Term of Award

2003

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Educational Administration

Document Type and Release Option

Dissertation (restricted to Georgia Southern)

Department

Department of Educational Administration

Committee Chair

Michael D. Richardson

Committee Member 1

Cathy Jording

Committee Member 2

Bryan Griffin

Committee Member 3

Scott Marchbanks

Committee Member 4

Randal D. Carlson

Abstract

This study was conducted to provide information concerning Georgia middle school principals' perceptions toward inclusion. Selected characteristics of the principals were studied to ascertain the association of those variables with the principals' perceptions toward inclusion of students with disabilities in the general classroom. Also studied were the policy recommendations made by these principals as well as the means by which principals became knowledgeable or experienced in educating students with disabilities. The underlying premise for the study was that laws and policies that govern the education of children with disabilities have drastically changed over the past three decades. These changes have resulted in students with disabilities being placed into the general classroom, or mainstream of a general school population, in order to receive their education. In many circumstances, these needs go beyond the normal training of the general classroom teacher. Therefore, it is up to the principal to follow the policies set regarding "least restrictive environment" while ensuring the school faculty have the necessary skills to teach to meet the needs of a very diverse class in terms of student needs. The author sought to involve the 398 Georgia middle school principals, excluding the researcher. By way of a survey, middle school principals' perceptions toward inclusion in reference to type of student disability, policy, collaborative planning, and student reaction to inclusion were measured to better understand the necessary knowledge the principals have in order to implement a successful inclusion program. Likewise, the association of principals' characteristics of years of experience, gender, and degree type were studied, along with obtaining policy recommendations made by principals. Finally, from information provided by the participants, the researcher identified the professional development opportunities in which principals have participated. Of the participants, 82% had inclusion programs in their schools and 93% had prior training in educating students with disabilities. However, only 5% had direct expenence teaching in a special education classroom although nearly 14% had taught in an inclusion classroom. Participants were compared although no correlation was noted between perceptions and knowledge level. Additionally, the mean scores indicated principals were rather neutral in their perceptions, not strongly agreeing or disagreeing with the items. The overall association of the principals' characteristics on the principals' perceptions toward inclusion of children with disabilities in the general classroom were minimal. Principals with 6-10 years experience tend to hold a more positive perception of the way students react to having special education students included in the general classroom, although not statistically higher than those principals with more or less experience. There were statistically significant differences between male and female principals, with females reporting stronger feelings regarding the type disability and inclusion. Additionally, those principals with a doctorate degree indicated more positive feelings toward inclusion when compared to participants having other degree types. Policy recommendations made by principals focused primarily on organizational issues such as the type of services offered and teacher selection. Other primary issues w£re instructional in nature such as teacher training and common planning time. Additional information indicated that principals do participate in professional development and the primary types are college courses and local staff development opportunities. Findings of this study show that inclusion programs are prevalent in middle schools across Georgia and principals have had exposure to educating students with disabilities either directly or indirectly.

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