This mixed methods study examined how a high-poverty urban school district implemented four initiatives to support special education teachers and increase student achievement. The initiatives that were implemented consisted of direct instruction teaching methods, the use of a district-approved curriculum, monitoring program fidelity with walkthroughs, and increased professional development opportunities.
Quantitatively, the study compared walkthrough data and student achievement scores. The walkthrough data was collected from 52 special education teachers employed at the 19 schools making up the district while teaching reading and math. Student achievement scores were collected from the students taught by the 52 special education teachers. The walkthrough data compared the percentage of students making academic growth on district assessments with the percentage of teachers implementing the district initiatives with a high level of fidelity. Data was collected and analyzed between the first and third quarters of the 2013–2014 school year.
Qualitatively, six special education teachers were interviewed to examine their thoughts on the change process and to determine their needs to be successful as they continued to implement the district initiatives.
The results of the quantitative data indicated that students demonstrated growth as walkthrough scores increased in 16 out of 19 schools, specifically in the area of math. Fidelity to the initiatives increased throughout the year as teachers began to use and implement the initiatives.
The results of the qualitative data indicated that special education teachers positively responded to the support they received through the Special Services
Department and the district’s initiatives. Using grounded theory, it was determined that teachers need opportunities for collaboration, feedback, and time to practice in order to be successful.
Lastly, the epilogue discusses the next steps that are being taken by the district to support all students with their learning needs.