Martha Simon

Date Approved


Embargo Period


Document Type


Degree Name

Ed.D. Educational Leadership


Educational Leadership


College of Education

First Advisor

Kowalsky, Michelle


Elementary school principals; Special education--Administration


Elementary and Middle and Secondary Education Administration


Changes in the New Jersey principal evaluation system coupled with the demands of leading programs for students with disabilities has resulted in the need for school principals to understand and apply leadership skills that will result in successful achievement for all students. The purpose of this qualitative Delphi study was to explore the behaviors, characteristics, skills, and knowledge elementary school principals identify as essential for leading and supporting successful special education programs in public elementary school settings. Twenty-six elementary school principals with a record of success in leading special education programs provided expert insights through three rounds of data collection and feedback. Major findings from this study include personal characteristics and leadership behaviors that reflect social justice leadership and have resulted in successful, inclusive learning environments for all students. These principals have addressed the challenges of leading diverse student populations by creating a culture of collaboration and acceptance throughout their school community through effective professional development, instructional leadership, and communication with all stakeholders. The findings from this study have implications for the practices of current school leaders, and may be used to inform future research related to preparing aspiring principals for the challenges of leading special education programs in public elementary schools.