Graduation Date


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science

Department or Program


Department or Program Chair

Elizabeth Truesdell PhD

First Reader

Madalienne F. Peters, EdD


The current call for accountability in education increases the need for an understanding of best practices for administrators of specialized schools that serve students with special needs, including residential and day treatment programs. The literature revealed issues in curriculum planning and resource allocation to meet the complex and interrelated needs of students in specialized schools, and in effective program design for students with specific low incidence disabilities. No literature could be identified that addressed the challenges of administering specialized schools that integrate educational, therapeutic, and transitional and vocational programs in one setting. A survey of administrators of specialized schools in one Northern California county was conducted to identify best practices for decision making and resource allocation in a time of dwindling local, state and national resources. Four administrators working in specialized programs in Northern California were interviewed using a questionnaire. Findings indicated that administrators of specialized schools make decisions about staffing, training and curriculum based on their students’ needs for integrated services in order to support development across three domains: 1) academic, 2) therapeutic, and 3) vocational, transitional and independent living skill training. Administrator responses emphasized communication and collaboration between all domains as essential for student success. Findings further indicated that administrators agreed that students do best when teachers receive support for their emotional and social needs as well as their curriculum and instructional planning needs.

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