Understanding the Special Education Teacher Pipeline in Hawai‘i

Dissertation Research Project, 2021

Janet Kim, Special Education Recruitment Specialist

This research project seeks to answer the following three questions:
Who is interested in becoming a special education teacher? Why did they become interested in this profession? What do they want and need in order to pursue it?
Although Hawai‘i suffers from a chronic teacher shortage similar to the rest of the country, there are variables that make Hawaii’s teacher shortage unique. Every year for the last five years, there have been over 1,000 teaching positions unfilled, with more than a third of positions being specific to special education (DOE Employment Reports, 2015-2019). The Hawaii DOE reports 94% of their teachers as highly qualified, however that percentage drops to 84% for the field of special education. One of the primary drivers of the teacher shortage is teacher attrition. In Hawaii, attrition accounts for 80% of the annual demand and is caused most by teachers who leave the profession prematurely, with most choosing to leave the state entirely. Attrition rates are doubled for teachers who were not trained by a local teacher education program. There is a need to increase the enrollment of motivated individuals into pursuing comprehensive special education teacher preparation programs in Hawai‘i.
The College of Education at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa (UHM) is the largest local producer of newly certified teachers in the state each year. The targeted population for this study includes individuals who had started an application to a UHM special education teacher preparation program between 2015-2020. This mixed-methods exploratory sequential design study will seek to understand characteristics of those interested in the special education career, the motivations that inspired them to pursue licensure, and then understand their program design preferences. Given Hawai‘i's unique landscape and population, this study is especially interested in understanding how to support more individuals from underrepresented groups (i.e., rural/remote, nontraditional, ethnicity, gender) into entering the teacher workforce in Hawai‘i.
Rural & remote students are those who live outside of urban Oahu, including all students on neighboring islands and those who move from the Continental U.S.
Nontraditional students are those who are typically older and balance multiple responsibilities
Underrepresented ethnic groups are students who are part- of full Hawaiian, Filipino, or other Pacific Islander
Underrepresented gender in education would be males, especially males who are interested in teaching Preschool to grade six

Project Timeline

March 1
March 15
April 30
Postcards sent to invited participants
Surveys Emailed to Participants
Final day to submit survey responses
Graph of responses. 69 people responded the first week and 137 total the second week.

Thank you to everyone who has participated so far! As of April 1, I have received 138 responses to the survey! My goal is to have 200 responses by mid-April. If you have any questions about this study or need me to resend the survey link, please reach out and let me know!

I am very excited to analyze all the feedback that has been shared. Thank you again for your participation!

Two girls helping apply stamps and labels to postcars

Participant Update

Invited Participants: Please complete this form if you would like to change your survey format, update your contact info, or opt-out from participating in this research project. Mahalo!
To learn more or ask questions, please contact Janet Kim, janetmc@hawaii.edu