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Dr. Laura Bray


Assistant Professor of Education


Educational Psychology, Counseling, and Special Education


Special Education

Other Penn State Affiliations

Associate Director of Parents and Children Together (PACT), Faculty Affiliate of the Child Study Center (CSC), PSU Graduate Council Member: Elected for 2020-2021 and 2021-2022


My research draws from various theoretical frameworks and mixed methods to examine issues of educational practice and policy pertaining to children with disabilities and their families. My work aims to understand and attend to complex issues, which demand insights into the interconnectedness of the actions, beliefs, and artifacts of different stakeholders, organizations, and institutions. While my research interests are diverse in nature, they speak to the nuanced and multifaceted ways that people, learning, resources, institutions, and policy impact one another.

I am currently involved in four distinct threads of research involving special education policy and practice.

1. Implementation of Policy and Reform Initiatives: This work explores how schools implement Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and the role of school administrators in supporting inclusive reform. I am also designing interventions to improve the implementation of IEPs and inclusive reform. 

2. Pre-Service and Teacher Training: I am examining the development of special education teachers' professional identities, as well as the influence of learning environments on these identities.

3. Policy Formation: In this work, I examining the role of system and nonsystem actors in the reauthorization of special education legislation.

4. Families' Access to Support: This research explores how to support families who have a child identified with a disability. I am also designing interventions to better connect families to resources, as well as training them in the implementation of evidence-based practices. 

Courses Taught

SPLED 520: Current Trends and Issues in Special Education

SPLED 521: Capstone Seminar in Special Education

SPLED 525: Teaching Learners with Disabilities in Inclusive Settings

SPLED 573: Introduction to Research in Special Education

SPLED 596: Staff Development and Change in Special Education

Office Hours

Tuesdays and Thursdays 9:30-10:30 am EST and by appointment. 

Education History

Ph.D. University of Pittsburgh (2014), M.Ed. Chestnut Hill College (2008), B.A. The College of New Jersey (2005)

Representative Publications

Stelitano, L., Russell, J. L., & Bray, L. E. (2020). Organizing for meaningful inclusion: Exploring the routines that shape student supports in secondary schools. American Educational Research Journal

Hoffman, K. E., Bray, L. E., McKinnon, K., & Riccomini, P. J. (2019). Creating and sustaining an online graduate program. In A. Markelz, (Ed.), TED 2019 Conference Proceedings: Unmask Your Potential (pp 97-101). Teacher Education Division of the Council for Exceptional Children, New Orleans, LA.

Lewis, M. M., & Bray, L. E. (2019). A call for amicus briefs as a means to influence special education policy: Lessons learned from Endrew F. Journal of Disability Policy Studies,

Bray, L. E., & Russell, J. L. (2018). The dynamic interaction between institutional pressures and activity: An examination of the implementation of IEPs in secondary inclusive settings. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis,

Sinclair, A.C., Bray, L. E., Wei, Y., Clancy, E., Wexler, J., Lemons, C., & Kerns, D. (2018). Coteaching in content area classrooms: Lessons and guiding questions for administrators. NASSP Bulletin

Bray, L. E., & Russell, J. L. (2016). Going off script: Structure and agency in individualized education program meetings. American Journal of Education,

Bray, L. E., Mrachko, A., & Lemons, C. (2014). Standardized writing opportunities:  A case study of writing instruction in inclusive classrooms. Teachers College Record, 116(6).

Russell, J. L., & Bray, L. E. (2013). Crafting coherence from complex policy messages: Educators’ perceptions of special education and standards-based accountability policies. Education Policy Analysis Archives