The principal's role in the implementation of a middle school inclusion program

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Dara Jeannene Hedgecock (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Carl Lashley

Abstract: Principals must be instructional leaders in their schools in order to adhere to federal, state, and local mandates as well as being able to discern that the programs for students with disabilities are being developed and implemented with fidelity to meet the needs of those students. The transition a school goes through to include students with disabilities in the regular classroom is a change that affects everyone: faculty, staff, students, and parents. Best practice should emerge from what is currently known about implementing special education programs. This research study will focus on ways principals and support personnel (i.e. staff-teachers/administrators) work together or collaborate in developing and implementing an inclusion program; factors in principal preparation and professional development programs that influence principals' perspectives and perceptions of special education; and how principals establish a vision, make decisions, and allocate/arrange resources when their schools are implementing inclusion programs. Collaboration should be a crucial element to creating and maintaining successful inclusive schools. Using the three research questions as a foundation, this study used a qualitative, case study research approach to investigate the perceptions that principals, teachers (both regular education and special education), and central office support staff have on developing and implementing special education inclusion programs in their schools. Semi-structured interviews, observations and field-notes from classroom observations were utilized as data collection tools to assure that a reliable qualitative study was accomplished. Through these methods I was able to observe, examine and analyze the specific situations and experiences of the teachers and students in the school settings. The principal's responsibilities with regards to special education are: to develop/continue programs that adhere to the law/policy; encourage communication and collaboration with special education staff; attend IEP meetings; keep current on what works; monitor/evaluate their school's current practices for process improvement. More importantly, giving teachers opportunities for good quality professional development on how to be an effective inclusion co-teacher and what that looks like in the classroom is crucial to effective implementation of an inclusion program. The principalship should include visionary leadership qualities, efficient operations management, high quality instructional leadership, and advocacy practices that address the specific needs of students. These elements should be evident in services for students with disabilities, or more specifically, the inclusionary or co-teaching practices at the school. Principals should be knowledgeable of special education law and policy as well as developing an environment that encourages and supports collegiality among staff members. This change in philosophy to educating exceptional children in the regular classroom has resulted in a cultural change in many schools. The principal is at the center of this cultural change and is the central agent responsible for transitioning schools to inclusion in the regular education classroom where special education students are provided the necessary supports in order to learn alongside their non-disabled peers. There are two general principles as to why schools should implement inclusion programs for their special education students. First, services in the least restrictive environment for students with disabilities are required by law-IDEA. Second, inclusive practices give students with disabilities access to the general curriculum.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2012
Co-Teaching, Inclusion, Principal Leadership, Special Education
Children with disabilities $x Education (Middle school) $z United States
Inclusive education $z United States
Middle school principals $z United States
Educational leadership $z United States

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