Academic and Behavioral Characteristics of Emotionally Disturbed, Learning-Disabled, and General Education Students at a Secondary Residential School




Gaskins, Courtney

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This study provides a description of the academic functioning levels and performance gains of adolescents (n=423) attending a residential school over a seven year period using secondary data. Students ranged in age from 12 to 18 and represented a wide range of cultural and linguistic backgrounds. The vast majority of the sample were males (68%). The study examined student academic and behavioral characteristics, using uni-variate, bi-variate, and multi-variate analyses. It examined the academic abilities upon entry into the residential school as well as academic gains over time in reading, mathematics, written language, passage comprehension, and fluency. Data on students were grouped and compared based on the presenting academic and behavioral characteristics and educational classifications identified by the residential facility. Twelve academic and behavioral factors were identified because of their strong association with placement in residential facilities and potential impact on academic success in the program. Results revealed that adolescents entering this residential school were a homogenous population with similar characteristics and treatment needs as well as numerous barriers to academic achievement. Student group affiliation (i.e., age, gender, race, etc.) or type of placement (i.e., foster care, adjudicated, substance abuse, etc.) revealed similar characteristics. Most students entered the secondary school with one or more academic areas of weakness. Strong relationships were found between academic abilities and gender, educational classification, number of placements, illicit drug use, presenting issue, and IQ. In addition, it was found that gender, educational classification, illicit drug use, and IQ could predict academic achievement in one or more areas examined. Differences in academic abilities were obtained, based on time spent in the facility. As a population, students made significant academic gains over time in all areas except passage comprehension. Furthermore, students with specific learning disabilities made the most significant academic gains. Lastly, males made significant gains over time in all academic areas. This study provides educators with a snap shot of the academic, behavioral and demographic outlook of students entering a residential school. It examines the achievement gains made by groups of students over time, as well as looks at the possible predictor factors which lead to academic success.



Residential care, Educational outcomes, Foster care youth, Special education, Adolescents, Behavior and mental health issues