Supporting Students with High-Incidence Disabilities in U.S. Schools

National Findings from the American Educator Panels

by Laura Stelitano, Rachel Perera, William R. Johnston

Download Free Electronic Document

FormatFile SizeNotes
PDF file 1 MB

Use Adobe Acrobat Reader version 10 or higher for the best experience.

Research Questions

  1. To what extent do general and special educators in U.S. schools report that they have sufficient access to support for serving students with high-incidence disabilities including a supportive school culture, collaboration and planning time, access to data and tools for using data, and training and resources?
  2. How does teachers' access to support for serving students with high-incidence disabilities vary by aspects of school context, particularly grade-levels taught?

The extent to which students with high-incidence disabilities (SWDs) are afforded effective and specialized instruction depends, in large part, upon the support their teachers receive. Certain teacher supports are essential for effectively serving SWDs, including a supportive school culture, collaboration and planning time, resources and training, and access to data and tools for using data. In this report, we explore the extent to which these supports are available to general and special educators, based on the results of the Measurement, Learning, and Improvement Survey to the RAND American Teacher Panel, a survey administered to a nationally representative sample of teachers. While research has established the importance of these supports, little is known about teachers' access to them on the nationwide level and about how school-level factors (such as grade levels served, percentage of minority students, and poverty level) influence the prevalence of teacher supports. Overall, teachers' access to support for serving SWDs varied by type of support, teacher role, and school level. General educators and teachers at the high school level were significantly less likely to report having sufficient access to support. Planning and release time were among the supports least often deemed sufficient by both general and special educators.

Key Findings

Teachers report that their schools have a culture of shared responsibility for serving students with disabilities, but they have less access to relevant training, resources, planning time, and student data

  • General educators were less likely than special educators to report having sufficient access to support for serving students with high-incidence disabilities (SWDs).
  • Most teachers reported that their schools had a culture of shared responsibility for the success of all students, but fewer reported sufficient leadership support for serving SWDs, particularly general educators.
  • Most teachers reported having access to staff with specific expertise regarding students with disabilities, but fewer — particularly general educators — believed that collaboration was emphasized in their school models or that they had sufficient time for planning.
  • General educators reported significantly less access than special educators to data and records for SWDs as well as tools for using data.
  • Both general and special educators reported relatively low access to training and resources for serving SWDs; general educators report significantly less access than special educators.
  • Educators were significantly less likely to report sufficient support for serving SWDs at the high school level.

Recommendations

  • Future research should explore the specific supports teachers need to effectively serve SWDs, particularly general educators and teachers in high schools.
  • Principals and district leaders should consider the needs of general educators — particularly related to training, materials, and time for planning — when designing and allocating teacher supports for serving SWDs.
  • Principals and district leaders should provide more opportunities for enhanced collaboration between general and special educators, related to issues of effective teaching and learning for SWDs.
  • State and local education agencies should consider investing in training and support for principals that would help them to improve teachers' working conditions for serving SWDs, and integrate supports for SWDs into existing school initiatives and frameworks.

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was conducted by RAND Education and Labor and supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. For this document, different permissions for re-use apply. Please refer to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation section on our permissions page.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

Permission is given to duplicate this electronic document for personal use only, as long as it is unaltered and complete. Copies may not be duplicated for commercial purposes. Unauthorized posting of RAND PDFs to a non-RAND Web site is prohibited. RAND PDFs are protected under copyright law. For information on reprint and linking permissions, please visit the RAND Permissions page.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.