What I have learned from Special Education as a school leader:
- Instructional approaches in special education can effectively increase a classroom teacher’s repertoire of teaching strategies if the right coaching takes place.
- The two keys to effective special education programs are; 1) a talented educator who is 2) an effective advocate for the students she/he serves. These two characteristics are the best supports for students who need either increased time or specialized instructional strategies to reach grade level standards.
- In large schools effective partnerships with outside organizations can serve a district by allowing students from throughout the district to attend special programs in a sustainable manner.
- Special Education work can be very gratifying when you understand what is at stake for students and their families.
Special Education is an area of school leadership that came to me over years of being a site principal and the superintendent of small rural districts with a variety of programs in my buildings. I have always been fascinated by special education and its role in increasing student opportunities to close gaps that are understandably based in medical or environmental circumstances outside of students control.
As a large campus Rolling Hills is where I expanded my knowledge of and work with special populations. We had a variety of programs on campus, from our learning resource center to a treatment centered program for emotionally disturbed middle school students, and including special day classes for severely disabled students.