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Improving instructional assistant effectiveness in inclusive settings

Dissertation
Author: Kimberly Beth Weiner
Abstract:
As of 2007, 718,119 instructional assistants were employed in the United States (National Center for Education Statistics, 2009b). Of those instructional assistants, 373,466 were classified as full-time special education instructional assistants (Data Accountability Center, 2009a). As the employment of instructional assistants continues to grow, particularly in special education, so does the inclusion of students with disabilities into general education classrooms (U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, & Office of Special Education Programs, 2005). Although much of the United States continues to see increases in both the employment of instructional assistants and the inclusion of students with disabilities, existing training protocols do not adequately prepare instructional assistants to support these students (Causton-Theoharis & Malmgren, 2005; Giangreco, Broer, & Edelman, 2002; Petscher & Bailey, 2006; Pickett, Likins, & Wallace, 2003; Schepis, Reid, Ownbey, & Parsons, 2001). Effective and efficient instructional assistant training is critically needed to reduce the detrimental effects of inexperienced and untrained instructional assistants on disabled students in general education classrooms.

TABLE OF CONTENTS Chapter 1:Introduction……………………...…………………………………..……..1 Evolution of the Instructional Assistant……………………………..…..…….3 Instructional Assistant Statistics…………………………………………....…5 Inclusion.……………………..………………………………………………..7 Legislation and Instructional Assistants……………..……………………....10 Instructional Assistant Training and Outcome…..…………...…......……….13 Chapter II: Literature Review……..…………………………………………………20 Instructional Assistant Professional Development…………..…...............….25 Duration of Professional Development…………..……………………….….32 Instructional Assistant Instructional Support Behaviors……………...….......34 Student Academic Engagement…………………..…………………….……60 Training Recommendations………………………..……...…………………68 Major Research Questions and Related Hypotheses………...………………68 Chapter III: Method….................................................................................................70 Districts……………………………..……………………..…………..……..70 Instructional Assistant Employment, Skills and Requirements…..………….74 Pre-Service Training and Orientation Procedures………………..………….76 Participants……………………………...……………………………………79 Experimental Design…………………………...…………………...….…….83 Measuring Instruments……………………………………………………….84 Procedures……………………………...………………………...…………..95

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Chapter IV: Results…………………………………………...……….....…………112 Chapter V: Discussion………………………………………….…...…...…………152 References……………………………….………………………………………….200 Appendices…………..……………………………………………………….……..227

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LIST OF FIGURES Figure 1. Pretest and Posttest Total Correct Vignettes by Group…………..………131 Figure 2. Pretest to Posttest Total Observable Behaviors by Group……………..…135

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LIST OF TABLES Table 1. Vignette Type, Answer and Description………………………….......…….87 Table 2. Instructional Assistant Demographics…………..……………………...…113 Table 3. Student Participant Demographics……………..………………...........…..116 Table 4. Correlations of Total Observable Behaviors at Pretest for All Participants………………………………..……………………………..……...118 Table 5. Correlations of Total Observable Behaviors for Treatment Participants at Posttest………………………..…………………………………………………120 Table 6. Correlations of Total Observable Behaviors for Control Participants at Posttest……………………..………………………………………….…………122 Table 7. Correlations of Pretest Cognitive and Behavioral Measures for All Participants……………………..…………………………………….…………125 Table 8. Correlations between Posttest Vignettes and Observed Behaviors for Treatment Participants………………..…………………………………….………126 Table 9. Correlations between Posttest Vignettes and Observed Behaviors for Control Participants………………………..…………………………….…………127 Table 10. Descriptive Statistics for Pretest and Posttest Correct Vignettes by Group……………..…………………………………………………………..…129 Table 11. Repeated Measures Analysis of Variance of Total Cognitive Measure………………..……………………………………………………………129 Table 12. Descriptive Statistics for Pretest and Posttest Total Observable Behaviors by Group…………………………..…………………………………………..……134

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Table 13. Repeated Measures Analysis of Variance for Main Effects and Interaction Effects of Time and Group………………………………...……………...……..…134 Table 14. Treatment Group Differences from Posttest to Maintenance for Total Behaviors Observed……………………………………………………..……137 Table 15. Means, Medians, Gain Scores and Effect Sizes for Observable Effective Behaviors……………………………………………………..………..…140 Table 16. Means, Medians, Reduction Scores and Effect Sizes for Ineffective Observable Behaviors………………………………………………………...…….143 Table 17. Summary of Standard Multiple Regression Analysis for Variables Predicting Posttest Total Behavioral Measure……………………………………...146 Table 18. Summary of Standard Multiple Regression Analysis for Variables Predicting Posttest Total Cognitive Measure…………………………………….…147 Table 19. Summary of Standard Multiple Regression Analysis for Variables Predicting Student Academic Gain………………………………………....………148

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LIST OF APPENDICES Appendix A. Instructional Assistant Survey……………………..…………………227 Appendix B. Instructional Assistant Vignettes.……………..……………….……..230 Appendix C. Direct Observation Instrument…………..…………………………...242 Appendix D. Final Interview for Instructional Assistants…………..……………...243 Appendix E. Instructional Assistant Social Validity Questionnaire..……………....244 Appendix F. Observation Questionnaire..………………………………..…………246 Appendix G. 1 st Coaching Form……………………..…………………..…………247 Appendix H. 2 nd Coaching Form……………………………………..……….……249

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CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION Currently, the terms paraprofessional, instructional aide, instructional assistant, paraeducator and teacher’s aide are used interchangeably to describe personnel who 1) assist with the delivery of instruction and other direct services to individuals in need and 2) work under the direct supervision of a licensed or certified professional who is responsible for developing, implementing and assessing student educational programs (Downing, Ryndak, & Clark, 2000; Katsiyannis, Hodge, & Lanford, 2000; Pickett & Gerlach, 2003). Over the past two decades, instructional assistants have become an essential component of the educational landscape. This is most evident in the general education classroom, where instructional assistant support is often the only way to facilitate the successful inclusion of a student with disabilities (Giangreco & Broer, 2007; Giangreco, Edelman, & Broer, 2001). This movement toward inclusive education has drastically altered the role of the instructional assistant, from clerical assistant to direct instructor and moderator of student behavior to help facilitate the inclusion of students with disabilities in the general education classroom (Giangreco & Broer, 2005a; Giangreco, Broer, & Edelman, 2001b; Jones & Bender, 1993; Pickett & Gerlach, 2003; Riggs & Mueller, 2001). In response to this expansion of the instructional assistant’s roles and responsibilities, recent literature underscores the importance of effective and efficient training for this class of personnel (Causton-Theoharis & Malmgren, 2005; Giangreco, Broer et al., 2001b; Giangreco, Smith, & Pinckney, 2006; Pickett et al.,

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2003; Riggs & Mueller, 2001; Wadsworth & Knight, 1996; Young, Simpson, Myles, & Kamps, 1997). Unfortunately, both pre-service and in-service trainings tend to be scarce, often allowing the least qualified personnel to provide the majority of instruction to students who demonstrate the greatest learning challenges (Brown, Farrington, Knight, Ross, & Ziegler, 1999; Giangreco, 2009; Giangreco & Broer, 2005b; Giangreco, Broer, & Edelman, 1999; Giangreco, Broer et al., 2001b; Giangreco et al., 2006). In the late 1990s, researchers began to document the inadvertent detrimental effects of untrained instructional assistants who provide one-on-one support for students with disabilities in a general education classroom. Well-documented negative effects include unnecessary dependence on support personnel, separation from and interference with peer interactions, stigmatization, restricted access to proficient instruction from a qualified teacher and interference with teacher interactions (Giangreco et al., 2002; Giangreco, Edelman, Broer, & Doyle, 2001; Giangreco, Yan, McKenzie, Cameron, & Fialka, 2005; Malmgren & Causton- Theoharis, 2006; Marks, Schrader, & Levine, 1999). These findings cast doubt on instructional assistants’ ability to facilitate student independence in a general education classroom. Equally concerning is the lack of research on the relationship between instructional assistant use and student outcome, despite abundant literature on instructional assistants’ roles, responsibilities, and attitudes (Boomer, 1994; Doyle, 1995; French, 1999a, , 1999b; Giangreco, Broer, & Edelman, 2001a; Giangreco,

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Edelman, Luiselli, & MacFarland, 1997; Marks et al., 1999; McKenzie & Lewis, 2008; Pickett & Gerlach, 2003; Pickett et al., 2003). This gap in the literature is alarming, considering that instructional assistants have reported spending a majority of the student’s day providing direct instruction to the student and making instructional decisions without the oversight of the general education teacher (Downing et al., 2000; Giangreco & Broer, 2005b; Riggs & Mueller, 2001). Evolution of the Instructional Assistant Although there continues to be little consensus regarding the exact role of the instructional assistant (Giangreco, Broer et al., 2001b; Jones & Bender, 1993; Pickett et al., 2003; Riggs & Mueller, 2001), several factors have clearly contributed to the reliance on instructional assistants to provide both behavioral support and direct instruction to students with disabilities in general education classrooms since the 1950s. The literature suggests that these factors include changes in federal legislation, spurred by the lack of qualified teachers during WWII; the inclusion of students with disabilities into less restrictive, general education settings; and the demand for individualized instruction and compensatory education for students from impoverished backgrounds. Other contributors include the growing number of Limited English Proficient Learners, a shortage of highly qualified special education teachers, increased special education teacher caseloads, and the cost-effectiveness of utilizing instructional assistants (Giangreco, Edelman, Broer et al., 2001; Giangreco et al., 2006; Katsiyannis et al., 2000; Pickett et al., 2003).

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During the 1950s, WWII created a deficit of qualified teachers followed by an increase in pressure from parents and advocates to create community-based services for individuals with disabilities. School boards and administrators began employing instructional assistants to assist teachers in clerical and administrative tasks (French & Pickett, 1997; Jones & Bender, 1993). This continued until the sixties and seventies, when the role of the instructional assistant transformed due to several changes in legislation such as the Federal programs Title I and Head Start. Title I and Head Start sought to employ and train instructional assistants to provide support to students who came from economically or educationally disadvantaged backgrounds (French & Pickett, 1997). Instructional assistants from similar linguistic backgrounds served as bilingual teaching assistants and liaisons between home and school (Pickett, Likins & Wallace, 2003). In 1975, the passage of Public Law 94-142, Education for all Handicapped Children, brought about several changes in how schools served students with disabilities. In order to provide a free, appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment possible the law ensured that students who were in need of special education services had an Individualized Education Program, detailing personalized services required to ensure the most effective education (Pickett & Gerlach, 2003). In order to provide individualized instruction and ample support to these students, general and special education teachers required additional classroom support (French & Pickett, 1997; Pickett et al., 2003); therefore, the employment and utilization of instructional assistants gained significant momentum (Pickett & Gerlach, 2003).

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Although instructional assistants continued to assist with housekeeping tasks, the role and responsibilities of special education instructional assistants have expanded over the last thirty years to include instructional and direct services (Giangreco et al., 2001; Jones & Bender, 1993; Pickett et al., 2003). This was meant to increase student independence, assist with the transition from school to work, and facilitate the inclusion of students with disabilities into their general education classrooms (French, 1998). Currently, some of the primary roles of instructional assistants include: a) providing direct instruction in academics, b) managing student behaviors, c) assisting with personal care, d) facilitating social interactions between peers, e) collecting student data and f) supporting students in general education classrooms (French, 1999b). Instructional Assistant Statistics Although there is evidence to substantiate the claim that employment of instructional assistants is rising, past and current statistics must be interpreted with caution (Pickett et al., 2003). One of the biggest hindrances to understanding instructional assistant employment rates throughout the years is the way that data is collected by both federal and state agencies. Lack of a systematic and widely adopted approach to collecting instructional assistant data at the federal and state level, coupled with the lag time in producing relevant data, creates a high degree of variability, depending on the data source (Pickett & Gerlach, 2003; Pickett et al., 2003). It is also sometimes difficult to determine what type of program an instructional assistant works in, such as general education, special education, Title I,

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English Language Learner or early childhood and transition services (Pickett et al., 2003). Rather than these particulars, the data typically provides only the yearly employment of full-time instructional assistants in the United States and, in some cases, by state. For this reason, the data should be interpreted with caution due to the variation of definitions and diverse interpretations which can lead to under or over- reporting (Giangreco, Hurley, & Suter, 2009). Databases such as the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) (2009) provide statistical information regarding the yearly employment of instructional assistants in the U.S. and each state’s employment, starting in the early 1990s. From 1969 to 1970, 57,418 instructional assistants were employed in the US. By 1980, only ten years later, that number had risen to 325,755 due to critical changes in legislation. In 1990, the employment of instructional assistants continued to increase to 395,959. In 1995, only five years later, employment increased by almost 100,000 to 494,289. By the year 2000, the number had grown to 641,392 instructional assistants employed in the U.S., with 63,852 of that number employed in California (NCES, 2009). As of 2007, 718,119 instructional assistants were employed throughout the U.S., with 373,466 of this number serving as full-time special education instructional assistants in the United States and 65,846 in California alone (Data Accountability Center, 2009a; National Center for Education Statistics, 2009a). Although recent years have yet to be reported, it can be assumed that instructional assistant employment will continue to rise.

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With the increase of instructional assistant employment came an increase in the number of instructional assistants supporting students with disabilities in the general education setting. The percentage of students educated in general education classrooms for a majority of the day (80 percent or more) rose from 45.3 percent in 1995 to 57.21 percent in 2007 (Data Accountability Center, 2009b; U.S. Department of Education, 2006). Specifically in California, as of 2007 52.35 percent of students with disabilities were included in their general education classrooms at least 80 percent of the day (Data Accountability Center, 2009b). Although the number of full- time instructional assistants in the U.S. in 2007 has yet to be reported, there are statistics indicating that nearly 56.84 percent of students with disabilities spend 80 percent or more of their day in the general education classroom (Data Accountability Center, 2009b). Although there are discrepancies in the literature regarding the actual growth rate of instructional assistants since the 1950s, it is clear that there has been and continues to be a significant increase in the employment of instructional assistants in the U.S. due to the increase in student enrollment. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2010) foresees a 10 percent increase in the employment of instructional assistants from 2008-2018, particularly due to the number of special education and Limited English Proficient students requiring specialized services and supports. Inclusion This upward trend in instructional assistant employment can be partially explained by the increased inclusion of students with disabilities in general education

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classrooms. As of 1997, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) sought to improve the IDEA by including amendments ensuring that students with disabilities had access to a free and public education (Yell, 2006). Specifically, the reauthorization ensured that students with disabilities would be included to the maximum extent in general education settings with typically functioning peers. It mandated that removal from the regular educational environment “occur only when the nature or severity of the disability of a child is such that education in a regular class with the use of supplemental aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily” (Section 1412 (a) (5)). Statistics from the Data Accountability Center (2009) indicate that as of 2008, 671,095 students in California were identified as disabled and being served under IDEA. Of those students, 435,326 were included in a general education classroom for at least 40 percent of the school day. In the effort to provide an appropriate education for students with disabilities in this setting, much responsibility has fallen on the instructional assistant (Downing et al., 2000; Giangreco et al., 1997; Hughes & Valle- Riestra, 2008; Marks et al., 1999). One potentially problematic aspect of this shift is that the general education setting is different than the special education setting, both in structure and staffing. For example, instructional assistants who work in the general education classroom are not under the direct supervision of a Special Education teacher, as they typically would be in a special education classroom (Downing et al., 2000; Giangreco, Backus, CichoskiKelly, Sherman, & Mavropoulos, 2003).

Full document contains 272 pages
Abstract: As of 2007, 718,119 instructional assistants were employed in the United States (National Center for Education Statistics, 2009b). Of those instructional assistants, 373,466 were classified as full-time special education instructional assistants (Data Accountability Center, 2009a). As the employment of instructional assistants continues to grow, particularly in special education, so does the inclusion of students with disabilities into general education classrooms (U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, & Office of Special Education Programs, 2005). Although much of the United States continues to see increases in both the employment of instructional assistants and the inclusion of students with disabilities, existing training protocols do not adequately prepare instructional assistants to support these students (Causton-Theoharis & Malmgren, 2005; Giangreco, Broer, & Edelman, 2002; Petscher & Bailey, 2006; Pickett, Likins, & Wallace, 2003; Schepis, Reid, Ownbey, & Parsons, 2001). Effective and efficient instructional assistant training is critically needed to reduce the detrimental effects of inexperienced and untrained instructional assistants on disabled students in general education classrooms.