Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Donald Poplau


Academic achievement of students relies heavily on a student’s reading proficiency. The college-and career-readiness reading test results of 8th grade North Carolina students did not meet expectations during the 2016-2017 school year. The overall reading performance of 8th grade North Carolina students who have shown achievement at or above proficient was 30%, which is below the national average. The purpose of this qualitative case study was to explore the instructional practices of special education teachers in a low performing school in the eastern region of North Carolina. Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory provided the conceptual framework for this study. Research questions addressed the instructional practices employed by special education teachers to enhance the reading achievement of 8th grade students with disabilities and to determine what they needed to improve their instructional practices. Practices were classified as teacher, subject, or student-centered and compared for differences between teachers’ perceived practices and observed practices. Observations and interviews were conducted with 8 teachers employed in a low performing school in the eastern region of North Carolina. The researcher’s journal also informed the case study. Yin’s 5-phase assessment approach was used to analyze the data. The results of the study indicated that participants’ practices were well-aligned with the fundamental concept of Vygotsky’s theory. Teachers also indicated they needed professional development to develop confidence in using effective strategies. Therefore, a 4-day professional development program was created to introduce high-leverage practices for special education teachers. The findings and project may inform the professional development needs of special education teachers regarding practices that promote improved reading proficiency.