A Case Study of Federal Leadership Perspectives on Special Education

Jeannie Kleinhammer-Tramill, Zorka Karanxha, Alta Joy Broughton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article is part of an illustrative study of federal leadership in special education based on interviews with persons who served as Assistant Secretaries in the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services and Directors of the Office of Special Education Programs. The perspectives cover the time period since the inception of the HEW—Bureau of Education for the Handicapped in 1967 until 2012. A phenomenological approach to interpreting the data revealed that these leaders faced similar barriers in their efforts to implement their vision, that their family background experiences influenced the policies they pursued, that their accomplishments frame major evolutions of the field, and, that their work represents a lifelong commitment to improving education and services for students with disabilities and special needs. We believe what we learned has value not only in helping to understand the challenges and accomplishments that have passed but also in its potential for guiding the future of federal and other legislation protecting the rights of and improving and sustaining the services needed for individuals with disabilities.

Original languageAmerican English
JournalJournal of Special Education
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021


  • Education

Cite this