A Preparation Program for Directors of Special Education

ECSEL (Expanding Capacity for Special Education Leadership) is now accepting applications for potential students. This is a collaborative program for special education administrators, originally formed in partnership with the campuses of University of Washington and Washington State University.  ECSEL is administered through University of Washington Bothell.

The ECSEL program focuses on knowledge and skills needed for local education administration. Led by a faculty team from across the UW and WSU campuses, the program qualifies candidates for the required Washington Residency Program Administrator Certification.

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.


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.

Program Details

  • The next cohort will begin in Summer/Autumn 2018.  You can learn about the application process here
  • The application cycle will be announced in late 2017.
  • Orientation for the new cohort will be held on the University of Washington Bothell campus.
  • Scholarships are available for up to eighteen (18) students. The scholarship will cover approximately 90% of the cost of the two-year program. Students are responsible for approximately $1500 per year.
  • Graduates of the ECSEL program earn a Master of Education degree in Educational Leadership and are recommended for Washington State Residency Certification as an Education Program Administrator. Graduates who are subsequently admitted to the Washington State University’s Statewide Ed.D program in Educational Leadership may transfer ECSEL program credits into that program.

Seminar Dates

Below is the required seminar dates for the 2016/2017 and 2017/2018 school years.  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 2016-2017

May 7 - Orientation
Note: Date changed from April 16
July 22-24 - Summer Institute
October 8 - Session 1
November 5 - Session 2
December 3 - Session 3
January 7 - Session 4
February 25 - Session 5
March 11 - Session 6
April 22 - Session 7
May 13 - Session 8
June 10 - Session 9

Academic Year 2017-2018

July 26-28 - Summer Institute
October 7 - Session 1
November 4 - Session 2
December 2 - Session 3
January 6 - Session 4
February 3- Session 5
March 10 - Session 6
April 7 - Session 7
May 12 - Session 8
June 9 - Session 9

General Questions?

Michele Graaff

The Application Period is Closed.

Cohort 4 will begin recruiting late 2017. Please contact us for details: edleader@uw.edu

Learn about the application process here.

Download the current flyer
describing the ECSEL program