Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Megan Tschannen-Moran

Committee Member

Sharon deFur


As school districts negotiate accountability requirements imposed by federal and state policies regarding exit outcomes for students with disabilities, one strategic response has been to provide students with mild disabilities such as SLD, ED, and Gil with alternative routes to graduation (Goertz & Duffy, 2003; Guy, Shin & Lee, 1999; Johnson & Thurlow, 2003; Johnson, Thurlow, & Stout, 2007; Pankaskie & Webb, 1999). These alternatives made available by state policy may assist school districts to maintain legitimacy by meeting accountability targets and obtaining resources; however, unintended negative consequences may arise.;The purpose of this study was to examine the responses of school districts to educational policy regarding exit outcomes for students with disabilities. A mid-Atlantic state serving over 1.2 million students was the setting of the study.;The results of this study support institutional theory in that organizational change does not occur through coercive methods alone but also by similar responses to uncertainty influenced by environmental contexts. Significant relationships were found among exit outcomes and district context variables such as size, poverty level and reading and math proficiency. The size of the district was negatively related to the Modified Standard Diploma, Special Diploma, and GED. Poverty was negatively related to the Standard Diploma and positively related to the Special Diploma.;The reading and math proficiency of the district was positively related to the Standard Diploma and negatively related to the Special Diploma.



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