Date of Award

Fall 1-1-2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy Degree In Urban Education: Learning And Development


Education And Human Services

First Advisor

Banks, Tachelle

Second Advisor

Anne Galletta

Third Advisor

Shereen Naser


The largest group of students receiving special education services in the United States qualify under the category of Specific Learning Disability (SLD) (Cottrell & Barrett, 2015). The most recent reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA 2004) was the first time that federal special education law substantially changed the way in which Multidisciplinary Teams (MDTs) could identify students as having SLDs. Because of their specialized training, school psychologists are considered to be the disability identification expert of the team (NASP, 2010a). This instrumental case study investigated school psychologists’ experience of identifying SLDs in urban schools and how they make sense of the process. This study was conducted with school psychologists who have at least five years of experience and currently work in an urban school in Cuyahoga County. School psychologists from all ten school districts that are designated as urban by ODE were solicited for participation. Seven school psychologists from six districts consented to participate in this study. Participants completed a brief demographic questionnaire and two semi-structured interviews, answering interview questions to address the following primary research questions: (1) What resources and existing knowledge do school psychologists draw on in the processes of SLD identification; and (2) What challenges occur for them in the SLD identification process. Participants identified themes regarding resources and existing knowledge that they use during the identification process as well as challenges related to their training, professional development, team dynamics, school and community iv resources, the legal definition of SLD, inconsistent application of policy, and SLD guidance and policy during this study. These findings highlighted the need for changes to university-level educator training programs, professional development, and community outreach and inclusion, as well as the need to recommit to students’ right to a Free Appropriate Public Education.

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