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ERIC Number: ED553724
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2013
Pages: 126
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: N/A
ISBN: 978-1-3031-0648-4
Academic Content and Students with Significant Cognitive Disabilities: How Teacher Interpretation and Choice Impact Access to the General Education Curriculum
Timberlake, Maria T.
ProQuest LLC, Ph.D. Dissertation, Brandeis University, Heller School for Social Policy and Management
Federal special education policy stipulates that students with disabilities receive access to the general education curriculum but does not prescribe what meaningful access entails. There is little research on how educators interpret their responsibility to create academic access. Street level bureaucracy theory was utilized to explore the implementation of the curricular access provision. In-depth telephone interviews were conducted with K-12 special educators (n = 33), special education administrators (n = 12) and state university faculty (n = 5). Three papers were developed to address three study aims: (1) to discover how teachers interpreted their role and responsibility to create academic access, (2) to understand the extent to which discretion and professionalism influence teachers' decisions about academic content for students with significant cognitive disabilities, and (3) to explore the influence of special education administrators on teachers' perceptions of access and curricular decisions. The first paper examines a theory of access as a professional decision-making process involving a balancing of student characteristics against the school's available academic opportunities. Teachers described their work as rewarding, but also as an ongoing struggle to weigh the benefits and costs of individualized versus inclusive approaches to academic access. The second paper describes how teachers reported a high level of discretion over curricular decisions, appreciated the enormity of their decision-making responsibilities, and used discretion in a context of relative isolation. The third paper reports that administrators found it difficult to define academic access for these students and assumed that it "trickles down" in an unspecified way from general education standards to students with significant cognitive disabilities. Teacher participants, however, envisioned academic access as a parallel activity, occurring separately but alongside general education. This study generated new knowledge about the role of professional norms in shaping implementation of academic access for students with significant cognitive disabilities. Reforms aimed at increasing curricular access must consider the influence of teachers' professionalism, as well as teachers' commitment to protect and care for students by providing separate specialized instruction. [The dissertation citations contained here are published with the permission of ProQuest LLC. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by Telephone (800) 1-800-521-0600. Web page:]
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Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A