Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

Comparison of Students Classified ED in Self-Contained Classrooms and a Self-Contained School

Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

Comparison of Students Classified ED in Self-Contained Classrooms and a Self-Contained School

Article excerpt

Abstract

Middle school students classified with Emotional Disturbance in two levels of least restrictive environments (LRE) - self-contained classes (SCC) and a self-contained school (SCS) - were compared at the beginning and the end of a school year, using demographics, IQ and achievement testing, a teacher checklist for DSM-IV psycho pathology, and standard measures of school functioning. At baseline the SCS students were significantly lower in both IQ and achievement than the SCC group and were significantly higher in the occurrence of externalizing psychopathology. Overall, reading achievement and oppositional-defiant symptoms were the baseline variables that best separated these two groups. Longitudinally, SCC students functioned significantly better than the SCS students over one school year. However, while the SCC levels of psychopathology generally worsened, the SCS group improved overall, with significant changes in the oppositional defiant and generalized anxiety symptom categories. Consequently, students in these two LREs were different both academically and behaviorally, at both baseline and longitudinally, with implications to improve their education and treatment.

Nationally, over 40% of students classified with the federal special education category of Emotional Disturbance (ED), i.e., approximately 200,000 students, are taught in self-contained classrooms (SCC; 30.6%) and self-contained schools (SCS; 12.3%) (U.S. Department of Education, 2006). Furthermore, students with ED are commonly taught in both settings over their course of special education services (Mattison & Felix, 1997). Lane and her colleagues recently reviewed the literature (Lane, Wehby, Little, & Cooley, 2005a, 2005b) and unfortunately found no studies of the characteristics and the school functioning of students classified ED when they are taught in these different levels of least restrictive environment (LRE). They therefore conducted original research to investigate how well characteristics separated the students in the two different settings (Lane et al., 2005a); i.e., would students in SCS, as might be predicted, show more serious deficits than students in SCC in academic, social, and behavioral areas? They also tracked the school functioning of the two different groups over one school year to learn what growth occurred both academically and behaviorally (Lane, Wehby, Little, & Cooley, 2005b); i.e., how successful were the different levels of placement?

In their first report Lane and her colleagues (2005a) examined baseline differences between students with ED (kindergarten through eighth grade) in SCCs versus those in an SCS. At baseline the SCC group was significantly better than the SCS group on objective measures of achievement and discipline but significantly worse on internalizing behaviors. No significant differences were found for demographics, IQ, social performance, or externalizing behaviors. A model with nine variables (primarily achievement data) accounted for 43% of the variance between the SCC and SCS groups. The authors felt that these findings were consistent with the expectation that the SCC group (in the less restrictive setting) would have better academic functioning, but were less supportive of the anticipated better behavioral functioning in the SCC group. One of their suggestions was a replication of their study to confirm whether students in the two LRE settings were indeed only more different academically and less so behaviorally. They also proposed that the nature of the internalizing symptoms be better identified.

Next, over the one school year of follow up (Lane et al., 2005b), few significant differences in longitudinal changes were found between the two groups, although most of the significant differences that existed originally at baseline between the two groups appeared to persist (as they were not statistically analyzed). The SCC group worsened significantly less than the SCS group in broad written language but significantly more in internalizing behaviors. …

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