sealPurdue News

January 1997

Schools seek special education teachers

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- College graduates with degrees in special education can fill a special niche that often goes empty in today's schools.

"There always are vacancies in special education," says Nita G. Mason, director of placement, advising and recruiting in the Purdue University School of Education.

Margo Mastropieri, professor of special education at Purdue, says about 25,000 special education positions in K-12 each year are vacant or filled by teachers who are not fully certified in special education. The National Center for Education Statistics reported that for 1992-93, the most recent year for which it had figures, there were about 8,600 new bachelor's-degree graduates in special education nationwide -- not nearly enough, says Margie Crutchfield, information specialist with the National Clearinghouse for Professions in Special Education.

In 1995-96, Purdue graduated approximately 55 students with either a bachelor's degree in special education or with a bachelor's degree in another field of education and a minor in special education.

Nationally, starting salaries for bachelor's-degree graduates in special education average $21,923, while someone with a master's degree and no experience in special education can start at $23,956. Despite the large demand for these teachers, Mason says, the starting salaries are the same as for those in other teaching areas because teacher unions and school districts set the scale.

When a school can't find someone specifically trained in special education, it can hire people with limited licenses, Mason says. A limited license permits a teacher with expertise in another area, such as elementary education, to teach special education for a limited time.

Mastropieri says approximately 12 percent of all students ages 6-21 have a disability classified from mild to severe. Mild encompasses those with specific learning disabilities; severe includes children with physical disabilities as well as those who are developmentally delayed. Special education students also may be those with sensory disabilities, such as blindness or deafness.

"Special education teachers need to be familiar with characteristics of these students, be capable of adapting instruction for students with disabilities, and be able to manage classroom behavior of such students," Mastropieri says.

CONTACTS: Mason, (765) 494-7962; e-mail,; School of Education placement Web site,
Mastropieri, (765) 494-7346; e-mail,
Crutchfield, (800) 641-7824
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; e-mail,

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