Message from MCASE President, Chris Bilant 

 Leadership for Special Education

Achieving Balance: Leading Improvement while Managing Compliance

As school leaders, special education administrators recognize the major factors influencing our work are accountability and the achievement of all students.  Central to our efforts is ensuring that the acquisition, mastery, and integration of academic knowledge and skills meet the same learning standards by developing, implementing, and monitoring instructional practices and programs that meet the needs of all learners.

While special education administrators continue to create policy and practice that ensures the needs of students with disabilities is met, provide and supervise special education/related services, and ensure compliance with state and federal administrative rules and regulations, our role has evolved to include instructional leadership.  Improving student achievement results has become a critical component of our work. 

As instructional leaders, special education administrators are challenged to use leadership practices that support the development and implementation of effective, inclusive educational practices, programs, and services to assure students with disabilities receive high quality instruction and meet the same learning standards as their non-disabled peers. Sharing our expertise collaboratively with general and special education colleagues and parents helps to guarantee high quality programs and opportunities for all students.

Our focus must be comprehensive: building and sustaining inclusive school cultures that effectively address positive school climate, discipline with dignity and equity, facilitating multiple sources for leadership, recruiting and retaining highly qualified teachers, related services personnel, and administrators through improved induction & mentoring, designing school structures aimed at instructional practices that meet diverse learning needs leading to improved student achievement, monitoring the efficacy of these instructional practices, developing skills and practices that include the understanding and use of research and research-based strategies for improving instruction and the monitoring and data-based evaluation of instructional practice, and the use of collaborative practices in problem-solving and decision-making.

This shift toward instructional leadership melds the educational needs and services of students with disabilities with their non-disabled peers.  An integrated perspective on student achievement encourages school leaders to share knowledge, skills, and expertise in order to effectively serve the learning needs of all students.

Achieving balance in leading improvement in student achievement while managing special education compliance requires an instructional orientation, open mindedness, a willingness and readiness to learn from others, thinking flexibly, persistence, resilience, optimism, understanding the connections between subject matter knowledge, teaching, and learning, and understanding special education law and policy.   …attributes of a successful school leader.