The Administrative Role in Transforming Secondary Schools to Support Inclusive Evidence-Based Practices

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

The role of secondary administrators, including but not limited to principals, guidance directors, curriculum supervisors, department chairs, and special education directors, is important to the success of students with disabilities. Administrators equipped with the knowledge and skills to support the implementation of evidence-based practices of teachers in inclusive and accessible instructional environments are poised to be effective advocates of improved educational outcomes of all students. In this paper, we examine two ways in which administrators facilitate the development, adoption, use, and evaluation of evidence-based educational interventions within secondary schools. One considers refocusing the administrator role from one of manager to one of effective instructional leader. The other focuses on key leadership strategies for improving the instructional practices of teachers and the educational outcomes of students with disabilities.

BACKGROUND

The role of the administrator of special education has evolved from child advocate to compliance monitor and legal counsel since the passage of P.L. 94-142, The Education for All Handicapped Children Act, in 1975. Following the passage of this landmark legislation, diligent administrators sought to develop programs in the public schools where few had existed while simultaneously having to manage an avalanche of litigious activities. Gerber (1996) characterized special education's purpose as challenging the status-quo: "Special education's focus and priorities challenge schools to produce a radical form of social justice: equality of educational opportunity for students who are sometimes characterized by extreme individual differences" (p. 156).

The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB, 2001), while comprising many of the values of special education, supports the identification and use of scientifically-based practices. For example, in Section 1001 of NCLB (20 U.S.C. 6301 et seq., 2001) the following is stated:

"The purpose of this title is to ensure that all children have a fair, equal, and significant opportunity to obtain a high-quality education and reach, at a minimum, proficiency on challenging State academic achievement standards and state academic assessments. This purpose can be accomplished by

"(9) promoting school wide reform and ensuring the access of children to effective, scientifically based instructional strategies and challenging academic content; (115 STAT. 1440)

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA, 2004) requires students' Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) complement general curricular frameworks so that each student with a disability has the opportunity to access the general curriculum and participate in state-wide assessments in order to meet state standards. With the passage of NCLB, the reauthorization of IDEA, and the publication of A New Era: Revitalizing Special Education for Children and Their Families (President's Commission on Excellence in Special Education, 2002), focus has shifted to outcome measures related to state mandated curricula for all students, including students with disabilities. The President's Commission recently heralded the NCLB legislation as the "driving force behind IDEA reauthorization" (p. 7). However, two critical questions remain: Will better alignment between the systems of special and general education provide students with a greater opportunity to learn? Or, will blended systems result in diminished opportunities for students with disabilities to receive the individually appropriate instruction they need to grow into productive adulthood?

These latest directives ask special education administrators to play an even more important role by promoting collaboration among general and special education teachers and administrators to assure that high quality programs are accessible to all students regardless of ability (Boscardin, 2004; Lashley & Boscardin, 2003). …