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

Strategies to Attract, Prepare, and Retain Special Educators and Related Services 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.

Special Education Induction Program logo




First-year teachers who participated in a comprehensive set of induction activities were half as likely to leave the field as those who did not participate. (Strong & Ingersoll, 2004) Wisconsin DPI is pleased to announce the launching of Wisconsin’s Special Educator Induction Program. Through an IDEA Discretionary Grant, each CESA will offer induction program opportunities for new special educators for the 2023-24 school year. Please see the following one-page document.

Each CESA will provide:

  • Six “just in time” professional learning sessions by trained professional development specialists. Sessions will include training in the high leverage practices instructional and special education compliance content:
    • Explicit Instruction
    • Student Engagement
    • Social Emotional Skills
    • Comprehensive Evaluation
    • IEP development and meeting facilitation
    • Progress monitoring
  • At least six coaching sessions by trained coaches to support content learning.
  • At least six support network sessions by trained facilitators to build emotional resilience and a cohort support.
    • Building a Network of Support
    • Professional Purpose and Passion
    • Emotional Awareness
    • Behavior as Communication
    • Positive Thinking
    • Professional Boundaries

The induction program is designed for first or second year special educators and special educators holding a License with Stipulations.

There will be no cost to the school district. Participating districts will receive up to $1,500 per participant to offset the cost associated with participation in the induction program. Districts will be reimbursed following the completion of all three induction opportunities. Districts must commit to the release time needed for new educators to participate in these induction activities. Participation in the induction program will not result in DPI licensure, but is intended to supplement any Educator Preparation Program.

25 participants will be selected in each CESA to participate in the induction program. For more information, contact your local CESA.

Project ACRES Induction Program Option

Project ACRES (Addressing Emergency Certification in Rural Education Settings) is a fully virtual support system, developed by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Education, to support new special educators who are working on a provisional teaching license with stipulations (LWS1) in rural school districts in Wisconsin. ACRES professional development (PD) is made up of virtual coaching and an online community of practice. PD is focused on providing teachers tools to support students who have challenging behaviors. This year, Project ACRES is offering 5 spots per CESA for educators from rural school districts to join. Teachers will be assigned to an “intervention” or “comparison” group and will be compensated $500 each. Teachers in the intervention group will participate in PD during AY 23-24. Teachers in the comparison group will likely be offered the PD for AY 24-25. Interested special education teachers, CESAS or school districts should contact Project ACRES here.

UW's Project ACRES is an additional program that complements DPI's Wisconsin's Special Educator Induction Program. To learn more about Wisconsin's two induction options and determine which one might be the best fit for your new special educator, please visit the Induction Program Options in Wisconsin Crosswalk document.

Project ACRES Now Available to More Special Educators

Project ACRES, a fully virtual professional support system for new special education teachers, is now open to any early career special educator, regardless of licensure status who is teaching in a rural school district. The cohort will begin in November 2023.

For more information please see the Project ACRES Early Career Special Educators flyer. 

Teachers or administrators who are interested in Project ACRES can reach out to Rebekka Olsen directly at

UW–Madison’s Innovative Teacher Pledge, Aimed at Supporting Future Educators and Offering Solutions to Teacher Shortage, Extended

Logo for UW-Madison's teacher pledge.

As the nationwide teacher shortage continues to generate headlines, stress education leaders, and frustrate policymakers in search of answers, the UW–Madison School of Education is announcing the extension of an innovative program aimed at addressing the problem in Wisconsin.*

This donor-funded initiative pays the equivalent of in-state tuition and fees, testing, and licensing costs for students enrolled in one of the School’s teacher preparation programs. In return, graduates “pledge” to teach for three or four years at a pre-kindergarten through 12th grade school in Wisconsin.

Learn more about the Teacher Pledge on the UW-Madison webpage!