Executive Function and the Superintendent’s Office

Executive function is increasingly becoming a district-wide issue. All students, with and without a diagnosed learning difference, benefit from executive function support. And, as the need for executive function strategy instruction becomes better known, administrators are having to decide how executive function support takes place in their school.

Should executive function be taught explicitly only in special education settings? Should teachers in content area classes receive training in executive function? How does executive function align with other school-wide initiatives or with mandated standardized testing?

The answers to these questions matter. Executive function is becoming an increasingly common goal on students’ IEPs and 504 plans, yet schools often do not have programs in place to help students meet these goals. Teachers are hungry for executive function training and programming, yet professional development and coaching plans rarely address executive function.

Through our work at SMARTS, we have seen administrators tackle this issue in many ways. Some schools may opt to infuse executive function into special education services by teaching SMARTS strategies in academic support settings. Some schools approach executive function school-wide, creating frameworks that establish executive function objectives and corresponding strategies for each grade, which are instituted in general education classes.  (Learn how one district is using  district-wide executive function as a powerful tool for equity here).

There is no one-size-fits-all approach, but schools can be successful when they are able to clearly define the executive function demands they are placing on their students and articulate how they will support students to meet these demands.

The truth is that, because executive function is so essential to successful learning for ALL students, it is crucial that school leaders find a way to integrate executive function strategies into the systems and processes of teaching and learning. As schools struggle to adapt to the demands of remote learning and hybrid models, here at SMARTS we will remain dedicated to helping all educators to develop approaches to teaching executive function strategies that meet the needs for all students, their teachers, and their administrators!

  • Michael Greschler, M.Ed., SMARTS Director