What Does a Special Education Coordinator Do?
Written by: Wilson College Online • Jun 7, 2023
What Does a Special Education Coordinator Do? ¶
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) ensures children with special needs and disabilities have access to the educational programs they need to thrive. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 7.2 million children between the ages of three and 21 received special education services during the 2020-2021 school year. This number, which represents 15% of all public school students, has steadily increased over the last decade—a trend that is expected to continue.
Special education coordinators play a crucial role in the lives of these children. They work with school boards and districts, faculty members, students and their caregivers, and entire communities to make equitable education accessible to everyone. While special education coordinator positions may require an advanced degree, a bachelor’s in special education can be the first step toward this purposeful and fulfilling career.
Special Education Coordinator Job Description ¶
Special education coordinators focus on students who have special needs, working in elementary, middle, and high school settings in every state. They ensure students have access to the academic, social, and emotional services they need to thrive. More specifically, they help develop and oversee the curriculums and standards being used in special education programs.
Special education coordinators are also responsible for overseeing the implementation of Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), which are formal plans for a child’s special education experience. They also oversee and implement 504 plans, which focus on how schools will remove barriers that prevent children with unique disabilities from learning alongside their peers.
Work Settings for Special Education Coordinators ¶
Special education coordinators can work in several different settings, including public and private schools. The majority perform in public elementary, middle, and high schools, but some work in colleges, universities, and trade schools. A select few provide educational support services for state and local governments, including early childhood education services.
While many teachers—including special education teachers—work only part of the year, the special education coordinator’s role is year-round. Depending on the size of the school district, they may work from an office and serve the entire district, or they may work for individual schools.
While much of their work takes place in their own offices, these individuals also spend a great deal of time outside of school grounds. They serve as liaisons between families and schools, so they regularly meet with parents of disabled children in their homes. The objectives of these home meetings involve assessing the quality of the child’s current education, addressing concerns that may arise, and recommending adjustments to a child’s current IEP or 504 plan that may better serve their needs.
Fundamental Skills for Special Education Coordinators ¶
Special education coordinators are responsible for ensuring academic success for multiple children and families. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act requires all special education personnel to obtain full certification according to their states’ laws, which can vary. They must also develop hard and soft skills that allow them to perform their duties to the best of their ability.
Hard Skills ¶
Employers look for a number of hard skills when hiring special education coordinators.
- Lesson Planning—Lesson planning in a special education environment may include things like adapting assessments to students’ unique needs, creating multi-sensory classroom environments, and finding creative ways to educate students who have a wide range of physical and mental disabilities.
- Managerial and Leadership Skills—Because this role involves overseeing curriculum implementation, it requires exceptional managerial and leadership skills. These individuals must be able to build teamwork among staff and faculty, maintain multiple schedules, and more.
- Knowledge of IEPs and 504 Plans—Much of a special education coordinator’s job revolves around IEPs and 504 plans. Understanding these concepts and their role in a child’s education is crucial.
- Computer Proficiency—These individuals spend a lot of time online, reading, researching, and filing documents, so basic computer proficiency is a fundamental requirement.
- Familiarity with Regulations—Every state and location has its own unique set of regulations that apply to special education. Individuals in the special education coordinator role must have a solid understanding of the rules in their state.
Soft Skills ¶
Special education coordinators must also develop several soft skills, which are key to communicating effectively and serving as liaisons between families and school districts.
- Communication—Communication is vital to the role. Candidates must be good listeners to determine what a child needs to thrive, and they must also be able to discuss options with families and faculty in a respectful way.
- Organization—Because there is a shortage in special education professions, many coordinators have large caseloads. As such, exceptional organization (including time management) is a requirement.
- Patience—Much of the special education coordinator’s role depends on outside forces. They may wait for funding for a school program, or they may find themselves waiting for families to deliver required documents. Patience is an important soft skill in this profession.
- Resourcefulness—The lack of opportunities, funding, and special education professionals requires coordinators to become extremely resourceful. They must continually look for new ways to access funding and programs to help more children.
Special Education Coordinator Salary and Job Outlook ¶
Special education coordinators’ salaries and job outlooks can fluctuate based on the state in which they work and the funding available. It is worth noting that those working in private schools tend to earn significantly more than those working in public school settings.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports instructional coordinators (including special education coordinators) earned a median salary of about $63,700 in May 2021. According to the compensation website Payscale, special education coordinators earned a median salary of about $59,000 as of February 2023. The top 10% of earners in the field made about $88,000 a year. This top figure represents individuals with many years of experience working in well-funded districts or private schools.
Job Outlook ¶
The BLS predicts the employment of instructional coordinators, which includes special education coordinators, will grow about 7% between 2021 and 2023, with around 20,900 jobs openings projected each year within this timeframe.
Start Preparing for Your Career as a Special Education Coordinator ¶
Every child deserves the best possible opportunity to grow, both academically and socially. Special education coordinators develop school and community programs that help these students live up to their full potential.
A Bachelor of Arts in Special Education from Wilson College Online provides an ideal foundation for an advanced degree, and students graduate with the proper certification to become licensed special education teachers in Pennsylvania.
Take the first step toward a career helping every child thrive.