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A Practical Approach to Special Education Administration

A Practical Approach to Special Education Administration
Creating Positive Outcomes for Students With Different Abilities

Foreword by Gerald Mazor

July 2022 | 224 pages | Corwin

Your guide to excelling in the complex role of a special education administrator

The job of the administrator of special education is arguably one of the most difficult in a school district—and that complexity can be overwhelming. It requires an aspect of every administrative job in the district, including budgets, human resources, student advocacy, and curriculum and assessment.

Written by two veteran special education administrators with more than 100 years of combined experience, this book shows current and aspiring special education administrators how to excel in the many demanding areas of their position, allowing them to be effective administrators and educational leaders. Among the many topics included in the book are

  • The importance of visibility in the form of face-to-face interactions to assist staff, students, and building principals
  • The importance of parents in the process
  • The significance of confidentiality, due process, program development, and working with advocates
  • Insight into decision-making and relationship-building

A critical tool in any special education administrator's box, as well as building administrators, central office administrators and school committee members, this book provides practical and friendly advice for a difficult but critical job.

Praise Pages
About the Authors
Part I: Foundational Elements
Chapter 1. Legal Foundation for Providing a Free and Appropriate Education to Students With Disabilities
Chapter 2. Defining Your Beliefs
Chapter 3. Your Role as Administrator of Special Education
Chapter 4. Confidentiality
Chapter 5. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
Part II: Program and Service Delivery Considerations
Chapter 6. Procedural Manual
Chapter 7. Process, Procedures, Practices: Referral, Evaluation, and Determination of Eligibility for Specialized Instruction
Chapter 8. Inclusion
Chapter 9. Programs and Services: Options and Choices
Chapter 10. Professional Development
Chapter 11. Discipline and Students With Special Needs
Chapter 12. Age of Majority and Transition to Adult Services
Chapter 13. Documentation
Part III: Working With and Managing Related Stakeholders
Chapter 14. Parents
Chapter 15. Central Office Administrators
Chapter 16. Building Administrators
Chapter 17. Role of Various Special Education Personnel
Chapter 18. Supervision and Evaluation of Department Staff
Chapter 19. Budget Development
Part IV: Extraordinary Concerns
Chapter 20 Dealing With Difficult Cases
Chapter 21. Advocates
Chapter 22. Due Process, Appeal Hearings, and Mediation
Part V: Additional Thought

"The role of the administrator of special education in any school district might be the most challenging position in the neighborhood. With constrained budgets and burgeoning needs for students who require special services, the typical administrator often struggles with complex if not agonizing life-altering decisions. Layered upon this reality is a massive number of regulations, codes, laws, standards, and paperwork that must be followed and attended to.

Fortunately, two retired administrators of special education have written a book on the administrator’s role that reads like an encyclopedia but exudes warmth and passion on most every page. This impressive book brings the reader inside the important and mercurial world of special education, presenting a wealth of critical information while simultaneously speaking to the reader with unabashed candor and humility. I particularly enjoyed reading the anecdotes that speak to the struggles and triumphs each encountered along the way. Students who require special education services often need strong voices advocating for their needs. The world is a better place because of the voices of the authors.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who works in or is involved in special education. It should be mandatory reading for all new administrators of special education."

Charles Appelstein, MSW
Author of "No Such Thing as a Bad Kid: Understanding and Responding to Kids with Emotional & Behavioral Challenges Using a Positive, Strength-Based Approach"

"For a novice special education administrator, this book is a professional gem. Grounded in integrity, and keeping students at the forefront of their work, the authors have created a practical guide for how to approach and manage the all-encompassing role of administrator of special education. Starting with a refresher on special education law and moving into a myriad of topics which fall under the responsibility of director, this resource is invaluable to all those working in the field of special education."

Tamara Barrera, M.Ed.
Assistant Director of Student Services, Wayland Public School District, MA

"I have the good fortune to have been mentored by Bob McArdle in my career as an administrator of special education and have worked with Jim over the last 11 years as a senior district leader. What a benefit to the larger community of special education administrators that they can now access the collective knowledge and experience that the authors have in the field through this book! The role of the administrator of special education can be a lonely one and singular in its nature: The knowledge and skills required to do this job well are not often shared by anyone else in the district—not principals, curriculum directors, or many superintendents. This book offers insight into everything the role entails and how to lead the work."

Alison Elmer, MEd
Special Education Director, Arlington, MA

"It does not take long for the reader to realize that these seasoned special educators have the knowledge, skills, experience, and dispositions to provide a treasure trove of useful information for the novice or veteran educator, whether they are a general education teacher, special education teacher, principal, superintendent, or special education administrator. Ealey and McArdle leave no stone unturned and thoroughly address such topics as programs and services, discipline, budget development, professional development, supervision, and evaluation. This book is a must and one you will want to keep close at hand."

Stephen Gould, EdD
Program Director, Lesley University; former principal and assistant superintendent

"The special education administrator position is the most difficult job in public education. Challenges abound—conflicts with parents, teachers, and other administrators; changes to department of education regulations and guidance; litigation looming behind every decision—and these are just a few. Perhaps the biggest, ever-present challenge is balancing advocacy for students with disabilities and the fiduciary responsibility to the school district.

But help is on the way: Earley and McArdle have written a book that provides aid to both new and veteran special education administrators. Based on their extensive 100+ years of experience as special education directors, they offer guidance in how to navigate the passage between the Scylla and Charybdis of conflicting demands. From compliance to best practice, they offer tips and strategies for dealing with both the long-term and day-to-day challenges for special education directors. There is a dearth of similar literature, and I would highly recommend their book as a text in higher education courses, an item in the library of special education organizations, and most important, as a resource on the desk of every special education administrator.

Edward McCaul, EdD
Keene State College, former special education administrator and former Executive Director of Massachusetts Administrators for Special Education

"This is a succinct guidebook that distills many years of practical experience and provides the reader with concrete guidance on the various aspects of the role of administrator of special education. The authors address not only the anticipated issues associated with the position, but also nicely weave in helpful advice on other potentially overlooked yet essential skills and actions necessary to be a successful administrator in public education. This book is an excellent resource that will be of great benefit to anyone contemplating or beginning their career as an administrator, and it will greatly assist them and even experienced administrators of special education in confidently navigating the myriad issues to be addressed in that role."

Thomas Nuttall, Esquire
Law Firm of Nuttall, MacAvoy & Joyce PC

"The provision of special education services is essential to ensure that all school-age students receive a free and appropriate public education. This book presents effective procedures to implement the mandates of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and its many complexities.

While the administering of special education can be a daunting task, authors Earley and McArdle, with their experience and expansive knowledge in special education administration, offer recommendations to work proactively with school administrators, special and general education teachers and related services staff, parents, advocates, and other stakeholders. They share strategies that result in services that are responsive to student needs and the ever-present decision on placement in the educational setting in which the students can make effective educational progress. I enthusiastically recommend this book for school administrators and principals, directors of special education, and as a text for undergraduate and graduate students in special education courses."

Don Ricciato, PhD
Boston College, Lynch School of Education and Human Development

"There are no better Administrators of Special Education (ASEs) than Jim Earley and Bob McArdle, and now their wisdom is available to any educator  who reads their book. Drawing on their decades of experience in special education leadership, they have created a thorough and practical guide that provides a wealth of information, useful advice, and most importantly, ways to assess difficult situations and arrive at reasonable and equitable solutions. The book is a master class in identifying core issues and applying useful approaches to think about and solve many seemingly intractable problems. Any professional involved in special education will benefit from its clear and well-formulated approach to meeting the needs of students with special needs while also addressing the needs of the numerous stake holders in special education. A Practical Approach to Special Education Administration is long overdue in the field and will have significant impact."

Joe Ristuccia
Psychologist and co-author of “Helping Traumatized Children Learn”

"I read [A Practical Approach to Special Education Administration] almost immediately, from cover to cover, with a pencil in my hand, underlining and making notes as I went. It is an absolute "must" manual for any would-be SPED administrator. 

If I had this book available to me when I was a doctoral student and coming up through the ranks, I am positive I would have become an LEA SPED ADMIN. It is a tremendous blueprint for what a university-level administration course of studies should look like, leading to a degree and—even more importantly—a job."

Dr. Laurence M. Lieberman
Former Chairman of the Special Education Doctoral Program, Boston College

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