A Message from PFCEC Past-President Kimberly Bright
Summer, 1998

I recently returned from the annual CEC Convention, Connecting Learning Communities, in Minneapolis where we celebrated another year of advancements in the field of special education. Along with the many outstanding sessions, panel discussions, exhibits and strands, the national Delegate Assembly supported CEC's new and bold initiative: Improving the Working Conditions of Special Education Teachers. The negative conditions that have been the focal point of the initiative are unmanageable caseloads, overwhelming amounts of paperwork, lack of resources and lack of administrative support. The leadership of CEC, supported by the Delegate Assembly, believes that we need to "take a stand as an organization to rectify these negative conditions".

In a powerful prospectus, published on March 4, 1998, by CEC's Professional Standards and Practice Committee, many obstacles were identified. The prospectus emphasized that teachers leave special education at a higher rate than other teachers, which indicates greater dissatisfaction with working conditions. Special education teachers feel unsupported, unprepared, overwhelmed and disempowered, according to a study on special education attrition by Brownell, Smith, McNellis and Miller. Additionally, teachers describe class size, students with problem behavior, diverse learning needs, insufficient administrative support and lack of resources as the primary sources of stress that lead them to a decision to leave the field.

CEC has launched a campaign to improve the conditions of special education teachers by focusing attention on the obstacles that interfere with sound, professional practice. A Presidential Commission has been appointed by CEC President, Linda Marsal. A strongly worded resolution from the Delegate Assembly will begin the process. The newly adopted resolution reads as follows:

WHEREAS, The adverse conditions of special education teaching are closely related to adverse educational outcomes for students with disabilities at all levels; and

WHEREAS, Special educators cannot practice according to the profession's standards without appropriate human, technological and instructional resources; and

WHEREAS, Each year approximately twenty thousand people practice special education without appropriate professional credentials; and

WHEREAS, Special educators are often expected to provide quality professional services with caseloads and class sizes that are unrealistic; and

WHEREAS, Special education teachers too frequently lack the administrative support and the instructional and technological resources needed to practice professionally; and

WHEREAS, Adverse conditions encourage special educators to leave the profession at a rate higher than other teachers,

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, That the Council for Exceptional Children will immediately initiate an aggressive campaign to improve the conditions of special education instruction by drawing attention to the conditions that enhance the professional practice of special education in accordance with the CEC Code of Ethics and the Standards for Professional Practice.

While the research predicts a grim future for the special education teaching profession, I know that there are many teachers, psychologists, supervisors and professors who have continued in the field because of the many positive benefits. The future of children with exceptionalities depends on the professional performance and status of our "exceptional" teachers. We need to work together to begin solving the negative conditions that exist by focusing on the positives.

Have your voice heard by sending me a card or an email indicating what you think is working in the field of special education.

Kimberly Bright
PFCEC Past-President
 

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