At the start of the 2019/2020 school year, school districts in Illinois reported 1,858 unfilled teaching positions, with 647 of these being in special education classrooms. Data has shown that the retention rate for special education teachers is lower during the first three years. In an effort to retain qualified teachers in our special education classrooms and increase student academic achievement, the State Personnel Development Grant (SPDG) from the federal government will soon be available for states to utilize to support those new to the profession. While the grant application process and exact funding amounts have not been finalized, Illinois is actively preparing to apply for this funding.
Regional Office of Education #11 has been selected by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) to be one of five Regional Offices in the state to work on the SPDG grant addressing the teacher shortage in special education. Earlier this spring, ISBE reached out to Regional Superintendent, Dr. Kyle Thompson, to see if his office would be interested in working with the State on this issue. Thompson stated, “We have had success with similar large programs in the past, and I am confident that our strong relationships with the Special Education Department at Eastern Illinois University and Eastern Illinois Area Special Education will allow us to effectively address the special education teacher shortage in our area.”
The Federal Grant will be focused on mentoring beginning special education teachers, providing professional development opportunities, and working with parents to increase early literacy skills in students. Other ROE’s working with ROE #11 on this project include ROE #54 in Danville, ROE #9 in Champaign, ROE #21 in Benton, and ROE #47 based in Sterling, IL.