Ableism: Refuting the marginalization of disabled students by empowering school leaders

Yvrose Pierre, Fordham University


The achievement of disabled students, despite rights and advocacy measures, has remained stagnant and insufficiently considered. The cyclical failure of these students is systemic and demands thoughtful inquiry. This qualitative, phenomenological study explored how principals of special education schools respond to federal policies of No Child Left Behind (NCLB, 2001) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA, 2004). Inasmuch as previous research on student achievement has focused on students and outside factors, the role played by school leaders in special-needs education required study. Two semi-structured interviews with 13 principals of special education schools were conducted. The study utilized critical ableism and critical disability theory. Ableism is a useful concept when individuals with disabilities are discriminated against. The study‘s purpose was to determine the extent to which ableism in federal educational policies impacts the leadership practices of special education principals. The findings followed four themes: (a) NCLB and IDEA have embraced a non-disabled philosophy; (b) accountability mandates lead to countervailing pressures; (c) standardization incites marginalization; and (d) there is a capitalist agenda. The findings show that ableism does exist in our educational system, imposing significant and chronic constraints on principals‘ practices.

Subject Area

Educational leadership|Education Policy|Special education

Recommended Citation

Pierre, Yvrose, "Ableism: Refuting the marginalization of disabled students by empowering school leaders" (2015). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3722227.