The principal as change agent in implementing an inclusive education program

Joanne Kyne Seelaus, Fordham University


The purpose of this study was to examine the change process in two schools implementing a change mandated by federal law; in this case, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (PL 94-142), passed in 1975. This act requires that all children, even the severely disabled, be educated in the regular education environment unless this cannot be achieved satisfactorily, even with supplemental aids and services. In both schools that participated in this study, a severely disabled student was included in a regular education program for the first time. The principal in each of these schools was expected to implement this change and it is this role that was the focus of this study. This study utilized a qualitative design in which the competing forces impacting on the principal as well as the principal's own belief system were studied. Data were collected through interviews with stakeholders in each district and at the State Department of Education, as well as observations and analysis of documents. Data were analyzed during and after data collection in order to draw and verify conclusions. The inclusive education mandate required a significant shift in attitudes and practices among school personnel. The principals at both sites saw themselves as spokespersons who promoted the program publicly, leaving the teachers to become policy makers by implementing it. The program was implemented within the existing school organizational structure. Adaptations and minor adjustments were made by a small number of individuals in order to maintain the status quo for the majority of students and teachers. As a result, the responsibility for severely disabled students remained with special education personnel. The forces that enhanced change during the implementation of the program included the federal law which mandated the program, demand by special education parents for the program, personal feelings of the principal, support of special education administrators, and efforts of the State Department of Education. The forces that significantly inhibited change were the negative attitudes of teachers and parents of regular education students, and the simultaneous implementation of other changes in the school.

Subject Area

School administration|Special education

Recommended Citation

Seelaus, Joanne Kyne, "The principal as change agent in implementing an inclusive education program" (1994). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9511249.