Special Education Teacher Evaluation: Why It Matters, What Makes It Challenging, and How to Address These Challenges

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There is currently little consensus on how special education teachers should be evaluated. The lack of consensus may be due to several reasons. Special education teachers work under a variety of complex conditions, with a very heterogeneous population, and support student progress toward a very individualized set of goals. In addition, special education is marked by historical rates of attrition, with a lack of highly qualified teachers entering the field, and a number of special education teachers completing alternate certification programs, leading to a combined effect that impacts overall professional quality. In this article, we first review the challenges associated with evaluating special education teachers, describe and analyze current approaches, and present a conceptual framework for an approach to special education teacher evaluation. We then provide an overview of the Recognizing Effective Special Education Teachers (RESET) tool as a possible alternative to measure special education teacher effectiveness. Given the current zeitgeist of teacher evaluation systems that fail to address the unique circumstances related to special education teachers, it is hoped that the information in this article will contribute to the small but growing body of research on special education teacher evaluation and effectiveness.