Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



College of Education and Human Services


Special Education

Committee Chair

Barbara Ludlow

Committee Co-Chair

Malayna Bernstein

Committee Member

Toni DeVore

Committee Member

Cathy Galyon-Keramidas

Committee Member

Daniel Hursh

Committee Member

Ann Richards


Instructional leadership is the most important responsibility of today's principal, and no other group of students is in need of an effective instructional leader more than students with disabilities. Effective instructional leaders, especially for students with disabilities, create a supportive learning environment and school culture that promotes the education of all students. Furthermore, effective instructional leaders are knowledgeable of effective instructional strategies and promote the use of such strategies by communicating with and supervising educators. The purpose of this multiple case study was to provide a detailed description of instructional leadership for students with disabilities in an average school system in West Virginia. West Virginia was selected because none of the five principal preparation programs certified by the West Virginia Department of Education requires Special Education coursework. Middle schools were selected because they have some of the highest pupil to administrator ratios and the percentage of students with disabilities in grades six through eight who achieved proficient scores on the West Virginia achievement test (WESTEST2) are amongst the lowest of all grades in West Virginia. Results from interviews with three principals and two assistant principals representing three middle schools in the selected school system indicated that principals have a limited understanding of effective instructional leadership practices and a limited understanding of effective instructional strategies for students with disabilities. Implications for principal preparation programs, professional development, and future research are discussed.