Project STAIR

Project STAIR: Supporting Teaching of Algebra: Individualization and Reasoning


The long-term goal of this model demonstration is to contribute empirical evidence on the effectiveness of a system of instructional practices for supporting the algebra-readiness of middle school students with specific learning disabilities in mathematics. In this system, three theoretical and practical frameworks intersect, including (1) the process of data-based individualization (DBI), (2) the principles of explicit and systematic instruction, and (3) key components of algebra-readiness. Individually, each framework is evidence based for improving outcomes for students with disabilities. However, this project seeks to amplify previous evidence of effectiveness by integrating these frameworks into a coordinated system of professional learning and practice that focuses on fidelity of implementation and sustainability. DBI integrates assessment and instructional design principles to create individualized, responsive intervention for students with persistent learning needs.


U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs (Tech. Assist. and Dissem. to Improve Services and Results for Children with Disabilities)



Dr. Erica Lembke at the University of Missouri

Dr. Sarah Powell at the University of Texas, Austin

Principal Investigator

PI: Dr. Leanne Ketterlin Geller


In this project, DBI serves as the overarching approach for addressing individual student’s needs when learning algebra by (1) identifying students’ misconceptions and errors in key algebraic concepts, (2) using evidence-based elements of explicit and systematic instruction to support students’ learning, and (3) integrating principles of culturally responsive assessment and instruction. School-based educators will develop capacity to implement these practices through professional development and coaching. The intended outcome of this project is improved algebraic reasoning and overall mathematics achievement for middle school students with disabilities. There are three major aims of this project: (a) develop and iteratively refine a framework for integrating three evidence-based practices, (b) establish an implementation process that focuses on professional learning, fidelity of implementation, and sustainability of effective practices, and (c) develop and disseminate easily accessible training materials.


A multi-faceted evaluation approach will be implemented to assess the impact on algebra-readiness and overall mathematics performance for MS students with disabilities including quasi-experimental research designs, single-case designs, and social validity studies. Four types of measures will be used. Teachers will be administered survey instruments and participate in focus groups to determine the feasibility and social validity of the professional learning experiences. Classroom observations, using fidelity and instructional quality measures, will also be used to revise the program. Proximal measures of algebra-readiness and a distal measure (standardized mathematics achievement test) will be used to examine the outcomes for students with disabilities. Social validity instruments will also be utilized for students and administrators. Descriptive data from teacher surveys, classroom observations, and student mathematics performance will be used to iteratively revise the program, to determine feasibility, and to examine the potential impact on student mathematics achievement. Focus group data will be analyzed qualitatively and will be used to refine the program. Correlation and other strength of association methods will be used to test hypotheses related to implementation fidelity and quality of teacher-student instructional interactions.


We anticipate that Project STAIR will result in improvements to teachers’ preparation and implemention of data-based individualization for middle school mathematics students. In turn, implementing data-based individualization will support student achievement and lead to greater gains in students’ algebraic reasoning.