Administrators: Special Education Rosters, Scheduling, and New Students

I was a building level administrator for 14 years of my career. During that time, it always seemed to me like summer was over once the 4th of July passed, and a lot of the after 4th of July, but still in July, work I did seemed to revolve around the world of special education. These areas included rosters, schedules, and new students. This first blog will be about creating rosters while avoiding the roster monsters.


In almost every situation I have been in, rosters have been a BIG deal to the special education teachers;  I would get many emails asking if the rosters were done and when they could have them in their hands. The last several years I handed out rosters as I knew them at the end of the school year before teachers left, making sure I was very explicit that these were drafts and that they would change some before school started. This appeared to relieve teacher roster-anxiety and kept them out of my hair in the summerJ

I think it is important that a building administrator have the final say on rosters. I have been involved in many variations of the roster creation process and I think you ask for trouble when you delegate this responsibility. I have seen Department Chairs do it, teams of teachers do it, guidance do it, and even a building that has the AEA create the rosters. You should certainly get plenty of input, but the final draft should come from you, the administrator.

As a building administrator, you need to make sure you are familiar with your DDSDP (District Developed Service Delivery Plan) and how that plan says rosters will be managed if a teacher thinks their roster is too heavy. Everything you want to know about the DDSDP can be found at Your district’s DDSDP is required to be made public and you should be able to find it on your district website.

The DDSDP often describes a point system for rosters and you need to be aware how points are assigned and what happens if you assign a roster with too many points. I have seen all sorts of things in district’s DDSDPs that don’t always make sense. On several occasions I have seen more points given to a student who has a para, for example. Shouldn’t that be less points if the teacher has a full-time para to help support him or her with that student? The DDSDP has to be done at least every five years, but if you don’t think it makes sense, it can always be revised before the five year deadline. Talk to your Superintendent if you think a revision may be necessary.

There are some dangers to the entire roster monster. This is where the “my students” thing starts and it is good to use this time as an opportunity to remind all teachers that the roster list does not mean the students belong to the special education teacher. It does not mean that the roster teacher is the only one who serves that student. It does not mean that the roster teacher gives all the probes, that is still the responsibility of the teacher who is providing the instruction, which may be another special education teacher or a regular education teacher. It does mean that the roster teacher is responsible for ensuring that all the IEP paperwork for that student is complete and they are the primary contact for parents.

There is a new monster in the room when it comes to special education rosters. In Iowa, the roster teacher for a student on the Alternate Assessment must have the Strategist II licensure. The BOEE cross-referenced all the students on the Alternate Assessment with the licensure of the student’s roster teacher and found that many of those teachers did not have the Strategist II licensure. Those districts and teachers have been notified that the teacher does not have the proper licensure and must have at least a conditional license by the start of school.  Keep in mind that the student on the Alternate Assessment must have a roster teacher with the Strategist II licensure, this does not mean that every teacher that the student has during the day has to have that license. If you have a teacher in your building with the Strategist II licensure, you will want to make sure that they have all the students on Alternate Assessment on their roster.

Rosters will change as the year goes on and new students join special education and other students leave special education. I would periodically look at rosters and make adjustments as students had schedule changes, students moved in, students were staffed out, etc. Although this is has not always been the case in buildings where I have worked or visited, I do think the roster teacher needs to have contact with the students on their rosters. It did not make sense to me for a student to have two classes with two different special education teachers and a third teacher had the student on their roster. In a larger high school I worked in we tried for a period of time to have teachers keep the same students as they progressed through high school. Although this was good for continuity and parent relationships, it just didn’t make sense and didn’t work well for the roster teacher to not see the student at all in their schedule. The costs definitely outweighed the benefits from my perspective.

So, get your rosters done before the teachers leave for the summer but make sure they know it is a draft, make sure your students on the Alternate Assessment have a roster teacher with the Strategist II licensure, be the final say on rosters for your building, emphasize that the roster for a teacher does not make those students “her or his kids”, be aware of what your DDSDP says about rosters, and verify that progress monitoring is done by the teachers that is providing instruction in the goal area.

Next up, special education scheduling!!