Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Organizational Leadership

First Advisor

Dr. Philip Pendley

Second Advisor

Dr. Lisabeth Johnson

Third Advisor

Dr. Zhanna Preston


Purpose: The purpose of this mixed-methods study was to determine how experienced special education teachers rate and describe the importance of professional development topics identified as high leverage practices in special education by Council for Exceptional Children and CEEDAR Center at helping them perform their teaching jobs, and to determine how the ratings of the different groups (preschool, elementary, middle, high school, and adult transition grade level ranges) compare to one another.

Methodology: The current study is a mixed-method descriptive comparative design, utilizing both quantitative and qualitative survey methodology. A quantitative approach will be used to rate experienced special educator’s professional development perception of different professional development topics and how their experience with these topics impact their retention in the field of special education. A qualitative approach will then be applied to conduct follow-up interviews with special educators regarding the influence their professional development has had on their retention in the field. Such information will best align to the research questions and provide a contribution to this research area.

Findings: There are two major research findings: High leverage practices professional development topics positively impacting special educator retention. Additionally, grade level influenced ratings of the importance of professional development in high leverage practices.

Conclusion: The most evident research conclusion is that professional development in high leverage practices helps to retain special education teachers. Additionally, professional development for special educators should be differentiated for staff based on their instructional grade band.

Recommendations for Action: Research conclusions inspired the following six implications for urgent action at various influential levels, including: teacher education programs, teacher induction programs, school districts, regional levels, state level, and finally, at the federal level.