Date of Award

12-2012

Degree Type

Dissertation

Embargo Period

2-21-2013

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Teaching and Leadership

Advisor(s)

Douglas P. Bilken

Keywords

ators, education, inclusive, reform, school, teachers

Subject Categories

Education

Abstract

This qualitative case study investigates a school and university inclusive reform project, called the All Means All Project, and how it is understood and experienced by teachers and administrators at Kennedy School, a K-8 school in the northeast United States. The All Means All Project began when two university professors called into question the practice of placing students with disabilities in segregated special classrooms. Their goal was to create a collaborative, multi-dimensional approach to providing all students with access to rigorous academic instruction and promoting a sense of belonging through students' full-time membership in general education classrooms. This reform was an immense undertaking because it required stakeholders to question their established policies and practices, engage in targeted professional development, and restructure the school's staff and students in order to close two self-contained special education classrooms.

With the support of the district superintendent, the director of special education, and Kennedy School administrators, the university professors began holding monthly, voluntary, afterschool meetings with school personnel. Because teachers and administrators are integral participants in this process, I sought to understand how they understood the project philosophically and how they experienced the reform process practically by utilizing participant observation and semi-structured interviews over a period of two years.

Restructuring of this magnitude disrupted the existing order of business at Kennedy School and some stakeholders struggled to critically reflect upon the meanings they brought to this transition. Dominant cultural narratives about students, and about schooling, were challenged as many teachers and administrators sought to replace these narratives with counter narratives. This dissertation draws attention to the tendency for stakeholders to backslide into more familiar narratives when they feel challenged.

Eventually Kennedy School stakeholders recognized benefits for students and for teachers based on their restructuring efforts. They created a mantra about whole-school inclusive reform, "It's what's best for kids!" that seemed to sustain them through difficult days. Kennedy School stakeholders demonstrated the possibilities of what can happen when teachers and administrators are willing to take risks to educate all students.

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Open Access

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