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Understanding the Prevalence of Students with Visual Impairments Receiving Special Education Services and State-Level Factors

Schles, Rachel (2020) Understanding the Prevalence of Students with Visual Impairments Receiving Special Education Services and State-Level Factors. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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The prevalence of students with visual impairments varies across the United States, yet limited analysis exists on how individual state factors may influence the number of students receiving services. Using an explanatory-sequential mixed methods research design, the following study attempted to address gaps in knowledge through three main research tasks. First, a national state survey collected population data on students with visual impairments for the 2017-18 school year. Second, several regression models were developed to correlate states’ prevalence rates with specific factors (e.g., state eligibility criteria, demographics, and economic variables). Third, approaches to collecting consistent total population data were explored through focus groups with state level administrators familiar with students with visual impairments. Twenty-three of the 50 states that responded to the national state survey reported total population data for students with visual impairments in their state. On average in the 2017-18 school year, states supported 3.6 times the number of students with visual impairments reported in their federal Child Count data reports. Multiple regression analyses indicated that requiring specific assessments as part of the eligibility process may strongly correlate to states’ number of students with visual impairments reported in Child Count and explain the degree of difference between Child Count and total population reports. Child Count prevalence rates were higher in states that housed a preparation program for teachers of students with visual impairments. In the focus groups, state administrators agreed that a federal mandate is needed to require every state to collect total population data on students with visual impairments. The results exposed many states in the United States did not know the total population of students with visual impairments during the 2017-18 school year. The ramifications of preparing for and supporting an unknown population of students with disabilities were discussed, along with the factors correlating to the known prevalence of students with visual impairments. Federal mandate for total population data collection is unlikely in the near future. Therefore, key factors and logistics administrators should consider for states to collect their own total population were outlined. Implications for future research were also discussed.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Schles, Rachelraschles@gmail.comras2770000-0003-4494-3900
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairMcCarthy, Tessa
Committee MemberRobertson, Rachel
Committee MemberBlankenship, Karen
Committee MemberShafiq, M. Najeeb
Date: 2 September 2020
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 23 June 2020
Approval Date: 2 September 2020
Submission Date: 7 August 2020
Access Restriction: 1 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 1 year.
Number of Pages: 236
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Education > Instruction and Learning
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: students with visual impairments; prevalence; population data collection; mixed methods
Date Deposited: 02 Sep 2020 15:40
Last Modified: 23 Mar 2023 17:37


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