Date of Award

2007

Access Restriction

Campus Access only dissertations

Degree Name

Doctorate in Education

Department

Education

School or College

School of Education

First Advisor

Victoria L. Graf, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Emily Arms, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Mary K. McCulllough, Ph.D.

Abstract

Children with specific learning disabilities (SLDs) are often placed in a separate and unequal learning environment in public schools. Although federal legislation governing children with SLDs requires they receive their education in the least restrictive environment (LRE), which is the general education setting, many are placed in other settings, including Special Day Class (SDC) and the Resource Specialist Program (RSP). Leaders are critical to the process of designing and implementing a school culture inclusive of students with SLDs, yet few are prepared for the responsibility. A school that affords students the opportunity to learn about and practice respect, diversity, and the democratic process is made possible through a leader who makes decisions based on what is best for the children, knowing that separate educational systems for children with is unjust. Based on a review of literature of (a) leading based on the characteristics of transformational leadership, (b) managing change, (c) having an awareness and understanding of the regulations governing special education, and (d) designing and implementing new structures, the following three questions gave purpose to this study:

    1. .What organizational processes are essential for the design and implementation of an inclusive Small School?
    2. .What leadership knowledge and beliefs are essential for the design and implementation of an inclusive Small School?
    3. .What leadership practices and behaviors are essential for the design and implementation of an inclusive Small School?

Qualitative methodology, including interviews, observations, and document review, were used to gather information to respond to the questions.

The premise of this case study is that a leader who embodies the characteristics of a transformational leader can design and implement an inclusive Small School, as it has the capacity to provide the structure for the inclusion of children with SLDs and their non-disabled peers. A triangulation of qualitative data was conducted, which included (a) interviews with the school leader and small groups of additional stakeholders; (b) observations of the leader in various settings with multiple stakeholders; and (c) document review of public and personal records.

The data yielded six primary findings in response to the three questions that flamed this case study. In response to the first question, which addressed the organizational processes essential for the design and implementation of an inclusive Small School, restructuring provided an opportunity for creativity and was the essential finding of the organizational processes. The second question, which explored the leadership knowledge and beliefs essential for the design and implementation of an inclusive Small School, yielded several findings, including (1) knowledge of the characteristics of an inclusive school culture, (2) belief in the value of building and maintaining relationships, (3) belief in shared decision making, and (4) knowledge of how to create a safe learning environment. The final question, which examined the leadership practices and behaviors essential for the design and implementation of an inclusive Small School, provided one primary finding, to maintain the focus on students and their needs.

The information gathered from this study contributes to the limited literature on the role of the leader in designing and implementing an inclusive Small School at the middle school level.

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