Educator knowledge and skills essential for accommodating students with learning disabilities in reading
Altobelli, Joan Marie
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Teachers and administrators implement and supervise the implementation of the individualized education program (IEP) for children with disabilities. An understanding of teacher and administrator knowledge and skills associated with implementation of instructional accommodations and interventions commonly identified in the IEP, may provide insight to averting negative student effects related to failure to provide a free and appropriate public education. This study investigated the self-reported knowledge and skills that educators possess related to IEP accommodations and their self-reported comfort level and ability to implement and supervise instruction prescribed for students with disabilities in reading. To examine what is proposed (i.e., the IEP) and what is actually done throughout the implementation of the IEP and subsequent supervision of instruction, the conceptual framework of espoused theory and theory of action (Argyris & Schön, 1974) and bureaucratic theory (Puch, Hickeron, Hirings, & Turner, 1968) was applied. Phase 1 analyzed the accommodations prescribed on the IEPs of students with learning disabilities in reading. The results were used to develop questionnaires with stimulus items designed to elicit self-reported knowledge and identify potential areas of need for professional development. In Phase 2 of the study, responses are reported from 6 unique surveys that were sent to elementary and middle school administrators and general and special education teachers who teach or supervise the instruction of students with learning disabilities in reading. Information and results extracted from survey responses of 222 participants from a large, urban school district in Texas shed light on the ways instructional strategies and accommodations are documented on IEPs for students with disabilities. Standardization due to IEP development software that forced committees to make decisions about accommodations, from limited number of options in a dropdown menu became evident during the review of the data and the district's IEP development process. A discrepancy between the reported level of educator knowledge about specific accommodations, and needed professional development was found. Implications for pre-service teacher and administrator preparation programs and future research are informed by participants' self-reported need for deeper understanding of basic special education practices, obligations, and responsibilities. A call for administrator leadership for organizational change that would facilitate continuous improvement in service delivery to students with disabilities is made. Improved and targeted preservice and inservice professional development relevant to the supervision and implementation of IEP interventions and accommodations is recommended.