Campus Location

Dallas Campus (Online)

Date of Award



Document Type



Organizational Leadership

Degree Name

Doctor of Education

Committee Chair or Primary Advisor

Wade Fish

Second Committee Member or Secondary Advisor

Sandra Harris

Third Committee Member or Committee Reader

Jenifer Williams


This research study analyzed the perceptions of special education supports by school administrators. Specifically, this research discussed comparative findings of perceptions of special education supports between building principals and building-based special education team chairpersons in one Massachusetts public school district. The findings are grounded in the district’s inclusive philosophy and its capability to ensure that all students are provided educational opportunities in the least restrictive educational environment. The problem studied was that many students with disabilities who are unable to find academic success within an inclusive academic environment are typically transitioned into a more restrictive—or substantially separate—alternative education setting. It is largely unknown how school districts perceive special education programming and structures of support in relation to reaching its goal of maximizing an inclusive philosophy for all students within the school district. This study followed a qualitative research design methodology, as its purpose was to describe the perceptions and experiences of district-wide administrators of one school district located in the state of Massachusetts. A total of 10 school district administrators—five principals and five special education team chairpersons—were interviewed for this study. All participants, from each population category (principals and special education team chairpersons), met the specific qualifying criteria in order to participate in this study. Participants were asked a total of nine interview questions, based on three overarching research questions, through a private semistructured interview process via the Zoom virtual platform. The themes that emerged from the dataset included: participants’ general understanding of inclusive philosophies, the presumed misalignment between schools’ practices and inclusive philosophies, barriers toward ensuring the implementation of a fully inclusive philosophy, and the overall expectation for communication and improvement of teaching strategies when examining how to better support students with disabilities. Participants in this research study provided several examples regarding how an inclusive philosophy can be promoted and executed on a consistent basis. Yet, the findings indicated a stark difference between the philosophical expectation for implementing a fully inclusive school district and the actual implementation of this philosophy in everyday practice. Participants from this school district were not aligned in their definition of an inclusive philosophy, yet they consistently described specific barriers that contributed to the inability to implement an inclusive philosophy, including lack of district-wide training, lack of resources, and an overall lack of support when supporting students with disabilities.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.



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