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Special Education Teacher Effectiveness: Predictive Indicators not Achievement Based Courtney Weber- Flesher California State University of San Bernardino

Running head: TEACHER EFFECTIVENESS Abstract This paper reviews research on teacher effectiveness, especially targeting special education teachers. While most researchers define effectiveness as something that is heavily tied to student achievement, the author used open-ended mixed method surveys (N=10) in an effort to conceptualize special education teacher effectiveness. The author reviewed variables such as teacher preparation program grades, advanced degrees, potential attrition in next 1-3 years, number of years teaching, and assistance plan potential. While the author found no correlation at this time between the listed variables and teacher effectiveness, future research will review more thoroughly the concept of special education teacher effectiveness defined by teachers, students, administrators, and parents.

Comment [LR1]: Well written abstract


Educational expectations for the special education field changed drastically in the early 2000s with the advent of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and reauthorization of Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). These two laws ensured students with disabilities received an equitable education in relation to their non-disabled peers, coupled with providing highly qualified teachers in every classroom (Wilson & Christian, 2006). In the past decade since these two laws were implemented, the special education teacher attrition rate has hovered at one in three teachers leaving the classroom in their first five years of teaching (Rousseau, 2011). Research by Johnson (2010) showed low to moderate correlation levels between retention and factors such as efficacy, burnout, and job satisfaction. Mead & Bellweather (2012) suggest from their research that an effective teacher is key to student success. The need to retain highly qualified and effective teachers is paramount in education, but even more so with disabled students, who necessitate consistency. High teacher turnover rate impacts special education students on many levels as money is shifted from students to retrain new teachers and administrators must spend time observing and providing feedback. The purpose of this research is to ask how special education teachers define effectiveness and if grade point average is a predictive ind icator for future effectiveness. Instead of hiring teachers and trying to avoid attrition or the arduous removal process, the author of this study wants to potentially find predictive indicators of teacher effectiveness before they are even hired. Defining effectiveness in teaching is difficult so teachers were

Running head: TEACHER EFFECTIVENESS asked what makes a teacher effective to assist the author in narrowing the definition. Areas of study will include teacher preparation program grade point averages, student teaching experience, and teacher opinion of effectiveness meaning. The research for this study was conducted with special education teachers in Palm Springs Unified School District (N=10). Currently, the hiring process for special education teachers in Palm Springs Unified School District involves a lengthy interview process with a panel of professionals where resumes are analyzed, interview questions are asked, answers are ranked, and then references are called. Credentials, standardized test results, and

transcripts are then forwarded to analysts. Grade point average is not currently taken into consideration in hiring process. It is not known if a teacher will be effective until they garner classroom time with students. This thinking leads to a sink or swim mentality and its students who inevitably are impacted. The purpose of this study is to possibly eliminate the need for teachers to be placed in classrooms first before it is determined if they are effective. Through this study, the author hopes to find a correlation between predictive indicators before the hiring process of special education teachers. Every special education child in our educational system deserves an effective teacher. What is an Effective Teacher? Effective is a relative word with numerous definitions. The next section of this paper will look at current research to examine specific characteristics of the word effective in the special education teaching profession. Currently in California teachers must be observed by an administrator on a quarterly basis over a two-year span and then is granted tenure. California has a tenure time of a mere two years. The author will not delve into the politics of tenure and if two years is a reasonable amount of time.


California politicians have presented the controversial topic of tenure to voters in the past. Teachers are deemed effective and then tenured based on their ability to meet the California Standards for the Teaching Profession. These standards, which can be found on the California Department of Education website ( are: 123456Engaging and Supporting All Students in Learning Creating and Maintaining Effective Environments for Student Learning Understanding and Organizing Subject Matter for Student Learning Planning Instruction and Designing Learning Experiences for All Students Assessing Students for Learning Developing as a Professional Educator

The challenge with this study is determining who meets the criteria as an effective and ineffective teacher and who is ineffective. In order to find predictive indicators, it is necessary have measurable and observable characteristics that define these labels. Due to confidentiality, the author was not able to access specific teacher evaluations. In an effort to streamline this research study, the author asked on the anonymous survey if the teacher is currently on an Assistance Plan. An Assistance Plan is written when a teacher does not successfully meet at least two out of six areas of the teaching standards. If the teacher is on an assistance plan, it can be deducted they need improvement, and an administrator did not deem their teaching to be effective. The survey did ask if they had ever been on an Assistance Plan but nothing was done with this information, it was more of a curiosity question. There are a myriad of articles about effective teacher characteristics but very few are targeted towards special education teachers. In this research paper in an effort to identify predictive indicators, the next section of this paper will review current research on the topic of effective special education teachers and personality characteristics.
Comment [LR2]: Good transition

Running head: TEACHER EFFECTIVENESS Chapter 2 LITERATURE REVIEW Defining teacher effectiveness in special education is hugely different than in general education. Special education is not synonymous with having high standards and rigor. Instead, it is a place where differentiation and pacing is set by individual students needs. In Palm Springs Unified School District, evaluation of teachers is the exact same measure between general and special education teachers ability to meet California Standards of Teaching Profession. In some school districts in California (and possibly through out the United States), student outcomes are being added to the evaluation process. Holdheide (2012) presented her research findings at the National Teacher

Symposium for special education leaders. The research and data are clear teacher quality is the single most important variable impacting student achievement (Rivkin, Hanushek, & Kain, 2005). While test scores cannot theoretically be an honest indicator of special education teacher success, there are numerous other areas. Why isnt student success a good indicator? Students are placed in special education classroom when they are struggling academically or behaviorally. In Palm Springs Unified School District, students are placed in a special education classroom after they score two or more years behind. Because a special education teachers classroom is filled with students who are many years behind, student success on standardized tests would be an unfair gauge of effectiveness. The Race to the Top inspired law has encouraged pay incentives for teachers who are effective (Crowe, 2011). In a research article titled The New Teacher Project: The Widget Effect (2009), The Race to the Top is attempting to assign an effectiveness
Comment [LR3]: You typically include author and year only when referring to an article, not the title (unless it is a widely known study).

Running head: TEACHER EFFECTIVENESS rating to each individual teacher, and use those ratings to inform professional development, compensation, promotion, tenure, and dismissal. How is effectiveness defined for this pay incentive? The law is vague but states nothing about special education, only general education. Crowes research (2011) cited the Race to the Top as is quotes below. Special education teachers are not included in the Race to the Tops definition. The authors state it is a necessary area of future research needed, which is exactly what this author will attempt to define through her dissertation. Effective teachers are defined for the Race to the Top as those whose students

achieve acceptable rates (at least one grade level in an academic year) of student growth. To make clear the goal of federal policy through these grants to states, the solicitation defines student growth as the change in student achievement for an individual student between two or more points in time. It defines student achievement as in part, a students score on the States assessments under the ESEA [Elementary and Secondary Education Act]; and, as appropriate ... other measures of student learning ... provided they are rigorous and comparable across classrooms (page 2, 2011). Defining special education teacher effectiveness is highly needed in the current educational reformation system where the need to hire and retain highly qualified special education teachers is essential. While there are numerous research articles focusing on minority and low-income students, special education research still appears to be under represented. The last article published which solely analyzed special education teacher effectiveness, was published in 1983 by Carol Englert who observed seventeen special education teachers. Englert had standardized tests administered to a small sample of students in each of the seventeen classroom in determining what teachers would be

Running head: TEACHER EFFECTIVENESS labeled effective. Despite education nearly revamping since 1983, student achievement

has still been the main predictive indicator for defining teacher effectiveness. The author of this study will attempt to find other predictive indicators for defining effectiveness among the broad range of special education teachers. In Sindelar, Smith, Harriman, et. al. (2012), the researchers had sixteen special education teachers teach eighty-minute reading lessons over a specific time frame. Students took pre and post tests to measure student achievement. The researchers found teachers who asked student questions, or engaged in academic discourse, had students who scored the highest on achievement tests. The authors then labeled these teachers as most effective. The author of this study wants to shift the strong student achievement and teacher effectiveness correlation. There is a strong need in education to find effectiveness predictors that are not achievement based. The author used surveys in an attempt to find correlations between factors such as teacher preparation program grade point average, years teaching, advanced degrees, or assigned an assistance plan. This is a work in progress for the upcoming dissertation. This assignment helped the author realize that teacher effectiveness needs to have some weaving of behavior management in the future research journey.
Comment [LR4]: If you havent alredy, you should start a list or matrix that identifies the study, author, year, and what they found (e.g., asking questions as an indicator of effective). Comment [LR5]: unclear Comment [LR6]: if you are going to conduct a quantitative study, then this makes sense. But if you are going to include a qualitative portion to your study, you might need to restate this. (you dont need a qualitative section but Im just letting you know).

Running head: TEACHER EFFECTIVENESS Chapter 3 METHODOLOGY AND PROCEDURE The future study for the authors dissertation will use a mixed method of both

qualitative and quantitative. The mixed method approach is used to systematically collect, analyze, and report results from the research questions (Heyvaert, Maes, & Onghena. 2013). However, this specific research used solely qualitative methods per the guidelines outlined in the course. Qualitative research has historically asked the why and how of an educational problem using small sample sets. In this research, ten surveys were handed out to teachers in the special education department in Palm Springs Unified School District. The participants were selected a list of twenty-five elementary special education teachers. The selection process was determined by the using the five closest schools to the school district office. All ten surveys were returned within timelines. From those ten surveys, three teachers were randomly selected to partake in a follow up inperson interview. The random selection in selecting three teachers to interview was done by the author closing her eyes, and pulling three of the surveys. In the authors official dissertation, interviews will probably not be included. The surveys were open-ended or fill in the blank. The questions from the survey are listed below: 12345678In what state did you attend for teacher preparation program? What tests were required for your teacher certification? What was your GPA in your teacher prep program? Do you have a Masters Degree in Education? If so, what was your GPA? How long have you been teaching special education? Do you plan to change careers in next 1-3 years? In one sentence, how would you define an effective teacher? Based on your definition above, would you define yourself as an Effective Teacher? 9- Are you on an Assistance Plan? Have you ever been on an Assistance Plan?
Comment [LR7]: Ok this makes sense in relation to one of my earlier comments.



Data Analysis/Discussion The purpose of this study was to determine how special education teachers define effective teaching and if their teacher preparation program prepared them for teaching special education effectively. The study also evaluated predictive indicators from grade point averages to potential attrition. The chart below organizes the ten answers by top column with categories as grade point average in teacher preparation program, earned Masters Degree, state where teaching certification was earned, years teaching, potential attrition in 1-3 years from profession, personal label of effectiveness and current or past assistance plan. The one-sentence definitions for effectiveness are also listed as follows, with the T1 from chart one and chart two being the same teacher survey respondent. See Appendix A Table 1 and Table 2. The results show the grade point average of the ten teachers to be 3.09. Eight out of ten teachers hold an Masters Degree in education. Six teachers attended teacher preparation programs in the state of California with other states including Iowa, Nebraska, New York, and Washington. The average number of years teaching is 9.5 years with three wanting to leave the profession in 1-3 years. Eight out of ten deemed themselves effective based on their own professional definition . The two who did not deem themselves effective stated they did not know just yet, as they were new to the profession. One teacher is currently on an assistance plan and one was on one in the past. In reviewing the definitions of effectiveness, the wide variance of opinion is noted. Effectiveness is an ambiguous word with its meaning dependent upon the lenses the teacher wears with experiences lived. Some commonalities include caring about kids, listening, providing a safe learning environment, communicates effectively, carries good

Running head: TEACHER EFFECTIVENESS rapport with students, and inspires students. Surprisingly, words not included were


knowledge of content or curriculum, intelligent, organized, manages time, or has students with exceptional standardized test scores. The ten definitions on the survey were more character based not about intellect or results based. In evaluating these results, there appears to be no correlation with number of years teaching, earning a Masters Degree, or grade point average as predictors of effectiveness in teaching profession. The two teachers who did not feel they could define themselves as effective were both new to teaching profession, having only taught one and two years respectively. There were two interesting factors in the results. One interesting result was both teachers who had experience being on an assistance plan have 18 and 24 years in teaching profession. The number of years teaching and assistance plan implementation should receive more research. Perhaps this was an anomaly, but are newer teachers less likely to be placed on assistance plans? In the section above, you needed to include some qualitative data. I was looking for interview or at least narrative data from your participants. For instance, if there were open ended questions, this would have been the time to include that data. By presenting this data, you would have demonstrated your command of the data. Nonetheless, the information you presented was well presented and analyzed. It was just a little shallow because you didnt provide a how and why explanation as you explained the purpose of qualitative research in the methodology section.

Conclusions/Implications for Policy, Practice, Future Research In conclusion, this research study was unable to prove a correlation between teacher effectiveness and grade point average, years teaching, earning an advanced degree, or attrition
Comment [LR8]: Again, not the purpose of qualitative research.

Running head: TEACHER EFFECTIVENESS potential.


Implications for future research include the assistance plan implementation and years teaching should be more thoroughly researched. This research study revealed that the two teachers who had experience being on an assistance plan were tenured and had over eighteen years teaching experience. Ask why do you want to leave the teaching profession if you have defined yourself as an effective. The author will inevitably narrow the focus by definition exactly what teacher effectiveness is from numerous educational perspectives- from teachers to students to administration. There is yet to be a cohesive definition of special education teacher effectiveness. I think your writing skills will help you with the dissertation and its good to see how your research topic is evolving. Your approach didnt yield qualitative data, or if it did, you didnt include it here. By including more qualitative data, you would have been able to make more substantial claims. For instance, what if you interviewed three teachers and asked, what does effective mean to you? Why? Give some examples? Etc. etc. Paper grade: B References Crowe, E. (2011). Race to the top and teacher preparation. Retrieved on June 7, 2013 from Darling-Hammond, L. (2013). Getting Teacher Evaluation Right: What Really Matters for Effectiveness and Improvement. Teachers College Press. Englert, C. (1983). Measuring Special Education Teacher Effectiveness. Exceptional Children, 50(3), 247-54. Heyvaert, M. M., Maes, B. B., & Onghena, P. P. (2013). Mixed methods research synthesis: definition, framework, and potential. Quality & Quantity, 47(2), 659-676. doi:10.1007/s11135-011-9538-6. Holdheide, L. (2011). Challenges in evaluating special education teachers: Linking teacher effectiveness to student outcomes. Urban Special Education Leadership Convention October 27, 2011: Vanderbilt University National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality. Kane, T. J., McCaffrey, D. F., Miller, T., Staiger, D. O., & Bill and Melinda Gates, F. (2013).



Have We Identified Effective Teachers? Validating Measures of Effective Teaching Using Random Assignment. Research Paper. MET Project. Bill & Melinda Gates. Mead, S., & Bellwether Education, P. (2012). Recent State Action on Teacher Effectiveness: What's in State Laws and Regulations?. Bellwether Education Partners. Rivkin, S., E. Hanushek, & J. Kain (2005). Variable definitions, data, and programs for teachers, students, and academic achievement. Econometrica Supplementary Material, (73)2,

Rousseau, S. (2011, January 1). Attrition and Retention of Special Education Self-Contained Teachers: Should I Stay or Should I Go? ProQuest LLC. Johnson, B. W. (2010, January 1). Job Satisfaction, Self-Efficacy, Burnout, and Path of Teacher Certification: Predictors of Attrition in Special Education Teachers. ProQuest LLC. Sindelar, P. T., Smith, M. A., Harriman, N. E., Hale, R. L., & Wilson, R. J. (1986). Teacher effectiveness in special education programs. Special Education, 20, 95207, doi:10.1177/002246698602000206. The New Teacher Project, The Widget Effect (New York: Author, 2009). Wilson, C. H., & Christian, S. H. (2006). The Ramifications of No Child Left Behind and IDEA 2004: Who Is Left Suffering. Online Submission.



Appendix A Survey Results Table 1 Attrition State Years 1-3 Participants GPA MA? Certification Teaching years? T1 3.1 Y NY 32 N T2 3.9 Y CA 3 N T3 3.25 Y CA 12 Y T4 3.3 Y IO 8 N T5 2.98 Y CA 24 N T6 3.5 N NB 10 N T7 4 Y CA 2 N T8 3.8 N WA 5 Y T9 2.5 Y CA 18 Y T10 4 Y CA 1 N

Effective? Assis. Plan E No E No E No E No E AP E No DK No E No E Past DK No

Table 2 Participants Definition of Effectiveness T1 A teacher who cares and makes a difference. T2 One who meets or exceeds the needs of all the students in his or her

Running head: TEACHER EFFECTIVENESS class through differentiated instruction and creates a safe learning environment through relationships with kids and families. Someone who can teach, listen and love kids. Someone who is able to make information interesting and accessible to all types of learners/students. An effective teacher is one who redefines the curriculum to fit the needs of the student and does not redefine the student to fit the needs of the curriculum. One who has a dynamic delivery, good rapport and communication with students. One that makes you feel better when you walk out, than when you walked in. An effective teacher is a subversive who understands there is a hidden curriculum that is far more important than the memorization of facts, and who can shake the mental foundations of students so that they, too, can peek into dark place and leave with a greater understanding of the world and their place in it, and who, at the same time, also teaches students to memorize facts. One who has great student attendance because the kids keep coming back for more. An effective teacher meets their student where they're at and inspires the next question.


T3 T4

T5 T6 T7

T8 T9 T10



Appendix B Interview One Interviewer: Courtney Weber-Flesher Interviewee: Amanda Perkins, Special Education Teacher in PSUSD Interview Setting: Interview conducted in Courtneys office at the district headquarters on 15 May 2013 at 3:45pm. Affiliation with interviewee: Amanda is a teacher Courtney works closely with in her administrative position in PSUSD. Amanda was chosen as she is one of the most effective teachers Courtney has ever encountered- therefore her answers regarding teacher preparation program and her perspective on its value is heavily weighted. *In future I will randomly select my participants. (Start of Interview) Interviewer: What do you teach? How long have you been teaching? Interviewee: I currently teach special education grades 1-2 in Palm Springs Unified School District and have been here for 5 years. I taught general education sixth grade in Nebraska for 10 years. I relocated for my husbands job. Interviewer: Where did you go to college? Interviewee: I attended University of Nebraska- Lincoln and studied elementary education. Nebraska does their credentialing



different than California and we had specializations unlike California, where you get a degree in Liberal Studies. In Nebraska you can actually get a degree in teaching. When you earn your bachelor degree you also earn your teaching credential. In California you must do additional schoolwork to earn a credential. Interviewer: What was your grade point average (GPA) for teacher preparation program? What was your GPA for Masters Degree? Interviewee: 3.85 for teacher preparation program and 4.0 for MA. Interviewer: What tests were required for you to teach? Interviewee: In Nebraska I had to pass the PRAXIS but once I came to California I had to pass the CBEST, RICA, and CSET. Interviewer: Did your teacher preparation program prepare you to be an effective teacher? *It is assumed that Amanda is already an effective teacher. Interviewee: My teacher prep program was in general education and required one year of student teaching across multiple grade levels. I hear in California it is very different and sometimes teachers dont have to student teach. It was required in Nebraska. I was a full time student so taking time out to student teach wasnt an issue. The coursework was theory so less applicable, but the student teaching is where I learned the most.