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Class placement and academic and behavioral variables as predictors of graduation for students with disabilities

Dissertation
Author: Liana Gonzalez
Abstract:
Dropout rates impacting students with high-incidence disabilities in American schools remain staggering (Bost, 2006; Hehir, 2005). Of this group, students with Emotional Behavioral Disorders (EBD) are at greatest risk. Despite the mandated national propagation of inclusion, students with EBD remain the least included and the least successful when included (Bost). Accordingly, this study investigated the potential significance of inclusive settings and other school-related variables within the context of promoting the graduation potential of students with Specific Learning Disabilities (SLD) or EBD. This mixed-methods study investigated specified school-related variables as likely dropout predictors, as well as the existence of first-order interactions among some of the variables. In addition, it portrayed the perspectives of students with SLD or EBD on the school-related variables that promote graduation. Accordingly, the sample was limited to students with SLD or EBD who had graduated or were close to graduation. For the quantitative component the numerical data were analyzed using linear and logistic regressions. For the qualitative component guided student interviews were conducted. Both strands were subsequently analyzed using Ridenour and Newman's (2008) model where the quantitative hypotheses are tested and are later built-upon by the related qualitative meta-themes. Results indicated that a successful academic history, or obtaining passing grades was the only significant predictor of graduation potential when statistically controlling all the other variables. While at a marginal significance, results also yielded that students with SLD or EBD in inclusive settings experienced better academic results and behavioral outcomes than those in self-contained settings. Specifically, students with SLD or EBD in inclusive settings were found to be more likely to obtain passing grades and less likely to be suspended from school. Generally, the meta-themes yielded during the student interviews corroborated these findings as well as provided extensive insights on how students with disabilities view school within the context of promoting graduation. Based on the results yielded, provided the necessary academic accommodations and adaptations are in place, along with an effective behavioral program, inclusive settings can be utilized as drop-out prevention tools in special education.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

CH APTER PAGE

I. INTRODUCTION.........................................................................................….1 Purpose of the Study............................................................................................3 Statement of Problem..........................................................................................6 Conceptual Framework.......................................................................................8 Research Questions...........................................................................................12 Definitions of Terms.........................................................................................13 Chapter Summary..............................................................................................15

II. LITERATURE REVIEW.................................................................................17 Pervasive Views of Disability..........................................................................17 Systemic Causes for Dropout...........................................................................18 Defining Dropout.............................................................................................20 Risk Factors for Dropout in General Education...............................................21 Risk Factors for Dropout in Special Education................................................22 Academic Factors......................................................................................24 Behavioral Factors.....................................................................................26 Student Perspective...................................................................................27 Inclusion as Potential Dropout Prevention Variable........................................28 Chapter Summary.............................................................................................31 III. METHOD.........................................................................................................34 Research Design and Statistical Analysis.........................................................34 Setting...............................................................................................................37 Educational Setting and Continuum of Services..............................................40 Truth Value of the Research.............................................................................41 Quantitative Component..........................................................................42 Qualitative Component............................................................................42 Researcher Background and Beliefs.................................................................43 Quantitative Component: Logistic Regression.................................................44 Subjects................................................................................................... 44 Criteria for Sample Selection...................................................................44 Data Collection........................................................................................45 Measures/Variables..................................................................................45 Academic History....................................................................................46 Behavioral History...................................................................................49 Instructional Settings...............................................................................52 Procedures................................................................................................52 Data Analysis...........................................................................................53 Interaction of Variables............................................................................54 Qualitative Procedures: Student Interviews......................................................55

viii

Criteria for Sample Selection........................................................................55 Participants...................................................................................................57 Data Collection............................................................................................60 Procedures....................................................................................................60 Data Analysis...............................................................................................63 Chapter Summary........................................................................................66

IV. RESULTS..........................................................................................................70 Quantitative Component.....................................................................................71 Results for Research Question 1.................................................................72 Summary of Results for Research Question 1.............................................77 Results for Research Question 2.................................................................77 Summary of Results for Research Question 2.............................................81 Qualitative Component.......................................................................................81 Meta-theme 1: “I Actually Want to Learn…I Really Do”...........................82 Meta-theme 2: “The Teacher Makes it or Breaks it”...................................85 Meta-theme 3: “Is Kind of Like a Normal Class…but with Shortcuts”......89 Meta-theme 4: “There are Normal and Slow Classes”……....…………….93 Meta-theme 5: “I Don’t Feel I am Learning”...............................................95 Meta-theme 6: “I Want to Become the Future of my Family”.....................99 Summary of Results for Research Question 3............................................101 V. CONCLUSIONS..............................................................................................106 Quantitative Component...................................................................................106 Qualitative Conclusions...................................................................................112 Thematic Analyses of Quantitative and Qualitative Components...................126 Limitations.......................................................................................................133 Limitations of Quantitative Component.....................................................133 Limitations of Qualitative Component.......................................................133 Implications for Future Research.....................................................................134 Research Contributions……………………………………………….…...... 136 Summary..........................................................................................................139

REFERENCES.............................................................................................................142

APPENDIX..................................................................................................................152 VITA .......................................................................................................................154

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LIST OF TABLES

TABLE PAGE 1. Schools in Sa mple Population....................................................................................39 2. Graduation/Dropout Data for Sample.........................................................................40

3. Data Categories...........................................................................................................46 4. Florida’s Grading Scale for Grades K-12...................................................................47 5. FCAT Achievement Level Descriptions.....................................................................49 6. Florida Code of Student Conduct...............................................................................50 7. Behavioral Data for Schools in Sample......................................................................51 8. Independent Variables................................................................................................54 9. Qualitative Sample......................................................................................................57 10. Qualitative Sample Participants................................................................................58 11. Demographics of Qualitative Sample Directly Quoted Participants........................60 12. Descriptive Statistics.................................................................................................73 13. Significance of Independent Variables on Graduation Rates...................................75 14. Model Summary........................................................................................................75 15. Log Regression Model Variables in Equation Predicting Graduation Potential..................................................................................................76 16. Log Regression Variables Not in Equation Predicting Graduation Potential..................................................................................................76 17. Correlation of Variables............................................................................................78 18. Model Summary of Change in Statistics for Correlation Variables...................................................................................................................79 19. Variables in Model 2.................................................................................................80 x

xi

20. Meta-Themes............................................................................................................82 21. Quantitative Results and Related Qualitative Themes............................................128

CHAPTER I

Introductio n

The national propagation of inclusion has impacted the field of education significantly (Hehir, 2005). Inclusive ideology supports the notion that every student can learn and that those with disabilities benefit greatly from increased interactions with non- disabled peers and direct exposure to the general education curriculum (Fisher & Frey, 2003; Huefner, 2000; Lee-Tarver, 2006). However, the direct impact of inclusion on school completion remains relatively unknown. This mixed-methods study investigated the school-related variables that predict the graduation potential of students with Specific Learning Disabilities (SLD) or Emotional Behavioral Disorders (EBD), as well as how inclusive practices contribute towards their graduation potential. As documented by Osgood (2005), focus on the nature and quality of educational practices affecting students with disabilities began in the 1960s during President John F. Kennedy’s administration and resulted in increased involvement by the federal government in educational policy. Growing interest in special education and, consequently the ratification of Public Laws 85-905 1 and 85-926 2 , prompted public awareness and advocacy. The Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 (re- named the Individuals with Disabilities Act or IDEA in 1990), further promoted assessing the general access of students with disabilities to a free and appropriate education.

1 PL 85-905 authorized loan services for captioned films for the deaf in 1958.

2 PL 85-926 provided federal support for training teachers for children with mental retardation in 1958 1

In 1985 through the Regular Education Initiative (REI), the inclusion of students with disabi lities was established but did not gain momentum until the early 1990s. In 1992, inclusion became part of the national school reform agenda. Soon after, the REI was renamed inclusive education, and by 1993 inclusive practices were evident in most states. The reauthorization of IDEA in 2004 and the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002 (NCLB), also contributed to supporting the growth of inclusion by mandating that students with disabilities be educated in their neighborhood schools, with their non- disabled peers, and in regular classrooms, to the greatest extent possible. Albeit its positive impact on inclusion-related practices, NCLB’s formal assessment requirements have also contributed to the problem of school attrition, which particularly impacts students with disabilities (Cobb, Sample, Alwell, & Johns, 2006). That is, oftentimes the high-stakes testing mandates of NCLB result in greater disengagement of students with disabilities since they have difficulty meeting these assessment standards (Bost, 2006). Given the relatively young history of inclusive practices, it is still unclear how it impacts the graduation rates of students with disabilities. Consequently, much discourse exists related to the effectiveness of inclusion. Inclusion advocates assert that students with disabilities have the legal right to be educated alongside their non-disabled peers (Rea, McLaughlin, & Walther-Thomas, 2002; Walther-Thomas, Korinck, McLaughin, & Williams, 2000), and point-out that the educational outcomes and graduation rates of students with disabilities educated under the self-contained or pull-out models are generally poor (Rea et al., 2002). Yet, dropout rates for students with disabilities have remained steady even after inclusive practices were put into place (Bost, 2006).

2

Purpose of the Study School attrition is a national problem with rami fications that impact both society and the individual (Dunn, Chambers, & Rabren, 2004). Research conducted by the Institute for Educational Leadership (2001) estimated that about $228 billion is spent on students who drop out via lost revenue, welfare, unemployment, and crime prevention. Individually, students who drop out earn, on average, $7,174 less per year than students who graduate (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2004) and have increasingly limited employability opportunities as well as a propensity towards negative self-esteem (Dunn et al., 2004; Grayson, 1998). States and communities where the dropout phenomenon is particularly problematic have been found to have a higher rate of criminal behavior and greater dependency on the welfare system (Murray & Naranjo, 2008). Adding urgency to addressing the problem of school attrition and finding solutions, 82% of prison inmates and 85% of juvenile justice cases are dropouts (Christle, Jolivette, & Nelson, 2007). Due to the high dropout rates, it is paramount to identify problematic institutional practices that contribute to students dropping out and to explore initiatives that can contribute to reversing existing dropout trends. Arguably, research plays a vital role in contributing to reversing dropout rates. Yet, studies addressing the experiences and educational outcomes of minority students have traditionally assumed a deficit-based perspective (Dowdy & Wynne, 2005). The same trend is observed with students with disabilities (Hehir, 2005). Consequently, researchers must make a conscious and mobilized effort to re-examine the focus of studies that exclusively expose the results of the socio-political hegemony affecting these youth, without offering viable alternatives (Nygreen, 2006). This effort must go beyond 3

the legal, educational, and economic im plications previously discussed and also include advocacy. Giving the individuals, in this case students being investigated or discussed, a voice is part of this process. As reported by Miami-Dade County Schools (2008a), the number of students with disabilities who exited school as non-completers increased by 11 % from 2000 to 2005. During this 5-year time period, 30 % of students with disabilities exiting school in Florida dropped out; of these, 29% were students with Specific Learning Disabilities (SLD) and 49 % fell into the Emotionally/Behaviorally Handicapped (EBD) category. Given that today 49.9 % of students with disabilities are educated in inclusive settings for most of their school day (Florida Department of Education, 2002), this study investigated how the students viewed, navigated, and assessed its effectiveness within the context of promoting their school completion. The literature has demonstrated that students with SLD educated in inclusive settings in secondary school had better school attendance, earned better academic grades, and received fewer disciplinary referrals when compared to students with disabilities in self-contained settings (Rea et al., 2002). Those findings are of crucial significance since all of the variables explored (school attendance, academic grades, and behavioral history) have been empirically linked to dropout rates (Croninger & Lee, 2001; Kemp, 2006; Scanlon & Mellard, 2002; Sinclair, 1994; Smith, 1986; Wagner, 1991). However, it must be noted that Rea et al. (2002) reported that their findings needed further scrutiny and expansion given the fact their sample was limited to 54 students with SLD from a small suburban district. This study extended their research by identifying the variables that 4

contributed toward predicting the graduation potential of students with SLD or EBD a nd investigated the role of inclusive settings on their graduation potential. The significant financial and legal ramifications of school attrition also require further scrutiny of the dropout phenomenon in special education. It costs taxpayers 2.3 times as much to support the education of students with disabilities (Kortering & Braziel, 1999) as compared to their non-disabled peers. Yet, the effectiveness of these special- education programs is questionable given current dropout rates in special education. Legally, IDEA mandates “a free and appropriate education” for students with disabilities. However, as trends depict, these students are 50% less likely to graduate than their non-disabled peers (Barton, 2005; Bost, 2006). Thus, it can be argued that this legal mandate is not being successfully met. The same can be concluded about more recent mandates added to IDEA (20 U.S.C. sec. 1401(a)(20), that specify the need for effective transition services that procure “movement from school to post school activities” (Bakken & Kortering, 1999, p. 360). Overall, there is extremely limited empirical evidence on the effectiveness of dropout prevention techniques impacting students with disabilities (Kemp, 2006). Furthermore, despite the fact that students with disabilities are twice as likely to drop out (Bost, 2006; Dunn et al. 2004; Grayson, 1998), the special education school attrition research seldom addresses their perspectives (Dunn et al., 2004; Wagner, 1991). As an entity, special education has typically ignored the feedback or perceptions of students when addressing the dropout problem. Despite the preponderance of studies positively correlating unfavorable student perceptions of schooling and dropout (e.g., Bearden, Spencer, & Moracco, 1989; Dunn et al., 2004; Gallagher, 2002; Kortering & Braziel, 5

1999), student input continues to be generally ignored. For example, it has been docum ented that student perceptions of poor relationships with teachers and feeling ostracized from the school’s culture, significantly increase dropout potential (Bost, 2006). However, these variables are typically not considered when developing dropout prevention solutions. It is particularly confounding that student input is generally not reflected when developing dropout prevention programs for students with disabilities; given that the premise of special education is individualization (Kortering & Braziel, 1999). In response, the qualitative portion of this study identified factors that potentially contributed to increasing graduation rates for students with disabilities by examining the problem grounded in the experiences of students in special education. The failure of students with SLD or EBD to graduate prevails nationally. As evidence, 51.4% of students with EBD and 34.1% of students with SLD drop out (Bost, 2006), indicating the need for further investigation and continuous evaluation of the dropout phenomenon amongst these student populations. Subsequently, this study investigated the variables that contributed towards predicting graduation potential in special education and solicited student perceptions concerning how inclusion impacted their graduation potential. Statement of Problem This study investigated the school-related variables that predict the graduation potential of students with SLD or EBD; as well as the impact of inclusive settings on their graduation potential. Specifically, this study identified the significance of the following school-related variables as potential predictors of graduation in special 6

education: (a) academ ic history, (b) behavioral history, and (c) availability of inclusive support systems. The first two variables (academic and behavioral history) have been empirically established as significant contributors to dropout in non-disabled student populations (Croninger & Lee, 2001; Kemp, 2006; Scanlon & Mellard, 2002; Sinclair, 1994; Smith, 1986; Wagner, 1991). This study was innovative in that it determined whether these variables also impact students with SLD or EBD. The third variable (availability of inclusive support systems) examined the perspectives of students in special education on the impact inclusive settings have on their graduation potential. Research in the area of school- to-work transition indicates that students with disabilities who spend more time in general education experience better results after high school (U.S. Department of Education, 2002). In addition, this study sought to add clarity to the research on school attrition since, to date, the extent to which school-related variables contribute to dropout rates has not been clearly established. For instance, poor academic achievement has consistently been identified as a significant tenet of dropout in studies conducted by Dunn et al. (2004), Scanlon and Mellard (2002), and Suh and Suh (2007). While other studies (i.e., Bear, Kortering & Braziel, 2006; Croninger & Lee, 2001; Kemp, 2006) have found no significant academic achievement differences amongst youth with disabilities who drop out versus those who do not. In addition, despite the fact Rea et al.’s (2002) preliminary findings indicated that many of the variables associated with dropout were improved by exposing students with disabilities to inclusive settings, no studies to date had directly examined the effect of inclusion on the graduation potential of students with SLD or EBD. 7

This study built on Rea et al. ’s 2002 research by addressing many of the limitations cited by the authors. These included: (a) limited sample size, (b) lack of generalization to urban populations, and (c) archived data dating back 4 years. Limited sample size was among the limitations cited by the authors based on the principle of generalization potential. This study expanded the sample size from their 58 to 515 and included students with EBD. It took place in an urban setting which is part of the fourth largest school district in the nation. Additionally, it analyzed data from the current (2008- 2009) and previous school years (2007-2008). It also differed in that it directly addressed the impact of inclusion on graduation potential by targeting high school students. Furthermore, this study included a qualitative component consisting of students’ perceptions regarding how their educational setting impacts their graduation potential. By identifying the variables that contribute towards graduation in SLD and EBD populations, and obtaining the students’ points of view regarding how inclusion impacts their graduation potential, this research study potentially conveys findings that no other studies to date have established. Conceptual Framework Due to the social, economic and educational ramifications of dropout previously addressed, investigating its causes must also include a thorough discussion on dominant theories that affect how students in special education who drop out are generally perceived. Several theories or conceptual frameworks were examined in order to address or explain the fact that dropout rates are higher in special education than in general education (Bost, 2006). Subsequently two dominant ideologies emerged. 8

An extensive body of research indicates that non-school related factors such as fa mily socioeconomic standing and parental education are the most serious negative influences behind school attrition, impacting graduation potential regardless of disability status (Farmer & Payne, 1992; Gruskin, Campbell, & Paulo, 1987; Orr, 1987; Payne, 1989; Reyes, 1989; Roderick, 1993; Tindall, 1988; Valdivieso, 1986; Vallerand, Fortier, & Guay, 1997; Wehelage, 1989). In Figure 1, parental education, socioeconomic status, and dropout are depicted as being interconnected.

Figure 1. Socioeconomic dropout factors.

More recent studies on the topic of school attrition suggest that school-related factors primarily and significantly contribute towards school completion or attrition, and that schools and teachers should be held accountable (Bakken & Kortering, 1999; Bost & Riccomini 2006; Dunn et al., 2004; Lee & Burkman, 2003; Rea et al., 2002). Specifically, based on the conceptual framework suggested by Bost (2006), the school as an institution is responsible for creating a climate that provides pro-social behaviors, academic success, highly qualified teachers, and effective transition services to 9

potentially increase successful outcome s. In order to foster this school climate, teachers need to increase the likelihood that students have instructional and behavioral support, as well as access to relevant content and quality instruction. In Figure 2, academic and behavioral components are depicted as being interconnected.

Figure 2. School-related dropout prevention variables.

Due to the complexity of the dropout phenomenon, particularly as it affects individuals with a disability status, it was also necessary to explore socio-political theories in order to provide a more complete perspective and encourage deeper understandings. Closely mirroring the previously discussed findings indicating that family income and education are negatively correlated to potential dropout, Bordieu (1977) contended that an individual’s life experiences are generally predetermined by the family’s socioeconomic and intellectual background. Given research findings suggesting 10

that students who do not graduate generally come from low socioeconom ic backgrounds and from parents who also did not graduate, these larger theoretical implications should be taken into account when investigating dropout rates. In doing so, researchers must be cautious not to equate poverty with academic ineptness and must consciously explore if and how the educational system functions from a deficit-based perspective, where students in special education are somehow expected to do poorly and thus potentially drop out. Subsequently, this study investigated the dropout issue from the perspective of students with disabilities who had successfully graduated or were close to doing so. Yosso (2002) proposed an alternative to theories that view socioeconomic background as the main contributor to school failure. Specifically, despite perceptions that generally attribute failure in school to low family socioeconomic background, other more powerful forms of cultural capital can counteract this effect. Yosso (2002) asserted that people’s social standing (regardless of belonging to a lower socioeconomic stratum) and related experiences can actually help them achieve as opposed to hindering them. Specifically, Yosso’s theory points toward the idea that each individual possesses  Aspirational capital–maintaining dreams and aspirations  Linguistic capital–the intellectual skills that result from bilingualism or multilingualism  Familial capital–knowledge communicated via family history or personal stories  Social capital–networking and community resources  Navigational capital-ability to understand how societal institutions function  Resistance capital–challenging and mobilizing against injustice 11

Understanding the possible interaction of the theories discussed and how they affect schooling in America can po tentially lead towards making more informed decisions on the type of systems that must be in place to effectively reduce school attrition in special education. Research Questions This study identified the school-related factors that increase the graduation rates of students with SLD or EBD, as well as potential first order interactions among these factors. It also investigated the impact of inclusive settings on the graduation potential of students with SLD or EBD. The following research questions were addressed: 1. Do specified school-related variables predict the graduation potential of students with SLD or EBD? 2. Do specified school-related variables show first-order interactions? 3. What are the self-reported perceptions of students with disabilities in self- contained settings versus those in inclusive settings with regards to support systems that promote graduation? The research design consisted of a two-component, mixed-methods approach. The quantitative component identified the school-related variables that predict the graduation potential of students with SLD or EBD as well as potential first-order interactions amongst these variables. The qualitative component consisted of guided interviews addressing the students’ perceptions on the nature and availability of support systems that promote graduation. A significant number of studies on the topic of school attrition have identified school-related variables such as: (a) academic history, (b) behavioral history, and (c) 12

availability of inclusive support systems as potential risk-factors for dropout. Academic histories that depict consistent failure are am ong the main reasons as to why students, regardless of any existing disability, drop out and fail to graduate (Croninger & Lee, 2001; Kaplan, Peck, & Kaplan, 1997; Kemp, 2006; Scanlon & Mellard, 2002; Sinclair, 1994; Smith, 1986; Wagner, 1991). In special education, students with EBD have the highest rate of dropping out, indicating a possible link between behavioral history and school attrition (Bost, 2006; Kemp, 2006; Suh &Suh, 2007; U.S. Department of Education, 2007; Wagner, 1991). Given that school attrition rates generally decrease when appropriate support systems are in place (Bost, 2006; Dunn et al., 2004; Suh & Suh, 2007), and the current trend towards implementing the inclusion model, the effects of the latter on student graduation rates were examined. Definitions of Terms The following section provides definitions of terms often referred to throughout this study in alphabetical order. These include educational terms used by Miami-Dade County Public Schools as well acronyms used in the field of education. Emotional/Behavioral Disturbance (EBD) Emotional/behavioral disturbance (EBD) is defined as a condition where students are diagnosed based on exhibiting one or more of the following symptoms:  Inability to learn that cannot be explained by intellectual, sensory, or other health factors.  Difficulty building or maintaining satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers. 13

 Exhibiting inappropriate types of behavior or feelings under norma l circumstances.  Demonstrating a general pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression.  Developing physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems.  Diagnosis of schizophrenia. Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) State mandated standardized exam for all public schools in Florida. Both student and school performance are measured based on related results. Inclusive Settings Settings where students with disabilities learn alongside their non-disabled peers, and are generally taught by a team of teachers consisting of a general education teacher and a special education teacher Specific Learning Disability (SLD) Specific Learning Disability (SLD) is defined as a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may impact the ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or do mathematical calculations. The term also encompasses perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia. Logistic Regression A model used for prediction of the probability of occurrence of an event by fitting data to a logistic curve. It makes use of several predictor variables that may be either numerical or categorical. 14

Magnet Schools Public schools where students from all areas of the county are selected to participate v ia a lottery system, except for the visual and performing arts academies where students are chosen based on auditions. Pull-Out Programs Setting where students with disabilities are pulled from their general education class and are given instruction by a special education teacher on the subject most impacted by manifestations of their disabilities. This setting is most pervasive in the primary grades. Standard Diploma Diploma option that requires the fulfillment of state mandates, including a passing score on district and state assessments as well as earning sufficient graduation credits. Zero Tolerance Policies Educational disciplinary policies where possession of any item defined as a weapon by the school system, ranging from metal nail files, to pocket knives and toy or real guns, result in immediate expulsion from school regardless of the context or situation. Chapter Summary Despite the fact dropout rates have decreased across the nation, there has not been a decrease in the school attrition rate for students with disabilities. Furthermore, students with disabilities make up a large percentage of those who fail to graduate (Bost, 2006). Among all disability categories, students with EBD or SLD contribute the greatest number of students who drop out (U.S. Department of Education, 2007). Even with the 15

high percentage of students with disabilities who drop out, the extensive research pool on school attrition has mostly concentrated on general education dropout issues. This has created a gap in inform ation related to factors that influence the dropout rates of students with disabilities. This study investigated the impact of inclusion on the graduation potential of students in special education, which was one of the issues that remained relatively unexplored. While previous studies have consistently identified academic factors (e.g., academic aptitude) and behavioral history (e.g., number of suspensions) as definite variables in the dropout equation, related findings contradict the extent to which these actually impact graduation potential. In essence, this study revisited the problem of school attrition in special education from a renewed perspective that took into account empirically established variables related to academics and behavior, within the context of the present educational inclusive models. Along with this, in order to potentially gain greater understanding of the factors leading students to dropout, this study also included the perspectives and experiences of those most severely affected by school attrition, the students. The effects of dropout transcend the educational milieu and permeate society by increasing the number of individuals in both the welfare and penal systems. This study identified the school-related variables that contribute towards predicting the graduation potential of students with SLD or EBD from an innovative perspective that assessed the impact of inclusive settings on graduation potential.

16

CHAPTER II LITERAT URE REVIEW

Despite recent improvements in dropout rates of students in general education, the dropout phenomenon has remained fairly robust and stable over the last few decades in special education (Bost, 2006). Multiple factors increase the potential for dropout, some of which include: (a) misperceptions about disability and related systemic factors, (b) the failure to provide a cohesive definition for dropout, (c) at-risk factors for dropout in general and special education, and (d) the failure to generally consider student perspective on the issue of dropout. This study examined the significance of these factors and investigated the potential of inclusive practices as dropout prevention tools. Subsequently, this chapter will provide a review of the literature associated to this research. Pervasive Views of Disability Perceptions play an important role on the expectations placed on students (Hehir, 2004). In discussing the school attrition rates of students with disabilities from the lens of inclusive practice, it is important to recognize how disability is generally perceived in education and in the broader context of society. Related to these perceptions is the concept of ableism defined as “the pervasive system of discrimination and exclusion that oppresses people who have mental, emotional, and physical disabilities” (Hehir, 2005, p. 15). Narrow views on the aspirations, capabilities, and contributions of students with disabilities can potentially lower expectations and result in a curriculum that enables as opposed to one that empowers. Oftentimes the disability is maximized and becomes the reference point for developing expectations, consequently isolating the students from the 17

Full document contains 167 pages
Abstract: Dropout rates impacting students with high-incidence disabilities in American schools remain staggering (Bost, 2006; Hehir, 2005). Of this group, students with Emotional Behavioral Disorders (EBD) are at greatest risk. Despite the mandated national propagation of inclusion, students with EBD remain the least included and the least successful when included (Bost). Accordingly, this study investigated the potential significance of inclusive settings and other school-related variables within the context of promoting the graduation potential of students with Specific Learning Disabilities (SLD) or EBD. This mixed-methods study investigated specified school-related variables as likely dropout predictors, as well as the existence of first-order interactions among some of the variables. In addition, it portrayed the perspectives of students with SLD or EBD on the school-related variables that promote graduation. Accordingly, the sample was limited to students with SLD or EBD who had graduated or were close to graduation. For the quantitative component the numerical data were analyzed using linear and logistic regressions. For the qualitative component guided student interviews were conducted. Both strands were subsequently analyzed using Ridenour and Newman's (2008) model where the quantitative hypotheses are tested and are later built-upon by the related qualitative meta-themes. Results indicated that a successful academic history, or obtaining passing grades was the only significant predictor of graduation potential when statistically controlling all the other variables. While at a marginal significance, results also yielded that students with SLD or EBD in inclusive settings experienced better academic results and behavioral outcomes than those in self-contained settings. Specifically, students with SLD or EBD in inclusive settings were found to be more likely to obtain passing grades and less likely to be suspended from school. Generally, the meta-themes yielded during the student interviews corroborated these findings as well as provided extensive insights on how students with disabilities view school within the context of promoting graduation. Based on the results yielded, provided the necessary academic accommodations and adaptations are in place, along with an effective behavioral program, inclusive settings can be utilized as drop-out prevention tools in special education.