Academic Behavior and Grades of Mainstreamed Students with Mild Disabilities

By Truesdell, Lee Ann; Abramson, Theodore | Exceptional Children, March-April 1992 | Go to article overview

Academic Behavior and Grades of Mainstreamed Students with Mild Disabilities


Truesdell, Lee Ann, Abramson, Theodore, Exceptional Children


Since the implementation of Public Law 94-142 (1975), students with disabilities have participated with other students in various school programs. At first, mainstreaming occurred in noninstructional settings, such as the playground, assemblies, and lunch periods where students were integrated for social and emotional growth. Gradually, students with mild disabilities joined regular classes for music, art, and physical education. As school communities adjusted to the presence of special education students, students with mild disabilities have been mainstreamed into regular academic classes. In some instances, these students spend most of their time in a regular class and attend a special class or resource room one or more periods a day. In other instances, these students remain in special classes most of the school day and go to a regular class for one or more periods a day. With the increase in academic mainstreaming, the research focus has shifted from the socialization experience (Goodman, Gottlieb, & Harrison, 1972; Gottlieb & Budoff, 1973; Madden & Slavin, 1983) to examining the academic functioning and success of mainstreamed students (Kaufman, Agard, & Semmel, 1985; Truesdell, 1985; Zigmond & Kerr, 1985). The purpose of this article is to continue in this vein and also report the relationship between classroom academic behavior and academic achievement of mainstreamed students with mild disabilities.

Bloom (1974) estimated that 20% of student variance in achievement is accounted for by active participation in the learning process. Participation in class discussion requires (a) knowledge and competence in a repertoire of social interaction skills (Erickson, 1982), (b) an understanding of when to talk to whom and what to talk about (Green & Harker, 1982), and (c) an ability to attend selectively to information sources to define tasks and discover how to accomplish them (Doyle, 1983).

Participation in and completion of tasks may be more difficult for students with mild disabilities who typically show deficits in discriminating significant cues and problem-solving ability. Such students often act impulsively, fail to consider alternative solutions (Schumaker, Pederson, Hazel, & Meyen, 1983), spend significantly less time in task-oriented behavior, attend less to teachers when they give instructions (Bryan, 1974; McKinney, Mason, Pederson, & Clifford, 1975), and require more attention from their teachers than do average students (McKinney, McClure, & Feagans, 1982; Thompson, White, & Morgan, 1982). Because students who are mainstreamed may have one or more of these characteristics, they could have difficulty functioning in regular academic classes.

In a 3-year ethnographic study of mainstreaming, regular teachers described the success of mainstreamed students in terms of their classroom academic behavior: attendance, homework, attention, participation, preparation for class, basic skills, and scores on tests (Truesdell, 1985). That is, regular teachers reported mainstreamed students' classroom behavior in the same way that they recounted the behavior of their regular students. Futhermore, they were less concerned with mainstreamed students' social ability and peer relationships (Hersh & Walker, 1983; Kerr & Zigmond, 1985; Truesdell, 1985). Komblau found considerable agreement among teachers across grade levels for the school-appropriate behavior they identified for "teachable " students (cited in Macmillan, Keogh, & Jones, 1986). In interviews with 36 teachers, pre-kindergarten through high school, Truesdell (1985) found that teachers perceived successful students as those who followed directions, completed tasks, were prepared for class, and paid attention.

Whereas teachers may view mainstreamed students as behaving appropriately in their classrooms, they may not expect mainstreamed students with disabilities to perform academic tasks as well as students without disabilities. …

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