Funded by the US DOE Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services (OSERS), The Lead IDEA Center is a new 15M technical assistance center being created through a multi-institutional partnership headed by the American Institutes for Research (AIR) and in collaboration with the Center for Urban Education Leadership, University of Connecticut (UConn), True North Evaluation, Boston University, and the National Association of Elementary School Principals. This technical assistance center is charged with developing a new generation of supports for school leaders as they grapple with the ambitious educational vision of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA). CUEL is leading one of three broad areas of work within the technical assistance center—knowledge development.

As part of its leadership of “knowledge development” within the new Lead IDEA Center, CUEL has begun an analysis of general and disability-specific school leadership competency frameworks. CUEL Director Cosner is leading this work and key CUEL contributors include CUEL Research Director Sam Whalen, Special Education Professor Marie Tejero Hughes, and CUEL Research Scientist Mary Nyaema. The aim of the analysis is to create a foundation for developing a new framework of leadership competencies keyed to meeting the needs of students with disabilities and their families. This new framework will form a conceptual spine for the development of technical assistance and professional development supports for early childhood and Pre-K-12 leaders in the complex practice and policy space defined by the IDEA.

As first steps toward developing this framework, CUEL staff and collaborators have spent winter 2024 scanning the content and conceptual structures of general educational leadership frameworks as well as those focused specifically on disability and special education. So far three broad patterns have emerged from these scans. First, a remarkable diversity of approaches to understanding and depicting the core knowledge, skills, and disposition endemic to school leadership, whether in the states’ varied systems of leadership standards or in efforts of advocacy organizations to highlight equity and inclusion as critical leadership challenges. Second, while diverse, these schemes also suggest consensus around the core practices and behaviors that epitomize excellence in school leadership. Third, while special education and disability pose multiple quandaries for school leadership practice, they rarely are acknowledged in general leadership frameworks, while only a handful of frames specific to this arena have been advanced. Next up, the analysis teams will focus on cross-walking the findings from the general and inclusion-specific scans with an accompanying literature review to identify promising features to incorporate into Lead IDEA’s new leadership framework, expected for publication in 2025.