An Advocate’s Guide to Transforming Special Education
Creating Schools Where All Students Can Thrive
In order for me to thrive, my school must…
Stick With Me
Given the unique learning needs of students with disabilities, they benefit even more than other students from consistency over time. When school leaders and teachers stay at their school for many years, they develop trusting and supportive relationships with students, families and one another.
> Do the district, charter network, and/or school retain special education teachers at the same rate as other teachers?
> How do they proactively avoid burnout? Do they provide training and support to staff and allocate resources to make sure that workloads are manageable?
> Do they support the growth of staff with ongoing professional development and coaching? Are there strong pathways to develop talent from within (like paraprofessionals training to become teachers)?
DISTRICT / CHARTER SCHOOL NETWORK
> Retention rates for special education teachers and paraprofessionals are equal to or stronger than those of general education teachers.
> The district/charter network keeps special education teachers at the same school to ensure consistency, rather than rotating them to a different school from one year to the next.
> The district has training and credentialing programs in place to support experienced paraprofessionals to become teachers.
> The district has clear standards and expectations for special education teachers, including an instructional teaching rubric.
SCHOOL / CLASSROOM
> The school leader has developed strong systems to train, coach, and support special education teachers. These systems are not managed separately from the support and development of general education teachers. Special education teachers typically report directly to the principal, not an external supervisor.
> Special education teachers receive coaching and feedback about how they teach and support students, not just about IEP implementation and compliance. Teachers report that the feedback is valuable and helps them grow in their practice.
> Some members of the school’s leadership team (principal, assistant principal, deans, department chairs, grade-level chairs, etc.) have special education expertise.
> The school allocates resources and hires sufficient staff in ways that best support students with disabilities. They ensure that special education staff have reasonable caseloads of students. The school schedule includes time specifically set aside for special education and general educations teachers to spend multiple hours each week collaboratively developing lesson plans and providing each other with meaningful feedback to make lessons rigorous and engaging for students.
> The school allocates resources so special education staff provide support to students across one to two grade levels (maximum) OR one to two subject areas (maximum), instead of supporting many different grades and subjects.
> Teachers and other staff actively collaborate to support the needs of students.
> The school team supports special education staff with coaching, professional development, and additional planning time so they can help students succeed.
> The administrative team creates a professional culture of excellence that makes teachers want to stay.
YOU ARE VIEWING AN EXCERPT FROM THE FULL CHAPTER IN AN ADVOCATE’S GUIDE TO TRANSFORMING SPECIAL EDUCATION.
The excerpt shows the observable actions that parent advocates should “look for” in a school, organization, or district that is truly doing what it takes to help students with disabilities succeed. Parents can use these “look fors” not only to advocate for their child, but also to push for reforms that are necessary at a broader level.
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Full report English | Spanish
Believe in me English | Spanish
Include me English | Spanish
Find me English | Spanish
Catch me when (or before) I fall English | Spanish
Meet me where I am and challenge me English | Spanish
Know me English | Spanish
Involve me and my family English | Spanish
Stick with me English | Spanish