Academic journal article Exceptional Children

An Ecobehavioral Examination of High School Classrooms That Include Students with Disabilities

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

An Ecobehavioral Examination of High School Classrooms That Include Students with Disabilities

Article excerpt

As a nation, we are currently in the midst of reassessing our educational systems and their impact on achieving results for all students including youth with disabilities. Educational reform efforts in the United States are moving education from an isolated, highly autonomous, pedagogical model to a competitive system focused on quality outcomes for all youth through new levels of accountability for schools. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Amendments of 1997 (Public Law 105-17) support the emphasis on a results-oriented perspective and call for increased attention to the achievement of youth with disabilities, during and after high school.

Educational reform is being closely monitored by local, state, and national communities as state boards create standards for graduation and the U.S. Department of Education implements a strategic plan for overhauling America's schools. In the midst of general educational reform, special education has been undergoing its own renewal and revitalization. Specifically, under the direction of the Reauthorization of IDEA, school systems are increasing their emphasis on accountability, students with disabilities increasingly are being included in state and districtwide assessments, and students with disabilities are accessing the general education curriculum (McDonnell, McLaughlin, & Morison, 1997).

Although many researchers, practitioners, and parents continue to generate discussion regarding the implicit value of inclusion, the research and evaluation data on inclusion indicate a strong trend toward improved student outcomes (Lipsky & Gartner, 1997). Cole (1999) delineates four categories of arguments used to support or oppose inclusion. Three of his categories focus on rights, justice, and needs; a fourth category, consequentialist, attempts to measure the positive and negative outcomes of inclusion policies (Cole). It is this final approach and attention to outcomes that can be empirically determined. In fact, studies show students with disabilities often do improve academically in inclusive school classrooms (Deno, Maruyama, Espin, & Cohen, 1990; Hollowood, Salisbury, Rainforth, & Palombaro, 1994; Hunt, Staub, Alwell, & Goetz, 1994; Jenkins, Jewell, O'Connor, Jenkins, & Troutner, 1994; Logan & Keefe, 1997; Wolery, Werts, Caldwell, & Snyder, 1994). Similarly, improved social and behavioral outcomes of students with disabilities included in general education classrooms have been found (Cole & Meyer, 1991; Fryxell & Kennedy, 1995; Giangreco, Edelman, Cloniger, & Dennis, 1992; Rainforth, 1992; Saint-Laurent & Lessard, 1991; Stainback & Stainback, 1992; York, Vandercook, MacDonald, Heise-Neff, & Caughey, 1992). However, these outcomes must be viewed within the context of teacher preparation and administrative support for inclusion (Emerson & Putnam, 1996).

The debate on inclusion and reform is well articulated in the literature; however, in comparison, a relatively small amount of research has focused on what actually occurs within inclusive classrooms or how outcomes of students with and without disabilities are affected by inclusion at the high school level. Much of the research examining such instructional contexts has been conducted with preschool and elementary-age students (e.g., Brown, Odom, Li, & Zercher, 1999; Espin, Deno, & Albayrak-Kaymak, 1998; Logan, Bakeman, & Keefe, 1997; Logan & Malone, 1998; Thurlow, Ysseldyke, Graden, & Algozzine, 1983; Ysseldyke, Thurlow, Christenson, & Weiss, 1987). Very little is known about teacher and student behavior, instructional practice, and classroom ecology in inclusive classrooms at the secondary school level.

Ecobehavioral assessment is an observational research method designed to assess environment-behavior interactions as well as the ecological contexts in which student behaviors occur (Greenwood, Carta, Kamps, & Arreaga-Mayer, 1990). …

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