Course Spotlight: SPED 756 Special Education Leadership
Whether you’re a teacher, school administrator or educational policy advisor, leadership plays an integral role in the classroom—particularly the special education classroom. Standing up, advocating for and empowering disabled or disadvantaged students is an everyday activity in the classroom and school community but proves even more powerful at the policy and law level.
That’s exactly what the Special Education Leadership course at the University of Kansas School of Education revolves around.
As a student in the Graduate Certificate in Leadership in Special and Inclusive Education or the online Master’s in Education Administration program at the KU School of Education, SPED 756 Special Education is a required course that introduces students to special education law and policy implementation with a special emphasis on the core principles of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
By learning IDEA’s procedural requirements, the practice of implementing these procedures in schools, criticisms of those procedures and ideas for improvement, students are better able to promote more equitable and inclusive special education practices. A few of the key terms and topics explored in this course are:
- Nondiscriminatory Evaluation (NDE)
- Appropriate Education (AE)
- Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)
- Parent Participation (PP)
- Procedural Due Process (PDP)
From Theory to Practice: The Running Project
Throughout the course, students will spend time working on what is called the “running project.” For this project, students reflect on a school, state or district educational policy and discuss where special education laws apply, investigating the interpretation and implementation of the policy through the lens of the course.
By combining in-person interviews, field notes, readings and the course work, the running project requires continuous reflection by the student—moving from theory to practice, from course work to the field, and back again.
The running project is divided into three parts:
A one-page proposal, worth five points, describing the policy, connections you plan to make between the policy and law, and a potential subject to interview.
The product is the most important component of the project, requiring you to interview a professional who can contribute to your understanding of the policy and explain how the policy is being implemented or not through observation, review of school resources and websites, interviews with parents and teachers and more. For the product, you will also critique the implementation, assembling your gathered information, and recommending ways of improving the practice and developing an action plan, for a total of 30 points.
- The presentation, worth a total of 15 points, is divided into two categories: your presentation, no longer than eight minutes in length, worth a total of 10 points, and your feedback on your peers’ presentations, worth a total of 5 points. Here, you will present your findings, communicating your message clearly in Voicethread.
How To Determine Your Project's Focus
To help determine the focal point of their running projects, students should ask themselves:
- Which area of special education do I find most interesting or relevant and why?
- Where can I learn more about the state or local policies on special education?
- Who are the administrators or other professionals who are responsible for policy implementation in my community?
- Who am I interested in interviewing, and will they speak with me?
- How does my running project reflect the problem-solving skills I’m working to develop?
What You'll Learn
After completing their running projects and the course overall, SPED 756 students are better able to:
- Comprehensively understand IDEA and its six principles
- Apply an understanding of the law, criticisms and solutions to school administrations
- Utilize criticisms of special education law toward remedies to overcome barriers in schools
- Evaluate current practices in the field and develop a plan to be a strong, democratic leader
So what are you waiting for? Join the University of Kansas School of Education’s online Master’s in Educational Administration or the Graduate Certificate in Leadership in Special and Inclusive Education programs, so you can learn more about IDEA, special education laws and policies in practice, and what you can do to improve educational standards in the field overall.