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ERIC Number: ED570342
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2016
Pages: 196
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: N/A
ISBN: 978-1-3397-9743-4
Effective Strategies for District Leadership to Create Successful Inclusion Models: Special Education Directors and School Reform in Context of Least Restrictive Environment
Bublitz, Gregory
ProQuest LLC, Ed.D. Dissertation, Loyola University Chicago
This qualitative mixed methods study explored how Special Education Directors transformed and maintained a successful inclusion model throughout their district. The study identified leadership strategies and inclusive behaviors utilized by Special Education Directors who have successfully transformed their district into inclusive school districts. Previous research has been quite clear that inclusion, when implemented with fidelity, is beneficial to diverse learners, which include special needs students. In addition, previous literature has been clear on the importance placed on principals and teachers as the prime agents of change in regard to successful inclusion models. However, there has been minimal literature on how district leadership, especially Special Education Directors, lead school districts in implementing and maintaining successful inclusion models. The questions answered in this research study are: 1) How did the Special Education Director promote knowledge creation within the district in the context of inclusion? 2) How did the Special Education Director support building principals to create the change capacity necessary for successful inclusion? 3) How did the Special Education Director increase change capacity at the district level in context of systemic organizational change as well as allocate district resources in regard to a more inclusive LRE model? 4) How did the Special Education Director use the tacit knowledge of current staff and honor the intrinsic expertise within the district to sustain the transformation to a more inclusive environment? 5) How does the Special Education Director maintain and sustain the change capacity necessary for successful inclusion? This qualitative mixed methods study focused in two school suburban school districts in Cook County, Illinois, just outside of Chicago. The two districts, River School District and Lake School District are school districts with successful inclusion models. Each district fulfilled the following criteria for a successful inclusion model: a high rate of inclusion as indicated on Illinois Indicator 5A data and a low gap percentage between students with Individualized Educational Programs (IEP) and non-IEP students in state assessment scores as reported on the Illinois Board of Education (ISBE) Special Education Profiles. In addition, state assessment scores for each district met or exceeded the Illinois average. The Conceptual Framework for Successful Inclusion guided the research questions. Interviews of each district's Superintendent and Special Education Director provided the majority of data. Electronic surveys provided additional data gathered from building administrators. Gathered data highlighted seven behaviors of successful inclusion practiced by central administrators, particularly Special Education Directors. These behaviors include: 1) Individualized educational planning; 2) Inclusion of the School Business Officer on financial decision making in regard to inclusive practice; 3) Reduced influence of special education cooperatives; 4) Response to community input on inclusive practices; 5) Professional development targeted to district needs; 6) Collaborative environments for all district stakeholders; 7) Provision of appropriate financial resources to hire staff, expand programming, and increase collaboration time. Of these seven common behaviors of successful inclusion present four behaviors from a district perspective not included in the literature. These include: 1) Significant attention to individualized educational planning from district level to the team level, which is supported by flexible scheduling, reduced grade bands, increased staffing, and the provision of financial resources dedicated to collaboration. 2) Inclusion of the School Business Officer on financial decision making in regard to inclusive practice. 3) Positive and proactive responses to community input on educational needs within the community and district. 4) The reduced influence of educational cooperatives due to the increase in inclusive practice and the need for districts to maintain their own influence over district inclusion needs. As districts continue to alter their approach to mandates regarding inclusion and accountability for student growth, Special Education Directors must assess their districts and investigate what specific and targeted approaches are necessary for lowering the achievement gap for students with special needs. Directors should then apply the behaviors of successful inclusion within and across their districts in order to educate children with disabilities in an equitable, inclusive and successful educational environment. [The dissertation citations contained here are published with the permission of ProQuest LLC. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by Telephone (800) 1-800-521-0600. Web page:]
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Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Illinois