Author ORCID Identifier


Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Special Education

First Advisor

LaRon Scott, EdD

Second Advisor

Colleen Thoma, PhD

Third Advisor

Kathleen Rudasill, PhD

Fourth Advisor

Jane West, PhD


This study explored the role of federal policy in improving school climate, and examined how federal policy, specifically the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is being implemented at the state-level to address school climate issues. A qualitative multiple-case study design with content analysis was used as the leading approach to understanding how states are implementing ESSA’s school climate measure for accountability. ESSA is the nation’s federal education law that was enacted in 2015 and replaced No Child Left Behind (NCLB). I compared states’ implementation of ESSA’s school climate and safety (SCS) measure, including how states are measuring SCS and whether the practices and interventions that are being implemented to promote safe and supportive learning environments are evidence-based. In addition to content analysis as the leading approach for analyzing data, I also applied a critical policy analysis (CPA) to examine how the problem of school climate was represented and addressed in state discipline regulations, and if the representation of the problem created advantages and/or disadvantages for Black and Latinx students and students with disabilities. The CPA approach was guided by Bacchi’s (2009) “What’s the problem represented to be?”, also known as WPR, framework.


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