Dr. Christopher J. Cormier is a former special education teacher and an Associate Professor of teaching and learning in the School of Education at Loyola Marymount University. He has taught first through 12th in Title 1 schools in the Greater Los Angeles Metropolitan area. His research program focuses on the social and cultural contexts of minoritized learners and teachers in special education. Under this overarching theme, he has two lines of scholarship. The first is on the professional and socio-emotional lives of minoritized teachers. The second is on culturally informed identification of minoritized students in special education. Dr. Cormier brings a comparative lens to both of his research lines with studies in national and international contexts. He is the Immediate Past President of the Division for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Exceptional Learners (DDEL) of the Council for Exceptional Children and a Director-at-Large for Kappa Delta Pi Incorporated.
Current research projects include the following:
•Special education teacher burnout, stress, and mental health and how it changes over the school year.
•Understanding the protective nature of Afrocentric schools in the United States and Canada and its impact on Black students with disabilities.
Stanford University: Postdoctoral Research Fellow
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign: PhD, Special Education
Pepperdine University: MAEd w/emphasis in Psychology
Fuller Theological Seminary: MAT, Theology
Fisk University: BS, Special Education
Areas of Expertise (9)
Equity in Education
History of Education
International and Comparative Education
Race and Ethnicity
Teachers and Teaching
Industry Expertise (3)
- Council for Exceptional Children
- American Educational Research Association
- British Educational Research Association
- Toastmasters International
- Kappa Delta Pi Incorporated
Media Appearances (1)
Dr. Phil Show
Paramount Studios tv
Learning Loss During Lockdown: Are There Solutions?
EDSP 6532: Seminar in School Systems and Psychological Services (Culturally Responsive Multi-Tiered System of Support)
EDTL 6301: Creating and Maintaining Effective Learning Environments
EDUR 400: Sociocultural Analysis of Education
EDES 501: Teaching and Learning in Diverse Communities
EDUR 6607: Developing as A Professional Educator
EDUR 6102: Context of Schooling
Special educators’ mental health and burnout: A comparison of general and teacher specific risk factorsTeaching and Teacher Education, 132
McGrew, J., Ruble, L., Cormier, C. J., Dueber, D.
The cross-sectional study ascertained prevalence rates of stress-related outcomes of 490 special educators (i.e., major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder) and examined the relative importance of variables hypothesized as predictive of stress outcomes (i.e., psychosocial model of stress, school/teacher variables). Over 60% scored at the dangerous level in emotional exhaustion (i.e., burnout). Nearly 40% met criteria for one or both mental illness diagnoses with rates 5 to 12 times higher than a normative adult sample. Psychosocial variables were the best predictors of mental illness outcomes. Occupational and school variables were better predictors of burnout, although psychosocial variables added valuable explanatory variance.
Untying the double bindPhi Delta Kappan, 104(8), 19-24
Cormier, C. J., Bettini, E., Stark, K.
Racially and ethnically minoritized students are now the majority in U.S. public schools. This demographic change, along with heightened attention to racial injustice and evidence regarding the importance of Black teachers, has renewed a decades-old push to increase their numbers. Redesigning teacher education and development to support the recruitment and retention of Black teachers requires ongoing critical understanding of their racialized experiences. Uncritical approaches to workplace diversification perpetuate deficit attitudes towards Black students and unfairly burden Black teachers. We describe challenges novice Black teachers often face, and critical considerations for this conversation within teacher education programs and schools.
Achieving a more diverse special education teacher workforce: Guiding questions for researchers and policymakersMulticultural Learning and Teaching, Advance online publication.
Cormier, C. J., Scott, L. A., Cornelius, K., Rosenberg, M.
Attracting, supporting, and retaining special education teachers of color (SETOCs) is critical in shaping a diverse special education teacher workforce in the United States. However, efforts to diversify this workforce are fraught with challenges at the federal, state, and local levels. This paper reviews what is currently known about efforts to attract, support, and retain SETOCs, and provides guidance for policy makers and researchers regarding what still needs to be done to realize a more diverse special education teacher workforce in the US. Four critical domains serve as the foundation for our guiding considerations: funding priorities, strategies to attract SETOCs, the role of educator preparation programs, and strategies to retain SETOCs.
Easing down the road: Exploring the pathway to the field and experiences of Black male special education teachersThe Educational Forum, 87(2)
Cormier, C. J.
For years, policymakers, districts, and scholars have pushed for the inclusion of more black male teachers in US public schools; however, their even smaller subset—black male special education teachers—has been ignored, particularly by scholars. This study provides insight into the recruitment and retention of black male special education teachers after interviewing 10 of them on what factors impacted their decision to enter the field and assume the roles they did. Results show that these teachers have had a parent who was a special educator or mentor who aided their decision, and they often assume the role of a tutor or father figure, particularly for black boys in their schools. The study accordingly discusses implications for research and practice.
It’s not easy being green: Addressing overrepresentation in special education through culturally responsive pedagogyKappa Delta Pi Record, 58(Issue sup.1)
Cormier, C. J.
Black and Latino students are overrepresented in many disability categories in special education across the United States, and placement processes are generally based on subjective judgments. Such subjectivity can leave educators in a challenging position that they may be ill-equipped to serve these students because they lack the cultural and pedagogical skills to assess them appropriately and accurately. This paper provides information to practitioners on the background of the overrepresentation of Black and Latino students in special education. Further, it offers ways to link these critical strategies to begin to address overrepresentation, culturally responsive teaching, and minimization of subjectivity.
I wouldn’t invite them to the cookout: How Black male special education teachers feel about socializing with their White colleagues.Harvard Educational Review, 92(1), 86-106.
Cormier, C. J.
In this research article, Christopher J. Cormier analyzes interviews he conducted with five Black male US special education teachers to understand how they experienced social ties in the workplace. The interviews reveal the raced and gendered dynamics that complicated the interviewees’ relationships with their predominantly White and female colleagues and how these Black male teachers chose to forgo social activities with their White colleagues even while knowing that this avoidance could limit their opportunities for broader career advancement.
How did you get here? You’re not supposed to be here: Supporting the social emotional and mental health needs of minoritized twice exceptional students.TEACHING Exceptional Children, Advance online publication.
Cormier, C. J.
Twice exceptional (2e) students are often discussed broadly but frequently underidentified in U.S. schools.
Unicorns are real: A narrative synthesis of Black men’s career trajectory in special education in the United StatesBerkeley Review of Education, 10(2), 2021
Cormier, C. J.
Black male teachers are scarce, and Black males who teach special education are so rare as to be metaphorical unicorns. As a result, both empirical and theoretical research that examines the trajectories of Black male teachers has almost completely avoided addressing Black men who teach special education. This narrative synthesis examines the historical landscape of Black teachers in general, the difficulties they face, and the limited empirical research on Black male special education teachers. Policy and research implications are explored, reflecting the dire need for Black male special education teachers in the United States and programs to improve their participation and retention.
Locked in glass classrooms: Black male special education teachers socialized as everything but educatorsTeacher Education and Special Education, 45(1), 77-94.
Cormier, C. J., Scott, L A., Powell, C., & Hall, K.
This qualitative study of 10 Black men who teach special education found that they experience their socialization into the profession by school leaders and other system-level influencers as both challenging and conflicting. Although past research demonstrates that Black men who teach special education face pressure to engage in noninstructional roles, especially as disciplinarians and sports coaches, the impact on their school work experiences has not been examined. Study findings show that participants experience a conflict in role that creates a “glass classroom” distinct from the glass ceiling and the glass escalator. The barriers of the glass classroom make school experiences difficult because others do not see Black male teachers’ potential for other meaningful school-based assignments. Thus, their opportunities are constrained. The study uses Wingfield and Chavez’s racial inequity and occupational outcomes and role socialization theory as conceptual frameworks. Implications for practice and research are provided.
Socially distanced teaching: The mental health impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on special education teachersJournal of Community Psychology, 50(3), 1768-1772
Cormier, C. J., McGrew, J., Ruble, L., & Fischer, M.
Little is known about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on special education teachers. Of 468 surveyed across the United States, 38.4% met clinical criteria for generalized anxiety disorder, a rate 12.4 times greater than the U.S. population, and 37.6% for major depressive disorder, a rate 5.6 times greater than the population. Race/ethnicity, gender, or school funding was not related to mental health. The impact of the pandemic was moderate to extreme on stress (91%), depression (58%), anxiety (76%), and emotional exhaustion (83%).
When salt ain’t enough: A critical quantitative analysis of special education and education degree productionTeachers College Record, 123(10), 3-30.
Cormier, C. J., Houston, D. A., & Scott, L A.
Using data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), we examined degree production in SPED and ED degree programs by race. We began by analyzing trend data of SPED and ED degrees produced, specifically by race, to provide a foundation for further inquiry as to why the trends exist. Using a random-effects panel regression, we then conducted an exploratory analysis of relations between degrees produced in SPED and ED by race and institutional factors (e.g., cost of attendance and institutional racial demographics) and characteristics (e.g., Carnegie classification and HBCU [historically Black college and university] status), building on the analyses of trend data and providing some more direction for future research. Broadly, we ask: What is the recent history of SPED and ED degree production, and what institutional characteristics relate to degree production? An examination of this question provides a foundation for further inquiry that could lead to understanding issues in the recruitment of racially/ethnically diverse special education teachers and general education teachers into the profession. Specifically, we addressed the following research questions: (1) What are the overall trends in the distribution of baccalaureate degrees awarded in special education and education by race? (2) What are the within-race trends in the distribution of baccalaureate degrees awarded in special education and education? (3) What is the relative difference in the racial distribution of special education degrees awarded and the makeup of special students in K–12 public schools? (4) For each racialized group, what is the relation between the number of special education baccalaureate degrees produced and institutional characteristics? (5) For each racialized group, what is the relation between the number of education baccalaureate degrees produced and institutional characteristics?
Navigating the double bind: A systematic literature review of the experiences of novice teachers of color in k12 schools.The Review of Educational Research, 92(4), 495-542
Bettini, E. A., Cormier, C. J., Ragunathan, M., & Shark, K.
A robust body of U.S.-based research demonstrates the importance of teachers of color to promote positive outcomes among students of color, and recent policies aim to increase the proportion of teachers of color. These policies are unlikely to succeed if they ignore how educational systems currently marginalize teachers of color, particularly early in teachers’ careers, when they are more likely to leave. Thus, we conducted a systematic narrative review of the experiences of novice teachers of color in K–12 schools. We identified 72 relevant studies, from 1996 to the present, and qualitatively analyzed themes within them. We found that novices’ experiences of their socialization into K–12 educational institutions were deeply racialized, through their interactions with every aspect of K–12 educational systems. Novices’ experiences often placed them in a double bind, as they experienced tensions between their personal commitments as people of color and their professional commitments in schools that perpetuated oppressive systems. Welcoming novice teachers of color into K–12 schools thus necessitates broader efforts to dismantle the many ways oppressive systems are embedded within and perpetuated by schools—efforts to which novice teachers of color can contribute, but for which they should not bear sole responsibility.
If we’re not doing it then who? A qualitative study of Black special educators’ persistenceExceptionality, 29(3), 182-196.
Scott, L. A., Brown, A. Wallace, Cormier, C. J., & Powell, C.
Ample research exists regarding various reasons special education teachers leave the profession, yet little attention is given to factors that promote professional persistence. The current study was used to address the factors that might encourage the persistence of Black special education teachers (BSETs), who face numerous challenges frequently leading to attrition. Three focus groups with BSETs (N = 9) were conducted and grounded theory analytic procedures were used to generate a preliminary grounded theory, Black Special Education Teacher Persistence in Schools, to explain BSETs' persistence. Participants reported being motivated to change special education systems for students of color with disabilities. Participants described being motivated to change systems based on situational challenges (e.g., poor sense of belonging, bias toward qualifications) distinctively experienced by BSETs. Considerations for future research, educational policy, and practice are discussed.
Why do they stay? Factors associated with special education teachers’ persistence. Remedial and Special EducationRemedial and Special Education, 43(2), 75-86.
Scott, L. A., Taylor, J., Padhye, I., Bruno, K., Wallace, W., Vitullo, V., & Cormier, C. J.,
Special education teacher (SET) persistence and attrition have been investigated for several decades. However, there are several predictors for SETs’ intent to stay or leave that are yet to be investigated. Using Bandura’s social cognitive theory, we developed the Special Education Teacher Persistence in Teaching Survey (SETPTS) and examined multiple factors for SETs’ persistence in their careers despite a range of challenges they face. Ninety-six SETs at various stages in their careers completed the survey to understand the complex dynamics of persistence. Pearson product-moment correlation coefficient and hierarchical logistic regression analysis revealed factors correlated with teacher persistence, and barriers that may cause attrition. In the findings, we address ways to improve SET retention, as well as possible future directions for research, education policy, and practice for teacher preparation and retention.
White folks teach, Black men police: Black male teachers as the regulators of student behaviorTeachers College Record
Cormier, C. J.
Historically, Black male teachers have been treated as foreigners in a majority-White, female profession. Research shows that Black male teachers are often viewed as intellectually inferior school support staff whose role is to serve as disciplinarians and coaches but not to teach pedological content. It is vital that Black male teachers be given more respect. In this commentary I provide a personal narrative of my experiences as a Black male teacher in relation to Wolf Wofensberger’s social role valorization theory, which purports that society values groups based on their perceived societal value. Using Wolfensberger’s theory will allow for better exploration the devaluation of Black male teachers based on the roles they are expected (e.g., support staff, cultural broker) and not expected (e.g., developer of school curriculum) to play in public schools. The ultimate goal in this commentary is to shed light on the unfortunate circumstance that in U.S. the archetype of the teacher is still a White woman and that Black men who work as teachers are asked to convenience these teachers at the expense of themselves and students’ needs.
Introduction to the special issue – Critical issues for the preparation and workforce development of racialized special educatorsTeacher Education and Special Education, 45(1), 5-7.
Scott, L. A., Cormier, C. J., & Boveda, M.
Historically, students of color with disabilities have primarily been taught by White special education professionals. Data suggest there is a wide gap between the overrepresentation of students of color in special education and the underrepresentation of special education teachers of color (SETOC). That is, students of color with disabilities can complete an entire public school career without seeing a SETOC. Research, however, demonstrates students of color benefit academically, socially, and emotionally from a more diverse teacher workforce. Thus, this special issue focuses on teacher preparation and workforce development issues pertinent to diversifying the special education teacher workforce.
Castaways on Gilligan’s Island: Special education teachers of color advocating for equityTEACHING Exceptional Children, 53(3), 234-242.
Cormier, C. J., & Scott, L. A.
Minoritized special education teachers of color often report feeling isolated in their work environments, affecting their sense of belonging and decision to stay in their positions. Although these teachers struggle with their identity in majority White workplaces, they are also often the only voice advocating for students of color eligible for special education services, further underscoring feelings of isolation. This article provides strategies to advance the self-advocacy of teachers of color, particularly as it relates to personal belongingness in schools. We will also suggest the necessary supports from colleagues, including administrators, that will lift the burden of these teachers being the lone disability and racial justice advocates in their schools. These self-advocacy strategies can help facilitate a sense of belonging for minoritized special education teachers of color within their organizations, cultivating a school climate that should result in the retention of these teachers.
Complementary review of the literature on attrition and retention patterns among special education teachers of color: What we know and how we move forwardMultiple Voices: Disability, Race, and Language Intersections in Special Education, 21(1), 3-39.
Scott, L. A., Powell, C., Oyefuga, O., Cormier, C. J. & Padhye, I.
The attrition and retention of special education teachers of color (SETOC) is a concern for school district leaders who are seeking racially and ethnically minoritized teachers to work with students of color with disabilities. We reviewed 47 articles from 2002 to 2020 regarding factors related to the attrition and retention of special education teachers (SET) to better understand the racial characteristics of the participants in the studies and to compare and contrast whether SETOC provide reasons for why they stay or leave that vary from reasons provided by their White colleagues. We found that researchers examining SETs have mostly ignored race and ethnicity when analyzing factors in the attrition and retention of SETs. Although empirical research on the topic is scarce, the articles that were analyzed in this review that also included an analysis of the experiences of SETOC often was framed using a racial lens in understanding factors that may cause them to stay in or leave the profession. We conclude with a discussion of major takeaways from the literature and recommendations for promoting a more robust research agenda on this topic for future considerations.
Stress, burnout, and mental health among teaches of color: Educators call for structural solutionsThe Learning Professional, 42(1), 54-62.
Cormier, C. J., Wong, V., McGrew, J., Ruble, L., & Worrell, F.
Teaching in K-12 schools is stressful, as educators know and research documents.
Black graduates on the yard and on the quad: Trends of education degrees at HBCUs and non-HBCUs.Kappa Delta Pi Record, 58(3), 136-139.
Houston, D. A., Cormier, C. J., Petchauer, E., & Scott, L A.
Analyzing degree attainment data over a 30-year period, the authors found that relative to their enrollment, HBCUs overproduce Black graduates who obtain education degrees compared to non-HBCUs. Furthermore, Black men receiving education degrees at HBCUs do so at higher rates than their overall enrollment. Implications for school districts, teacher education programs, and policy are provided.
Black teachers’ affirmations on the socio-emotional and mental health needs of learners: A transnational examinationKappa Delta Pi Record, 57(1), 30-36
Cormier, C. J.
Black teachers in Canada, Kenya, and the United States share how they have supported minoritized students, even as they themselves experienced marginalizing societal forces, and delineate three guiding principles for affirming the social–emotional and mental health needs of all learners.
They do it for the culture: Analyzing why Black men enter the field of special educationMultiple Voices: Disability, Race, and Language Intersections in Special Education, 20(2), 24-37.
Cormier, C. J.
Using racial formation theory as the ballast of this study, I interviewed seven Black men who were in preservice special education teacher preparation programs about what motivated them to enter the field. Data collection methods and analysis focused on participants’ educational trajectories and introductions to the field of special education. I found that Black men in this study chose to enter special education as a result of varying influences, including prior experiences working with children or the suggestions of mentors. All participants indicated that they were “doing it for the culture”; that is, their career choices were in response to a pressing desire to be agents of change, primarily driven by an awareness of the needs of Black boys who are disproportionately represented in special education programs across the United States. Finally, I explore implications for future research and practice.