Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Early Childhood Education

First Advisor

Diane Truscott, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Teri Holbrook, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Elizabeth Wurzburg, Ph.D.


The study examines how special education teachers in elementary schools respond to ac-countability measures using a cognitive dissonance theoretical framework. Sixty percent of students with disabilities have a specific learning disability with processing challenges and are expected to take and pass end-of-the-year high-stakes tests alongside their non-disabled peers (National Center for Education Statistics, 2019). Preparing students with learning disabilities for tests can potentially influence special education teachers’ autonomy, instructional decisions, and career satisfaction. Some argue that an increased emphasis on student testing is one reason for the current teacher shortage and attrition rates of special education teachers (Thornton, Peltier, & Medina, 2007). This qualitative research study used a narrative inquiry methodology to explore how mandatory state testing influences special education teachers’ abilities to meet the needs of students with learning disabilities. Saldaña’s (2016) value coding was used to analyze teacher interviews, analytic memos, and a researcher journal. Findings revealed that high-stakes tests minimize the ability for special education teachers to specialize instruction. Special education teach-ers value their autonomy to use instructional time on tasks that directly impact student achievement. Reported instructional practices appear to align in support of high-stakes tests even though teachers do not find them valuable. This study has implications for special education teachers, school administrators, and policymakers. Findings from the study can add to the current dialogue about the influence of increased testing on teaching and learning specific to populations with special needs.


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