Academic journal article Behavioral Disorders

Students Educated in Self-Contained Classrooms and Self-Contained Schools: Part II-How Do They Progress over Time?

Academic journal article Behavioral Disorders

Students Educated in Self-Contained Classrooms and Self-Contained Schools: Part II-How Do They Progress over Time?

Article excerpt

Students with emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD) are characterized by behavioral and social characteristics such as impaired relationships with teachers and peers, limited ability to interpret social cues and interactions, and limited problem-solving skills, (Gunter & Denny, 1998; Lane, Gresham, & O'Shaughnessy, 2002; Walker, Irvin, Noel], & Singer, 1992; Walker, Ramsey, & Gresham, 2004). These behavioral deficits and excesses coupled with limited academic skills (Lane & Wehby, 2002) make it challenging to provide these students with a balanced curriculum in the least restrictive environment (LRE) as specified in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA, 1997). Not only is it challenging to provide an instruction program that addresses the core curriculum, as well as students' goals and objectives specified in their individualized education programs (IEPs), the current practices used to monitor student progress and guide placement decisions further contribute to the challenge of accurately evaluating these students' educational progress.

Placement and intervention practices for students with EBD are often noted for their informality and ambiguity (Hallenbeck, Kauffman, & Lloyd, 1993). In terms of placement decision, there is an assumption that students with EBD who have the most severe deficits academically, behavioral Iy, and socially will be placed in more restrictive settings (e.g., self-contained) and schools (Lane, Wehby, Little, & Cooley, 2005). Yet, the veracity of this assumption has not been explored. To date, there has been only one study conducted to determine if there are differences in the academic, behavioral, and social characteristics of students educated in more and less restrictive settings (Lane et al., 2005). Lane and colleagues conducted a study of students with EBD who were receiving services in self-contained classrooms and a selfcontained school to determine if students in the later placement actually had more deficits. Results suggest that students with EBD with more severe academic deficits as measured by standardized and curriculum-based measures are found in more restrictive settings. Yet, the data on social and behavioral characteristics were less clear. There were no differences in social competence of the students educated in these settings. However, social skills were only assessed from the teacher perspective. There were behavioral differences between the groups with students in the more restrictive setting having higher numbers of disciplinary contacts and negative narrative comments in their cumulative files as measured by the School Archival Records Search (Walker, BlockPedego, Todis, & Severson, 1991). Although the results from this study must be interpreted with caution given the rather small sample size, there is preliminary evidence to suggest that behavior rating scales (e.g., Social Skills Rating System, Gresham & Elliott, 1990), curriculumbased measures, and school records data may be useful in explaining the variation of academic and behavioral characteristics of students educated in more and less restrictive environments.

A key component to the least restrictive environment mandate is that students will benefit educationally in their placement. If the least restrictive environment for many students with EBD is some type of self-contained placement (i.e., classroom or school), these placements may be justified if students within these settings show growth on both academic and social dimensions. Whereas educational improvement is often assessed via the successful attainment of goals and objectives written in an individualized education plan, there has been criticism that this approach may not provide an accurate portrait of the social and academic achievement of students receiving special education (Mattison & Felix, 1997; Mattison & Spitznagel, 2001; Smith, 1990; Smith & Simpson, 1989). Thus, restrictive classrooms may be justified given levels of academic and social performance at the time of initial placement; however, further justification must be established based upon evaluation of student progress within that setting. …

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