Publication Date


DOI (Digital Object Identifier)



Leadership and Higher Education


Doctor of Education (Ed.D)

Dissertation Chair

Alayne Sullivan, Ph.D.

Committee Members

Rod Goodyear

Philip Mirci


education; social justice; social justice theory; special education; special needs; special needs students; transformative leadership; transformative learning


Educational Leadership | Secondary Education | Special Education and Teaching


Transformative leadership is a concept that addresses the impact of inequality and discrimination in schools and prompts school leaders to help students achieve despite these barriers. This study investigated the extent to which school leaders at the elementary and secondary level engaged in transformative leadership practices in connection with special needs students. To determine this, a group of elementary and secondary school administrators in an urban school district located in southern California were given a survey to rate a series of items derived from these practices. A set of interviews were then conducted on a voluntary basis with a select number of school leaders who completed the survey. Although the quantitative findings of this study showed that there were no statistical differences in the extent to which school leaders, consisting of principals and other administrators, engaged in transformative leadership practices regardless of their position, gender, race, or ethnicity, the qualitative results indicated that they felt strongly about inclusive practices that support special needs students in regular educational environments. A comparison of both sets of data indicated that the participants were generally unfamiliar with the social justice theories linked to the items on the survey. School leaders who have a better understanding of social justice and undergo a process of transformative learning will become more effective in applying transformative leadership practices to ensure the success of their special needs students in schools throughout the United States.


ISBN: 9781124826424