Literature review on Identification of the role special education administrator in school
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Effective leadership and administrative support for special education are critical issues in today’s schools (Bays and Crockett, 2007). Lashley and Boscardin (2003) described special education administration as the intersection of the disciplines of special education, general education, and educational administration. Navigating through this intersection effectively is increasingly important to the field due to the expanding challenges created by the increasingly complex student population, the rapidly growing number of children from diverse cultural and language backgrounds, the ever-changing federal and state mandates for delivering special education services to students (Chalfant and Van Dusen Psy, 2007). Roles and responsibilities of special education administrators have continued to udergo dramatic shifts in tandem with the changing roles and responsibilities of all school administrators. Special education administration, however, is unique among other educational leadership practices because it requires a higher level of technical knowledge of many areas. Special education administrators must demonstrate on a daily basis leadership in human resources, management, micro and macro politics, instruction and strategic planning. This is not including the added dimension of special education administration that almost all actions and decisions have potential specter of due process and litigation. Leadership in all areas is essential for effective administration of special education programs.
The special education administrator must possess general, transactional administrative skills required of other district level administrators such as budgeting, recruiting, supervising faculty and staff and completing reports required by local, state and federal education agencies. Coupled with these skills and requirements is the need for special education administrators to maintain ongoing communication with all stakeholders, including faculty and staff, other administrators, parents, students, legislators, and community members. Similar to principals, special education administrators must constantly negotiate competing priorities, balance management, administrative and supervisory duties, monitor legal compliance, and ensure instructional quality for students with disabilities (Bays and Crockett, 2007). Although the characteristics of special education administration described so far suggest a transactional role of leadership, it is imperative for special education administrators to adapt to the changing educational environment by demonstrating transformative leadership skills as well. Effective special education leaders provide the necessary essential guidance for making program transitions to meet the special needs of children with disabilities and comply with federal and state mandates. However, increasingly they must influence decisions about future direction and policies for serving students with disabilities through proactive vision. Special education leaders in the twenty-first century must take the time to establish a clear vision and build relationships to work collaboratively among general and special educators, other district personnel and community partners to create and implement an instructional framework to address the diverse needs of a school or a district population effectively.
Providing leadership for special education is problematic and influenced by micro-and macro-political dimensions including student and teacher demographics, varied instructional settings, shared leadership responsibilities, and the impact of legislation, policies, and reform movements. One useful organizing framework for guiding the work of special education administrators is Crockett’s (2002) Star Model. The framework consists of five core principles, each principle representing a point on a star:
· Ethical practice – ensures universal educational access and accountability. Leaders demonstrate capability to analyze complexities, respect others, and advocates for child benefit, justice, and full educational opportunity for every learner
· Individual considerations – addresses individuality and exceptionality in learning. Leaders are attentive to the relationship between the unique leaning and behavioral needs of students with disabilities and the specialized instruction to address their educational progress
· Equity under law – provides an appropriate education through equitable public policies. Leaders are committed to the informed implementation of disability law, financial options, and public policies that support individual educational benefit
· Effective programming – provides individualized programming designed to enhance student performance. Leaders are skilled at supervising and evaluating educational programs in general, individualized programs in particular, foster high expectations, support research-based strategies, and target positive results for learner exceptionalities
· Establish productive partnerships – leaders are effective in communicating, negotiating, and collaborating with others on behalf of students with disabilities and their families
Similar to the star model, Chalfant and Van Dusen Psy (2007) argue the need for visionary special education administrators who can acquire and integrate information and be informed, effective and articulate problem-solvers. They propose a framework comprised of the following five competencies:
1. Knowledge about evidence-based practices for the identification, assessment, special education teaching methods, and delivery of service systems
2. Skills in leadership and management with a base in legal foundations of special education, policy development and analysis, and personnel development
3. Effective communication and collaboration with school faculty, community groups, and families in decision-making and mediating conflicts
4. Knowledge about and skills for providing culturally responsive education to culturally and linguistically diverse learners
5. Proficient use of technology that collects and analyzes data and information for determining student and program outcomes