Special Education

Help for Principals Who Want to Support Special Education Teachers and Students

By Corey Mitchell — December 19, 2019 2 min read
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Creating a supportive and inclusive school culture for students with disabilities can be a tall task for principals—especially those without backgrounds in special education.

To help more principals reach that goal, two research and advocacy groups for students with disabilities, the National Center for Learning Disabilities and Understood.org, have compiled a guide to deepen principals’ understanding of the most effective practices for educating students with disabilities—and help support classroom teaching that best serves those students.

The report is organized around three themes:

  • establishing common beliefs, including the importance of collaboration between special education teachers, general education teachers, support staff, and paraprofessionals to team teach, align lesson plans, and review student data
  • creating an inclusive culture, including the use of culturally responsive strategies and the Universal Design for Learning, a process that establishes goals, teaching methods, and in-classing materials that can be adjusted to meet individual needs.
  • implementing effective instructional practices, including evidence-based strategies in reading and math instruction

“Together, these pillars will help your school build confident and successful learners who can meet challenges and capitalize on opportunities in college and in the workplace,” the report authors wrote.

Reviewed by teachers, school leaders, and researchers, the 143-page guide also offers advice on how to best serve students with disabilities who are English-language learners, living in poverty, or frequently switch schools—and focuses on managing transitions from middle school to high school and from high school to college and career.

The report provides a detailed overview of federal laws, including the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the Every Student Succeeds Act, that govern special education services and tracking of student outcomes.

Principals aren’t the only educators seeking guidance on creating environments where students with disabilities can thrive.

In May, the National Center for Learning Disabilities and Understood.org released a survey that found that fewer than 1 in 5 general education teachers feel “very well prepared” to teach students with mild-to-moderate learning disabilities. The two groups surveyed a nationally representative sample of 1,350 teachers.

Overall, the findings from that survey revealed a teaching corps that considers itself unprepared to meet the needs of millions of children with disabilities in the nation’s public schools. The authors of that survey report outlined steps that teachers, school leaders, district leaders, families, and policymakers can take to improve education for students with learning disabilities and a glossary to help readers understand key terms.

The latest report focuses on what principals can do to bring all those groups together. Here’s a copy.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the On Special Education blog.