Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Special Education

Major Professor

Ann Cranston Gingras, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Brenda Walker, Ph.D., J.D.

Committee Member

Jennifer Wolgemuth, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Linda Raffaele Mendez, Ph.D.


independent prep school, instructional tolerance theory, learning differences


There are various types of private schools. This study focused on independent prep schools termed as “British style” (Cooper, 1988 p.19). These select, independent prep schools have a long and distinguished history in the United States. Many, if not all of these schools, have stringent admissions requirements. However, due to special considerations given to certain constituencies (siblings, children of alumni, etc.) there are times when students who are accepted to the schools may display learning or behavioral characteristics that are incongruent with the original mission of the school. In addition, sometimes learning and/or social issues do not present themselves in children until after acceptance. Budgetary issues are always a concern in independent prep schools. Money is raised by tuition and, at times, some requirements may be more flexible than others. Due to these circumstances, some students who are admitted do not fit the mold of what the school may consider an ideal student. Using in-depth interviews and analysis of key artifacts, this study investigated the ways in which teachers interacted with and addressed the needs of these students in one independent prep school. Results revealed six themes that emerged from the data: accommodations, community, fit, time, communication and training. Two of the themes, fit and community align directly with the values of this independent school. The other themes revolved around how the teachers tried to help students with learning differences to be successful in this school. Implications include establishing more formal protocols for teacher discussions about this topic as well as ensuring that communication about students with learning differences is transparent from the very beginning of the child’s journey at the school.

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