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Holding on to Local Special Education Directors

If you're a local special education director reading this post, you probably feel burned out on compliance, litigation, and data-collection efforts. You may be shouldering duties that don't have much to do with special education, like administering your district's McKinney-Vento program for homeless children. You may not feel like you have support from your school board, and you may feel the lack of proper administrative support as well.

Those are some of the reasons local special education directors are leaving their positions, according a survey conducted by the busy folks at Project Forum, a center created by a partnership between the U.S. Department of Education and the National Association of State Directors of Special Education. (You'll have to fill out a short survey to download the free document.)

The first thing to note with this survey, "Retention and Attrition of Local Special Education Directors," is that it does not directly ask local special education directors why they are leaving, or what might help them stay. The survey asked state directors of special education what they felt the pressures were on their colleagues at the local level. That degree of separation may affected the results, depending on how plugged-in any individual state director is with what's happening at a local level.

But the results themselves aren't terribly surprising: 20 out of 38 state directors who responded to the survey say that it's hard to retain good people. Districts and states are choosing to address this issue through mentorship programs and professional development, among other strategies.

These survey also offered some less-used "softer" strategies, like "acknowledging what difficult jobs [local special education directors] have and tell them how much their work is appreciated" or "highlight accomplishments of [local education agencies, or school districts] through statewide announcements and recognition programs."

I'd love to know if state officials are on the right track in understanding what district special education directors want and need.

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