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Education Specialist
(EdS) in Leadership in
Special Education

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Courses start every Monday

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Take the first step in your National University journey

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240K+ Alumni Worldwide


Just as teachers are now in greater demand than ever before, educational leaders are needed to manage and assist schools, school districts, state educational boards, and institutes of higher learning as they work to improve their instructional capabilities. This specialization is designed for professionals who work with gifted and disabled students in a variety of settings. The program covers a wide spectrum of related issues, including the development and characteristics of students, learning differences, and instructional strategies to address these special needs. You’ll acquire the knowledge and skills to plan, assess, and deliver instruction to gifted students and those with mental, physical, behavioral, or learning disabilities.

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The Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) accredits public and private schools, colleges, and universities in the U.S.

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Admission Requirements 

A conferred post-baccalaureate master’s degree or doctoral degree from a regionally or nationally accredited academic institution or an international institution determined to be equivalent through an approved evaluation service.


The Education Specialist (EdS) program requires two foundational courses, two research courses, six specialization courses, and one capstone course for a total of 33 credit hours. Both the Education Specialist (EdS) and Educational Specialist in Educational Leadership (EdS-EdL) require that all other courses be completed prior to starting the capstone course. The estimated time needed to complete this program is 23 months.

Course Details

Course Listings

Your communication abilities have a big influence on your professional reputation. In this course, you’ll develop skills to establish yourself as a competent professional with strong communication skills. You’ll learn competencies related to written, oral, and visual forms of communication appropriate to specific media and audiences. You’ll also explore how the iterative nature of preparing communications and integrating feedback into your work products can support your development and advancement as a professional.

Leadership during times of change can be challenging. This course supports your professional development as an effective leader of educational organizations during periods of change. You’ll explore strategies and techniques for self-reflection, evaluating culture, integrating stakeholder feedback, and incorporating data as part of improvement processes. To conclude the course, you’ll synthesize these skills to design a comprehensive improvement plan that addresses a specific problem within an educational organization.

This course introduces you to the research process by exploring its underpinnings, examining its paradigms, and investigating the foundations of qualitative and quantitative methodologies used in educational studies. You’ll identify criteria for the development of quality research studies that are ethical, accurate, comprehensive, cohesive, and aligned. Specific course topics involve the ethics of conducting research; data collection and analysis techniques; and issues of feasibility, trustworthiness, validity, reliability, transferability, and rigor. The goal is to familiarize yourself with the concepts and skills associated with conducting theoretical and applied research.

Select One of the Following Two Research Courses:

A focus on qualitative research methodology and the designs and methods used to collect and analyze data in educational research. You’ll examine the principles of qualitative research and explore commonly used designs (also referred to as qualitative traditions or genres) with a focus on application and feasibility. Qualitative data collection and analysis methods will be examined for their suitability with regard to the research design selected. Alignment between qualitative designs and research methods, issues of trustworthiness, and the responsibilities of the qualitative researcher will also be explored.

An exploration of quantitative research methodologies and associated designs and methods. You’ll examine paradigmatic perspectives along with the tenets and conventions of quantitative research. Topics for examination include feasibility, validity, reliability, variable operationalization, inferential designs, and analytic software applications used within the quantitative research paradigm. You’ll also look at the components of quantitative research designs that support meaningful studies within the field of education.

As the capstone to your EdS studies, you’ll work with a specific educational program relevant to your current or future professional aims. You’ll review the related literature and evaluate data to inform your development of potential solutions and future areas of research related to your identified problem. Finally, you’ll reflect on your personal learning journey throughout the EdS program.

Specialization Courses

SE-7100 Advanced Topics in Special Education

As the first course in this specialization, the focus here goes beyond individual students and classrooms to a programmatic level that includes entire schools or districts. Another focus includes educational equity, social justice, inclusion, and ethical nuances within the context of special education programs. You’ll also consider teacher retention and the implications of high-and-low-incidence disabilities on special education program planning and implementation. Throughout the course, you’ll cultivate communication skills, particularly around conflict management and collaboration.

SE-7200 Analyzing Data and Monitoring Student Progress

Here you’ll learn how to collect, analyze, interpret, and use individual and aggregated student data in order to monitor student progress and improve special education programs. You’ll also consider historical perspectives, different techniques, and coding systems for students who use a behavior plan. Throughout the course, you’ll prioritize considerations for equity, fairness, and bias in the collection, analysis, interpretation, and utilization of student data.

SE-7300 Leadership, Law, and Finance in Special Education

The areas of finance, law, and leadership are deep topics in special education. This course touches on each one at a higher level. You’ll explore the various funding models for special education programs and services, including legal considerations, service delivery models, and specific leadership scenarios and reporting obligations. Throughout the course, you’ll consider the role of leadership in cultivating culturally responsive relationships with all stakeholders to ensure equity and fairness.

SE-7400 Implementing Programs for Students with Intellectual and Learning Disabilities

This course focuses on implementation of special education programs at school and district levels for students with intellectual and specific learning disabilities (SLDs). You’ll investigate necessary support, service delivery models, and quality assurance approaches, and you’ll synthesize research for evidence-based practices, including strategies for promoting equity, inclusion, and social justice. While some of the concepts here will apply to other categories of disability, this course concentrates specifically on intellectual and specific learning disabilities.

SE-7500 Implementing Programs for Students with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders

This course focuses on implementation of special education programs at school and district levels for students with emotional and behavioral disorders. You’ll investigate necessary supports, service delivery models, and quality assurance approaches, and you’ll synthesize research for evidence-based practices, including strategies for promoting equity, inclusion, and social justice. While some of the concepts here apply to other categories of disability, this course uses the lens of emotional and behavioral disorders.

SE-7600 Advanced Capstone in Special Education

In this final course of the specialization, you’ll synthesize your work across all courses into a capstone project of your own design. This project will integrate theory and practice within a specific topic of your choosing related to special education programs at the school or district levels. As you prepare your project, you’ll evaluate the impacts of current trends, technologies, and issues of bias, fairness, and social justice. Your project will reflect not only your knowledge and skills in relation to the course learning outcomes, but also your overall preparedness to influence special education programs at the school or district levels.

Learning Outcomes

  • Develop skills to support educational practices across diverse instructional and organizational settings
  • Communicate with diverse audiences about educational theories, research, and practices
  • Analyze professional skills, dispositions, and technology options for learning and educating diverse groups
  • Apply evidence-based solutions for addressing educational, organizational, and societal issues
  • Analyze current research, theories, and instructional practices in educational and organizational environments

Why Choose National University

  • Four-Week Courses
  • 190+ Degree Programs
  • Online or On-Site
  • Year-Round Enrollment
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We’re proud to be a Veteran-founded, San Diego-based nonprofit. Since 1971, our mission has been to provide accessible, achievable higher education to adult learners. Today, we educate students from across the U.S. and around the globe, with over 240,000 alumni worldwide.

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Program Disclosure

Successful completion and attainment of National University degrees do not lead to automatic or immediate licensure, employment, or certification in any state/country. The University cannot guarantee that any professional organization or business will accept a graduate’s application to sit for any certification, licensure, or related exam for the purpose of professional certification.

Program availability varies by state. Many disciplines, professions, and jobs require disclosure of an individual’s criminal history, and a variety of states require background checks to apply to, or be eligible for, certain certificates, registrations, and licenses. Existence of a criminal history may also subject an individual to denial of an initial application for a certificate, registration, or license and/or result in the revocation or suspension of an existing certificate, registration, or license. Requirements can vary by state, occupation, and/or licensing authority.

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