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Professional Development

Special Education Leadership Academy for Experienced Administrators: Improving Outcomes for Students With Disabilities

Experienced special education administrators: Strengthen your leadership skills and help make organizational and systems changes to improve education outcomes for K-12 students with disabilities. Participate in WestEd’s Special Education Leadership Academy.

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What You Will Learn

Local Education Agency Special Education Directors: Join a community of colleagues from your state in an interactive, practical, problem-solving professional learning experience that will strengthen your leadership skills and help you make systems change to improve results for students with disabilities in your district. Receive strategies, resources, and peer-to-peer support to help you undertake the challenges in your school district.

State Departments of Education and State Education Professional Organizations: Retain and support local special education leaders. Contract with WestEd to bring this type of special education leadership development experience to your state.

All participants will:

  • Increase knowledge and build skills in content areas including: leadership, fiscal administration, data collection and analysis, staff recruitment, retention, and development, instructional program design and improvement, access to the general education curriculum, and relevant laws and regulations
  • Develop and apply strategies that lead to organizational and systems change to improve results for all students including students with disabilities
  • Learn about research-based practices, tools, and resources in key special education content areas
  • Review legal requirements related to educating students with disabilities in order to deepen understanding of these laws and how to incorporate them into their work
  • Design and implement a local project that will address an identified organizational problem

Who Will Benefit

  • Local Level District Special Education Directors
  • State Department of Education Staff

Service Details

The Special Education Leadership Academy is typically 4 days during the summer with 2-3 follow-up days scheduled during the school year. Dates are negotiated with the client. Ongoing virtual interaction is maintained through webinars in between face-to-face sessions.

We also develop and maintain an online environment (e.g., Wiki, Ning site) for participants to share work and resources.

This academy can also be customized for a state through a contract with WestEd. The format can be designed and developed to your state’s unique needs and context. Dates and locations will be determined on a state-by-state basis.

Depending on the terms established with each state, participants receive:

  • Materials for the summer institute
  • Materials for the one-day follow-up session

What Makes This Service Unique

This professional development experience provides leadership development for district-level special education directors that combines WestEd’s understanding of national special education issues and trends with a uniquely designed and customized opportunity that is state context specific.

WestEd will work with each state’s department of education to design an academy that addresses state-specific needs as well as prepares local special education directors to strengthen their leadership roles as advocates for improved services, programs, and outcomes for students with disabilities at the local, state, and national levels.


Leadership Academy cost is individually negotiated with each state or sponsoring organization and depends on number of face-to-face sessions, number of participants, and local costs for facilities, lodging, and services. However, a typical academy (4 days during summer; 2-3 days during school year) would cost approximately $4,000 per participant.

Learn More

To explore the possibility of working with WestEd to develop a Special Education Leadership Academy for your state, please contact Anne Louise Thompson at 203.687.6063 or Susan Villani at 781.481.1112