Transforming Special Education
Statewide partnerships aim to foster innovation in special education
In early 2018, the Delaware Academy of School Leadership (DASL), a professional development, research and policy center in the University of Delaware’s College of Education and Human Development, convened its advisory board of Delaware’s public school leaders to learn about their most pressing professional development concerns and what DASL could do to help.
The response was overwhelming. Across Delaware, in every school and school district, educators felt they would benefit from targeted professional development about special education policies and practices.
As the number of students who qualify for special education increases to record levels, educators are struggling to keep up. According to the Rodel Foundation of Delaware, the number of students who qualify for special education has risen by 18 percent—or 3,141 students—in a little over a decade. Statewide, over 20,000 students—or 15 percent of all children enrolled in Delaware public schools—receive some form of special education. To complicate matters, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to special education. These students arrive in class with a range of differences, including learning deficits, intellectual disabilities and behavioral disorders, and these special needs must be met along with those of all the other students in the classroom.
“This was keeping people up at night,” said Jackie Wilson, director of DASL and assistant professor in UD’s School of Education. “We realized that there is a statewide need for professional development opportunities to help all educators and school leaders to better accommodate students with special education needs.”