Paper Type

Doctoral Dissertation


College of Education and Human Services

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership (EdD)


Leadership, School Counseling & Sport Management

NACO controlled Corporate Body

University of North Florida. Department of Leadership, School Counseling & Sports Management

First Advisor

Dr. Sandra L. Gupton

Second Advisor

Dr. Susan M. Syverud

Third Advisor

Dr. Warren A. Hodge

Fourth Advisor

Dr. John Parmelee

Department Chair

Dr. Christopher A. Janson

College Dean

Dr. Marsha Lupi


Each student receiving special education services in the public school system, roughly 6.4 million students, has an Individualized Education Program (IEP) that is mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA). IDEA dictates that a team of people familiar with the student, including the parents, should create the IEP. Unfortunately, research indicates that many parents believe their participation is not welcome. While only a small percentage of parents may actually be dissatisfied with the IEP process, the cost of dissatisfaction is high, further stretching already limited resources that could be better used in the classroom.

The purpose of this study was to investigate parents’ and school personnel’s beliefs about and experiences with collaborative activities that took place prior to the annual IEP or 504 plan meeting. Participant perceptions and suggestions about improving the special education process were also explored. In-depth interviews were conducted with an assistant principal, a self-contained ESE teacher, a resource ESE teacher, a regular education inclusion teacher, and three parents whose children were receiving special education services. All participants were involved in the special education process at the elementary school level.

The study’s findings indicated that while school personnel perceive that they are providing opportunities for parents to be involved in a collaborative manner, parents do not perceive that a fully open and transparent collaboration exists. The school made an effort to generate a comfortable environment inviting collaboration during formal meetings; however, parents expressed frustration with the more informal aspects of the special education process including initiation of services. Teachers and parents identified similar concerns and frustrations with the IEP process and suggested similar ideas for improvement. Both school personnel and parents identified scarcity of resources within the school, which seemed to create a barrier to open communication and collaboration. Suggestions for improvement included access to outside support and advocacy groups to increase parent understanding of the special education process and facilitate its process. It is concluded that, ultimately, policy makers should become more involved at the classroom level in order to understand the implications of policy change.