Principals are faced with having to juggle many things on a daily basis. In smaller schools, they may be filling multiple rolls when larger schools could have 2 or 3 covering all the necessary duties of being a school administrator.
Most principals have been teachers in the past, so they get the day-to-day teachers are dealing with, but what about special education? Sure, some principals may have been special education teachers or have had students with multiple needs in the same classroom, but do most principals understand special education to the level that they should?
There is a lot to the broad term of Special Education. Sometimes special education needs are cognitive, other times behavioral, then again they can be both. There’s a lot to know when you are dealing with ensuring the successful education of a child with learning differences or disabilities.
What can we do to ensure that our principals are adequately educated on special education needs and are able to feel confident addressing those needs with parents and the community?
Help Principals Understand Special Education And IEP Progress
When a child has an IEP, teachers, parents, special education service providers and the like all understand that a lot has gone into getting to a workable solution called the IEP. It can be very frustrating on all sides when someone involved doesn’t feel like what is being provided to a child on an IEP is working.
There are many emotions involved when the special education team and parents gather around the table for a discussion on IEP progress. Sometimes, there is a disconnect between what is being provided to the student and what expectations of progress should be.
When parents and special education team do not agree, it is usually the principal getting the phone calls from angry parents who want them to intervene. For principals not well adept at the special education process, this can be a bewildering task.
We need to help principals understand special education to the point where they are comfortable with having discussions with parents on IEP process and progress without having to run around the school interviewing special education team members on what is happening and why.
In an ideal world, the principal would be at IEP meetings as often as possible and sharing their input, but too often they are not even invited enough to be able to feel like they’d be a valuable part of the discussion. Educating principals enough to understand the process and the repetition of sitting in meetings having these discussions can go a long way in helping principals understand special education progress, challenges, and negotiations.
Understanding How Special Education Fits Into The Big Picture
By and large, the populations of students facing bullying in schools are the students who are part of the special education program in their schools. For example, children with ASD are often misunderstood by their peers and usually subject to social harassment and even bullying.
Helping principals understand special education in order to do a better job of instilling an inclusive environment in their school will do much to reduce the occurrences of bullying by peers of special education students.
Principals want their students to enjoy their educational experience. They also want an enriching and inclusive environment for all members of their student body. A better understanding of how peers view students who receive special education services and why there are social disconnects between the two will make ensuring a truly inclusive environment for all a real possibility.
What Principals Can Do Today To Understand Special Education
Reviewing student IEPs and education records is a good first start to understanding how special education impacts a student’s education experience and their ability to succeed academically. The language used in these forms should be second nature to anyone who is regularly participating in the development and delivery of an IEP.
Secondly, it is good to review IEP progress notes and see what worked on a student’s IEP and why. It is also a good habit for a principal to see the progression of the delivery of an IEP, see what challenges occurred and what was done about it.
Ask questions. Invite the special education director to meet with you and discuss scenarios of IEP deliveries that are working in your school and ones that aren’t. They should be asking the special education team what the next steps are and what obstacles may be in their way to a successful school year for their special education students.
Using digital records to store and collaborate on IEPs is an easy and efficient way to monitor progress, ask questions and see the progress of an IEP. eCare Vault is the first solution of its kind to be built specifically for that. Principals understand special education better when all the information needed to gain knowledge and keep apprised is at their fingertips. For more information on eCare Vault or to see a demonstration, contact us today.