Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ded)


Professional Studies in Education

First Advisor

Cathy C. Kaufman, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Valeri R. Helterbran, Ed.D.

Third Advisor

Joseph F. Marcoline, D.Ed.


This study determines the strengths and weaknesses of the Special Education Competencies for School Leaders framework as adopted by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. The perspectives of Special Education Advisers (individuals with significant experience in serving students with disabilities) are gathered through semi-structured interviews. This research was designed to (a) identify special education challenges facing school administrators from the viewpoint of special education advisers, (b) contribute to the overall understanding of what beliefs, knowledge, and skills are needed in the administration of special education, (c) determine the current strengths and weaknesses of the Special Education Competencies for School Leaders, and (d) develop recommendations for the improvement of principal preparation programs. The sample for this study consisted of eight special education advisers from Pennsylvania's west region of the Division of Monitoring and Improvement, Bureau of Special Education. Prior to the formal study, the researcher piloted the interview protocol with four special education advisers outside of the formal participant pool. The individuals' feedback provided evidence of the protocol's reliability and validity. Following the success of the pilot study, the formal study was conducted and its data underwent descriptive analysis. Results were analyzed to make recommendations for strengthening principal preparation and to help schools avoid costly litigation incurred by special education mistakes. The study offers ways to close the "preparation gap" in administrator schooling, a flaw most evident in the area of special education and one that has been highlighted by the high-stakes accountability movement.