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«By ELIZABETH A. FILIPPI A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR ...»

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NEGOTIATING THE ROLE OF SPECIAL EDUCATION TEACHER IN THE CONTEXT

OF ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS

By

ELIZABETH A. FILIPPI

A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL

OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT

OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF

DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA

2013 1 © 2013 Elizabeth A. Filippi 2 To my children Katherine Alexandra, Andrew Jacob, Ian Michael, and to the memory of my son Adrian Rhys 3

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

This journey was shared by many and to many I owe great thanks. First I would like to thank the three special education teachers who shared their stories and their so very precious time with me.

I am sincerely grateful to my committee members. I am deeply appreciative of the opportunity to work with Dr. Jean Crockett, my guide on this journey, my mentor, and sage. Her patient wisdom and expertise have been invaluable gifts. I wish to thank Dr. Mary Brownell and Dr. James McLeskey for their guidance. I value the opportunities I have had to learn from them through coursework and conversation. I thank Dr. Nancy Dana for her willingness to come on board and for the clarity of thought she brings.

I would like to acknowledge Dr David Quinn, for his work with Dr. Crockett on Project EXCEL, and for his early participation on my committee. I am appreciative of Dr. Mary Kay Dykes who introduced me to Dr. Crockett, setting me on this course, and of Dr. Mirka Koro-Ljungberg for sharing her love of qualitative research.

I am grateful to the principals and supervisors who have allowed flexibility in my work, Jerry Douglas, Kim Neal, and Doris Ann Imler. Thank you to the many friends at Archer, and to my newer colleagues, who have given their support and encouragement.

I appreciate the assistance of Kathy Black and Jan Benet in the District Exceptional Student Education office.

The faculty and staff of the School of Special Education, School Psychology, and Early Childhood Studies at the University of Florida have been warm and generous from the first. I particularly wish to thank Dr. Erica McCray for standing in, Dr. Penny Cox for teaching opportunities, and Michell York, Shaira Rivas-Otero, and Vicki Tucker for their patience and kindness. It has been a delight to get to know my cohorts in the doctoral 4 program, in Gainesville and in Naples. To Cheryl Morgan and Dr. Mary Ann Steinberg, thank you, my friends.

I have been given the greatest of gifts in life, in my family and friends. This journey began as I watched my father, Dr. Milton E. Howard type his dissertation at the kitchen table of my childhood home. He and my mother, Mary Ann E. Howard, taught me the value of hard work, persistence, love of learning, and unconditional love. I am forever grateful for my friend Diana S. Shelley and her unyielding belief in me. I cherish the gift of my children, for all they have taught me, and for their faithful support. Katie, Drew, and Ian, you are remarkable individuals, as was your brother, Adrian. Finally, I thank with all my heart, my husband, Bob, who has traveled so many roads with me.

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

LIST OF TABLES

LIST OF FIGURES

LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS

Abstract

CHAPTER 1 THE PROBLEM

Introduction

The Changing Context of Special Education

The Changing Roles of Special Education Teachers

The Changing Conditions of Service Delivery

Why This Problem Needs to be Studied

Purpose of the Study

Research Questions

Theoretical Framework

Overview of Methods

Delimitations/Limitations/Assumptions

Definitions

Significance of the Study

Overview of the Dissertation

2 REVIEW OF RELATED RESEARCH

Policy Regarding the Role of the Special Education Teacher

IDEA and the Special Education Teacher

ESEA and the Special Education Teacher

Florida Regulations for Exceptional Student Education Teachers

School District Policy Regarding Exceptional Student Education Teachers..... 34 State and Local Directives for Tiered Support

Literature Informing the Role of the Special Education Teacher

History of the Special Educators’ Role

Envisioning the Role of the Special Education Teacher

The Intersection of Governance and Guidance

Context of Special Education Teaching

Examining the Role of Special Education Teacher in Context

Role Expectations for Novice Teachers

Resource Specialist to Inclusion Specialist

6 Special Education Teaching Within an RtI Framework

Teachers’ Use of Time

Special Education Teacher Leadership

Synthesis of Studies

Theory of Planned Behavior

3 METHODOLOGY

Assumptions and Rationale for a Qualitative Design

Procedures

The Setting

The Participants

Assurance of Confidentiality





Issues of Entry, Ethics and Subjectivity

Data Collection Procedures

Means of Collecting Data

In-Depth Interview Procedures and Protocols

Observation Procedures

Document Data Collection and Review

Data Analysis Procedures

Data Management

Description of Analytic Techniques

Time Line

Resources Used

Addressing Quality

Credibility

Transferability

Dependability

The Qualitative Narrative

4 TEACHER PROFILES

Features Common to the Schools

Profile of Annie McNamara

Annie’s Context

Special Education at Milton Elementary

Assignment

Annie McNamara and the Theory of Planned Behavior

Attitudes about the Teaching Special Education

Subjective Norm

Perceived Behavioral Control

How Annie Enacts Her Role

Profile of Emma Kelley

Emma’s Context

Special Education at Harding Elementary

Assignment

Emma Kelley and the Theory of Planned Behavior

7 Attitudes about Teaching Special Education

Subjective Norm

Perceived Behavioral Control

How Emma Enacts Her Role

Profile of Karen Phelps

Karen’s Context

Special Education at Thomas Paine Elementary

Assignment

Karen Phelps and the Theory of Planned Behavior

Attitudes about Teaching Special Education

Subjective Norm

Perceived Behavioral Control

How Karen Enacts Her Role

5 CROSS CASE ANALYSIS

Being a Special Educator in a Multi-tiered Context

Influences that Guide the Work of SETs

Attitudes about Teaching Special Education

Inner Drive

Commitment to the Profession of Special Education

Learner Focus

Time Consciousness

Summary and Discussion

Others’ Expectations of Special Educators

Legitimacy of the Role

Continued Need for Advocacy

Summary and Discussion

Perceived Control in Teaching Special Education

Adapting to the Context

Making Personal Choices

Summary and Discussion

Role Enactment

Problem Solver

Collaborator

Leader

Summary and Discussion

Further Discussion Related to Policy and Practice

6 CONCLUSIONS, IMPLICATIONS, RECOMMENDATIONS

Limitations and Delimitations

Conclusions

The Role of the Special Educator and Collaboration

The Role of the Special Educator and Assessment

The Role of the Special Educator and Instructional Delivery

The Role of the Special Educator and Individualized Education Planning...... 199 8 The Role of the Special Educator and Professional Focus

The Role of the Special Educator and Professional Development................. 200 Implications for Practice: Areas that Need Critical Attention

Opportunities for SETs to Provide Instruction

Opportunities for Students to Learn

Opportunities for Professional Development

Opportunities for Systemic Supports for Inclusive Instruction

Recommendations for Future Research

APPENDIX A DISTRICT SPECIAL EDUCATION TEACHER JOB DESCRIPTION

B PARTICIPANT CONTACT INFORMATION

C INFORMED CONSENT

D PARTICIPANT INTERVIEW 1

E PARTICIPANT INTERVIEW 2

F PARTICIPANT INTERVIEW 3

G SPECIAL EDUCATORS’ REPORTED TASKS AND RESPONSIBILITIES........... 221 LIST OF REFERENCES

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

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3-1 School Enrollments

3-2 Descriptive Information of Participants

5-1 Influences that Guide Special Educators’ Work

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2-1 Five contemporary role areas for special educators in multilevel instruction...... 73 2-2 Three instructional levels within multi-tiered instructional programming for all learners.

2-3 Florida’ Response to Instruction/Intervention Model.

2-4 Diagram of the Theory of Planned Behavior as related to special education teaching.

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ARRA American Recovery and Reinvestment Act BD Behavior Disorders CEC Council for Exceptional Children ESE Exceptional Student Education ESEA Elementary and Secondary Education Act DAC Data Accountability Center FAPE Free and Appropriate Public Education FCIM Florida Continuous Improvement Model FLDOE Florida Department of Education FRL Free or Reduced price Lunch GET General Education Teacher IDEA Individuals with Disabilities Education Act IEP Individual Education Plan LD Learning Disabilities LRE Least Restrictive Environment MTSS Multi-tiered Systems of Support NBPTS National Board for Professional Teaching Standards NCLB No Child Left Behind OSEP Office of Special Education Programs PBS Positive Behavioral Support RtI Response to Intervention

–  –  –

SWPBS School Wide Model of Positive Behavioral Supports TFS Teacher Follow Up Survey TPB Theory of Planned Behavior VAM Value Added Model

–  –  –

Chair: Jean B. Crockett Major: Special Education Ambiguity surrounds the role of the special education teacher in contemporary elementary schools, where multi-tiered systems of supports have emerged as a prevalent organizational structure. The purpose of this case study was to explore how special education teachers in elementary schools understand, explain, and enact their roles. Policies that govern and literature that informs special education teaching were reviewed. Three experienced elementary special education teachers serving students with disabilities who are included in general education classrooms for the majority of the school day were interviewed and observed to gain insight into their work lives. Special educator role expectations, responsibilities, and decision making regarding role enactment were examined using a three interview format proposed by Seidman (2006).

Interview questions drew on the theory of planned behavior (Ajzen, 1991) to uncover participants’ attitudes toward special education teaching, social norms surrounding special educators’ roles, and perceived control over enactment of special educators’ roles. The study took place within one medium sized school district that has implemented multi-tiered frameworks for student supports in all schools. Findings suggested that the use of a multi-tiered framework for instruction and intervention in

–  –  –

educators’ role related decision making. Emergent themes indicate that these educators were driven internally to pursue and remain in special education careers.

They demonstrated commitment to the field of special education and a learner-centered focus; they also felt an urgency regarding the scarcity of instructional time. These special educators believed colleagues within their school communities regarded their roles as legitimate, yet were conscious that others had multiple and varied expectations of them. Consequently, they saw a continued need to advocate for students with special education needs within their schools. Many aspects of their work were not within their control, so these special educators were flexible, continually adapting to their environment, exerting control where they could. In explaining the ways in which they enacted their roles in the context of multi-tiered systems of support, they described the importance of special education teachers as problem-solvers, collaborators, and leaders of instruction for elementary students with disabilities, and others who struggle to learn.

–  –  –

Early on an April morning, outside a large ballroom at the 2011 national convention of the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), the doors were closed and locked. Disappointed would-be attendees were turned away from the meeting inside, informed that the room had reached capacity and fire codes restricted further entry.

What was inside that was in such demand? Those of us who had arrived earlier were privileged to hear approximately two dozen of America’s preeminent scholars and advocates discuss their views of what the future of special education and special education teaching should be. That this round table discussion and a similarly focused town hall meeting the evening before were both filled to capacity revealed both scholarly and grassroots awareness that the role of the special education teacher in today’s schools is a topic of import. In January, 2011, Douglas Fuchs called for “a collective rethinking of special education and the role of special educators in our nation’s schools” (The Brookings Institution, p.9). The concern about special educators’ jobs is not new.

It has been more than a decade since a special task force of CEC (2000) reported the need for clearly defined roles for special educators. In 2011 the role of the special education teacher (SET) remains unclear.



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