Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


Educational Administration and Leadership

First Advisor

Christina Rusk

First Committee Member

Heidi Stevenson

Second Committee Member

Shane Conklin


Since the inception of special education laws in the 1970’s, special education teachers have been given the responsibility of educating children with exceptional needs. Those needs range from children with mild to moderate disabilities to children with moderate to severe disabilities. There are 13 categories that a child can qualify for special education services through an Individual Education Program (IEP). The majority of children with exceptional needs are educated on general education campuses. With high stakes testing and the push for academic excellence, one may wonder how a child with exceptional needs fits into a general education campus. The Education of Handicapped Act (EHA) was passed in 1970 and guaranteed that every child was entitled to a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) at any public-school facility. Since that time, more laws have been updated and renamed giving a child with a disability more access and rights to a FAPE. Special education can be very complex, and teachers must work with students who have a varying degree of disabilities. Special education teachers are responsible for creating lessons to address the academic and behavioral needs of each of their students on their caseloads. They must also collaborate with the general education teachers to make sure they are aware of the needs and goals of the students in their classes. They are responsible for writing the IEP for each student on their caseload. They must evaluate their students throughout the school year on their goals and update their progress. Another role that the special education teacher has is to train the instructional assistance to work with the students and their unique needs (Capper & Frattura, 2009; Prather-Jones, 2011). Research shows that the main reasons special education teachers gave for leaving was lack of administrative support, huge caseloads, the demands of the IEP (Individual Education Program) paperwork, followed by isolation, too much diversity of student needs and the lack of appreciation by co-workers and administrators for all their hard work (Billingsley & Cross, 1991, 2007; Crocket, 2007; Prather-Jones, 2011).

This study looked at the role of the site administrator and why it is important to support their special education teachers. Seven site elementary principals were interviewed to see what their perception was in helping their special education teachers with the special needs’ students on their respective school campuses. After conducting two interviews with each participant for a total of 14 interviews these are the themes that emerged: communication, mental health issues, lack of support/or delay in receiving help, culture between special education and general education teachers, support for special education programs and teachers, curriculum, funding and on the job training. This study used the lens of transformational leadership to see how principals perceived their role in helping their special education teachers.





Rights Statement

Rights Statement

In Copyright. URI:
This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).