Enhancing Capacity for Special Education Leadership (ECSEL)

A preparation program for directors of special education

The Enhancing Capacity for Special Education Leadership (ECSEL) program at the University of Washington Bothell prepares candidates interested in administering special education programs through a non-degree program that leads to the required Washington State Resident Program Administrator Certification. 


Michele Graaff, Advisor



Applications reopen Sept. 2021

We anticipate another cohort will begin in Summer, 2022.  Check back for updates!

Stay Informed

We will notify you when the application cycle opens.

Submit Program Interest Form 

About the ECSEL program

The Enhancing Capacity for Special Education Leadership (ECSEL) is a collaborative program for special education administrators that focuses on knowledge and skills needed for local education administration. faculty and staff group photoOriginally formed in partnership with the campuses of University of Washington and Washington State University, this program is led by a faculty team from across all the UW and WSU campuses. The program qualifies candidates for the required Washington Residency Program Administrator Certification and graduates of the ECSEL program are recommended for Washington State Residency Certification as an Education Program Administrator.

ECSEL is a grant-funded program supported by Washington State OSPI.  Scholarships are available for up to eighteen (18) students. Students are responsible for approximately $500 per year.

Program structure

During each of the two years, the cohort-based program consists of three year-long seminars, a 400-hour internship requirement, and a set of performance tasks that allow candidates to demonstrate proficiency.

The year 1 program focuses on leadership for special education at the school level, with seminars, internship, and performance tasks all focused on leadership for teaching, learning, and student services within a school.

In year 2, the focus shifts to leadership at the district level, with the internship and program tasks reflecting district-level responsibilities. In both years, the program operates in a blended on-line and face-to-face model, with summer and weekend meetings supplemented by e-learning resources.

Orientation for the new cohort will be held on the University of Washington Bothell campus.


With the induction of Cohort 4 in Autumn 2018, the ECSEL program will require all applicants to hold a Master's Degree or higher upon application. 

While the ECSEL program no longer offers a Master's degree option, candidates may register for graduate-level credits (up to 21 credits each program year) as a non-matriculated student. Candidates may also earn clock hours.  Information about the process for credits and clock hours will be shared with candidates at the first program session.  


The curriculum is structured to incorporate both Washington State standards for the Residency Program Administrator certificate and the Council for Exceptional Children’s advanced standards for program administrators. Seminars include:

  • Personal Leadership in Education: Focuses on self-management, professional commitments and integrity, purposeful self-development, communication skills, and interpersonal skills and conflict management.
  • Leadership for Teaching and Learning: Focuses on responsive curriculum, instruction, assessment of learning, instructional adaptations and intervention tiers, improving colleagues’ instruction, and student exceptionalities and differences.
  • Leading School-Level Student Services: Focuses on referral, eligibility, and assessment, IEP Development, student climate and behavioral support, related services and assistive technology, coordinating instruction with families, and school-level organization of special education services.
  • Leadership for Special Education as a Responsive Public Institution: Focuses on institutional context of public education, education and special education law, ethical dimension of work in schools, shaping the mission, vision, and goals for the special education program, and strategic resourcing of special education services.
  • Leadership for Special Education as a Continuously Renewing Organization: Focuses on establishing structures, programs, and policies to achieve special education goals, building staff capacity, leading organizational change, supporting principals and other school administrators in leading instructional improvements, and mindful monitoring and creative problem solving to support program implementation and student progress.
  • Leading Special Education as an Inclusive Community: Focuses on cultural competence, mobilize community resources for the benefits of families and students, advocacy for children with disabilities and their families, stewardship for the school district, special education program, and the profession, and skills for constituency building.

Seminar dates

Below is the required seminar dates for the Cohort 5.  If you will be unable to attend one of the seminars listed, please note this in the supplemental application form. We will give priority to applicants who can make arrangements to attend all sessions.

Academic year 2020-2021 (year one)

  • July 27-29, 2020: Summer Institute/Orientation
  • October 3, 2020: Session 1
  • November 7, 2020: Session 2
  • December 5, 2020: Session 3
  • January 9, 2021: Session 4
  • February 6, 2021: Session 5
  • March 6, 2021: Session 6
  • April 3, 2021: Session 7
  • May 1, 2021: Session 8
  • June 5, 2021: Session 9



Academic year 2021-2022 (year two)

  • July 27-28, 2021: Summer Institute/Orientation*
  • October 2, 2021: Session 1
  • November 6, 2021: Session 2
  • December 4, 2021: Session 3
  • January 8, 2022: Session 4
  • February 6, 2022: Session 5
  • March 5, 2022: Session 6
  • April 2, 2022: Session 7
  • May 7, 2022: Session 8
  • June 4, 2022: Session 9

*or August 3-4, TBD

Application dates & information

  • The next cohort will begin in Summer/Autumn 2020. 
  • The application cycle for the next cohort opened September 1st, 2019.
  • Application deadline to Cohort 5 has been extended from March 31st to May 15th, in response to hardships due to the COVID-19/coronavirus pandemic. 
  • Application details can be found here.


Michele Graaff