Title page for ETD etd-12262008-122955

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Fall, Anna-Maria
URN etd-12262008-122955
Title Early Career Special Education Teachers in High-and Low-Poverty Districts: A Comparison of their Qualifications, Work Conditions, and Career Commitments
Degree PhD
Department Teaching and Learning
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Billingsley, Bonnie S. Committee Chair
Carlson, Elaine Committee Member
Hicks, David Committee Member
Williams, Thomas O. Jr. Committee Member
  • early career special education teachers
  • high poverty districts
  • inequality
  • teacher commitment
  • teacher qualifications
  • work conditions
Date of Defense 2008-12-10
Availability unrestricted
I used teacher data from the Study of Personnel Needs in Special Education (SPeNSE) to compare the characteristics, qualifications (e.g., credentials, preservice preparation, self-efficacy, and induction) and work conditions (e.g., school support, work manageability and induction support) of early career special education teachers in high- and low-poverty districts and the effects of these variables on teacher commitment.

Organized as a set of thee articles, this research presents findings from a nationally representative sample of 935 early career special education teachers. Data analyses included descriptive statistics, factor analysis, reliability analyses, and logistic regression.

Significant differences were found in the credentials and preparation of teachers working in high poverty vs. more affluent districts, with those in high poverty schools having fewer credentials and less preparation. In contrast, the two teacher groups reported similar induction opportunities and gave themselves comparable ratings on both self-efficacy and in skillfulness in various work tasks.

Teachers in high poverty districts also reported less desirable work conditions than their counterparts in more affluent districts. When compared to teachers in low poverty districts, those in less affluent districts viewed their principals and colleagues as less supportive, perceived less involvement in school decisions, reported having fewer materials, and indicated higher and more diverse caseloads. In contrast, the two teacher groups reported similar professional development and induction opportunities.

Finally, logistic regression results suggest that problems with work manageability were negatively related to teacher commitment, whereas positive school support and good match between preparation and assignment positively influenced teachers’ commitment. However, district level of poverty, district support, and perceived helpfulness of induction support were not significantly related to teachers’ commitment.

These studies draw attention to inequalities in the education of students with disabilities in high poverty districts; and emphasize the critical need not only to recruit and prepare qualified teachers for high poverty schools, but also to address disparities in work conditions. Policymakers and educational leaders concerned with fostering teachers’ commitment should consider developing supportive work environments, involving teachers in decision making, and creating manageable work assignments.

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