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Access Type

WSU Access

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name



Special Education

First Advisor

J. Michael Peterson


This study investigated three prevention initiatives implemented through a grant used in general education settings to help students at-risk for academic failure overcome cognitive deficits that could result in referral for special education services. The prevention initiatives used since the 1998--1999 school year were examined for similarities and differences. Their effectiveness was compared with respect to special education referral and identification rates, program outcomes, and cost. Each school district implemented a unique, theoretically-based prevention initiative. These initiatives included: (1) Fast ForWordRTM , a computer program, was used to improve recognition of phonemes. (2) Instructional support team (IST) model was used to assist general education teachers with problem solving in identifying and referring children with special needs. (3) "Literacy Learning" a professional development model. Grant applications and final reports were reviewed, three supervisors of the prevention initiative were interviewed, and 61 educators completed a survey developed by the researcher. Data were analyzed by both qualitative and quantitative methods. Themes were identified to compare similarities and differences among the three prevention initiatives, including: selection, preparation and implementation, target population, components, student and parent involvement, commitment, obstacles, and continuation of the prevention initiatives. Analyses regarding the effectiveness of the prevention initiative included: conducted activities, outcomes, replication, final costs, other prevention initiatives, as well as rate of special education referrals and special education identification. The IDEA December I Headcount provided information regarding the number of students categorized with learning disabilities. Implementation of Fast ForWordRTM and IST resulted in reductions in number of students identified with learning disabilities, with Literacy Learning identifying a greater number of students with learning disabilities. During this same time frame, county and state rates of students with learning disabilities rose across all three years of the grant cycle. Two prevention initiatives, Fast ForWordRTM and IST, demonstrated reduced special education referral and identification rates. These prevention initiatives provided evidence of administrative support, leadership, availability of resources, and staff willingness to implement. After reviewing school district characteristics, professional development programs, costs to implement and sustain programs, and student needs, districts interested in implementing prevention initiatives are encouraged to investigate these two models.

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