Special Education Teachers in Short Supply

August 5, 2019

San José Unified’s RISE program helping to fill need but openings persist

San Jose, CA,  August 5, 2019 – The number of students between ages 3 and 21 receiving special education services is rising, according to a report released by the Department of Education.  In the report, “Condition of Education 2018,” data showed the number of public school students receiving special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) had risen to 14 percent (7.0 million) for the 2017-18 school year.  While the number of students who need services is rising, the availability of qualified teachers is failing to keep pace, creating a critical shortage of credentialed special education teachers.

“The teacher shortage is real, especially in the Bay Area where we have an exceptionally competitive labor market and high cost of living. The shortage is even greater in special education.  San José Unified’s (SJUSD) special education population has continued to grow and we now provide services to over 3,500 students with special needs within the district.  Finding quality teachers to fill these critical roles has been difficult,” stated Jacqueline Murphy, San José Unified School District’s Director of Human Resources.”

In an effort to meet the needs of students, San José Unified created a first of its kind special education teacher credentialing program in partnership with San José State University. Called Rise into Special Education (RISE), the program creates a pathway for current San José Unified general education teachers and paraeducators to earn a special education teaching credential at no cost to the participant.

This fall, seven San José Unified employees will begin the two-year program, with SJUSD paying an estimated $20,000 in education-related expenses per participant over the next two years.  San José Unified Instructional Associates who have a bachelor’s degree or any general education teachers with a clear credential may apply to earn the special education teaching credential free of charge. The RISE program offers free tuition, reimbursement of application and testing fees, free use of a Mac laptop, test preparation support, and ongoing mentorship from SJUSD’s strongest special education teachers. 

“We are excited to provide this opportunity to our employees and to have an additional seven special education teachers step into the classroom in 2020-21, but there is a need for more.  We hope to more than double our RISE cohort for 2020-21.  We are actively recruiting aspiring educators to join our team this fall as Instructional Associates and to apply for the 2020-21 RISE cohort. We encourage passionate, qualified individuals who are interested in working in Special Education to visit go.sjusd.org/jobs for more information or to apply for a teaching or Instructional Associate position, stated Murphy. 

About San José Unified
Serving close to 30,000 students from transitional kindergarten through high school in 41 schools from Downtown San José to the Almaden Valley, San José Unified (SJUSD) is Silicon Valley’s largest and most diverse school system. Currently, San José Unified serves over 3,500 special education students from preschool through postsecondary in a variety of special education programs. SJUSD employs approximately 160 special education teachers and an additional 250 special education Instructional Associates (IAs). 

About SJUSD’s RISE Program
SJUSD’s Rise program is receiving funding through the Local Solutions to the Shortage of Special Education Teachers Grant awarded last December to San José Unified.  More details on the RISE program can be found at: go.sjusd.org/Credential. More information on job opportunities with San José Unified can be found here: go.sjusd.org/jobs



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