American Institutes for Research to Launch New Center Helping Leaders Establish Inclusive Learning Environments for Students with Disabilities

The American Institutes for Research (AIR) is launching a federally funded center that helps leaders to establish and maintain inclusive learning environments and improve outcomes for students who receive services and support under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). AIR and five partners have been awarded a five-year, $15 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services to establish and develop the Lead IDEA Center

The Lead IDEA Center will partner with states to build aligned leadership learning systems, from preservice to in-service, which increase school and early intervention administrators’ understanding and application of inclusive leadership practices. Amid a nationwide educator shortage and pandemic-exacerbated learning inequities, particularly for students with disabilities, the Lead IDEA Center will collaborate and connect with state, district and early intervention leaders to:

  • Create a comprehensive framework of IDEA professional leadership competencies to guide preparation and development of general education, special education, early childhood and early intervention leaders.
  • Design innovative, practice-based Leadership Learning Systems within and across states using the IDEA leadership competencies as a foundation and model.
  • Align certification processes, program approval standards, and professional learning systems as mechanisms to advance IDEA leadership competencies through supportive policies, programs and partnerships.
  • Facilitate use of materials and learning opportunities that foster collaboration between general and special education leaders to advance collegiality, collective roles and responsibilities, and partnership with students with disabilities and their families.

“The Lead IDEA Center will forge strategic partnerships and enhance leadership skills to ensure students with disabilities have access to high-quality education in the most inclusive setting possible,” said David Bateman, a principal researcher at AIR who is the co-principal investigator on the project. “By establishing a leadership learning system, we're not just supporting administrators at various stages of their careers, we are championing a future where better outcomes for students with disabilities are the norm.”  

AIR will lead the center in partnership with the University of Connecticut (UConn), True North Evaluation, University of Illinois Chicago’s Center for Urban Education Leadership, Boston University, and the National Association of Elementary School Principals. Abby Foley, senior researcher at AIR, will lead the center as project director. In addition to Bateman, co-principal investigators are Lynn Holdheide, AIR managing technical assistance consultant, and Mary Beth Bruder, UConn professor of pediatrics.

Media Contact

Dana Tofig

Managing Director, Corporate Communications