An Exploration of a Public Day School for Students with Emotional and Behavioral Disabilities




AbdulAlim, Latif

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This study examined programming practices that have identified in the research as critical for school success for students with emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD). Secondary purposes of the study were to identify the extent to which these practices were used and to examine student social/emotional and academic outcome data in a public day school for middle school students with EBD. A total of 82 participants were included in the study, including 51 students and 31 staff members, of which there were 26 eighth grade students, 25 seventh grade students, 13 teachers, 8 instructional assistants, 5 counselors/clinicians, 4 behavior specialists, and 1 administrator. The eight most consistently identified essential programming components identified as important for the EBD population included: academics; behavior management; transition; social skills; qualified and committed professionals; environmental supports and structures; collaboration and communication; and parent and community involvement. Quantitative data from this sample were analyzed using modified versions of two survey instruments the At-Risk Student Services Assessment [ARSSA] and the Effective School Battery [ESB]. Additionally, data from English/reading and mathematics state assessment test scores, and historical records regarding the least restrictive environment identified on the IEPs of students who were transitioning from the research site to the ninth grade were also used. Qualitative data were analyzed from follow-up interviews and the optional anecdotal comments offered by staff on the ARSSA. Major staff findings included (a) school climate, including the subcategories of morale, communication and collaboration, and behavior management; (b) supports for learning, which included academic supports and social skills instruction; and c) transition processes used to facilitate students' preparation and success when moving from eighth grade into high school. Major findings specific to student data were related to (a) school climate, including the subcategories of safety, positive relationships with staff, and support for learning; and (b) to students' aspirations regarding their educational plans beyond high school. An additional finding of the study pertained to areas in which strengthening was needed, and included mentoring and parent involvement. Analysis of student annual state test scores indicated statistically significant growth for two of three years assessed in math, and growth approaching significance the third year. In English/reading, differences in scores were significant during one of three years. Findings are discussed with respect to future research and practice for students with EBD. Additionally, major findings regarding essential programming elements for students with EBD are compared to those cited in the research literature.



Special education, Academic support, Behavior support, Emotional disabilities, Social skills, Transitions