Ameliorating the Special Education Teacher Crisis: Systems Thinking and Innovative Approaches


  • Marcia Rock
  • Lisa Dieker UCF
  • Bonnie Billingsley
  • Davis Timara
  • Sacha Cartagena
  • Amanda Lannan
  • Annette Romualdo



teacher shortages, Special education, Systems-thinking


Chronic and pervasive special education teacher (SET) shortages have interfered with state, district, and school efforts to recruit and retain effective teachers for students with disabilities. Unfortunately, these shortages have worsened post-pandemic due to early retirements, low unemployment rates, and career changes. The purpose of this article is to provide a systems thinking (ST) framework to help stakeholders consider the complex and interacting systems in which these shortages occur (i.e., teacher preparation, district and schools, society). We consider specific elements within these systems, their interconnections, with a focus on identifying steps and ideas stakeholders can use to understand contributors to the shortage crisis, while providing strategies and innovative ideas for greater sustainability. We also offer real examples of ST solutions used within teacher education programs, schools, and other professions. To further bolster ST, we conclude with examples of innovations outside of education with ideas to bridge these concepts into potential pathways to address SET shortages.


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How to Cite

Rock, M., Dieker, L., Billingsley, B., Timara, D., Cartagena, S., Lannan, A., & Romualdo, A. (2023). Ameliorating the Special Education Teacher Crisis: Systems Thinking and Innovative Approaches. Journal of Special Education Preparation, 3(1), 8–17.



Special Issue on Teacher Shortages