Improving School Administrators Understanding of Special Education Services

Nov 21, 2016 by

Maintaining a consistent balance between the pull for rigorous learning environments and inclusion of students with special needs within the general education classroom is a daily occurrence for school administrators.

Creating an Instructional Balance

School principals must be able to hold many important issues at the forefront of the daily duties within a school day. Ensuring educators are up to par in utilizing best instructional practices that meet the needs of all levels of learners is certainly a challenge. Job performance is measured in terms of how much academic growth students make, which sets the stage for high standards and rigorous learning expectations. While students with special needs cannot be overlooked, especially with current laws in place that require these students receive the general education curriculum. An exact formula, program for success or implementation process to ensure both ends of the spectrum are met continues to be an enigma within the classroom walls. In this article special education inclusion is explained.

Tying it all Together

Students with Individual Educational Plans essentially have several professionals committed and focused to ensure that all areas of challenge are identified and proper accommodations are provided. The building principal plays a key role in collecting data from the various experts while providing an open line of communication that allows all of the services to come together. The building administer must be consistently aware of behavioral and academic plans that are in place. These plans must be created by a team of professionals including the child’s parents to develop the best possible situation that ensures the least restrictive environment for the student. This means the principal must be knowledgeable about the areas in which students qualify for services, specific plans that are put in place, as well as the ability to assist in the process of pulling all necessary resources together for the child. While teachers are responsible for implementing services and accommodations, the building principal must support teachers and coordinate resources and/or schedules to ensure those requirements are met. Often the principal serves as the middleman between teachers, parents, and ancillary staff to coordinate and implement a successful Individualized Educational Plan. Here is a great article that offers clarification of the responsibilities of principals within IEP meetings.

Lifelong Learner

Most importantly, a highly effective principal that truly impacts students with special needs must hold the belief that she too must be a continual learner. No two students are identical in regards to behavioral, social or academic needs. A principal must approach the development of an IEP with an open mind and investigative lens. The willingness to become familiar with student strengths and challenges, family history, social-emotional abilities combined with achievement and assessment data; to develop an accurate understanding of each student in need of special education support is essential. The moment that an administrator’s willingness to learn more about a student or potential services comes to a halt, is the moment that a child will experience a missed opportunity in reaching his fullest potential as a learner. See this article which emphasizes the focus of a principal as the “lead learner”.  Naturally as educators, school principals are lifelong learners. They lead the communities from which the most learning takes place. Having a better understanding of special education services has everything to do with increasing student achievement in every school.

Please leave comments on how school principals in your district influence, enhance or provide innovative support for special education services.

Keywords: Special Education, Education Leadership, Individualize Education Plan, K12, IDEA, Least Restrictive Environment


Sharpe, W. (2015). Special Education Inclusion. Education World Magazine. Retrieved from

McElhinny, K. & Pellegrin, D. (October 2014). The Principal’s Role with IEP Teams. National Association of Elementary School Principals. Volume 38, Issue 2 Retrieved from:

McKibben, S. (July 2015). The Principal as Lead Learner. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, Volume 57, Number 7 Retrieved from

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  1. November 2016 Publications – Wafa Hozien - […] Hozien, W. (November 21, 2016).  Improving Special Education Knowledge of School Principals. Education News. Retrieved from:… […]
  2. November Publications – Wafa Hozien - […] Hozien, W. (November 21, 2016).  Improving Special Education Knowledge of School Principals. Education News. Retrieved from:… […]