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Teaching strategies for the successful inclusion of students with emotional and behavioral disorders within the general education classroom

Author: Timothy J. Mantooth
Students with emotional and behavioral disorders face many challenges as they transition away from small group placements and into inclusion classroom settings. These students are often unresponsive to traditional disciplinary procedures educators employ to affect behavioral change. In order for students with emotional and behavioral disorders to succeed in inclusion placements, specific behavioral and academic strategies are needed. Six focus groups were conducted with special education and general education teachers to determine which strategies these educators employ in serving the needs of students with emotional and behavioral disorders in inclusion classroom settings. Focus group participant responses were coded and categorized into thirteen overarching strategies educators can employ in the inclusive classroom in serving students who have emotional and behavioral disorders. Resulting recommendations included specific strategies to assist educators in serving this population in inclusive classrooms.

v Table of Contents Acknowledgments iv List of Tables ix CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION 1 Introduction to the Problem 1 Placement and Eligibility Criteria 2 EBD Eligibility Determination 3 Background of the Study 4 EBD and Bioecological Theory 6 The Role of the IEP Team 10 Socialization Issues 12 Quality Indicators for Teachers 14 Statement of the Problem 16 Purpose of the Study 17 Rationale 18 Research Questions 19 Significance of the Study 19 Definition of Terms 20 Assumptions and Limitations 21 Theoretical/Conceptual Framework 22 Organization of the Remainder of the Proposal 22 CHAPTER 2. LITERATURE REVIEW 24

vi Special Education Placement 24 Criticisms of Inclusion 27 Aims of Inclusion 29 Successful Inclusive Practices 30 EBD as a Disability 32 EBD and Behavior Management 33 EBD and Bioecological Theory 34 Functional Behavioral Assessments 37 Direct Instruction 39 Teacher-Mediated Interventions 40 Behavior as a Function of Classroom Instruction 41 Classroom and Testing Modifications 42 Teacher Preparation 42 Teacher-Student Rapport 43 Co-Teaching and Collaboration 45 CHAPTER 3. METHODOLOGY 48 Methodology 48 Population and Sampling 51 Instrumentation 52 Procedures 55 Ethical Considerations 56 Validity and Reliability 57

vii CHAPTER 4. DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS 59 Study Design 59 GE Focus Group One 61 GE Focus Group Two 62 GE Focus Group Three 63 SPED Focus Group One 64 SPED Focus Group Two 66 SPED Focus Group Three 67 Teacher-Student Rapport 68 Behavioral Incentives 73 Faculty Collaboration 75 Teacher-Parent Rapport 76 Depersonalization of Student Behaviors 79 Teach Replacement Behaviors 81 Proximity Control 85 Strategic Scheduling 88 De-escalation Strategies 92 Assign Consequences 95 Teacher Expectations and Class Structure 98 Multi-Modal Presentations. 100 Differentiation 105 CHAPTER 5. RESULTS, CONCLUSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATIONS 110

viii Discussion 110 Recommendations 122 Limitations 125 Conclusions 125 REFERENCES 127

ix List of Tables Table 1: Teacher-Student Rapport 70

Table 2: Participant Responses for Establishing Teacher-Student Rapport 71 Table 3: Behavioral Incentives 73 Table 4: Participant Responses to Implementing Behavioral Incentives 74 Table 5: Faculty Collaboration 75 Table 6: Participant Responses to Faculty Collaboration 77 Table 7: Teacher-Parent Rapport 78 Table 8: Participant Suggestions for Establishing Teacher-Parent Rapport 79 Table 9: Depersonalization of Student Behavior 80 Table 10: Participants Responses for Depersonalization of Student Behavior 82 Table 11: Teach Replacement Behaviors 83 Table 12: Participant Responses for Teaching Replacement Behaviors 84 Table 13: Proximity Control 86 Table 14: Participant Responses for Proximity Control 89 Table 15: Strategic Scheduling 90 Table 16: Participant Responses to Strategic Scheduling 92 Table 17: De-escalation Strategies 94 Table 18: Participant Responses for De-escalation Strategies 95 Table 19: Consequences for Misbehavior 96 Table 20: Participant Responses for Assigning Consequences for Misbehavior 97

x Table 21: Teacher Expectations and Class Structure 98

Table 22: Participant Responses for Teacher Expectations and Class Structure 102 Table 23: Multi-Modal Presentations 103 Table 24: Participant Responses for Multi-Modal Presentations 105 Table 25: Differentiated Instruction 106 Table 26: Participant Responses to Differentiated Instruction 108 Table 27: Predominant Themes 109


Introduction to the Problem Among students with disabilities, students with emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD) present unique challenges to educators. Students with EBD display classroom behaviors that impair learning for both themselves and their peers. Teachers of students with EBD need support and training in how to best serve the academic needs of these youngsters. Classroom strategies are needed that will help educators facilitate student success. The potential for academic failure among students with EBD is great and the stakes are high. It is clearly in the best interest of the student and society at large for schools to provide every service possible to facilitate academic success and achievement. The purpose of this research was to explore the issues that arise in placing students with EBD in the inclusion classroom and to investigate which classroom teaching and behavioral strategies are conducive to a successful placement. The intent of this research was to conduct focus groups with educators from both special education and general education backgrounds to determine which behavioral and academic strategies help facilitate a successful learning experience for students with EBD within the inclusion classroom. Educators provided their responses and shared reflections with their colleagues in a focus group setting. The discussion that follows addresses factors leading to a determination of eligibility for EBD services and placement affecting a student’s participation in an inclusive classroom. Additionally, Urie Bronfenbrenner’s (2005a) bioecological theory is offered as a framework for

2 understanding the onset of EBD and potential approaches for affecting a positive educational experience for these students.

Placement and Eligibility Criteria The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1990 (IDEA) and a subsequent reauthorization in 1997 allows students to receive special education services if they meet specific criteria as mandated by each individual state for having an emotional or behavioral disorder (EBD). One percent of students receiving special education do so under the eligibility of EBD (US Department of Education, 1998). To be made eligible for services under EBD, at least one of five characteristics must be met at a duration, frequency, and intensity to have had an adverse affect of the child's educational progress. Children with emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD), therefore, receive special education services upon meeting specific behavioral criteria as spelled out in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1997 (IDEA). The Georgia Department of Education (2005) lists criteria for placement under the eligibility of EBD as consisting of: 1. An inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and/or teachers. For preschool –age children, this would include other care providers. 2.An inability to learn which cannot be adequately explained by intellectual, sensory or health factors. 3. Consistent or chronic inappropriate type of behavior or feelings under normal conditions. 4. Displayed pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression.

3 5. Displayed tendency to develop physical symptoms, pains or unreasonable fears associated with personal or school problems. EBD Eligibility Determination Pivotal to the determination of EBD eligibility is that one or more of the above mentioned criteria be exhibited with sufficient duration, frequency, and intensity to the extent that it interferes with academic progress and requires special education services. A referral for an initial evaluation is often made by teachers or administrators who recognize that a student is exhibiting behaviors typical of EBD. The student's parents must consent to allow for an initial evaluation to determine if the student meets eligibility requirements. The school psychologist then proceeds to administer a battery of psychological tests and collects data from the student's parents and teachers and makes a recommendation to the team conducting the student's individual education plan (IEP) regarding whether or not the student qualifies for special education services. In addition to the school psychologist, members of the IEP team determining eligibility and placement must include: the student's parent(s), guardian(s), or a surrogate parent, at least one of the student's general education teachers, at least one special education teacher, a system representative who is familiar with special education services and curriculum, the student, when appropriate, and other individuals as deemed necessary by either the acting parent(s) or school system (Georgia Department of Education, 2005). There are numerous contributing factors corresponding to students receiving an EBD eligibility. For example, students with EBD tend to be characterized as having problem behavior at school and home leading to multiple disciplinary referrals, low grades and, often, involvement

4 with juvenile court (Wagner & Cameto, 2004). They often have had multiple suspensions from school for inappropriate behaviors ranging from fighting to verbal altercations with their teachers. Some are on probation for delinquency such as petty theft or running away from home. Others have a history of mental illness and placement in foster homes or hospitalization. Bronfenbrenner (2005a), in addition, suggested that deviant teenage behavior (e.g. running away, dropping out of school) furthermore corresponds to the absence of significant adults who are emotionally invested and supportive of the child. Recent movements influenced under the federal No Child Left Behind act require that teachers meet standard designations as highly qualified (Simpson, LaCava, & Graner, 2004). Consequently, school systems are leaning more towards inclusion placements for students with EBD and other disabilities, a setting that allows both a special education teacher to address the student’s disability and a subject-based (highly qualified) general education teacher to address the specific curriculum (Jenkins, 2005). An inclusion classroom setting is particularly beneficial to students with disabilities as services are provided by two teachers instead of one, each of whom is trained in either special education or the particular subject of the class (Mungai & Thornburg, 2002). The concern of this research was to assess what educators in this specific setting are doing to serve the needs of students with EBD and to discern which teaching and academic strategies they are employing in facilitating successful inclusive placements.

Background of the Study Educational placement options for receiving special education services include consultative, inclusion, self-contained and alternative school settings. Placement in general

5 education occurs if the parents of the child elect not to receive any special education services or if the team conducting the individual education plan (IEP) deem that the student no longer requires such services. Consultative placement means the student takes only general education classes but has an IEP, which is monitored by a case manager. Inclusion placement allows the student to attend general education classes under the guidance of a special education teacher, who provides modifications for the student as spelled out in the IEP, and a general education teacher, who is fully certified in a given subject matter. Students in inclusion placements attend classes with their general education peers and are subject to the same classroom expectations with the exception of modifications addressed in the IEP. Students in self-contained or small group placements receive all or the majority of their educational services in classes consisting of 8-12 peers with EBD under the direction of a special education teacher. Self-contained placements for children with EBD may unintentionally reinforce the very social alienation that exacerbates the disorder (Fisher & Meyer, 2002). Students in self-contained placements have fewer opportunities for social interactions and are alienated from peers and teachers in the general education program (Panacek & Dunlap, 2003). A student with EBD is placed in a self-contained setting for the purposes of receiving specialized instruction with fewer distractions given the low teacher to student ratio. At the same time, however, the student's social experiences and role models are limited largely to students with EBD. Consequently, the student with EBD acts and responds according to the interactions which have been modeled around him or her, behavior that is socially inappropriate and counterproductive to personal development (DuPual & McGoey, 1997).

6 Students with EBD need positive social reinforcements and expanded, not limited, networks of support and interaction. There is little wonder why under the present model of service one-half of students with EBD drop out of school (U.S. Department of Education, 2002). Moreover, students with EBD are often inadequately served in the public school system with society suffering serious repercussions once these youths drop out of school and are unable to successfully provide for themselves in the absence of opportunities to succeed. EBD and Bioecological Theory EBD is likely an outcome of the combination of any number of biological and environmental factors. Bronfenbrenner (2005d) notes that an infant may be born with a genetic predisposition towards EBD if there is a family history of mental health issues ranging from depression to addiction to bipolar disorder. The child may or may not inherit a temperament that leans towards the development of EBD. Temperament characteristics may include poor impulse control, difficulty reading social cues or displaying a low threshold for anger. For the infant, with or without such predisposition, EBD begins taking shape if the child fails to establish significant attachments with parents and other adults who offer the child security, stability, and, most of all, unconditional love and acceptance (Bronfenbrenner, 2005f). Paramount to a child's mental health, then, is the formation of significant and meaningful emotional attachments with parents, peers, and other adults in the family and community (Feaster, 1996). A parent's ability to surround a child with a network of caring support over the process of time plays a significant role in enabling that child to have a healthy life experience. Parents, however, are not necessarily

7 the blame when such attachments fail to occur. Any number of extenuating circumstances may occur which diminishes a child's social interaction. At times parent-child attachments are inhibited because of life trauma such as divorce or the death of a parent (Brofenbrenner, 2005f). In such case, the single parent may be forced to work any number of odd jobs to assure the family's financial survival and have little, if any, emotional energy to properly attend to the child at the end of a long day. At other times there are occurrences of spousal abuse in the family or a history of parental drug addiction, which prevents one or both parents from adequately bonding with the child. A family forced to move frequently due to job changes or financial problems may develop a deficit in developing significant emotional attachments. Additionally, nurturing relational attachments fail to occur when the child has been verbally or emotionally abused. The first signs of EBD may become apparent when the child enters preschool or primary school and demonstrates unusual or excessive behaviors such as frequent temper tantrums, an inability to play with other children, or a tendency towards violent or abusive behavior (i.e. biting or hitting with an object) (Cole, Usher, & Cargo, 1993; Wood, Cowan, & Baker, 2002). The preschooler with EBD may exhibit periods of prolonged unhappiness by crying uncontrollably with no apparent means of comfort. In some cases, however, the onset of EBD may occur later in childhood, particularly if at such time the child encounters emotional trauma coupled with the loss or absence of meaningful emotional attachments with significant others. Research suggests EBD may be linked to the lack or absence of emotional attachment with significant others perhaps further exacerbated by a genetic predisposition arising from the child's family's mental health history or from the presence of life trauma (Bronfenbrenner,

8 2005f). Eligibility for EBD services is often determined in late childhood or early adolescence once the student has repeatedly exhibited one or more of the required criteria at a duration and frequency necessitating special education services (Toffalo & Pederson, 2005). By early adolescence teachers and parents begin to recognize abnormal behaviors or emotional states (i.e., depression or anxiety) that adversely affect the child's educational progress. The student with EBD may have multiple disciplinary referrals, often failing to respond to traditional administrative interventions such as detention or suspension (Maag, 2001). There may be a history of conflict with teachers marked by disrespect and insubordination. Incidences of verbal or physical conflict with peers are common given the student's difficulty in forming social attachments. Further complicating matters is the perception of a diminished locus of control frequently reported by students with EBD (Jackson, Frick, & Dravage-Bush, 2000). Faculty and administrators often take steps to remove the child with EBD from general education and inclusion classrooms by recommending a self-contained placement on the basis that the child will there receive intensive support and attention not otherwise available. Once in a self-contained setting, however, the child is isolated from non-EBD peers and therefore receives all socialization at school from students with EBD who also model and reinforce the behaviors that made them eligible for services. The alienation the student with EBD feels upon being separated from general education and inclusion peers further reinforces a sense of worthlessness and despondency that convinces the student he or she is a failure (Barry, Frick, & Killian, 2003). The student may use inappropriate behavior to gain attention from peers, who often celebrate his or her classroom misdeeds, and to avoid challenging academic assignments. Misbehavior, then, becomes a means for gaining power by taking control away from those who are in authority.

9 Scanlon and Mellard (2002) suggest that, upon entering high school, many students with EBD have limited interaction with non-EBD peers and lack the friendships or social attachments that would motivate them towards involvement in extracurricular events. As IQ level is not a criteria for EBD services, many students with EBD are of average intelligence yet still behind their grade level peers in academic studies. Significant behavioral problems often impede a child's ability to learn as the emphasis at school becomes discipline over academics. Academic frustration, low self-esteem, and poor socialization are factors likely contributing to the high dropout rate for students with EBD. It is not unreasonable to assume that many of these students are prone toward drug use, gang activity, and other forms of juvenile delinquency. As they mature into young adulthood, it is difficult to imagine that many of these youth are able to attain gainful employment given their poor socialization skills, difficulty with authority, limited academic achievement and high dropout rate (Lane, Gresham, & O’Shaughnessy, 2002). Some will likely have prolonged involvement with the criminal justice system as adults and may even pass on these behavioral deficiencies to their own children. Clearly, more extensive supports and approaches are required while these individuals are enrolled in the public school system. Self-contained placements should be eliminated for students with EBD except in extreme cases. IEP case managers need to collaborate with parents and administrators in determining how to best incorporate students with EBD into team taught and general education placements. According to bioecological theory, a self-contained placement for students with EBD is likely a worst case scenario (Bronfenbrenner, 2005b). Students with EBD need role models and social supports from the larger context of the school faculty and

10 student body. They need assistance with involving themselves in positive extracurricular activities where they can build healthy attachments to others. The Role of the IEP Team At school students with EBD struggle with low grades and behavioral problems resulting in administrative referrals (Wagner & Cameto, 2004). In considering eligibility, the IEP team hears the report and recommendation from the school psychologist and collects present levels of performance (PLOP) from each of the student's teachers indicating how the child is faring behaviorally and academically. Having considered the data, the IEP team votes to determine whether or not the student is eligible for services under EBD. If the student's parents disagree with determination of the other members of the IEP team, they may either decline special education services or request a due process hearing to present their case. All students receiving special education services have several basic rights in accordance with federal and state laws. According to IDEA amendments of 1997, special education students have the right to a free appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE). As discussed previously, in determining class placement and LRE, the IEP team has four options: 1) consultative, 2) inclusion, 3) self-contained and 4) an alternative school setting. The IEP team is charged with determining which placement would best support the student’s success while making as few modifications and accommodations as necessary (Yell & Katsiyannis, 2004). Under a consultative placement, the student takes all general education classes but receives such services in accordance with his or her IEP and remains under the supervision of a

11 case manager who tracks the student's progress. The inclusion or team taught placement occurs in a general education classroom but does so under the direction of both a general education teacher and a special education teacher. Self-contained or small group placements occur in a class exclusive to special education students under the direction of a special education teacher with a low teacher-student ratio no higher than 8 to 12 students. Alternative school placements occur under severe conditions in which the student cannot adequately function on a regular education campus irrespective of what accommodations are offered. The IEP team, therefore, is responsible for assuring the student receives the accommodations and modifications, though within certain limitations, to assure he or she has the opportunity to succeed academically. Though an IEP is conducted annually to consider placement, assess and update goals and objectives, and determine what, if any, classroom and testing modifications are needed, every third year the IEP team must also decide whether the student remains eligible for continued services. Factors affecting the placement of students with EBD include bias arising from teacher perception about their abilities to manage student behavior and an overrepresentation of students from low socio-economic status and for children of color (Frey, 2002). Furthermore, school psychologists may inadvertently find themselves mislead when making eligibility recommendations for EBD if the student already has a psychiatric diagnosis, even if that student does not meet eligibility criteria (Toffalo & Pedersen, 2005). Students with EBD are frequently African American males residing in a single parent household and living in poverty (Wagner & Cameto, 2004).

12 Socialization Issues While 22% of students with EBD take all of their coursework in general education classrooms, the overwhelming majority of students with EBD receive instruction in inclusion and self-contained classrooms (Wagner & Cameto, 2004). Due to the complicated and often volatile nature of students with EBD, educators tend to resist a mandate towards full inclusion (Heflin & Bullock, 1999). Therefore, in the critical, formative years of adolescent development many students with EBD receive the majority of instruction in a self-contained classroom in seclusion from their general education peers. The majority of their socialization and role models, then, is limited to peers with EBD. Consequently, these students reinforce and model the very behaviors that led to their placement, thus assuring for many that EBD behaviors are perpetuated rather than extinguished (Panacek & Dunlap, 2003). Clearly, students in inclusion placements have fewer behavioral problems and more positive social interactions than students in self- contained settings (Holahan & Costenbadar, 2000; Wiener & Tardif, 2004). Arguably, in many cases self-contained placements are least effective for students with EBD and perhaps even counterproductive to the student's academic progress (Fisher & Meyer, 2002; Panacek & Dunlap, 2003). Self-contained classes are led exclusively by a teacher certified in special education who often lacks specific training in a given academic content area. Therefore, it is doubtful, no matter how valiant of an effort the special education teacher makes, that he or she can come remotely close to offering the quality of instruction delivered by a general education teacher specifically trained in a given academic content area. Consequently, the self-contained classroom for the student with EBD may serve to reinforce maladaptive behaviors while at the same time causing the student to miss critical academic instruction from a

13 teacher trained in that particular academic content. A vicious cycle ensues with students perpetuating maladaptive behaviors which further reinforce a self-contained placement rather than transition them to an inclusion or general education setting. One final yet critical placement issue for students with EBD is that of manifestation review (MR). After 10 days suspension in a given school year, students receiving special education services must have a manifestation review (Georgia Department of Education, 2005). The purpose of a manifestation review (MR) is to determine whether an additional suspension constitutes an inappropriate change in placement on the basis that the behavior in question is directly linked to the student's disability. If the team conducting the MR, which is subject to the same guidelines as that of an IEP, determines the behavior in question is, indeed, a function of the student's disability, the student may not be suspended from school but other disciplinary interventions are still allowed (i.e., in-school suspension or detention). The intent of the MR is to protect students with disabilities from being unnecessarily excluded from educational services made available to their non-disabled peers. Upon being deemed eligible for services, the student will be monitored by a case manager who is a special education teacher charged with tracking the child's progress in achieving IEP goals and objectives. The case manager conducts the annual IEP, communicates with the student's parents and teachers, and collects data on student progress. The discussion that follows illustrates the issues and challenge pertaining to eligibility and placement of students with EBD.

14 Quality Indicators for Teachers Quality indicators for EBD teachers include their ability to effectively manage a classroom of highly challenging students without compromising academic instruction (Sawka, McCurdy, & Mannella, 2002). The school culture places numerous demands on EBD teacher, often with competing priorities. School administrators may express their primary concern as behavior management while special education supervisors may focus largely on the quality of data collection, reports, and IEPs. Parents of children with behavioral problems state that, in addition to having skills and training, professionals serving their children should demonstrate both a respect for the child and a commitment to serving the needs of the family (Parks & Turnbill, 2002). The EBD teacher must be able to multi-task, be organized, implement lesson plans, address ongoing student behavioral challenges, attend department meetings, document student progress, write IEPs, grade papers and communicate with parents. In the EBD classroom, teacher-parent communication, trust, and mutual support are crucial in effectively addressing student needs (Keyes, 2002). Teachers need to approach parents as advocates and not as adversaries. Parents themselves may express suspicion about whether the teacher is genuinely interested in helping their child, particularly if the parent believes the school is failing in meeting the student's needs. Some parents may even avoid teachers if they have had negative experiences with teachers calling only to complain about their child. Teachers, then, need to initiate contact and ongoing communications to better forge a partnership with parents (Montgomery, 2005). EBD teacher preparation and training is also in need of reform. Special education teachers in Georgia certified as interrelated may teach any academic subject in either a self-

15 contained or inclusion classroom without having had training in a specific content area, though NCLB now requires that teachers be qualified in the core academic subject areas they teach (Department of Education, 2005). However, NCLB does not require special education teachers who share a classroom with a general education teacher, who is qualified to teach a given academic subject, to attain additional training provided that the special education teacher does not offer the subject in a self-contained classroom in the absence of the general education teacher. Simply put, EBD teachers require extensive support and training before they are left alone to fend for themselves in a highly challenging classroom environment. Otherwise, they are most certain to join the ranks of educators who leave the field. The complexity, then, involved in serving students with EBD requires teacher proficiency in both academic instruction and behavior management. Needless to say, there is great difficulty in teaching science while simultaneously addressing significant behavioral issues such as having two students in the middle of class loudly exchange insults and vulgarities. Administrators may expect teachers in EBD classrooms to personally address behavioral challenges except in severe cases (i.e., possession of a weapon or drugs) rather than make multiple office referrals. Certainly, the nature of the EBD classroom requires that teachers be capable of addressing behavior general education teachers might find unconscionable. Misbehavior is often purposed to avoid the classroom; therefore, an administrative referral may serve to reinforce the very act the teacher aims to extinguish. Gunter, Coutinho, and Cade (2002) suggest that the ability to employ individualized and creative approaches to behavior management and academic instruction is paramount to teaching in the EBD classroom.

Full document contains 150 pages
Abstract: Students with emotional and behavioral disorders face many challenges as they transition away from small group placements and into inclusion classroom settings. These students are often unresponsive to traditional disciplinary procedures educators employ to affect behavioral change. In order for students with emotional and behavioral disorders to succeed in inclusion placements, specific behavioral and academic strategies are needed. Six focus groups were conducted with special education and general education teachers to determine which strategies these educators employ in serving the needs of students with emotional and behavioral disorders in inclusion classroom settings. Focus group participant responses were coded and categorized into thirteen overarching strategies educators can employ in the inclusive classroom in serving students who have emotional and behavioral disorders. Resulting recommendations included specific strategies to assist educators in serving this population in inclusive classrooms.