Burnout is one of the leading causes of workforce shortages in U.S. schools and its impact is being felt by students who need consistent, high-quality educators the most. Some of the hardest hit are students with unique needs that require services from qualified professionals, such as speech-language pathologists, sign-language interpreters, teachers for the vision and hearing impaired and special education teachers. Special education positions have some of the highest number of vacancies in school districts across the US.
As the number of students who receive special education services continues to grow, there is an increased demand for special educators. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), school age students who receive special education services in public schools represented about 15 percent of enrollment in the 2020-21 school year, up from 13 percent in 2009-10.
While staffing schools continues to be a priority, teacher retention is key to successful positive outcomes on campuses for students. School administrators are taking a hard look at how to prevent burnout. Preventing burnout is essential in building a positive school climate, improving morale, and keeping professionals in the field of education.
When educators have the necessary professional resources to do their job with efficacy, they can provide better services to their students. A systematic review of research studies shows preliminary evidence that teacher burnout can impact student achievement and motivation, as well as contributing to teachers leaving the field of education.
Leveraging the power of technology and remote learning
One way to alleviate burnout in education is to harness the power of technology to provide interventions to students with disabilities. The telepractice model is increasingly becoming a viable method of filling vacancies and alleviating the burden on existing staff, while still providing students with dedicated professionals.
Remote educators can meet student academic goals by grouping students in a variety of classroom settings (individual, small group, resource, whole-classroom instruction etc.). They can also provide case management for students who have Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), thereby reducing paperwork time for onsite educators. Implementing this model can help provide professional resources for onsite school staff by providing them with options to better meet the individual needs of students on their caseloads.
1. Using remote educators to redistribute tasks
Balancing the demands of both direct teaching and indirect case management tasks has become increasingly challenging in light of staffing shortages. While many are familiar with teacher tasks such as planning, teaching and meeting with parents, educators and school professionals are often overwhelmed because their position also includes tasks such as recordkeeping, counseling, serving on committees and after-school activities. In fact, teachers on average work about 54 hours per week, but spend 54 percent of their time on non-teaching activities, according to research by Merrimack College.