New Resource Aids States in Developing Principals for Inclusive Schools

A new website aims to equip state education agencies to support principals for better serving students with disabilities. AACTE is among nearly two dozen organizations convened by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) to develop the site’s content.

The resulting online guide, Supporting Inclusive Schools for the Success of Each Child: A Guide for States on Principal Leadership, outlines eight strategies for states to embed expectations for inclusive principal leadership in policy and practice:

  1. Set a vision and plan for inclusive principal leadership
  2. Cultivate coherence and collaboration
  3. Transform principal preparation and licensure
  4. Promote principal development on inclusive practices
  5. Provide targeted supports to districts and schools
  6. Connect school improvement and principal development initiatives
  7. Meaningfully engage stakeholders as partners in the work
  8. Adopt processes and supports for continuous improvement

Links to research reports and other useful resources accompany each strategy along with a rationale and examples of actions to take. The guide also suggests questions for different state offices to investigate as an entry point to this work.

Despite state leaders’ commitment to providing equitable opportunity for all learners, students with disabilities continue to experience disproportionately high rates of disciplinary action, less access to effective teachers or rigorous course work, and lower academic achievement than their peers.

The guide says states face an “equity imperative” to reverse these troubling outcomes in support of their vision for inclusive education, articulated as follows:

Inclusive education is a schoolwide culture and practice of valuing each student as a learner across general education classrooms, rather than a particular program or place. Inclusion provides students with disabilities equitable access and opportunity in the general education curriculum and ensures that each student receives the educational resources and rigor they need at the right moment in their education. In inclusive schools, educators’ roles are restructured for shared accountability and responsibility. Learners who need differentiated support and additional intervention receive it. And school leaders use schedules, teacher teams, and data to ensure the academic progress and success of each student.

Inclusive principal leadership is defined this way:

Inclusive principals create strong school cultures and distribute leadership across staff to serve all learners well and ensure all students feel safe, supported, and valued in school. In promoting equity for “all,” inclusive principals must respond effectively to the potential and needs of each student. Inclusive principals ensure high expectations and appropriate supports so that each student—across race, gender, ethnicity, language, disability, sexual orientation, family background, and/or family income—can excel in school.

The alliance that developed the guide, dubbed the National Collaborative on Inclusive Principal Leadership, includes organizations representing students with disabilities, principals, researchers, policy groups, and other stakeholders in addition to CCSSO and AACTE. The release of the online guide is part of the collaborative’s ongoing work to advance support and professional development for principals to meet the needs of each learner in their schools.

Amanda Lester, AACTE director of programs and professional development, said AACTE’s work with the alliance is an important component of the Association’s overall support for improving principal development. “AACTE is excited to be a partner member of the National Collaborative on Inclusive Principal Leadership,” she said. “Contributing to this online guide is part of our broader commitment to expanding the scope of resources and knowledge available to advance high-quality principal preparation and practice.”

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