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Drexel to Help Develop Urban Special Education Leaders

September 27, 2017

Teacher in class with students

A partnership between Drexel University’s School of Education and the School District of Philadelphia Office of Specialized Services (OSS) will result in the development of aspiring special education leaders, poised to address the unique challenges facing students and teachers in the complex urban education environment. 

Together the School District and Drexel will train two cohorts of up to 25 educators, adding 50 new special education leaders to Philadelphia schools by 2020. These educators will provide leadership and  support to students with disabilities, their families and teachers of students with disabilities. The School District of Philadelphia is in the process of recruiting and identifying these aspiring special education leaders. 

The project, entitled Philadelphia Special Education Leaders of Tomorrow (P-SELT) is a hybrid approach to professional development. It builds on the success of Drexel’s current programs including the Urban Special Education Leaders of Tomorrow program — an education doctoral program at Drexel for special education leaders from Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

“The School of Education is thrilled to partner with the School District of Philadelphia to prepare special education leaders for the essential challenge of providing high quality urban education for children with disabilities,” said Nancy Songer, PhD, dean of Drexel University’s School of Education. “Leadership in special education is key to ensuring excellent education for all of Philadelphia’s children. This project is a natural extension and continues to grow the School of Education's dynamic partnership with the School District of Philadelphia." 

The partnership creates an 18-month program that will be led by faculty and instructors at Drexel and consists of online courses, internships and monthly evening sessions tailored to special education leadership opportunities and the challenges facing the School District.

“We are excited to have the opportunity to build leadership within our organization. The district is filled with strong, dedicated teachers and related service personnel that can continue the standard of excellence. We hope to continue to build our team to further our mission of demonstrating that we care with every interaction. We strive to build relationships to better serve our students, school teams, and colleagues,” said Natalie Hess, deputy chief of the Office of Specialized Services.

Participants will also engage in executive leadership sessions with more than 750 hours of practical application work in Philadelphia schools. In addition to completing the coursework, educators-in-training will develop a professional web-based portfolio. They will graduate from the program with a Drexel Collaborative Special Education Law and Process Post Baccalaureate Certificate and become eligible for a Pennsylvania Special Education Supervisory Certificate.   

Educators participating in the program will be able to demonstrate knowledge of federal, state and local laws, regulations and policies that govern special education. Their effective engagement and collaboration with parents and community stakeholders will proactively create solutions to support Philadelphia’s special education programs, whether the issue at hand pertains to budgeting, compliance, parent engagement or the evaluation of impact. 

The program takes a training approach that empowers educators, with heightened knowledge and improved skills, to create, lead and oversee highly effective special education programs in the SDP to continuously improve student academic, social and behavioral outcomes.

“The School of Education at Drexel is a natural fit for this endeavor,” said Janet Sloand, EdD, associate clinical professor and Special Education and Applied Behavior Analysis program director. “The USELT program demonstrates that Drexel University has the expertise and the infrastructure to prepare special education leaders for complex urban environments. The P-SELT project and partnership with the School District of Philadelphia and the Office of Student Services will replicate many of the unique and successful features that undergird the OSEP-funded USELT project.”

Candidates will be selected by the Office of Specialized Services – those eligible include Office of Student Services personnel, special education teachers, school psychologists, and special education related services personnel.