A Growing Demand for Qualified Special Education Teachers in Wisconsin
School districts throughout Wisconsin are struggling to find educators—a trend that’s impacting special education especially hard. Tony Evers, the State School Superintendent, formed a committee to address the teacher shortage in Wisconsin.
According to Evers, Wisconsin must look for both short- and long-term solutions, identifying what is driving educator shortages and how the burden can be relieved. “Well-trained educational staff are critical partners in our work to prepare our kids for college and career.”
Better efforts at retaining and recruiting teachers will help districts like the Green Bay School District, which serves 21,000 students and hires between 100 and 200 teachers each year. Some of the most difficult positions to fill include technical education, Spanish bilingual education, and of course, special education.
Wisconsin Special Education, by the Numbers
As of October 2015, there were 120,864 special education students (ages 3-21) in Wisconsin. The largest number of students (30,222) had speech or language impairments, followed by those with:
- Learning disabilities: 29,086 students
- Other health impairments: 21,561
- Emotional behavioral disabilities: 12,333
- Autism: 11,470
- Intellectual disabilities: 8,083
- Significant developmental delays: 4,582
Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder represent one of the fastest growing groups among special education students in Wisconsin. During the 2006-07 school year, 5,635 students in Wisconsin had autism. Just one year later, this number grew to 6,217 and has grown every year since:
- 2008-09: 6,951
- 2009-10: 7,676
- 2010-11: 8,255
- 2011-12: 8,885
- 2012-13: 9,603
- 2013-14: 10,238
- 2014-15: 10,825
- 2015-16: 11,470
How One Wisconsin Special Education Teacher is Making a Difference
Susan Rucks was the 2015 recipient of the Wisconsin Council for Exceptional Children Clarissa Hug Teacher of the Year Award for her work with Wisconsin’s special needs children.
Rucks never envisioned a career as a special education teacher. In fact, with a family history in construction, it was a natural decision to choose an undergraduate degree in business, and an administrative job with a construction company.
However, nearly a decade later, her vision shifted and she decided to head back to college to become an early childhood and special education teacher. Her decision to go back to school was due to experiences she had with her own children, two of whom were adopted from Ethiopia and required early intervention.
Rucks became an early childhood and special education teacher in the Manawa School District and then a 4K teacher in Oshkosh.
Today, Rucks is a special education teacher for Weyauwega-Fremont High School.
The Wisconsin Council for Exceptional Children Clarissa Hug Teacher of the Year Award honors a member who provides direct services to students with disabilities and who has set an example of the best in special education teaching.
Kandi Martin, the school’s director of pupil services, said that Rucks displays compassion for her students and is an advocate for children during the school day and beyond the classroom.