Here’s How Baltimore County Halved Teacher Vacancies in Special Education

Baltimore County’s special education teacher vacancies are half last year’s. Here’s how the county did it.

Baltimore County started the 2023-2024 school year hitting a milestone. The county’s special education teacher vacancy rate is half what it was at the start of the 2023-2023 school year. Last year, Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS) had 80 special education teacher vacancies, compared to 43 this year.

Nationwide, school districts are struggling to hire and retain educators and support staff — especially those serving special education students. In Maryland, this is no different.
A 2022 report from the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) called special education a “critical shortage area.”

MSDE has implemented the “Grow Your Own” program to help school systems hire educators and support staff, including in special education. This program has three main components: Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs), Teachers of the Visually Impaired (TVI), and Special Education Teachers and Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs).

Here’s how Baltimore County did it

The county provided a series of new and extended incentives to hire and retain special education teachers. Executive Director of Special Education Allison Myers told The Baltimore Sun:

There’s a lot of things that are put in place to be able to support special educators with knowing that they’re valued. That is also something that we’re really focused on, the value of their work, and I think that’s really helped with regards to retention and recruitment.

Incentives for the 2023-2024 school year include:

  • Early dismissal from certain professional development days;
  • A $2,000 hiring bonus and another $2,000 bonus for new teachers at the end of the 2024 academic year;
  • Teachers who are dually certified and move into special education roles at the end of the 2024 academic year can see a $4,000 bonus; and
  • Partnering with institutions of higher education to offer professional development and support.

The county is also clearing time for new educators to connect with support systems and resources and has partnered with local colleges; according to Meyers, these have also helped with staffing. For example, educators can enroll in degree programs with Towson and Bowie State universities and have their tuition reimbursed if they want to return to school to be special educators. Additionally, more opportunities for professional development relating to special education needs and services have been offered to Baltimore County educators:

For example, school psychologists get trainings about making data-informed decisions for students, and educators learn more about how they can better assess Black and brown students with disabilities.

Only time will tell how many of Baltimore County’s special education teacher vacancies remain filled through the school year, but the system’s impressive work is undeniable.

Special education in Baltimore County

According to a February 2023 report from MSDE, Baltimore County serves Maryland’s second-largest special education population after Montgomery County. Baltimore County’s students with disabilities totaled 15,037 for the 2021-22 academic year.

Baltimore County’s special education student population is equivalent to about 14.2 percent of the state’s total.

Read the full Baltimore Sun article.

Learn more about special education in Maryland.