Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Jerita Whaley


Many teachers in a low socioeconomic school district in Florida struggle with differentiating instruction for the large at-risk population; however, one school has been identified as a high functioning school. The purpose of this qualitative case study was to investigate how classroom teachers at the high functioning school are differentiating instruction and how their reading coaches are supporting the teachers in designing instructional interventions. Guided by the concepts of Vygotsky's zone of proximal development and Tomlinson's differentiated instruction, this study examined the connection between these 2 concepts and explored approaches to the creation of an instructional model to support at-risk students. The research questions focused on the perceptions of teachers and reading coaches about instructional interventions and differentiated instruction. The participants were classroom teachers and reading coaches with 2 or more years of teaching experience in grades 3-5. A case study design was used to capture the insights of 7 participants through interviews and school district public artifacts. Emergent themes were identified from the data through open coding and findings were developed and validated. The findings indicated that at-risk students benefit from (a) dedicated, caring teachers; (b) strong stakeholder support; (c) on-going professional development; (d) opportunities for teacher collaboration; and (e) effective differentiated instructional strategies. Implications for social change include increased instructional effectiveness for teachers that improve academic performance of at-risk students.