THE STUDY OF SPECIAL EDUCATION LEADERSHIP PERSONNEL

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1 THE STUDY OF SPECIAL EDUCATION LEADERSHIP PERSONNEL WITH PARTICULAR ATTENTION TO THE PROFESSORIATE Respectfully submitted to The U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services Office of Special Education Programs April 2001

2 Respectfully submitted by Deborah Deutsch Smith Georgine Pion Naomi Chowdhuri Tyler of Vanderbilt University Paul Sindelar of University of Florida - Gainesville and Michael Rosenberg of Johns Hopkins University Project Number: H920T A

3 Table of Contents Special Education Leadership Personnel with Particular Attention to the Professoriate Section 1. Introduction and Overview A. Organization of the Report: Four Major Study Questions B. Data Sources and Methodology... 3 Survey of Search Committee Chairs... 3 Survey of Doctoral Programs in Special Education... 3 Survey of Career Experiences of Recent Doctorates... 3 Survey of Doctoral Students in Special Education... 4 Section 2. The Demand for Faculty in Special Education A. Position Characteristics B. Characteristics of the Search Process C. The Outcome of Searches for New Faculty D. Summary... 9 Section 3. The Supply of Recent Doctoral Graduates for Faculty Positions A. Where Recent Graduates are Working B. Characteristic Differences between Faculty and Non-Faculty C. Characteristic Differences Between Tenure-Line Faculty and Off Track Faculty D. Academic Salaries and Working Conditions E. Shifts in Career Plans and Positions F. Summary Section 4. Current Students in the Pipeline: Their Characteristics, Career Aspirations, and Likelihood of Becoming a Faculty Member 4A. A Profile of Doctoral Students in Special Education B. Career Aspirations: A Key Predictor of Faculty Status C. Characteristic Differences Between Students with Faculty Aspirations and Those with Non-Faculty Aspirations Relocation Issues The Critical Role of Financial Aid The Issue of Stipend Levels D. The Likelihood of Accepting a Faculty Position for Students Planning Academic Careers E. Summary... 34

4 Section 5. Doctoral Program Capacity A. Active Doctoral Programs B. Choice of a Doctoral Program C. Student Recruitment D. Potential for Targeted Recruitment E. Increasing the Capacity of Doctoral Programs F. Summary Section 6. Key Findings and Implications A. Key Findings for Major Study Questions What have been the recent experiences of colleges and universities in hiring special education faculty? What is the available supply of new doctorates seeking and obtaining faculty postions? To what extent are current doctoral students interested in academic careers? What is the current capacity of doctoral training programs for producing special education faculty? B. Strategies to Remedy the Faculty Supply and Demand Imbalance Increase the capacity of doctoral programs Target student recruitment Enlarge the federal presence and investment in leadership personnel preparation Improve faculty mentoring of doctoral students Assist colleges and universities with faculty recruitment Improve the working conditions at college and universities Determine future demand Conclusion References Appendix A: Description of Mail Survey methodology... 52

5 Tables List 2.1 Descriptive Statistics of Candidates for Faculty Positions, FY : Applicants, Finalists, and Persons Interviewed Characteristics of Doctorates in Full-time Faculty versus Other Positions 3.2 Characteristics of Doctorates in Special Education in Full-time Tenure-Line and Off-track Faculty Positions Job Satisfaction of Doctorates by Type of Full-time Position Characteristics of Doctoral Students by Type of Career Plans Percentage of Special Education Doctoral Students Who Used Various Types of Financial Support by Typical Enrollment Status Comparison of Students Planning Faculty Careers and Graduates Who Became Faculty Members Doctoral Enrollments and Production for Special Education Programs: Spring Figures List 2.1 Trends in the Supply of New Doctorates in Special Education, Estimated Demand for Junior Faculty, and Hiring into Faculty Positions The Flow of Special Education Doctorates into the U.S. Work Force Primary Positions of Special Education Doctorates Who Were Full-time Employed in 1999: Graduates Probability of Becoming a Faculty Member by Key Background and Doctoral Training Characteristics Median 9-Month Salaries by Type of Full-time Position: Special Education Doctorates Initial Career Plans, First Position After the Doctorate, and Current Position: Special Education Doctorates The Career Plans of Current Doctoral Students: Spring Primary Source of Support for Full-time Students: Spring Percentage of Full-time Doctoral Students Reporting Various Sources of Financial Support and the Percentage Who Viewed It as Most Important Total and Full-time Enrollments in Special Education Doctoral Programs: Spring Reasons Underlying Students Choice of a Doctoral Program Applications and Acceptance Rates for Special Education Doctoral Programs by Program Ranking: Spring

6 Preface For over 15 years, independent researchers have chronicled an impending shortage of special education faculty who staff the nation's colleges and universities. Reports and observations about a possible imbalance between the supply and the demand for special education leadership personnel consistently signaled a potential problem, raised awareness of the issue, but were not comprehensive. Each article published on the topic focused on different features of this, but because no single project was funded to support sustained or multidimensional efforts, an understanding of the nature of the shortage was incomplete. In part to guide policy and make appropriation recommendations, the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Special Education Programs funded a research project to gather comprehensive data. The purpose of the project was to determine: (1) whether an imbalance exists between the supply of individuals with doctoral degrees in special education and the demand for their services, particularly in higher education; (2) if an imbalance does exist, what the features and nature of the problem are; and (3) how the problem might be resolved. To accomplish this required the concerted and collaborative efforts of many of those scholars who had previously worked independently answering individual, specific questions related to special education faculty members. It also required the help and participation of hundreds of individuals who work in a variety of capacities in many different types of settings. The resulting report, though leaving many questions unanswered, provides the most comprehensive and current study of the supply and demand of special education doctoral personnel available today. Acknowledgements Answering questions embedded in the project's purposes proved to be more complicated than originally anticipated. Without the contributions of many professionals -- at the federal office, at colleges and universities across the nation, at state departments of education, and at national organizations -- the research described in this report could not have been accomplished. In particular, we would like to thank staff at the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) who assisted with the initial conceptualization of the project's work, supported the endeavor, and guided the work throughout. We first and foremost wish to acknowledge Bob Gilmore who not only persistently supported the idea that the study was important and should be funded, but who also participated as a full member of the research team from the project's inception to its conclusion. We also wish to extend our gratitude to these members of the OSEP team: Lou Danielson, Helen Thornton, Susan Marie Marsh, and Bonnie Jones. We also want to thank the Department Chairpersons, Doctoral Program Coordinators, and the support staff who work at the nation's special education doctoral programs. These individuals provided us with

7 information about their programs, current doctoral students, and graduates. Without them, the outstanding response rates obtained in this study would not have been possible. We extend our thanks to Karl Murray who solicited assistance from each state's Comprehensive System of Personnel Development committee, which helped identify the doctoral programs in special education in the country. We also want to highlight the contributions of Richard Mainzer of the Council for Exceptional Children, along with Al Pascal and Lynn Boyer of the Professions Clearinghouse who went beyond the "call of duty" to help make these results meaningful to broad audiences. In addition, we would like to acknowledge the assistance of the following individuals who helped with the production of this and related reports: Pamela Dismuke, Janet Church, Jeffrey Easterling, Valerie Easterling, Judy Formosa, Susan Saunders, Anne Wierum, and Debbie Whelan. And, finally, we thank and acknowledge those scholars on the Research Study Team. These members played critical and integral roles throughout the study. They brought to the effort vast experience gained from research they each had conducted previously. They contributed unselfishly, they contributed in diverse and important ways: helping with the conceptualization of the study, validating the questionnaires, assisting with analyzing results, unraveling the implications, and actively participating with dissemination efforts. Their contributions were consistent and invaluable. The Research Study Team is comprised of these dedicated professionals: Ed Boe, University of Pennsylvania Candy Bos, University of Texas - Austin Vivian Correa, University of Florida Bob Gilmore, US Dept. of ED, Office of Special Education Programs Mark Goor, George Mason University Michael Hardman, University of Utah Susan-Marie Marsh, US Dept. of ED, Office of Special Education Programs Georgine Pion, Vanderbilt University Herb Rieth, University of Texas - Austin Michael Rosenberg, Johns Hopkins University Chuck Salzberg, Utah State University Paul Sindelar, University of Florida Deb Smith, Vanderbilt University Naomi Tyler, Vanderbilt University Bill Wienke, University of Central Florida Our collective thanks and appreciation, DDS GMP NCT PS MR

8 1 Special Education Leadership Personnel with Particular Attention to the Professoriate Section 1. Introduction and Overview.. the supply of doctoral graduates in special education continues to decline as the demand for their services remains stable... Left unabated, these trends may result in a diminished capacity to prepare teachers to work with students with disabilities and to advance our understanding of effective special education practice. (Sindelar, Buck, Carpenter, & Watanabe, 1993) Even before Sindelar and his colleagues made this observation, others had warned about a possible deficit of qualified individuals to assume college faculty positions in special education programs. As early as 1987, Smith and Lovett speculated that the supply of doctoral-level faculty could fail to satisfy future needs, based on survey responses from chairpersons and special education faculty. Subsequent studies that tracked position openings, doctoral production, and career choices of new doctorates only supported their predictions (e.g., Pierce & Smith, 1994; Sindelar, Buck, Carpenter, & Watanabe, 1993; Sindelar & Taylor, 1988; Tyler & Smith, 1999). Although these studies answered many questions, other questions remain. For example, college administrators, policymakers, and parents still lacked the necessary data to fully understand the magnitude of the imbalance between faculty supply and demand or its future ramifications. They also had not identified the most promising strategies for resolving the problem. Before the study was conducted, the most recent information available about the employment of new special education doctorates pertained to those graduating in Little was known about the future pipeline in terms of the number currently enrolled in doctoral training programs, their characteristics, progress toward the degree, and current career aspirations. Similarly, the flow of new entrants into doctoral programs (i.e., applications and admissions) had not been systematically examined. For these reasons, the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) provided funds for data collection efforts that would help fill these gaps. This report discusses the results of these efforts to better inform graduate training programs, professional organizations, and governmental agencies about ways to ensure that a pool of qualified special education faculty exists.

9 2 1A. Organization of the Report: Four Major Study Questions To examine the extent and the implications of the imbalance between faculty supply and demand, this report is organized around four major study questions. These four questions and the section in which each one is discussed are as follows: What have been the recent experiences of colleges and universities in hiring special education faculty? (Section 2) What is the available supply of new doctorates seeking and obtaining faculty positions? (Section 3) To what extent are current doctoral students interested in academic careers? (Section 4) What is the current capacity of doctoral training programs for producing special education faculty? (Section 5) Section 2 provides an overview of the faculty supply and demand problem and the changes that have occurred over time. It next gives a more detailed snapshot of job openings in 1998 and the extent to which they were filled. Also described are the characteristics of institutions that were seeking new faculty and the reasons for job openings, along with the average numbers of applicants, individuals interviewed, and offers made by search committees. Finally, the success of institutions in hiring faculty and the factors correlated with success are explored. Section 3 describes the recent flow of new graduates into faculty positions and summarizes the employment status and types of positions currently held by doctoral recipients. Section 3 presents the results of multivariate analyses that identify what distinguishes those who obtained faculty positions from those who obtained other types of employment. The characteristics and work activities of full-time faculty are also examined. Section 4 profiles current students enrolled in special education doctoral programs. This section identifies the students demographic characteristics, their status in the doctoral program, and their current career plans. Section 4 describes those variables that distinguish aspiring faculty from their graduate student counterparts who are less interested in pursuing acadmic careers. To examine the likelihood that those who currently aspire to be faculty will persist in these goals, their characteristics are... compared to those of recently hired faculty. Given that the evidence suggests a continued undersupply of faculty, Section 5 discusses the capacity of doctoral programs to produce special education graduates. This section examines the ability of institutions to recruit, attract, and retain doctoral students, particularly those who are most likely to enter the academic labor market upon graduation.

10 3 Finally, Section 6 summarizes the report s key findings and discusses strategies for future action. These include, to name a few, additional funds to support doctoral students, more targeted recruiting of groups most likely to pursue academic positions upon graduation, and changes in program and faculty practices that might encourage and sustain early aspirants to join the faculty ranks of special educators. 1B. Data Sources and Methodology Four extensive surveys were conducted to collect data relevant to the four major study questions. These surveys were: Survey of Search Committee Chairs. In early 1999, the University of Florida conducted a telephone survey of all search committee chairs for special education faculty positions that were advertised between Fall 1997 and Spring 1998 in The Chronicle of Higher Education. Researchers attempted to contact the search committee chairs of all 239 faculty positions. Of the 174 coordinators successfully contacted, 69% completed the interview. Coordinators were asked about the searches they conducted and to identify those factors that resulted in successful searches. These data are summarized in Section 2, which addresses the recent experiences of colleges and universities in hiring special education faculty. (2) Survey of Doctoral Programs in Special Education. Researchers made extensive efforts to identify U.S. doctoral programs in special education and sent questionnaires to the chairs of 84 departments. All 84 chairs (100%) responded. Department chairs were asked for information on graduate student enrollments, applications and admissions, number of faculty, and availability of financial support. These data are summarized in Section 5, which analyzes the capacity of doctoral training programs to produce the next generation of special education faculty. (3) Survey of Career Experiences of Recent Doctorates. Researchers surveyed a total of 1,090 graduates from 72 departments, who received a doctorate in special education between July 1, 1995 and June 30, 1999, regarding their early career experiences. The response rate was 89%. Graduates were asked about their current employment settings and work activities, how these differed from their expectations while in graduate school, and the factors that affected their career choices. The survey also collected data on the graduates demographic characteristics, educational backgrounds, graduate school experiences, and current job satisfaction. These data are summarized in Section 3, which discusses the number and characteristics of new doctorates who have obtained faculty positions. (4) Survey of Doctoral Students in Special Education. The names of current doctoral students enrolled in special education programs were

11 4 provided by 75 departments. Of the 1,630 currently enrolled students who were contacted, 81% responded. Students were asked about their background characteristics, their current status in the program, sources of support used to finance their doctoral study, their current career plans, and satisfaction with their graduate training. These data are summarized in Section 4, which describes students experiences in and views about their doctoral programs. Additional details on mail survey methodology and procedures are provided in Appendix A. Copies of all mail questionaires are included in Appendices B-D.

12 5 Section 2. The Demand for Faculty in Special Education Since the mid-1980s, a growing concern has been raised regarding the increasing number of special education faculty positions available in the United States and the lack of qualified individuals to fill these positions. (Tyler & Smith, 1999) There may not be enough doctoral students out there to replace the soonto-be-retirees, and new graduates often are not sufficiently mobile to take positions for which they are qualified. (Search Committee Chair) For nearly 15 years, faculty supply and demand in special education has occasionally received empirical attention in the literature (e.g., Geiger, 1988; Sindelar & Taylor, 1988; Smith & Lovett, 1987; Tawney & DeHaas-Warner, 1993). Regardless of the specific methodology or data source used, each study s authors reached the same conclusion namely, that the demand for special education faculty exceeded the supply of individuals interested in and able to occupy these positions. Numerous factors were viewed as responsible for this imbalance. These factors included: inadequate funding for doctoral study, low salaries offered by institutions of higher education, constraints that limited movement to new jobs (e.g., the inability of new graduates to relocate), and the increasing demands placed upon new faculty members (e.g., heavy teaching and supervisory responsibilities coupled with pressures to obtain outside funding and publish in peer-reviewed journals). This imbalance is depicted in Figure 2.1, which shows the trends in the number of position openings, new doctoral recipients, and individuals with academic positions since As can be seen, the number of estimated jobs for assistant professors with special education degrees has fluctuated over time. In 1980, the number of positions equaled the number of new doctorates produced that year. After a noticeable decline, estimated job openings for junior faculty in special education began to climb and more than doubled, rising from about 170 to almost 360 between 1982 and Available positions then declined over the next three years, and have averaged around 250 position vacancies annually since 1992.

13 6 Figure 2.1 Trends in the Supply of New Doctorates in Special Education, Estimated Demand for Junior Faculty, and Hiring into Faculty Positions Number Ye ar Estimat ed job openings for junior faculty New doctorates Recent graduates with academic positions Note: Data on estimated job openings are from the Survey of Search Committee Chairs, and the percent of new doctorates in academic positions is from the Survey on Career Experiences of Recent Doctorates. Annual doctoral producation is from the annual Survey of Earned Doctorates (Sanderson, et al., 1999; Thurgood & Weiman, 1991). Numbers do not include speech pathology and audiology. Although the number of new doctorates far exceeded the number of junior faculty jobs in the early 1980s, the number of new doctorates has more closely matched the number of job openings since Between 1985 and 1998, the number of individuals earning doctoral degrees in special education has averaged about 255 degrees per year. Furthermore, the number of new doctorates who actually accepted and remained in faculty positions is markedly smaller (i.e., an average of 130 per cohort) nearly half of the number needed to fill the positions advertised. Informative as these data are, they do not explain the reasons for the apparent disparity between advertised openings and new faculty hires, nor do they identify where problems may be most severe. Consequently, search committee chairs who are surveyed were asked to identify those factors that led to a successful search.

14 7 2A. Position Characteristics Among the search committee chairs who were interviewed, most had chaired searches for faculty at either urban (38%) or rural (37%) institutions. Another 25% were in suburban locations. Openings tended to be concentrated in small programs where the number of special education faculty totaled five or fewer (54%). Almost three-fifths (57%) of the searches sought faculty to fill existing positions, which had resulted from faculty being hired by other universities or from faculty choosing to retire. 2B. Characteristics of the Search Process On average, search committees received 19 applications for an opening (see Table 2.1). The overwhelming majority (97%) did identify at least one individual as a finalist, and 77% found that at least three applicants met the qualifications and were worthy of further consideration. Approximately 94% interviewed at least one individual, and 82% of the search committees interviewed two or more candidates. Table 2.1 Descriptive Statistics on of Candidates for Faculty Positions, FY : Applicants, Finalists, and Persons Interviewed Applicants (n=120) Finalists (n=117) Interviewed (n=114) Minimum Maximum Median Mean Standard Deviation Percent with none Source: Data are from the Survey of Search Committee Chairs. 2C. The Outcome of Searches for New Faculty Search committees had a 70% success rate in recruiting an individual to fill a faculty position. Slightly more than three-quarters (76%) were women, and 20% were ethnic minorities. These figures resemble those for all recent doctoral recipients; for example, 82% of the 1998 special education doctorates were female, and 22% were underrepresented minorities (Sanderson, Dugoni, Hoffer, & Selfa, 1999). Not surprisingly, the majority (75%) were hired at the rank of Assistant Professor or Instructor. However, only 36% had just completed their doctoral degree. This suggests that the movement into a faculty job does not always occur immediately after graduation; for example, some individuals may remain at their doctoral institution for a while (e.g., as research associates on a federal grant) or leave one faculty position to take a faculty position at another institution.

15 8 What is more striking (and worrisome) is that 30% of the searches produced no results namely, the position was not filled. This figure is dramatically higher than the 8% reported by Sindelar, et al. (1993) for positions advertised in Clearly, it appears that special education programs have encountered increasing difficulty in attracting new faculty to their undergraduate and graduate programs. In addition, although the proportion of ethnic minorities among those hired in new positions in 1998 was the same as that for new special education doctorates, nearly one-fifth of the 89 search Box 2.1 Unsuccessful Searches: Observations by Search Committee Chairs People do not want to relocate. We were not able to fill the position due to the lack of qualified applicants and refusals from those who were offered the position. I don t believe that the applicants have been prepared to do research and write grants for external funding. Applicants are typically from outside special education (e.g., psychology). committee chairs who provided additional comments identified the lack of minority applicants as a key problem. Search Committee Chairs attributed nearly one-third (31%) of the unsuccessful searches to problems in the quality of the applicant pool. Although the survey did not explicitly probe the nature of these problems, the comments made by interviewers provide some insight (see Box 2.1). In such instances, no formal offer was tendered to an applicant. The remaining two-thirds did make at least one offer, but were turned down. Furthermore, slightly more than half (55%) of this group had their offers turned down by more than one candidate. Again, comments from coordinators point to the problems encountered, such as non-competitive salaries. Many of these issues were echoed by recent graduates (see Box 2.2). It was more likely that a search failed if the position was in a small department with five or fewer special education faculty or if it was at an institution located in either a suburban or rural area. In addition, unsuccessful searches expended Box 2.2 Faculty Positions: Observations by Search Committee Chairs and Recent Graduates Our students make as much money, if not more, as our faculty. This is the reason some of our finalists decided to go elsewhere for a position. Hospitals, clinics, and other employers offer better opportunities for those with a doctoral degree. I will take a $20,000 - $30,000 pay cut if I switch from a K-12 teaching position to a college faculty position. much more effort than did successful searches because more candidates had to be screened and interviewed when those who were offered a position declined the offer. Compared to successful searches, they had a significantly larger applicant pool to screen (an average of 28.6 applicants versus 19.8 for successful searches), identified more finalists (11.4 versus 3.9), and interviewed more individuals for the opening (5.0 versus 2.7).

16 9 Of course, it is well-known that faculty searches can last more than one academic year before a qualified individual is hired. At the same time, failing to fill a faculty slot can have serious consequences. For 20% of the programs that were unsuccessful in hiring an individual, the position or slot was lost by the department. Whether this outcome was permanent is not known; nevertheless, teaching loads, student supervision, and teacher preparation undoubtedly suffer when positions remain unfilled. 2D. Summary Recruiting and attracting new faculty does not appear to have noticeably improved. In fact, it may have worsened since the late 1980s. For example, although the number of openings has remained relatively stable since 1992, the pool of applicants may be much smaller. Whereas the average number of applications for positions was 35 in 1988 (Smith & Lovett, 1987), it was nearly half that in 1998 (i.e., an average of 19 applications per position). The percentage of successful searches in 1998 also was markedly lower than that for those conducted a decade earlier. Increasingly, it appears that smaller departments, particularly those located in non-urban areas, are experiencing hiring problems. This appears to primarily result from candidates turning down formal offers, rather than search committees receiving no qualified applications. Such outcomes are particularly problematic, given the level of effort and resources expended to review applications, choose finalists, interview candidates, and arrange formal offers. For some departments, the result is that the position is at least temporarily lost, placing greater demands on the existing faculty in terms of teaching, advising, and other student-related responsibilities.

17 10 Section 3. The Supply of Recent Doctoral Graduates for Faculty Positions My doctoral program was outstanding, but nothing could have adequately prepared me for the lifestyle of higher education. I love teaching, but in order to do all that is required of a tenure-track position, I work 80 hours per week. Although my first plan was to move from direct services to a faculty position after my degree, I have actually stayed in direct services but do some adjunct teaching. This is a good fit because (1) college teaching has become more stressful and less satisfying, (2) the degree has enhanced my standing in direct services, and (3) adjunct work is advantageous for consulting. One issue that is rarely addressed is faculty turnover. In the school where I had my first tenure-track position, four assistant professors were hired and three left within two years. My beginning salary as a professor was $35,000 with a student loan debt of $42,000. If I am allowed to die only when my student loan debt is paid off, I ll live forever! The percentage of failed faculty searches underscores the need to examine the supply of individuals who pursue academic careers and the attractiveness of junior faculty positions. Some information is available from isolated snapshots that have been taken in the past (e.g., Pierce & Smith, 1994; Tyler & Smith, 1999). To obtain more recent data and examine the factors that affect the decision to become a faculty member, recent doctorates in special education ( ) were surveyed about their career experiences. Data were also collected about the characteristics of those who were most likely to obtain faculty positions. 3A. Where Recent Graduates Are Working Doctoral programs in special education have continued to produce individuals who successfully enter the U.S. work force (see Figure 3.1). Among graduates, the overwhelming majority (90%) were working full-time. Four percent were employed part-time, and 2% were neither working nor seeking employment, usually because of family responsibilities or chronic health problems. Less than 1% were unemployed and seeking work. This indicates a strong labor market for special education leadership personnel.

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