Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

Elementary Day and Residential Schools for Children with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders: Characteristics of Educators and Students

Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

Elementary Day and Residential Schools for Children with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders: Characteristics of Educators and Students

Article excerpt

Abstract

This national study describes students, teachers, and principals in elementary day treatment and residential schools for students with emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD). A survey was mailed to a random sample of 480 teachers and principals from elementary-level public and private, day treatment and residential schools. A total of 271 (56.5%) principals and 229 (47.7%) teachers responded. Teachers and principals reported education and certification generally consistent with professionals in public schools. Also, most teachers and principals had been at their current school five years or less. Students were involved with foster care and juvenile corrections at higher rates than youth in the general population. Students also commonly returned to less restrictive settings upon exit. Results and implications are discussed.

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Day treatment and residential schools are two of the more restrictive educational placements within the continuum of services for students with EBD. The use of these day treatment and residential schools is consistent with the requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) (2004), which guarantees students the right to services in the least restrictive environment. These settings are necessary to assure varied levels of restrictiveness and meet each student's needs. Advocacy groups and experts in the field of EBD agree that a full range of services, including day treatment and residential schools, is necessary (Council for Children with Behavioral Disorders, 1994; Council for Exceptional Children, 1997; Gable, Laycock, Maroney, & Smith 1991; Webber & Scheuermann, 1997).

Specifically, day treatment schools are structured day programs that offer a combination of mental health intervention and special education to children and adolescents, as well as social and clinical support to their families (Armstrong, Grosser, & Palma, 1992). Residential schools for youth with EBD are comprehensive therapeutic educational settings where students have 24-hour monitoring and their social, emotional, and educational needs are addressed (Kauffman & Smucker, 1995). Residential schools are distinct from psychiatric hospital programs and are not licensed as hospitals (Rivera & Kutash, 1994).

Throughout the U.S., there is a current emphasis on educating students with disabilities with nonlabeled peers. However, more students with emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD) ages 6-21 are placed in restrictive settings than youth with any other disability classification. According to the U.S. Department of Education (2002), the number of students with EBD served in day treatment and residential settings has increased more than 13% in the last 10 years. Currently, approximately 80,000 students with EBD are educated in separate day treatment or residential schools.

Despite the importance of day treatment and residential schools in providing appropriate levels of services to youth with EBD and increasing enrollment, we know little about the students served, their teachers, and principals (Landrum, Singh, Nemil, Ellis, & Best, 1995). Periodic snapshots are needed to assist educators, policymakers, and parents in monitoring both the students that are being served and the educators providing the services. An understanding of student and educator characteristics could lead to the identification of traits that contribute to the poor performance of those students. For example, the need for certified and trained teachers of students with EBD has been a major concern (Lauritzen & Friedman, 1991). However, this issue has not been adequately studied within day treatment and residential schools. Additionally, the variability of student characteristics across exclusionary settings that differ by school organizational structure (i.e., public school, private non-profit, private for-profit) and school type (i.e., day treatment, residential, combined day treatment and residential) is unknown. …

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