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COVID-19 Hit Students with Disabilities, Their Families, and Their Teachers Hard: Here’s How We Can Prepare Principals to Help

Teacher with students running in hallway behind her

Inclusive leadership is better for schools, teachers, and all students. Every student deserves to attend a school led by a principal with the skills, knowledge, and training to promote equity for all students, including students with disabilities. Yet, general education teachers and school principals report being underprepared to effectively serve students with disabilities. Only 12 percent of a nationally representative sample of school principals and only 17 percent of general education teachers report feeling well prepared to serve and teach students with disabilities.

Support for Preparing Inclusive School Leaders During COVID-19

While the COVID-19 crisis has disrupted education for all students, students with disabilities face unique challenges in transitioning to remote learning and in their eventual transition back to the classroom. Like the pandemic and the systemic racism plaguing our nation, inequitable access to effective school leadership is more prevalent for underserved populations, including students with disabilities. A recently released brief from CCSSO, the CEEDAR Center, and the Center on Great Teachers and Leaders highlights key recommendations, examples, and resources to support educator preparation programs (EPPs) and Deans of Education in addressing the pressing challenges for school leaders posed by the COVID-19 crises.

What Does Inclusive Leadership Look Like?

Inclusive principals are well prepared to serve students with disabilities and support teachers across general and special education to improve outcomes in virtual, in-person, and hybrid environments. They create learning environments where all students, from all backgrounds, can excel in school. In addition, they distribute leadership and provide the resources necessary to support and retain effective teachers of students with disabilities.

What is the Advancing Inclusive Principal Leadership (AIPL) Initiative?

In 2018, CCSSO and partners have led the AIPL initiative to develop and implement a plan for furthering inclusive leadership across the principal pipeline. Through this work Ohio is developing a common set of leadership resources and tools for schools identified for improvement to build on the state’s updated principal standards and its evidence-based professional development program. Georgia also developed an inclusive leadership self-assessment tool to be used by districts and schools and will implement the tool through Georgia’s Tiered System of Supports state-level training in the 2021-2022 school year.

Now is the time for all state education agencies, EPPs, and districts to take action, especially during this time of distance and blended learning, to strengthen inclusive principal leadership in policy and practice. To learn more about inclusive leadership or to request support in incorporating inclusive leadership practices into your principal preparation program, please review this recently released brief from CCSSO, the CEEDAR Center, and the Center on Great Teachers and Leaders. 


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Jacqueline Rodriguez

Assistant Vice President, Programs & Professional Learning

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