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Five-State Initiative to Boost Principals' Knowledge of Special Education

The Council of Chief State School Officers has launched an effort with five states that is aimed at improving principals' knowledge of supporting students with disabilities. 

The Advancing Inclusive Principal Leadership State Initiative is working with Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Mississippi and Ohio. Partners in the effort include the federally-funded CEEDAR Center (Collaboration on Effective Educator Development, Accountability, and Reform) and the Oak Foundation, a philanthropy that supports students with learning differences. 

Principals have long said, in surveys and interviews, that they want to have deeper knowledge of special education and creating inclusive school environments. The five states in this initiative were selected based on their demonstrated commitment to helping principals in this area.

And the work should have a schoolwide positive impact, said Carissa Moffat Miller, the executive director of CCSSO, in a statement. "Inclusive principals create strong school cultures and empower staff to better serve all students."

The initiative is still in its early stages. The participating states are right now completing self-assessments of the programs that they have and their priority areas. In April, they plan to meet to draft plans of action. One area of focus will be supporting principals in schools that are targeted for support under the Every Student Succeeds Act. States are also taking a close look at their principal-preparation programs as part of this initiative. 

Debra Burson, the director of educator preparation for the Mississippi Department of Education, said the state will be looking at mentorship programs for principals among other efforts. Principals often come into their positions having no training in special education, she said. "We all want administrators to be very knowledgeable about what is needed for our students with disabilities and differentiating instruction for all students," Burson said. "They need this knowledge in order for them to be more support for the teachers."

In Ohio, the initiative connects well with the state's own work on principal and inclusive leadership, said Kimberly Monachino, Ohio's director of its office for exceptional children. It also provides an opportunity to pull in other related departments, such as those overseeing teacher licensure, curriculum and assessment, and educator effectiveness. 

"Pulling together collectively is just creating that stronger base," Monachino said. "We're all marching forward in the same direction." 

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