Principal Leadership in Special Education Programming: Qualitative Case Study to Fostering Inclusive Practices



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In this study, I explored selected elementary school principals in Texas regarding their perceptions toward the inclusion of students with disabilities in the general education classroom. Principals today serve as educational leaders who are responsible for leading all educational activities in their school, including specialized programs designed to meet the educational needs of specific groups of students (e.g., SPED). Despite the awareness of these school leaders’ responsibility in ensuring that each child is learning, principal preparation programs focus very little on targeting responsibilities in leading SPED programming. A holistic analysis of multiple sources of information (e.g., documents, archival record reviews, and interviews) provided rich insight into the context of the case, whereas a multiple-case approach provided insight to the analysis within-case and cross-case. The multiple-case qualitative study was utilized to investigate how selected principals (a) perceived their level of knowledge and training from their principal preparation programs and subsequent support from their school district in leading SPED programming, (b) defined inclusive practices for students with disabilities, and (c) fostered a culture of inclusion with equity for the educational success of students with disabilities. This study centered around two case studies where one of the participants had formal training in SPED programming (e.g., holds a master’s degree in SPED, former special education teacher), and the other participant did not have formal training in SPED programming. My intent was to uncover any similarities and/or differences in the purposefully selected school principals’ perceptions as they related to v SPED programming on their respective campuses. The analysis of the data gathered in this study supported the lack of preparation in SPED programming in principal preparation programs and there is a dearth of courses in special education in principal preparation programs. Through the data examined and the analyses performed, implications to the current field were reviewed. To examine this topic further, areas of future research were recommended. The findings of this study may assist in the promotion of inclusive practices for students with disabilities to increase access to the general education curriculum, which is important in the efforts to close the academic and opportunity gap.



Special education, Texas, Principals, Certification, Instructional leaders, Disabilities, Principal preparatory programs