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

Robert Dedrick, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Brenda Walker, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Vonzell Agosto, Ph.D.


accountability, evaluation systems, teacher effectiveness, students with disabilities


For more than a decade now, state and local education agencies have adopted high-stakes teacher evaluation systems in response to federal accountability mandates and the recognition of the critical role of teacher effectiveness in student achievement. Teacher evaluation systems have revealed relevant details regarding teacher effectiveness, especially in general education settings. However, no systems of teacher evaluation have been developed and evaluated for special education teachers and little is known about how special education teachers have fared under the accountability microscope. The study was informed by three significant issues pertaining to special education teacher evaluation: (1) the challenges surrounding evaluation of special education teacher effectiveness, (2) limited research documenting special education teacher views, perceptions, voices, and experiences pertaining to how they have fared under existing evaluations systems, and (3) the persistent problem of special education teacher attrition within the context of high-stake teacher evaluations. Special education teachers are typically evaluated with measures designed for use with general education teachers, and researchers have pointed out that those measures do not address the unique professional development and pedagogical needs of special education teachers.

The purpose of the study was to explore how special education teachers perceived existing teacher evaluation systems that are used to evaluate their effectiveness. The study further sought to establish how special education teachers view the evaluation systems with regard to the significance and ability of the systems to distinguish the multiple roles, responsibilities, and contexts within which they work.

Using quantitative methods, the study employed a census survey to solicit the perceptions of secondary level special education teachers from one school district in southwest Florida A total of 357 participants were asked to respond to an electronic survey about the perceptions of the teacher evaluation system used in their district. The number of respondents included in the final data analysis was 96, representing a 26.8% response rate.

An instrument was adopted and revised for data collection. The reliability of the revised scales as measured by Cronbach’s alphas ranged from .70 to .89. Findings from the study reveal that participants did not have a deep understanding of the evaluation system used to assess their performance, especially as it relates to how all components are combined to generate summative performance scores. The findings also reveal that participants did not view that evaluation framework as practical to address their roles, responsibilities, and professional development needs. Although participants did not view the evaluation system as practical to their needs and jobs, they had a slightly favorable view of their evaluators’ ability to assess them in a fair and unbiased manner. As a result, participants strongly recommended for a separate evaluation system for special education teachers. Participants in the study further reported a high emotional cost of stress and anxiety associated with the evaluation process.

The findings have implications for federal, state, and local education agencies and policy makers. Recommendation for future research are also discussed