An Investigation of the Effects of Paperwork Demands on the Morale of First Year Special Education Teachers: Does “Red Tape” Overwhelm Green Teachers?




Mehrenberg, Richard L.

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A mixed-methods study was conducted to determine if professional paperwork affected the morale of beginning special education teachers. A nationwide sample of 177 special education teachers with five or less years experience completed an online survey regarding their experiences, opinions, and attitudes towards special education paperwork. Morale of respondents was measured through reported amounts of first year paperwork help, first year job satisfaction, first year job stress, and current level of commitment to the profession. Respondents were also asked if they were assigned a reduced caseload during their first year in the classroom, and to estimate to what extent this practice may have helped them to complete instructional duties. No statistically significant correlation was found between amount of paperwork and any of the morale subscales. Although few respondents reported being assigned a reduced caseload during their first year, the sample estimated that such a practice could increase the amount of time devoted to instructional duties by more than three hours per week. Furthermore, it was found that those with a reduced caseload reported a statistically significant greater amount of first year paperwork help and job satisfaction compared to their peers. No other variable such as being highly qualified, a career switcher, or possessing multiple certifications greatly contributed to the morale of a respondent. However, a statistically significant negative correlation was found between the number of years of teaching experience and both first year paperwork help and first year job satisfaction. Follow up telephone interviews with eighteen members of the sample revealed specific instances of the special education paperwork challenges, as well as recommendations for those new to the field. Recommendations to support new teachers with paperwork responsibilities included a reduced caseload and quality mentors. Findings are discussed in regards to best practices for new special educators, as well as suggested topics for future research.



Paperwork, IEP, Job Stress, Morale, Beginning Special Education Teachers, Job Satisfaction