Department of Educational Administration


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A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska-­‐Lincoln In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Educational Studies, Under the Supervision of Professor Marilyn L. Grady. Lincoln, Nebraska: March 2013

Copyright (c) 2013 Sally A. Thorp


The focus of this study was special education teachers, who remained in the teaching field 5 or more years. Through the use of qualitative mixed-methods study, variables contributing to their longevity were explored. Research indicates that 50% of special education teachers leave the field within five years of employment (Alliance for Education, 2004). For the study, 22 teachers from different school districts, as well as different geographical parts of the U.S., were interviewed. One man and 21 women, all with more than five years of experience were interviewed. Data obtained from these interviews was organized into six themes. Themes identified were: Children and How They Contribute to Longevity, Administrative Support, Opportunity to Collaborate and Network, They Felt it Was A Special Calling, What They Do is Appreciated, and The Freedom to Teach What Students Need. Each theme is explored in depth to determine its contribution to the understanding of longevity for special education teachers. Implications for the retention of special education teachers are presented.

Advisor: Marilyn L. Grady