Placing Students with (Dis)abilities: A Qualitative Examination of How Institutional Arrangements and Parental Involvement Influence Placement Processes and Opportunities for Students with Higher Needs
Kathleen Reeb-Reascos

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



State University of New York at Buffalo

Primary Discipline

Given the unequal foundations of American schools, prime educational opportunities are not available to all students. Schooling, in early childhood, elementary, middle, and high school varies by district, building and academic program, and only select students have access to the resources and coursework that support advanced educational opportunities (Oakes, 1985; Oakes, Gamoran, & Page, 1992; Weis et. al., 2015). To date, significant research has examined the structural forces that allocate opportunities to students in general education, but the structural mechanisms through which opportunities are distributed to students with (dis)abilities remain underexplored. Invoking the work of Alan Kerckhoff (1993, 1995), this dissertation study examines how and to what extent institutional arrangements and parental involvement influence placement processes and educational opportunities for students with (dis)abilities. This dissertation is an ethnographic investigation that combines semi-structured, in-depth interviews, participant observation, focus-group interviews, and document analysis to answer the research questions. The study probes the experiences, practices, perceptions, and beliefs of parents and site personnel at three public elementary schools with distinct typologies (urban open, suburban mixed, and suburban advantaged) as they relate to the process of establishing and implementing Individual Education Programs (IEPs). Specifically, this study has built purposeful cells of parents, special education teachers, general education teachers, special education coordinators, school Psychologists, and building administrators at each site. Through this research, we will better understand how placement and educational opportunities for students with (dis)abilities are distributed through structural mechanisms and institutional arrangements.
About Kathleen Reeb-Reascos
Kathleen is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Educational Leadership and Policy Department at the University at Buffalo. As a doctoral student in the Educational Culture, Policy, and Society Program, she has cultivated her research focus through the interdisciplinary study of educational equity, access, and opportunity. Katie's broad research aims seek to better understand the interplay among class, race, and ability as informed by the field of the sociology of education. Her dissertation work specifically examines the structures, institutions, and systems that undergird educational opportunities and pathways for students with (dis)abilities. While at UB, Katie has worked as a research assistant and adjunct instructor. She holds a Master's of Education in Educational Studies ? Learning and Instruction from the University at Buffalo, as well as a Bachelor's of Science in Journalism and Spanish from Middle Tennessee State University. Prior to enrolling at UB, Katie spent five years teaching English abroad in Costa Rica, South Korea, and Ecuador. Outside of the university, she has the privilege of raising two spirited young boys, Jackson and Roman, as well as experiencing life with her husband, Nico.

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