Importance, Usage, and Preparedness to Implement Evidence-Based Practices for Students with Emotional Disabilities: A Comparison of Knowledge and Skills of Special Education and General Education Teachers

Article excerpt


A growing number of students with emotional disabilities (ED) receive at least some of their instruction in general education classrooms. Accordingly, special education and general education teachers must be prepared to address the diverse academic and non-academic needs of students with ED. In the present study, we conducted a survey to identify teacher perspectives regarding the (a) importance, (b) amount of use, and (c) level of preparation regarding 20 evidence-based practices identified from a review of the literature. Survey results indicated that many special education teachers and general education teachers lack the necessary preparation to implement a number of evidence-based classroom practices effectively. Findings have major implications for preservice teacher education and in-service professional development.

KEYWORDS: behavior disorders; emotional disabilities; inclusion, general education teachers; special education teachers; evidence-based practices

By virtually any measure, students referred to as children and youth with "emotional/behavioral disorders," "emotional difficulties," or "emotional disabilities" (ED) are among the least successful of all students (Bradley, Doolittle, & Bartolotta, 2008; Kern, Hilt-Panahon, & Sokol, 2009). Research suggests that students with ED rarely evidence significant educational progress (Kern et al., 2009; Lane, Barton-Arwood, Nelson, & Wehby, 2008; Nelson, Benner, Lane, & Smith, 2004) and, in some instances, performance deficits actually worsen over time (Lane et al., 2008). Students identified as ED earn lower grades, are retained more often, fail more minimum competency exams, have higher rates of absenteeism, receive a greater number of office disciplinary referrals, and are suspended or expelled in greater numbers than are any other students (e.g., Kern, Hilt, & Gresham, 2004; Landrum, Tankersley, & Kauffman, 2003; Lane et al., 2008). Not surprisingly, according to the U.S Department of Education in the National Longitudinal Transition Study--2 (2011), students with ED have the second lowest high school completion rate (36.7%) and the highest drop-out rate (44.9%) among the students in 13 categories of disability. A possible contributing factor is that neither general education nor special education teachers have been prepared adequately to serve students with ED (Billingsley et al., 2006; Wagner et al., 2006; Simpson, Peterson, & Smith, 2011).

In the past, many students with ED were educated in self-contained classrooms, separate or alternative schools, or in residential facilities (Webber & Plotts, 2008). Today, more students with ED are being taught alongside their peers without disabilities in general education classrooms (Bradley et al., 2008). About 25% of students with ED spend 79% or more of their school day in a general education classroom (Bradley et al., 2008). Nearly half of all students with ED still are taught outside the general education classroom (Webber & Plotts, 2008). The disparity between the number of students with ED and number of students with other disabilities educated in inclusive settings may be attributable to the challenges posed by this population of students (Billingsley et al., 2006; Cook, 2002; Wagner et al., 2006).

Regardless of the educational setting, outcome data on students with ED are not positive (Landrum et al., 2003; Lane et al., 2008; Simpson et al., 2011). Data suggest that the aberrant behavior of students with ED adversely affects not only their academic achievement and social relationships, but also their post-secondary adjustment. Post-school outcomes for youth with ED are punctuated by high rates of unemployment or underemployment and lower wages earned compared to their disabled and nondisabled counterparts (Bradley et al., 2008; Simpson et al., 2011). Three to five years after leaving school, half of all students with ED are unemployed (Bradley et al. …


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