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Workload Considerations


Considerations for Determining Special Education Workloads

Wisconsin DPI regularly receives inquiries about calculating special education “caseloads”. One common inquiry is about making fair and informed personnel decisions so each student with an Individualized Education Program (IEP) can receive a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) through an IEP that is properly developed and implemented.  Another common inquiry is about determining available “space” to provide special education and related services for the purpose of making open enrollment capacity decisions.  More recently, allocating special educator* resources has become an increasingly important system-level topic for public school district administrators as they consider how to provide required special education services to every eligible student during this time of teacher shortages and retention challenges. 

This document outlines considerations for those involved in analyzing and making personnel hiring and assignment decisions that affect the workloads of educators who provide special education and related services. This document provides information to help schools and districts develop local criteria and guidelines for making decisions about personnel needs and for analyzing existing educator workloads to ensure each student’s IEP can be implemented as written.  We ask readers to keep in mind that there is no one-size-fits-all way to calculate educator workloads to meet varying needs and unique circumstances found in each school district.

Sample Workload Matrix

The Wisconsin Council for Administrators of Special Services (WCASS) provided Wisconsin DPI with sample workload matrix templates used by school districts in Wisconsin.  Although Wisconsin DPI does not endorse any one matrix or calculator for determining workload, the following are examples of tools use by other school districts.  Each school district is unique in terms of the needs of students, families, and those responsible for providing a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE).  School districts should engage in meaningful discussion of how best to ensure FAPE for students receiving special education services through an Individualized Education Program (IEP). Additional considerations on workload decision making processes, including other key variables for determining workload, can be found on the Wisconsin DPI Considerations for Determining Special Education Workloads document.

Resources to Attract, Prepare, and Retain Special Educators and Related Service Providers

Wisconsin is one of forty-eight states reporting special education teacher and related services provider shortages (Sutcher, Darling-Hammond, & Carver- Tomas, 2016). The Special Education Team at Department of Public Instruction has identified staffing shortages as a focus area and has prepared a resource for Wisconsin’s districts. This webpage identifies the challenges and offers possible solutions to attract, prepare, and retain special educators and related services providers.