AN INVESTIGATION OF ELEMENTARY PRINCIPALS’ INVOLVEMENT WITH SPECIAL EDUCATION SERVICES AND BARRIERS TO INVOLVEMENT
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Understanding the experiences of elementary principals is important due to the rising number of special education students educated in general education classrooms. The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore elementary principals' involvement in special education, barriers faced implementing special education, and the types of support needed to implement special education. The purposeful sample consisted of ten elementary school principals in a large mid-Atlantic public school. Principals were interviewed in a one-on-one format using Zoom. Semi-structured interviews were conducted by the researcher using an interview guide protocol. Three research questions guided the study: (a) To what extent are elementary principals involved in the special education implementation in their schools, (b) What barriers or challenges do elementary principals experience while implementing special education, and (c) What support do elementary principals need to supervise special education implementation? Using Nvivo to code and analyze the ten interviews, data were categorized into three areas: principal’s special education responsibilities, barriers to effective implementation of special education, principal’s need for additional support, and facilitators of effective implementation of special education. Three cross-cutting themes emerged across all three research questions: navigating students with challenging behaviors, student eligibility and placement, and general education teachers' lack of preparedness. The study results can be useful to district leaders as they develop training designed to help current and future principals increase their level of involvement in special education at their schools, improve their decision-making concerning special education, and ultimately improve behavioral and academic outcomes for students with disabilities.