Inclusion is a federal education policy in the United States that challenges educational leaders. Despite U.S. federal laws requiring an inclusive education for students with disabilities (SWD), educators continue to struggle to implement inclusion. Some scholars argue that leadership is the key to inclusion, with most studies focused on principal leadership. Successful inclusive districts are rare, as are studies of these districts. The purpose of this in-depth case study was to describe and understand the leadership practices of SSSD (pseudonym), an inclusive (based on LRE .75% for three consecutive years) and effective district (based on district grades of As and Bs, state measures of student achievement) in Southeast Florida. Within SSSD, a purposeful sample of 31 participants was selected that included eight district leaders, three principals, 15 teachers, and five parents located at four sites and observed across three events over the span of one semester with multiple supporting documents analyzed.
Four findings describing district leadership practices emerged from the data analysis; 1) a shared inclusive mission, 2) collaborative efforts, 3) formal and informal professional development (PD), and 4) acknowledging and addressing challenges. The practices of district leaders found in this study resonate with other findings in the literature and contribute two of the new findings in this study: 1) the superintendent’s attitudes, beliefs, and experiences as a special educator were described as key to her district’s inclusive focus and success and extends previous research connecting principal leadership to school site inclusion; and 2) informal versus formal PD was more beneficial to teachers in building collective capacity for inclusive service delivery—marking a new distinction within related PD literature.
Recommendations to district leaders, policy makers, and scholars are included. The study concludes by encouraging educational leaders to cultivate a shared inclusive mission implemented through collaborative efforts. There is hope for inclusion, not only in theory, but in practice, mirroring the call of other district leadership studies of successful, systemic inclusion.
|School:||Florida Atlantic University|
|School Location:||United States -- Florida|
|Source:||DAI-A 78/10(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Educational leadership, Special education|
|Keywords:||District leadership, Inclusion, Inclusive education, Leadership practices, Least restrictive environments, Systemic inclusion|
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