Up the Creek Without a Paddle: Our Nation’s Principals and Special Education
Casale, Ellen G.
Our schools’ principals and assistant principals are barely able to keep their heads above the responsibilities to their communities, staff, and students. This study analyzed the responses of 246 principals and assistant principals from a nationally comparable sample to examine: (a) the extent that school principals receive instruction in special education or related matters in their post-bachelor’s training; (b) the extent to which principals engage in behaviors related to Individualized Education Programs and their corresponding meetings; and (c) correlates of principals who implement higher numbers of behaviors supporting both the procedures and substance of the IEP process. Results indicated that principals most frequently have backgrounds in general education (as opposed to special education) and commonly hold a master’s degree. Nearly a third reported that their post-bachelor’s training program did not prepare them for special education-related matters and did not include special education content in clinical experiences; 40% took one or fewer SPED courses. IEP-related behaviors formed three distinct factors: (1) Substantive Problem-Solving behaviors, (2) IEP Meeting Facilitation behaviors, and (3) Procedural Assistance behaviors. These factors were independently predicted by characteristics related to the principal’s previous experiences and current role. Few predictors related to their administrator training programs. Implications for practice and policy are described.