UW–Madison’s Wilkerson appears on PBS NewsHour to discuss shortage of special educators in schools

UW–Madison’s Kimber Wilkerson was interviewed for a recent PBS NewsHour report that is titled, “What’s driving a special education teacher shortage and how schools are responding.”


Wilkerson is the associate dean for teacher education and a professor of special education in the School of Education’s Department of Rehabilitation Psychology and Special Education. Her research focuses on providing instruction to students in alternative settings and improving long-term outcomes for students with learning and behavioral disorders.

In the segment, PBS NewsHour correspondent John Yang speaks with current and former special education teachers from across the country about their experience in the field. “The staffing shortage really makes me question if I want to spend the rest of my career in this setting,” one Minnesota teacher says. “It makes me feel so sad knowing that there’s such a shortage of people who want to go into this field and work with students like my own,” another adds.

Wilkerson comments that the special education field has struggled with teacher shortages since its creation in the 70s. She notes that with fewer educators, students with disabilities are given less quality support.

Schools are forced to be creative in their problem solving when facing a teacher shortage issue like this one, Wilkerson says. “There are some efforts in different states to increase pay for teachers to try to make the work worth the effort. And there are also initiatives aimed at providing more professional development, more supports to be able to decrease caseloads.”

Wilkerson advises current and future special educators to “remember why you got into it in the first place.”

“I’d say from my own perspective, it was a really impactful and meaningful career choice where I could see sort of my efforts paying off right in front of my eyes and investing in students who other people have kind of written off.”

Listen to the full PBS NewsHour segment or read the transcript to learn more.

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