Establishing the level playing field: Implementation of Section 504, Rehabilitation Act of 1973

Virginia Marie Hurley, Fordham University


Research indicates that implementation of public policy creates conditions for institutional and individual change. Within the context of change theory, this study focused on implementation relative to the change process, professional practice, and leadership. It considered the roles and perceptions of certified staff involved in implementing policy, designing, planning, and delivering accommodations for students with handicapping conditions. Pressure from citizens groups combined with information from cognitive neuroscience increased the numbers of students protected under Section 504, influencing traditional, successful schools to consider improving access to learning for all. This qualitative single-case study was conducted in a metropolitan suburban high school, over a period of 2 years, using the constant comparative method, with interviews, document reviews, and observations for triangulation of the findings. Purposive nonprobability sampling of certified staff was used. Conclusions indicated (a) legislative policy alone is less effective for sustained change, (b) an ethic of caring better supports change implementation, (c) change requires a confluence of supportive circumstance, (d) cognitive neuroscience research supports change in instructional practice, (e) peer and leader coaching models support instructional change, (f) change requires top-down sponsorship and material resources, and (g) change leadership is a balance between hierarchical and facilitative models. Several implications emerged. Leaders need to (a) gain more in-depth knowledge of the law related to students with disabilities, and (b) provide coaching and professional development addressing differentiation of instruction. School policy makers should consider cognitive neuroscience research on (a) alternative schedules, assignments, and assessments; (b) curriculum development; (c) teaming; and (d) use of resources and partnerships. Recommendations for future research included: (a) comparative studies in academically successful and unsuccessful sites, (b) similar regional economic and achievement sites, (c) parents and students as key informants, (d) scaffolding and monitoring interventions, (e) cognitive coaching, and (f) realignment of time and resources.

Subject Area

School administration|Occupational psychology|Cognitive therapy|Special education

Recommended Citation

Hurley, Virginia Marie, "Establishing the level playing field: Implementation of Section 504, Rehabilitation Act of 1973" (2001). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3003024.