Classroom teachers today maintain a powerful role in educating an increasingly diverse student population in the midst of changing socio-political climates, educational policies, and limited economic funds. Balancing the need to support students who may have special needs to achieve their individual potential, amidst this context can be challenging for many teachers today. In order to alleviate some of the challenges and pressures teachers face in educating diverse student needs, school-based teams (SBTs) exist in many schools in British Columbia (B.C.) to support teachers with developing the necessary instructional expertise and to identify potential special needs in students. Despite the purpose of SBTs, many classroom teachers report that school team practices are ineffective and largely disconnected from the practical realities of teaching diverse students (Doll et al., 2005; Lane, 2013; Young & Gaughan, 2010). To understand teachers’ experiences and perspectives of SBT practices in the specific context of a large and diverse school district in B.C., I interviewed 15 elementary teachers who had previous experiences teaching students with special needs in the classroom and who had referred their students to SBTs. In their interviews, classroom teachers’ responses uncovered a dissonance that exists between SBT policy and practice. In analyzing their interview responses, I found three key themes: (a) The instructional recommendations made by SBTs are ineffective, (b) There is a lack of funding and resources to implement SBT decision outcomes, and (c) Classroom teachers’ professional judgement was not given the consideration it deserved by SBT members. By using key ideas from Ball et al.’s (2012) conceptual framework for policy enactment to illuminate the findings of this study, I conclude that the “material,” “interpretive,” and “discursive” components of policy enactment play an important role in revealing why tensions exist between SBT policy and practice. The findings of this study suggest that the special education practices in the Rosendale School District need further attention.
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Thesis advisor: Cox, Rebecca
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