Date of Award

December 2023

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Urban Education

First Advisor

Marie Sandy

Committee Members

Maggie Bartlett, Raquel Farmer-Hinton, Elizabeth Erenberger


This single case, qualitative study takes a critical lens in examining the creation of educational equity for students labeled with a dis/ability. Research has shown a detrimental effect of inequities among historically marginalized students for over 50 years, both from an academic lens as well as societal impact. For this research, one site, identified as utilizing Integrated Comprehensive Systems (ICS) for Equity as their approach, was studied. ICS for Equity is an approach to providing services to students within the school setting regardless of the presence (or absence) of a label, allowing for academic success in heterogeneous learning environments, versus segregated programs.

The main research questions guiding this study asked teachers and administrators, from a district having success implementing an inclusive education model, how they conceptualize students labeled with a dis/ability, and what effect this has had on their practice as educators. Interviews were the primary source of data, supported by a review of documentation used within the organization. Both sources of data were coded to identify themes. One school district was identified for participation. Within this study, all teachers who have been a part of the district for more than one year were invited to participate, as well as administrators who were directly connected to a school.

A thematic analysis of the collected data resulted in five themes. The first theme indicated that early experiences with persons with a dis/ability had an impact on their beliefs as an educator, more so than their professional experiences. The second theme identified proportional representation of students with a dis/ability in general education classrooms, with all teachers assuming responsibility for their instruction. The third theme found that despite a high frequency of person-first language, variability in the words used to describe students with a dis/ability remained. The fourth theme uncovered the use of coaching and collaborative practices to help maintain equitable education, and the final theme indicated that there were a continuum of strategies used to educate students with a dis/ability. These findings provide practical implications for educators seeking to disrupt inequities for children with dis/abilities, enabling them to take steps to ensure that all children have the opportunity to experience educational equity.

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