Date of Award

Fall 12-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Foundations & Leadership


Educational Leadership

Committee Director

Jay P. Scribner

Committee Member

Jonna L. Bobzien

Committee Member

Karen Sanzo


The number of students receiving special education services have steadily increased in the United States over the past decade. Students with disabilities (SWD) historically score lower on high stakes tests, and they require considerations beyond academic achievement for promotion. The growing number of SWD and accountability measures included in district promotion policies has resulted in a wide range of principal interpretation of district promotion policies. A principal’s interpretation of district promotion policies affects the district’s high school graduation and dropout rates. Therefore, unclear promotion policies can lead to inconsistent interpretation; which can lead to greater retentions and dropouts for SWD and non-compliance with IDEA.

This study focuses on those SWD who are assessed by state standardized assessment programs, which comprises of 99% of the school district’s SWD population. This group is not considered the 1% of the federally defined SWD population assessed by alternative assessments. The purpose of this study was to identify the factors that contribute to the principal’s interpretation of the school district’s promotion policy for SWD. In addition to the factors, the study sought to understand how principals influenced their teachers in understanding their interpretation of the promotion policy for SWD, and how the policy was implemented.

The principal ensures that the school district’s policies are interpreted based on their intent and purpose. Principals abide by broad vague district policies, but they must use their discretion to interpret and implement the policy for their school. This study validates current research on policy implementation by street-level bureaucrats and considers implications of loose coupling organization theory. School districts can also use this study in understanding how to align district policy with school-level implementation.


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