Friday, August 3, 4:00-4:30, SUB Ballroom C, Theme: Profession

Montana has a critical need for special education teachers. It reflects a national trend that there is a severe shortage of qualified teachers in this field and that the shortage is particularly acute in rural areas. To meet this need the Office of Public Instruction developed a project to support licensed teachers in rural schools become endorsed in special education.  The project was developed in conjunction with institutions of higher education that prepare teachers to obtain their special education endorsement. Teachers who apply to the project are licensed teachers who do not have any qualifications to teach students with special needs. The purpose of this study was to determine the experience of these teachers and the challenges they face.

Teachers and in the project and their school administrators were surveyed. Teachers were also interviewed to determine the issues that special education teachers face in rural schools.

School administrators were satisfied with the preparation of these teachers. The teachers described the challenges and the benefits of teaching in rural schools.

The findings indicated that the experience of these teachers reflects that of teachers reported in the literature. This project is also fulfilling a need in some rural parts of the state however the need for special education teachers remains a critical need in the state of Montana.

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