Supporting Teaching of Algebra: Individual Readiness 2.0 (STAIR 2.0)


In this Research to Accelerate Pandemic Recovery in Special Education proposal, we focus on math and the educators who provide math support to students with disabilities in Grades 6, 7, and 8. We partner with several school districts in Missouri and Texas, and work collaboratively with their special education teachers to increase teacher use of (a) a data-based decision making framework, (b) evidence-based practices for math instruction, and (c) formative assessment data collection to make timely adaptations to math instruction.


By working with teachers who work with their own students, our goal is to accelerate post-pandemic math gains for students with disabilities in Grades 6–8 to adequately prepare these students for the rigors of high school math coursework. In addition, we hope that by working with teachers, the practices can be utilized for groups of students in the future. We use an existing evidence-based intervention framework with the special education teachers called Project STAIR: Supporting Teaching of Algebra with Individual Readiness.


In this project, we provide just-in-time support to teachers to help them address the needs of their students who are experiencing mathematics difficulties. We do this by providing professional development and coaching to teachers working with students  with IEP goals in mathematics. As part of coaching, we utilize practices tailored to identified teacher and student needs. Additionally, in an effort to empirically test the amount of coaching needed to impact changes in teachers’ practices, we provide coaching at varying levels of intensity. Because coaching is costly in both time and personnel resources, through the work of this project we seek to examine the relationship between the intensity of coaching and the changes in teachers’ practices. However, because we intend to support all teachers in this project, for those teachers who do not readily change their practices, we continue to intervene with more intensive coaching supports.


Middle school special education teachers who serve students who have IEP goals in mathematics


Implementation will occur as follows:

  • Summer 2022: Recruitment
  • School Year 2022–2023: Year 1 Implementation (Aim 1)
    • Cohort 1 Pre/post data collection for teachers and students
    • Professional development 
    • Coaching (20–24 weeks)
  • School Year 2023–2024: Year 2 Implementation (Aim 2)
    • Cohort 1 non-responders receive enhanced treatments (intense or light coaching + peer mentoring or coaching + booster sessions)
    • Pre-post data collection for teachers in Cohort 1 (Year 2) and Cohort 2 (Year 1)
    • Coaching for Cohort 2 (20–24 weeks)
    • Follow up data collection (Cohort 1 students)
  • School year 2024–2025: Year 3 Implementation/ Sustainability
    • Cohort 2 non-responders receive enhanced treatments (intense or light coaching + peer mentoring or coaching + booster sessions)
    • Pre-post data collection for teachers in Cohort 2 (Year 2) 
    • Coaching for Cohort 2 (20–24 weeks)
    • Follow up data collection (Cohort 2 students)


Four project aims will be explored using the following research questions:

  • Aim 1: What is the effect of STAIR intensity on student-level outcomes (students’ math achievement, readiness for Algebra)?
  • Aim 2: What is the effect of STAIR intensity on teacher-level outcomes (instructional practice, self-efficacy, and math knowledge for teaching)? 
  • Aim 3a: To what extent does STAIR sustain 6 months after participation? 
  • Aim 3b: How do teachers describe participation in STAIR at the end of research activities?
  • Aim 4: What are costs and benefits for implementation of STAIR and how do these relate?


The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted learning across the U.S. and created new challenges for educators and students. Due to pandemic-related school closures and modifications, many students did not receive adequate opportunity to develop a deep understanding of mathematics content. Students experiencing difficulties with learning mathematics prior to the pandemic continue to demonstrate such challenges and many students who did not experience math difficulties prior to the pandemic now experience mathematics difficulty (Texas Education Agency, 2021). A report by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (2021) highlighted the negative impact of the pandemic on disparities in access and opportunities for students with disabilities. These disruptions likely widened the achievement gap, placing students with disabilities at even greater risk of math failure. Considering the importance of math competency for success in later grades (Davis-Kean et al., 2021; McKee & Caldarella, 2016) and adulthood (Hein et al., 2013; Kowski, 2013), there is a critical need for support for this population of students and the teachers who instruct them.