EXPLORING THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN
Mason, Gwendolyn J.
Parham, Carol S
The inclusion of students with disabilities and the increasing demands in public education including the nation's changing economics, racial and ethnic diversity, complex social environments and increased accountability for student academic achievement have impacted the role of principal leadership. Today, principals face increasing demands to create an environment that supports the needs of all students (Burdette, 2010). Middle school principals in particular have the responsibility of addressing these new varied issues while leading in a variety of subject areas. This mixed-method study was designed to explore the perceptions of middle school principals, grade 6 English general education teachers and grade 6 special education teachers regarding the effective leadership practices of middle school principals' implementation of inclusion in grade 6 English classes. The conceptual framework of Powell's (2004) School Leadership Survey and its five domains was used to collect the data in the quantitative phase of the study. These data were collected by survey responses from middle school principals, grade 6 general education English teachers and grade 6 special education teachers. The quantitative phase of this study was conducted in 38 middle schools in a single school district in the mid-Atlantic United States. The results of the quantitative study indicated that there were no statistically significant differences among the three groups: middle school principals, grade 6 general education English teachers and grade 6 special education teachers, whether in the early or later implementation phase. The means for the principals, although not statistically significantly different, were generally higher than those of the two groups of teachers. The grade 6 general education English teachers and the grade 6 special education teachers had very similar means on the effective leadership behavior and practices of the principals. The qualitative aspect of this study found agreement among the middle school principals which was consistent with the quantitative findings of the study. The interview probes used in a focus group were based on information gathered in the quantitative part of the study and the review of the literature on inclusion. The effective leadership behaviors and practices of the principal are essential for the inclusion of students with disabilities. Further research is recommended to gain deeper insight in the effective leadership practices of principals who include students with disabilities from the sole perspectives of general education teachers. In addition, future research should examine principal preparation programs and their impact on leading in the area of special education and inclusion.