This paper presents results from a study initiated by a consortium of non-public special education facilities to respond to issues of accountability. Research questions were (a) How do students from the most restrictive therapeutic non-public special education facilities compare with other nationally published studies?; and (b) How do positive and negative discharge students differ in transition experiences after leaving a restrictive therapeutic nonpublic special education facility? Three cohorts of EBD students discharged 1994-1997 from seven non-public special education facilities in Maryland were tracked for three years using a longitudinal panel design with telephone interview surveys. Descriptive results are presented, which indicated that students who received intensive and specialized services in non-public education centers completed/graduated (positive discharges) at a much higher rate than national and regional averages and had lower arrest rates at the end of three years. This sample was most independent at Year 2 (employment, living situation, and related outcomes), but by Year 3, level of independence was lower than Year 1. Limitations and implications of findings are discussed.
Funding for this study was supported by grants from the MANSEF Foundation and Johns Hopkins University.
The last three decades have produced much interest and research focused on improving services for children and adolescents identified with emotional and behavioral disturbances (EBD). Studies focusing on students with EBD have consistently indicated poor outcomes (Blackorby & Wagner, 1996; Carson, Sitlington, & Frank, 1995; Greenbaum et al., 1998; Wagner, 1995) including educational attainment, employment opportunities, and independence.
While there have been concerted efforts to improve these outcomes, programs have been hampered by burgeoning numbers of students identified with EBD. Students identified with EBD served under the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) have become a focus for the U.S. Department of Education. Reports indicate that during the decade 1989-1999 the number of children served in special education grew 30.3 % overall, with a 21.4 % increase in prevalence of EBD during this same time (U.S. Department of Education, 2001).
The growing numbers of youth identified with EBD, coupled with the poor outcomes, has put greater emphasis on the accountability of service providers. In 1990, Congress authorized a new program for youth identified with EBD under Part C of IDEA. This congressional mandate encouraged the development of seven goals aimed at fostering the emotional development and adjustment of children and youth with emotional and behavioral problems (Chesapeake Institute, 1994). Perhaps the goal most difficult to achieve is the creation of comprehensive and collaborative programs geared toward the needs of individuals with EBD. This difficulty becomes apparent when assessing transition outcomes of these students. Individuals with EBD not only have a high dropout rate, but they also have more difficulty adjusting to adulthood than young adults with learning disabilities or mental retardation, even though they were functioning academically as least as well as the youth with learning disabilities (Carson et al., 1995).
While studies continue to analyze outcomes associated with students with EBD, professionals continue to pursue programs that deal most effectively with this population. Part of the debate is complicated by the federal act (IDEA), which requires students to be served in the least restrictive environment. Despite this movement, children with EBD reflect higher rates of placements in segregated settings than children with all other disabilities (Reddy, 2001). Researchers continue to argue the benefits and pitfalls of maintaining a continuum of services and alternative placements (see Kauffman & Hallahan, 1993). Regardless of the hotly debated issue of where a child's needs can best be met, it cannot be denied that outcomes for youth with emotional and behavioral issues are dismal. …