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Special Education

Special Education Leadership Institutes

The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) framework to support accountability for special education, known as Results Driven Accountability (RDA), is intended to balance improving educational results and functional outcomes for students with disabilities with compliance with the requirements of the federal special education law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). In support of OSEP's RDA framework and DESE's strategic plan, the Office of Special Education Policy and Planning (SEPP) provides four Special Education Leadership Institutes that focus on the key principles of state and federal priorities for student and educator success. The Institutes directly address one of the core strategies in DESE's Strategic Plan by promoting educator development. DESE aims to ensure that all students have access to highly skilled educators by supporting a cycle of continuous improvement and identifying opportunities to develop and retain highly effective educators. The institutes include opportunities to network; apply concepts of systemic change to improve student outcomes; better understand federal and state legal requirements; and implement evidence-based practices for creating inclusive environments. Additional time and opportunities are dedicated for technical assistance and coaching related to participants' Capstone Projects.

Leadership Institutes are for the following special education administrative leaders:

  • New Special Education Directors (Fewer than 5 years of experience in the role),
  • Experienced Special Education Directors (5 or more years of experience in the role),
  • Educational Team Leaders (ETLs, or IEP Team Chairs), and
  • Early Childhood Coordinators.

All Institutes meet the DESE standards for High Quality Professional Development (HQPD,) and are expected to support the following principles of high-quality IEP development:

  • The use of functional and ongoing assessment to gather information about a child to inform both planning and instruction;
  • Engaging in effective teaming and collaboration with all the members of the IEP team to build upon the expertise of each individual, including families, general educators, special educators, related service providers, school and district administrators, and the child with a disability;
  • Using effective family engagement throughout the IEP development and implementation process; and
  • Ensuring meaningful and effective student engagement as the foundation for life-long self-advocacy and self-determination for individuals with disabilities.


Maximum of 30 participants per Institute. Priority is given to participants currently employed by a Massachusetts public school; these participants are eligible to attend at no charge. Participants will:

  • Provide an assurance from their district that they possess the skills and abilities required
  • Provide written acknowledgement and approval from their district to attend the Institute in its entirety
  • Prepare, present, and complete a capstone project focused on improving outcomes of students with IEPs

Time Commitment

Each Institute, offered by role and experience, runs for at least 62 hours, of which at least a minimum of 46 hours are delivered through face-to-face sessions. The remainder of the sessions may include other contact formats.

Vendors will offer 67.5 Professional Development Points (PDPs) to each participant who completes an Administrative Leadership Institute program, which includes the sessions offered in summer, fall/winter, and spring. Sixteen PDPs will be awarded to participants completing the Special Education Administrative Leadership program communities of practice only. Vendors may provide information for optional graduate credits. (Participants are responsible for any costs associated with optional graduate credits.)

School Year 2020-2021

  1. New Special Education Directors (less than five years of experience) will be provided by ACCEPT Collaborative.
  2. Experienced Special Education Directors will be provided by Teachers21 and EDCO.
  3. Special Education Team Leader will be provided by the Collaborative for Educational Services.
  4. Special Education Early Childhood Coordinators will be provided by AnLar.

Last Updated: January 14, 2021

Contact Us

Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
135 Santilli Highway, Everett, MA 02149

Voice: (781) 338-3000
TTY: (800) 439-2370


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