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Leveraging Data for Transformative Special Education Leadership

Data • 4 min read • Feb 21, 2023 12:12:00 PM • Written by: Sarah Sandelius

In the Practice of Adaptive Leadership"getting on the balcony" encourages leaders to step back from the everyday dance floor of tasks and gain a broader perspective on systemic changes needed. For school and district leaders entrenched in the minutiae of building-level operations, this shift can be challenging.

The Power of a Needs Assessment

In our work with districts and schools, we find making a small investment in a needs assessment helps leaders understand root causes and trends across student groups - which helps them more effectively address the issues at hand. For instance, identifying a need for more strategies and training to manage student behaviors led to focused training and support, resulting in teachers feeling better equipped to handle behavior issues.

10 Ways to Use Data for Special Education Improvement

To facilitate this transformational approach, we've broken down our needs assessment into 10 data types aligned with our THRIVE Special Education Framework. Leaders can pick and choose data types to collect, gaining a comprehensive understanding of areas requiring attention.

Why Conduct a Needs Assessment? 

Our recent national survey revealed that while schools collect vast amounts of data related to special education, it's often underutilized, stored inadequately, and inaccessible for systemic change. Time constraints and a lack of training further hinder effective data utilization. In response, we introduced our comprehensive needs assessment as a catalyst for faster school improvement.

We’ve since learned that having access to the right data, presented in an actionable way, helps school improvement go faster. 

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Quality Special Education Needs Assessment Process

The THRIVE Special Education Needs Assessment Process

Aligned with our THRIVE Special Education Framework, our needs assessment encompasses various data sources, including classroom observations, student data, feedback from parents and staff, and more. Analyzing this data against our framework, we produce a comprehensive summary report, guiding leaders toward high-leverage opportunities for improvement.

Take Action Today

While addressing systemic change can be challenging, our message is clear: take one small step, collect one piece of data, draw one insight, and make one change. ABC offers comprehensive needs assessments utilizing multiple data sources to support leaders on this journey, guiding districts toward a complete profile of strengths, opportunities, and recommendations for focused improvement.

Seeking Support?

If you're ready to step onto the balcony but need guidance, ABC is here to help. Our comprehensive needs assessment incorporates surveys, interviews, observations, document reviews, and research to provide a thorough profile of district-wide strengths and growth opportunities and actionable recommendations for improvement. Start your transformative journey today.

Take Action Now! Improve your special education program today!

Sarah Sandelius