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CoE Graduate Student Conference

Keynote Speaker

Roddy Theobald

Title: The Special Education Teacher Pipeline: Lessons from Washington, Pennsylvania, and Hawai`i

 Abstract: Special education teacher staffing challenges have been “severe, chronic, and pervasive” for as long as special education has existed as a federal public education mandate (Mason-Williams et al., 2020; McLeskey & Billingsley, 2008). This presentation will provide an overview of research from three states—Washington, Pennsylvania, Hawai’i—that provide lessons about state policies that can help address these staffing challenges. Specifically, the presentation will cover research from Washington about the role of dual-licensure in special education in exacerbating special education staffing challenges (Theobald et al., 2021), research from Pennsylvania on the Bureau of Special Education’s Attract, Prepare, and Retain initiatives (Theobald et al., 2023a), and research from Hawai`i about the impacts of a $10,000 special education teacher bonus program on special education staffing challenges in the state (Theobald et al., 2023b).

Biographical note:

Roddy Theobald is a Managing Researcher at AIR and Deputy Director of CALDER. He received his PhD in Statistics from the University of Washington in 2015, and previously worked as a Research Assistant at the Center for Education Data and Research at the University of Washington and as a 7th-grade math teacher at Westlake Middle School in the Oakland (CA) Unified School District as a Teach For America corps member. His ongoing projects investigate teacher education and licensing, career and technical education, and special education in Hawaii, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Washington.


 Mason-Williams, L., Bettini, E., Peyton, D., Harvey, A., Rosenberg, M., & Sindelar, P. T. (2020). Rethinking shortages in special education: Making good on the promise of an equal opportunity for students with disabilities. Teacher Education and Special Education, 43(1), 45-62.

McLeskey, J., & Billingsley, B. S. (2008). How does the quality and stability of the teaching force influence the research-to-practice gap? A perspective on the teacher shortage in special education. Remedial and Special Education, 29(5), 293-305.

Theobald, R., Aniagyei-Cobbold, E., & Stein, M. (2023). The special education teacher pipeline in Pennsylvania: Year 1 report. CALDER Working Paper No. 289-0723.

Theobald, R., Goldhaber, D., Naito, N., & Stein, M. (2021). The special education teacher pipeline: Teacher preparation, workforce entry, and retention. Exceptional Children, 88(1), 65-80.

Theobald, R., Xu, Z., Gilmour, A., Lachlan-Hache, L., Bettini, E., & Jones, N. (2023). The impact of a $10,000 bonus of special education teacher shortages in Hawai`i. CALDER Working Paper No. 290-0823.