Date of Award

Summer 8-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Foundations & Leadership


Educational Leadership

Committee Director

Steve Myran

Committee Member

William Owings

Committee Member

Annemarie Horn


School districts across America are struggling to recruit, hire, and retain qualified teachers in the classroom (Wushishi, Fooi, Basri & Baki, 2014; Simpson, Whelan & Zabel, 1993). In 2006 the national teacher replacement cost in America averaged approximately $2.2 billion per year (Borman & Dowling, 2008). A once highly esteemed profession is now one faced with many positions left unfilled and students without instructors. The influence of teacher shortages across content areas can be felt by students and teachers alike (Carver-Thomas & Darling-Hammond, 2019). Although general education teachers leaving their classrooms can negatively impact students in various situations, those students served in special education classrooms in low- income areas are affected even more. The group of teachers identified with the highest attrition rate throughout research is special education teachers with five or less years of experience (Otto & Arnold, 2005). Students benefit from instruction provided by qualified educators (Henry, Bastian & Fortner, 2011), and because teaching experience can increase effectiveness (Freedman & Appleman, 2009); some students are left without the quality instruction that their typically developing peers receive. This qualitative case study explores what special education teachers and administrators identify as leadership practices that combat the issue to special education teacher attrition and encourage teacher retention in a low-income school. The findings gathered through this research add to the existing special education teacher retention literature by including various perspectives in a low-income school. The information from this research is critical as these teachers require resources, opportunities to perform, appropriate professional development (Berry, 2008) and administrator support.


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