Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

Examining Gender and the Academic Achievement of Students with Emotional Disturbance

Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

Examining Gender and the Academic Achievement of Students with Emotional Disturbance

Article excerpt


Students with emotional disturbance (ED) have significant academic deficits (Trout, Nordness, Pierce, & Epstein, 2003; Lane, 2004). Even after identification and school intervention, students with ED continue to demonstrate limited academic achievement and high rates of drop out and school failure, with 80-90% scoring below grade level on tests of reading and math achievement (Anderson, Kutash, & Duchnowski, 2001). In two recent reviews of the academic performance of students with ED both Lane (2004) and Reid, Gonzalez, Nordness, Trout, & Epstein (2004) conclude that students with ED have broad academic deficits evident in multiple areas that do not appear to improve over time. While we have a preliminary understanding of the academic achievement of students with ED over time, the current literature is limited with regard to gender and ethnicity. The purpose of this paper is to share the findings from an analysis of the academic achievement of a nationally representative sample of students with ED over time. In this analysis, linear mixed model analyses were used to investigate data collected from the Special Education Elementary Longitudinal Study (SEELS) database in 2001-2004 to explore gender as a predictor of academic performance. Preliminary findings with regard to gender are discussed.


Serving students with emotional disturbance (ED) is an incredibly challenging task given that these students demonstrate a range of behavioral, social, and academic skill deficits (Kauffman & Brigham, 2009; Walker, Irvin, Noell, & Singer, 1992; Walker, Ramsey, & Gresham, 2004). This population includes students with internalizing (e.g., shy, anxious, depressed, and withdrawn), externalizing (e.g., noncompliant, defiant, coercive, and aggressive), and co-morbid behavior patterns. However, it is the externalizing behaviors that are more recognized by teachers and other school-site personnel as those behaviors often interfere with teachers' ability to instruct (Lane, Menzies, Bruhn, & Crnobori, in press).

While students with ED have historically been most recognized for their behavioral and social characteristics, it is important to note that this group of students also has severe academic deficits--particularly in the areas of reading, mathematics, and written expression (Lane, 2004; Trout et al., 2003). Fortunately, in the last 15 years, increased attention has been devoted to meeting the academic needs of students with and at risk for ED as evidenced by the number of treatment-outcome studies conducted across the K-12 continuum (see Lane, 2004 and Lane, Barton-Arwood, Rogers, & Robertson, 2007 for a systematic review of the literature).

Despite this increased attention on academic performance, this body of literature still needs to be developed. Specifically, Lane (2004) characterizes the current knowledge base as limited in the following ways: (a) students' specific disorders (identified versus not identified) are not clearly specified; (b) the majority of participants were male, which mirrors the proportion of students receiving special education services for emotional disturbances; (c) focus beyond the elementary or middle school level is limited; (d) interventions were conducted for relatively brief periods of time, with limited use of randomized trials; and (e) core components needed to draw accurate conclusions regarding intervention outcomes (e.g., dosage, treatment integrity, social validity) were lacking or incomplete. Reid et al. (2004) also concluded that students with ED had broad academic deficits evident in multiple areas that did not appear to improve over time. They found that nearly 30% of the studies in their meta-analysis did not provide information on gender and less than 50% of the studies reported ethnicity which prohibited further analysis of this variable.

Academic Achievement Over Time

Two longitudinal studies that examined the academic achievement of students with ED over time are Anderson, Kutash, and Duchnowski (2001) and Nelson, Benner, Lane and Smith (2004). …

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