Date of Award

Spring 3-26-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Organizational Leadership

First Advisor

Jonathan Greenberg, Ed.D.

Second Advisor

Phil Pendley, Ed.D.

Third Advisor

Marilyn Saucedo, Ed.D.


Purpose: The purpose of this phenomenological study was to describe the perceptions of high school administrators in Southern California regarding how they interpret and implement specific federal and state policies concerning the inclusion of students with disabilities in the general education classroom and to identify additional factors high school administrators perceive affect implementation. It was also the purpose of this study to describe how high school administrators perceive that their prior experiences with students with disabilities impact their interpretation and implementation of policies concerning inclusion.

Methodology: A sample of participants was selected from the target population of administrators serving at the 54 comprehensive public high schools in Riverside County, California. Standardized open-ended interviews were conducted according to a protocol developed by the researcher in conjunction with an expert panel and aligned to the research questions.

Findings: High school administrators make sense of inclusion largely through formal trainings and through their own experiences with students with disabilities both in the classroom and in their personal life. Administrators implement inclusion practices through both core academic and nonacademic classes and through extracurricular experiences. Several additional factors compound how administrators implement inclusion, most notably the opinions of teachers and logistical constraints.

Conclusions: The findings of this study led to 3 major conclusions. First, that inclusion does not function in isolation on the school site and must be part of the larger transformative changes that the administrator is navigating with the school community. Second, administrators draw heavily from their own experiences with students with disabilities. Lastly, the individual leadership of high school administrators is a key factor for the success or failure of inclusion implementation.

Recommendations: It is essential that districts and schools work together to develop a system of ongoing formal training for administrators and general education teachers regarding the inclusion of students with disabilities. In addition, further research should be conducted regarding how district office personnel work with and support site administrators regarding inclusion.