

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - Treasure Valley school districts faced with a shortage of special education teachers are turning to alternative routes of certification as they struggle to fill positions.

The shortage has hit West Ada School District, the state’s largest district, and Boise School District, one of Idaho’s highest-paying districts. Council, a logging town near Boise with only 240 students, has also struggled to find teachers for its special education students.

Some schools have responded by hiring teachers not certified in special education, or not certified as teachers at all. A state-approved plan allows those who aren’t certified to teach while they are on track to completing their certifications, The Idaho Statesman reports (https://bit.ly/1LItJCg).

Boise State University also launched an online program this summer that allows students to receive a two-year master’s degree program in special education in only one year.

“We’re trying to fill a hole,” said Evelyn Johnson, a Boise State professor and executive director of the Lee Pesky Learning Center.

Boise has 160 teaching positions for its 3,000 special education students. The Boise School District scrambled to fill 23 special education teaching jobs before the start of the school year. The West Ada School District, which has 190 positions for its 3,600 students, struggled to fill 37 jobs this summer.

But the Council School District had a difficult time finding just one teacher for the 17 special education students at its elementary school. A week before school was scheduled to start, the superintendent, Murray Dalgleish, finally hired a student at Lewis-Clark State College in her last year of pursuing a special education degree.

“I feel fortunate to be able to get someone who will be a very good teacher in time,” Dalgleish said.

Special education teachers are “like the firefighters or the special forces or the Marines of the education task force,” said Michael Humphrey, chairman of the early childhood and special education department at Boise State.

“The districts are having such a hard time finding people that want to do this work,” Humphrey said. “A lot of the time you feel like you are just carrying water uphill in your hands.”


Information from: Idaho Statesman, https://www.idahostatesman.com

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