School of Education


Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership (EdD)


Tony Ryff


Special Education, Educational Leadership, Competencies, School Leaders, Principal


Education | Educational Leadership | Special Education and Teaching


The purpose of this case study was to explore the educational leadership training experiences in special education for school principals of public charter schools in Washington D.C. Guiding this study, is the theory of pedagogical content knowledge (PCK), contributed by Shulman (1986), and the social constructivist theory contributed by Lev Vygotsky (1978). These theories seek to explain the relationship between what principals are expected to know and do based on leadership content knowledge and practical application, specifically in terms of leading special education programs in schools. The central question of this study is: What are the experiences of school principals relating to preparation in special education? To explore this research question, the sample includes 10 school principals from a public charter school network in Washington, D.C. The data collection methods included the use of semi-structured interviews, document analysis, and a focus group. Data analysis procedures were aligned with the work of Miles and Huberman (1994) and Morse (1994), consisting of comprehending, synthesizing, theorizing, and recontextualizing. This study was able to develop three themes gleaned from the analysis of participants’ responses during the interviews, focus group, and document analysis. This research contributes to the overall picture of school principals’ preparedness to lead special education programs. The results of this study indicated that more intentional content is needed in preparing tomorrow’s educational leaders in understanding and leading where special education programs exist. Further research and collaboration with the nation’s leading universities can build these aspects into their educational leadership programs.