Many teachers have faced change in the education system at an accelerating rate. Moreover, the role of teachers is often not adequately understood. Now, teachers are not only preparing students academically, they are expected to act in the roles of resource provider, curriculum and instructional specialist, mentor, coach, learner and catalyst for change. These added expectations assigned upon teachers change roles far beyond traditional educational responsibilities. As a result, attempting to meet district, state, federal along with the social, emotional, and educational needs of each and every student can be an overwhelming task that can affect fidelity of policy initiatives. A teacher’s workload can be a major contributor to anxiety and low self-esteem. Such workload involves new or ever-changing curriculum. As a result, the new curriculum can be problematic for students with learning difficulties and teachers are expected to devote time to implement new curriculum along with Response to Intervention (RTI) and Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) when needed for struggling learners.
RTI is a framework within the MTSS model for providing instruction for all students and intervention when needed for struggling learners. According to Sullivan (2013) RTI focuses on outcomes for all children and supports the idea that students are the shared responsibility of general education and special education. The effect of ever changing curriculum on teachers causes compromising teaching because of time constraints for preparation. Hauerwas, Brown, and Scott (2013) stated that few states had detailed information surrounding application of fidelity procedures to RTI practice.
The outcome of supporting all students has increased anxiety as now teachers are required to teach new subjects and identify when to implement RTI or MTSS without ample guidance. Increasing teaching loads produces teacher breakdown and employing underqualified teachers directly effects teaching because of limitations in certification. Furthermore, teaching unfamiliar topics can affect optimal learning results for all students. Thorius et al., (2015) mentioned that based on results for professional learning and development of frameworks that further examinations are needed to examine gaps between policy implementation and fidelity. Nonetheless, after teachers and students had spent time adapting to a new curriculum, new initiatives occurred. The result can significantly impact a teachers’ approach to implementing district initiatives. In addition to new curriculum, the need for teachers to have both the knowledge and the ability to teach special-education students is needed more today than ever before. A teachers’ workload can increase tremendously when trying to balance individual attention to individuals with disabilities and the needs of other students in the class.
Aron (2012) suggest reforming special education cannot be done in isolation; it requires integration with reform being made in general education. Therefore, the needs of individuals with disabilities may not be adequately met and the education of other students could also suffer. Malcom-Piqueux and Bensimon (2017) mentioned equity-minded faculty and administrators rely on data to understand the factors that contribute to inequities. Initiating inclusion policies without adequate guidance and support is a major contributor to a teacher’s quest to understand purpose in inclusion expectations. Furthermore, Felix, Bensimon, Hanson, Gray, and Klingsmith, (2015) mentioned that under the right conditions, institutional factors attempt to change institutions in producing equity in educational outcomes. Unfortunately, the right conditions lead to more demands made upon teachers as inclusive policies and expectation are translated into practice.
A teachers’ level of experience is negatively related to fidelity and the quality of implementation of the program. Unlocking and understanding the beliefs held by teachers may provide insight into equity. Equity is a complicated term with multiple meanings. Equity can be either defined as all should receive the same thing or more should be given to those in need. Equity in the classroom can take many forms, including but not limited to: differentiating instruction and materials based on student needs. The decision on who receives and how much one receives is dependent on the person and the allocation of political power. Unfortunately, those with more voice and political power can have a greater influence on the outcome. However, as the gap extends between administration and teaching and among development and implementation, so too does the difference in teachers’ perspectives. Administrators often name family and other close associations as a source of influence. The question that this study explores is how these factors, shapes teacher’s understanding, beliefs, and actions regarding equity because if the teachers do not want to change, the change will not succeed.
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