Who We Are

The Urban Collaborative is a national network of school districts committed to improving outcomes for students with disabilities. We currently have 93 member districts across the United States in the network. Our mission is to improve educational outcomes and life opportunities for children and youth with disabilities in urban schools through leadership development. The Collaborative seeks to bring timely and critical issues in the field, as well as solutions, to the forefront of district leadership.

Our Work

The Collaborative impacts special education by sharing and influencing knowledge, research, and policy to increase inclusive special education services in schools and decrease the disproportionate representation of culturally and linguistically diverse students in classification rates, separate educational environments, and disciplinary actions.

Our Focus

The Urban Collaborative focuses on four main areas:

  • Leadership development
  • Cross-sector collaboration
  • Collective engagement
  • Urbanicity

Leadership Development

Traditionally, special education district leaders are primarily trained in special education, not leadership. Many have had to learn how to be effective leaders and systems change agents through trial and error. Those who have been Collaborative members have had the benefit of working together over our 22 years.

We are committed to strengthening members' capacity to lead their districts in systemically reforming special education services by:

  • Working with school districts to build their leaders' capacity to improve learning opportunities and outcomes for all students
  • Developing strategic partnerships in order to offer members the resources and professional development opportunities to build leadership capacity

Cross-Sector Collaboration

Issues in special education reflect larger societal issues, which cannot be sufficiently addressed by special educators alone. To make lasting, substantive changes for students with disabilities, special educators, general educators, researchers, and policymakers, as well as people with disabilities and those affected by disability, must work together.

The Urban Collaborative is committed to growing and building partnerships to foster more effective collaboration between district personnel, researchers, advocacy groups, state agencies, and community members to implement large-scale reforms in special education.

Collective Engagement

As a nonprofit organization, the Urban Collaborative is uniquely poised to facilitate the collective engagement and voice of its members. As a 22-year old organization, well-known by school districts, researchers, states, and the U.S. Department of Education, the Urban Collaborative is in a strong position to influence matters that impact students with disabilities, such as federal policy.

The Urban Collaborative is dedicated to being a vehicle for collective engagement and a voice on national education legislation.


While all school districts have the responsibility to teach students to high academic standards, providing special education services in urban school districts presents unique opportunities and challenges.

The opportunities include the ability to:

  • Offer students more and varied community resources
  • Work with a diverse student population and typically more diverse teacher populations
  • Provide greater access to museums, musical events, and other forms of the arts

The challenges include:

  • Low academic standards
  • Poorly trained teaching staff
  • Low graduation rates
  • High suspension rates
  • Schools that feed students to the school-to-prison pipeline

The Urban Collaborative focuses on infusing and highlighting the benefits of the urban environment, as well as addressing its challenges, into our member meetings, partnerships, and tools.

Our Team

    Executive Director
    Member and Partner Manager