Knowledge and skills essential for secondary campus-based administrators to appropriately serve students with special needs
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To explore the reported knowledge and skills held by secondary campus-based administrators pertaining to the instructional and programmatic needs of students with disabilities, a mixed-methods nationwide study of administrators was conducted. Data were collected through an internet survey delivered via email, yielding a total of 159 secondary campus-based administrators. The theoretical framework of Critical Pedagogy served as an analytical tool for investigating whether the lack of knowledge and skills of special education policy and procedures on the part of participating secondary campus-based administrators may contribute to the use of oppressive practices when serving the needs of students with disabilities. Additionally, using the lens of Critical Pedagogy, three national sets of leadership standards (CEC, 2008; ISLLC, 2008; and ELCC, 2011) for general and special education administrators were compared. The analysis of national leadership standards revealed a gradual yet limited progression toward a moral imperative (Burrello, Wayne-Sailor, & Kleinhammer-Tramill, 2012) to include more stakeholders in the education process and development of individual education programs at the secondary level for students with disabilities. Quantitative data obtained from the internet-based survey were analyzed using a frequency distribution. Using naturalistic inquiry without a predetermined focus or preordinate categories of analysis (Patton, 2002), qualitative responses to open-ended survey questions were investigated to discover and identify emergent themes. Findings indicate a breakdown in communication between administrators and students with disabilities and their families has occurred. Secondary campus-based administrators need and want more training in all areas of special education policy and procedures. Specifically they would like more coursework and professional development concerning special education law, information concerning specific disabilities, accommodations or modifications appropriate for said disabilities, RTI and Identification, discipline, understanding the IEP/BIP process, and how to work with teachers concerning special education requirements. Critical Pedagogy is advanced as a useful tool to be used by program directors for leadership preparation and professional development to assist them in determining the most appropriate and beneficial type(s) of leadership preparation, mentoring, and follow-up training to facilitate the transformation of secondary campus-based administrators' leadership practices on behalf of students with disabilities and their families.