Publication Date


Date of Final Oral Examination (Defense)


Type of Culminating Activity


Degree Title

Doctor of Education in Curriculum and Instruction


Curriculum, Instruction, and Foundational Studies

Major Advisor

Kelly Cross, Ed.D.


Julianne A. Wenner, Ph.D.


Jeremy W. Ford, Ph.D.


Keith Thiede, Ph.D.


The percentage of students identified as eligible to receive special education services in the United States has grown from 8.3% in the 1976-77 school year to 14% during the 2018-19 school year (Hussar et al., 2020). Given this level of growth and the myriad of levels of support principals provide for students with disabilities, one would assume that principal preparation programs have adjusted their curriculum to ensure future school administrators are prepared to support every student, including those with disabilities. The purpose of this research study is to better understand how current school administrators learned special education-related information for their role, what they believe are the most important aspects of special education, and to identify how background, experience, and self-efficacy play a role in principals’ skills related to their role as their building’s special education leader. A web-based survey was used to gather information from current school administrators working in Idaho’s P-12 school districts. Results of this study show that the majority of Idaho’s school administrators are learning special education-related knowledge and skills on the job and through professional development, rather than as part of their principal preparation programs. Recommendations are made to enhance the learning opportunities in both principal preparation programs as well as in-service professional development to develop strong, supportive, school-based special education leaders.