Closing the Achievement Gap

Why do our special education students continue to fail?

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Summary of the Critical Issue

When a student begins services on an Individualized Education plan it is the goal of Special Education and classroom teachers to help that student achieve grade level standards. Often, at the end of an academic year, this is not the case. While Special Education students may make progress towards the academic standards, they continue to fall behind. Upon entering the next academic year, they are already starting below grade level. During that year, it is now the job of Special Education teacher and the classroom teacher to not only make up the academic deficit of the year before, but to also teach the grade level standards of the current year. As this process continues throughout the course of a Special Education students career, the achievement gap becomes greater and greater.
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A Leadership Change

Administration plays a key role in the success of special education students. In order for students to close the achievement gap, administration must work closely with staff to support the special education population. It is not only necessary to have a well rounded staff, but administration needs to be able to organize and lead them in order for instruction to be effective. It is also desirable to have an administration with some experience with the special education population. This allows for an understanding of the specific needs of students, and the ability to act as a resource to teachers.

Leadership Style WANTED:

The Transformational Leadership Style would be an appropriate leadership style for an educational leader to encompass. When observing effective principals’ leadership styles, the transformational leadership model is often used and is considered to be the single most studied idea in the field of leadership studies.

  • Intellectual Stimulation – Transformational leaders encourage creativity among followers. This leader allows and encourages educators to try things in new ways.

  • Individualized Consideration – Transformational leadership also involves offering support and encouragement to individual followers. This encompasses keeping an open line of communications and encouraging individuals to share ideas.

  • Inspirational Motivation – Transformational leaders have a clear vision that they are able to share with their colleagues.

  • Idealized Influence – The transformational leader serves as a role model for followers. Because followers trust and respect the leader, they emulate this individual and internalize his or her ideals.


The role of the school principal is critical in ensuring positive educational outcomes for all students, particularly those with special educational needs and disabilities. The attitude, knowledge and understanding of the leader are pivotal to the way the whole school community perceives and develops policy and procedures to support special education learning opportunities. All too often, Special Education is pushed to the side and is dealt with last. Special Education students encompass a large part of our educational system therefore they are not the minority and need to be looked at as an integral part of education that needs to be improved upon.


Garner, P., & Forbes, F. (2013). School Leadership and Special Education: Challenges, Dilemmas and Opportunities from an Australian Context. Support For Learning, 28(4), 154-161.

Heidmets, M. m., & Liik, K. k. (2014). SCHOOL PRINCIPALS' LEADERSHIP STYLE AND

Century, 6240-50.