Date of Award

Spring 2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Educational Leadership


The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act 1997 (IDEA), No Child Left Behind Act 2001 (NCLB), and Every Child Succeeds Act 2015 (ESSA) has changed how public schools adapt to standards and accountability systems for all students, including students with mild-to-significant cognitive disabilities. Federal legislation has changed the focus of teaching and learning since the implementation of NCLB. This movement has altered the way students with disabilities are compared to their same-age peers.

High-stakes testing has generated numerous challenges for educators, administrators, parents, and students across the nation. Increased pressure has been placed on schools to achieve Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), based on participation and proficiency rates in English language arts and math for all students, including students disabilities.

The purpose of this study was to understand how North Dakota general education teachers were adapting to the federal legislative requirements that high-stakes testing placed on curriculum and instructional practices for students with disabilities. NCLB not only mandated access to general education curriculum for students with disabilities during high-stakes testing, but it also held students with disabilities to higher standards.

The study findings indicated that teachers felt pressured into making instructional decisions based on high-stakes testing. As a consequence, teachers were spending more time on test preparation, students with disabilities were exposed to a less rigorous curriculum, teachers felt less in control of making decisions regarding curriculum and instructional practices in their classrooms, and teachers were unable to deploy strategies that supported Universal Design of Learning.