Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis (Open Access)


Colby College. Education Program


Lauren Yoshizawa


This research examines how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the learning of special education students and the implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in the United States. The importance of this research is reflected in the unprecedented and novel context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Never at any point in IDEA history have all special education students been simultaneously denied the services that are considered essential for their development and advancement. While some previous research has looked into how constraints such as natural disasters have impacted students, never has anything this drastic been studied. In this study, I found that the classroom alterations that special education students experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic in compliance with safety guidelines were not conducive to their learning. Furthermore, the guidance offered from the federal level was overall low in specificity and mandatoriness, leading to high levels of discretion in how to alter practice. This led to high levels of variation across schools and many different interpretations of how to implement IDEA in the altered setting. Therefore, in drastic contextual changes, policymakers should consider enacting policy that allows for an appropriate amount of discretion while also ensuring that the necessary parts of the policy will be effectively implemented in the classroom.


policy implementation, COVID-19, Coronavirus, IDEA, COVID, street level bureaucrats