Degree Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education



First Advisor

Dr. Katherine Maguire

Second Advisor

Dr. Ric Dressen

Third Advisor

Dr. John Braun


A significant amount of literature exists on student achievement, social emotional learning, student mental health, and related student developmental needs. There are recommendations and research about best practices and research around successful programs schools can utilize to address and support student needs. However, the author found in her research that there is very little, if any, research about how school districts organize and implement comprehensive systems to support these needs and even less about why they should. The research questions explore student support services structures, policies, processes and roles as they relate to supporting equitable student outcomes. The qualitative study used semi-structured interviews with district level and building level student support services staff in six Minnesota school districts differing in size and location.

The study’s findings identify themes common to the six school districts, themes unique to specific school district bands and an unexpected theme. Themes common to all of the school district bands are: equitable student outcomes, student support services structures, and school and community partnerships. The unique themes emerging from the data in each school district band include: differences in decision making; agency and community services available; and the ongoing evaluation of consistency of services, processes, and practices in student support services. The unexpected theme emerging from the data was the disconnect between general education intervention and the pre-referral process for special education services and the connection to equitable student outcomes.

The findings from the study include a discussion of student support services in the shift to distance learning as a result of COVID-19 pandemic in the spring of 2020. Participants shared their perspectives and experiences with distance learning and very early findings of the impact of distance learning on equitable outcomes for the students of Minnesota were presented.