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Supporting elementary inclusion classrooms in an urban ring district: What principals need to know

Joanne A Valk, Johnson & Wales University


The No Child Left Behind Act had the potential to make inclusion classrooms a reality. This federal mandate affected public education nationwide. It held schools accountable for meeting the needs of all children and closing the achievement gaps by distributing and targeting resources equitably. The goals of the program included school wide reforms that increase teacher autonomy as well as teacher accountability. In order to support teachers in this mission, principals were guided in the implementation of embedded professional development and parent partnerships (P.L.107-110, 2002). To ensure that children with disabilities received academically rigorous instruction, principals needed to make inclusion of special needs students in regular education classrooms in elementary schools successful. Little (2005) found that teacher collaboration was needed to provide modifications and/or accommodations for their special needs students. Such success required efficient allocation of resources and the elimination or minimization of obstacles in the inclusion classrooms. In order for these issues to be addressed, supports and obstacles needed to be specifically identified. The purpose of this study was to present a description of the characteristics and a working definition of a successful inclusion classroom. Principals, special education teachers and regular education teachers working full time in elementary inclusion classrooms in K through 5 in a New England urban ring public school district identified supports and obstacles. These educators (n =5, n =10, and n =20, respectively) were the target population and were invited to participate in interviews as part of this sequential, qualitative research design. Participants’ responses in the interviews have been categorized using the long table method. The principals’ interview responses framed the questions for the teachers’ interviews. The results of the interviews’ responses have been categorized for comparison and contrast. The results may enhance the confirmation of the findings through corroboration among the results of the groups interviewed. All groups identified effective communication and professional development as essential supports to inclusion. Additionally, principals identified a shared philosophy as an essential support; while both groups of teachers identified full time special education classroom assignment as essential supports. All groups identified the selection of students assigned to inclusion and a lack of professional development as obstacles to inclusion. Additionally, principals identified attitude as an obstacle; while both groups of teachers identified compatibility/communication issues and part time classroom support as obstacles to inclusion. The results of this study may be a resource for successful inclusion practices by identifying essential supports for administrators to allocate and obstacles to address.

Subject Area

Educational leadership|Elementary education|Special education

Recommended Citation

Valk, Joanne A, "Supporting elementary inclusion classrooms in an urban ring district: What principals need to know" (2014). Dissertation & Theses Collection. AAI10190990.