The Journey of a Suburban Elementary School to Include Students with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders in the Regular Education Classroom
Contributor(s)Brown, Mary Louise (Brown, Mary Louise) (Authoraut)
Twomey, Elizabeth A. (Twomey, Elizabeth A.) (Thesis advisorths)
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AbstractAs the documented number of students demonstrating significant emotional and behavioral challenges continues to increase, teachers often encounter difficulties in meeting the needs of these students in their classrooms. With Individuals with Disabilities Education Act 2004 (IDEA) mandates requiring the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE), schools are challenged to include these students in the regular education classroom while ensuring a safe learning environment for students and staff. This qualitative case study focused on affecting teacher attitude toward the inclusion of students with emotional and behavioral disorders in a suburban elementary school. The initiative incorporated a professional development series as well as the implementation of administrative, organizational and cultural supports aimed at building teacher capacity. As part of this study, the principal analyzed how school culture changed as the school sought to become more inclusive. The researcher, who was also the principal of the school, studied the attitudes and experiences of ten teachers who volunteered to be a part of this project. Data were collected and triangulated through interviews, journal entries, questionnaires, observations, field notes, a survey, and document analysis. The findings of this study indicate that efforts to affect teacher attitude must be comprehensive. Relying only on professional development opportunities does not necessarily ensure that teachers will generalize their newly acquired skills back to the classroom. Teachers require collaboration opportunities with special educators embedded within their school day. They also need the administrative, organizational, and cultural supports that sustain successful inclusion. These supports include: active modeling and assistance from the principal, accessibility to assistants, supportive scheduling, implementation of common language regarding behavior, and the identification of core values which affirm a commitment to inclusion. Implications for practice include the importance of: fostering communication and collaboration between and among special and regular educators, promoting professional development opportunities based on current adult learning theories, and utilizing journals to help teachers think more deeply about their interactions with students as well as their teaching practices. Limitations of this study include the researcher's role as school principal and participant, small sample size, and relatively short study duration.