New Report Reveals How Special Ed Professionals Perceive Influence of District Support/Services and Teacher Professional Development in Special Ed Classification

Share On:


Findings from the Frontline Research & Learning Institute indicate consistent influence of contributing factors of over- and under-classification.


MALVERN, PENNSYLVANIA – February 20, 2018 – The Frontline Research & Learning Institute today released a new research report that shows educators believe district support and services (66 percent) and teacher professional development (63 percent) have nearly the same impact on increasing under- and over-classification of special education students as policy (68 percent) and resources (67 percent) across the highest and lowest classification states.

Policy and resources play a key role in how states and districts structure the supports and services that determine professional learning agendas. For this reason, variances exist state by state and district by district. Accurate classification is important to the immediate and long-term success of students. Under- and over-classification increases the risk of special education students not achieving the same level of success as their non-classified peers.

“Ideally, supports and services should not impact classification rates if they reflect a continuum of services that are data-driven and focused on meeting student needs,” said Dr. Thomas Reap, co-author of the report and Executive Director of Special Education and Interventions at Frontline Education. “However, examining these factors may help educators to identify bias and determine what changes may be needed to assure meaningful support and services for all students.”

As states execute approved ESSA plans, it remains to be seen how special education equity may or may not be impacted given every district is required to develop a “multi-tier system of support.” Each school or district receiving ESSA federal funds is responsible for creating their own multi-tier system. This could exaggerate widespread variances in how states and districts identify, classify and address special education needs.

Implementing a multi-tiered, data-driven support model must go hand-in-hand with professional learning for teachers and staff. Professional learning not only supports fidelity of implementation but also sustainability.

According to the research report, the third in the Frontline Research & Learning Institute “Crossing the Line” series, special education teachers, not surprisingly, advocate for their own learning. And they also work toward greater exposure across administrative, educator and support staff teams in understanding special education issues and how to effectively meet the needs of special education students.

Administrators of special education and principals, conversely, diverge in their perspectives. Principals in the higest classification states viewed teacher professional development as a greater influence on increasing under-classification rates, while principals in the lowest classification states perceived teacher professional development as a greater factor in over-classification. A large percentage of administrators across all states perceived the influence of teacher professional development as a greater influence on over-classification.

“Professional learning is critical to helping educators meet student needs and use data to identify evidence of their growth,” said Jo Ann Hanrahan, co-author of the report and Frontline Director of Research and Data Analysis. “Educators must have the knowledge, skills and tools to ensure the correct interventions, supports and services are provided to students and be able to adjust the approach when data shows student progress is falling short.”

As we seek an equitable model of support and services for all students, it is both a state and local responsibility to assure educators have the tools they need to implement and sustain these efforts. The Equity Roadmap, culled from the research and insights in the “Crossing the Line” series, offers education leaders a starting point for surfacing bias and inequities within their local context. The framework promotes further reflection and investigation beyond the surface level in pursuit of special education equity.

The “Crossing the Line” report series is based on a survey of more than 3,600 educators in 19 different educational positions across Frontline’s 12,000 educational organization partners across the United States. The research series aims to provide actionable insights that inform discussion about how states and local districts equitably address the needs of students. All “Crossing the Line” reports are available for download here. The Frontline Research & Learning Institute will release one additional report this spring.

About Frontline Education: 

Frontline Education serves over 12,000 educational organizations, 80,000 schools, millions of educators, administrators and support personnel as they develop the next generation of learners. Bringing together the best education software solutions into one unified platform, Frontline allows K-12 organizations to effectively manage the administrative needs of the education community, including their recruiting and hiring, employee absences and attendance, professional growth and special education programs.

Frontline Education offers the first human capital management platform for K-12 education, providing clients with a holistic view of their educational organization that includes data-driven insights to inform decisions and help them achieve their goals. With award-winning client services, Frontline provides K-12 organizations with the best education solutions to activate their potential.

Frontline Education corporate headquarters are in Malvern, Pennsylvania, with offices in Andover, Massachusetts, Rockville Centre, New York and Chicago, Illinois.

About the Frontline Research & Learning Institute: 

The Frontline Research & Learning Institute is a division of Frontline Education, an integrated insights partner to K-12 organizations nationwide. The Institute is a learning organization dedicated to providing data-driven research, resources, and observations to support and advance the educational community. Driven by the vast amount of records across Frontline’s comprehensive solutions portfolio, the Institute leverages data from more than 12,000 educational organizations, representing over 80,000 schools and several million users, to reach findings and provide benchmarks that inform strategic decision-making for the education community. The Frontline Research & Learning Institute works with Johns Hopkins Center for Research and Reform in Education to ensure all research reports and analyses are rigorously-validated and representative of national data.

Press Resources:

Media Contact
Andrea Fitzpatrick

Crossing the Line Equity Roadmap

Download Our Press Kit