Date of Award

Spring 3-12-2024

Degree Type


Degree Name

EdD Education Leadership, Management and Policy


Education Leadership, Management and Policy


Eloise Stewart, EdD

Committee Member

David Reid, PhD

Committee Member

Randall Clemens, PhD


preschoolers with disabilities, inclusion, school leader’s perceptions, public school principals, community-based directors


The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act is the administrative law that governs special education services and how students with disabilities should be educated. When students are found eligible for special education and related services, the law states that the general education classroom should be the first placement considered where students receive services. Research reveals that the state of New Jersey has traditionally been a state where students with disabilities are educated in separate classrooms and schools, and in 2021 the state was ranked the worst in the United States when it came to including students with disabilities in the general education class.

The purpose of this research was to explore the perceptions that public school principals and directors of community-based preschools have about the inclusion of preschoolers with disabilities in the general education classroom, and their role in developing a successful inclusive program for that preschool population. The theories that framed the research included contingency leadership theory, social learning theory, and sociocultural theory. A qualitative research approach was used and semistructured interviews were completed by the researcher to collect the data. The viewpoints of the school leaders facilitated further exploration into barriers to inclusion, support for inclusion, and the school leader’s role as the agent for change when developing and implementing inclusive practices. This study also compared the perspectives of school leaders coming from two different types of educational settings: principals in a public school district and directors of community-based preschool programs. This research is significant because federal and state regulations mandate that students with disabilities receive a free and appropriate public education which will help them advance and make progress, ultimately affecting their life outcomes. Additionally, the school leader is a key player in making sure all students, especially those with special needs, are successful.