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SPECIAL EDUCATION - Essay Example

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Special Education Program Standards Study of Class Size and Combining Students with Various Disabilities. Retrieved 19 September, 2008 from http://www.ed.gov/pubs/OSEP96AnlRpt/appb-4.html.
Virginias Special Education Program Standards…
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SPECIAL EDUCATION
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TYPE OF RESEARCH: Qualitative. Study size and combining of various types of special needs children ● POPULATION SAMPLE: Within of Virginia Department of Education, 1991

all special education directors in the State (80 percent responded)
1,000 randomly selected special education teachers of students with high incidence
disabilities--educable mental retardation, emotional disabilities, and learning disabilities
(85 percent responded);
and more than 3,000 other special educators serving students
with low incidence, moderate and severe disabilities such as hearing and vision
impairments, speech-language impairments, and preschoolers with disabilities.
● SUMMARY OF PROCEDURES:
The purpose of the study is to evaluate practices in the special education classroom
that have existed since the 1970s. The study begins with a varied group of
stakeholders. “73 members included local school board members; principals; directors of
special education; general, vocational, and special education teachers; parents; students;
and VDOE staff”(VDOE 1991). This group of stakeholders identifies the most important
questions to be answered in special education settings, to complete Phase I of the study.
Phase II (Fall 1992-Spring 1993) collects statewide information, through mail surveys to
educators in all districts within the state.
Phase III of the study involves (Fall 1993-Spring 1994), recommended revisions to the
program standards for students with disabilities. Recommendations are based on
information gathered during Phase I and Phase II of the study, studies of class size,
funding policies in other states and prior studies of special education in Virginia. The
two questions identified as the most important are: 1. What are the effects on student
achievement of varying class sizes and mixing students with different disabilities?
2. How do the special education program standards inhibit or facilitate effective
service delivery?
● SUMMARY OF RESULTS:
Educators and administrators often view the current program standards in special
education as too rigid, creating difficulty in placing students in specific programs.
Overall, students achieve at lower levels in larger class sizes. Other aspects of
development, such as emotional and social, are apparently not affected by class size.
There is also some disagreement on standards of class size. However, teachers and
Administrators both agree that smaller classes are needed. Teachers judge size
Standards for special education classes as high, while administrators judge them as
low.
The mixing of various types of disabilities within a single classroom does not appear
to affect academic achievement, according to teachers, while fewer resources and
methods are used in the mixed classroom. Teachers, as a whole, oppose mixing students
of various types of disabilities. Class size and mix standards for students with less
severe or low incidence disabilities are less problematic for teachers and students, from
the perspective of teachers. However, there are a few exceptions, “most notably caseload
sizes for early childhood special education and speech-language impairment”(VDOE).
● STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES OF STUDY:

The study takes into account the views or perceptions of administrators and teachers,
through the mail questionnaire. It fails to take into account the views and perceptions of
parents. While special education teachers spend a significant amount of time with the
children they teach, parents live with the children and see them in their most natural
environments at home, in the family, neighborhood and community setting. Their
input and perceptions may vary greatly, in terms of achievement and social/emotional
development. Teachers may respond in terms of expectations and abilities, rather than
from the perspective of what is best for each child. Teachers want to be successful and
therefore, respond in a manner that reinforces success, even when problems are
identified.
However, most admit that classroom size and types of disabilities affect their
own abilities to apply more individualized or specialized methods, due to logistics and
time constraints. Administrators also want to view their programs as successful. In
opposition to teachers, they appear to be lacking the first hand knowledge on the effects
of class size, types of disabilities and methods available to teachers. Administrators often
must work within budgets as well, failing to take into account the individual child. They
may tend to look at programs as a whole, in terms of effectiveness, believing that funding
and programming is adequate.
Teachers do admit, that mixing various types of disabilities in the classroom, poses
greater challenge in providing an expected level of quality in education. This is
reinforced by teacher views on standards for classroom size. While they may believe
that students with special needs receive adequate educational services, they believe that
achievement and provision of services can improve, based on changes in class size and
grouping of students according to type of disability. Teachers are often the strongest
advocates for their students. The study indicates that special education students in
Virginia do advocate for their students. Teacher responses also indicate that they can
identify realistic standards and effective strategies for students with learning disabilities.
References
Virginia Department of Education (1991). Special Education Program Standards Study of Class Size and Combining Students with Various Disabilities. Retrieved 19 September, 2008 from http://www.ed.gov/pubs/OSEP96AnlRpt/appb-4.html.
A r c h i v e d  I n f o r m a t i o n
To Assure the Free Appropriate Public Education of All Children with Disabilities - 1996
Special Education Program Standards Study of Class Size and Combining Students with Various Disabilities
Virginia Department of Education, FY 1991
The Policy Context
Virginias Special Education Program Standards define the maximum caseloads special education teachers can carry and the conditions under which students with different disabilities can be instructed together. Virginias special education delivery system is based on the categorical placement of students with disabilities who receive special education services for 50 percent or more of the day. As of 1992, when this study was initiated, special education class size and class mix standards in the State had not changed since the 1970s. Evidence of the need to evaluate these standards in light of changing practices included: 1) an increase in the number and types of waivers requested by local school divisions; 2) an increase in parent and advocate complaints about approved waivers; and 3) a consensus of key stakeholders that the standards might have become too rigid for determining appropriate programs for individual students.
The Research Questions
The study, conducted by The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) in conjunction with researchers from the Virginia Polytechnic University and the University of Virginia, gathered information designed to enable the Superintendent of Schools and State Board of Education to determine those areas in which the special education standards are successful or need improvement. The project team examined two primary research questions:
1. What are the effects on student achievement of varying class sizes and mixing students with different disabilities?
2. How do the special education program standards inhibit or facilitate effective service delivery?
Methods
Investigators took a stakeholder-based approach to answering the research questions. Stakeholders were chosen to represent diverse constituencies with disparate views on the key issues and high stakes in the outcome of the program standards study. The composition of the stakeholder group was carefully balanced with the aim of promoting a common framework for understanding the issues involved in analyzing and developing policy. The larger stakeholder group of 73 members included local school board members; principals; directors of special education; general, vocational, and special education teachers; parents; students; and VDOE staff. This group provided input concerning all aspects of the study. Seventeen representatives of the larger group formed the stakeholder steering team, which was actively involved in designing the instruments, collecting data, and formulating recommendations.
Study activities were carried out in three phases. During Phase I (Spring 1992), determinations were made about which issues warranted full-scale study and the best methods for collecting statewide data from multiple sources. This phase included a literature review on the effects of varying class size and class mix, and site visits to three school divisions to gather in-depth information through interviews, document reviews, observations, and surveys. During Phase II (Fall 1992-Spring 1993), broad-based, statewide information was collected, primarily through administration of mail surveys to:
all special education directors in the State (80 percent responded);
1,000 randomly selected special education teachers of students with high incidence disabilities--educable mental retardation, emotional disabilities, and learning disabilities (85 percent responded); and
more than 3,000 other special educators serving students with low incidence, moderate and severe disabilities such as hearing and vision impairments, speech-language impairments, and preschoolers with disabilities (45 percent responded).
Opinions on the program standards for students with disabilities were also solicited from persons attending statewide public hearings. Twenty-five attendees at three hearings provided public testimony. In addition, 255 written comments were received during the public comment period.
During Phase III (Fall 1993-Spring 1994), recommended revisions to the program standards for students with disabilities were formulated. The recommendations were based on information gathered during Phases I and II, on studies of class size and funding policies in other States, and on prior studies of special education in Virginia. During this phase, the information was collected during monthly stakeholder steering team meetings; quarterly focus group meetings with the broader stakeholder groups; presentations to the Virginia Department of Education management and the Board of Education; and meetings on selected topics held with various advisory councils,faculty at institutions of higher education, and advocacy groups.
Findings
The major study findings are described below.
Many administrators, as well as some teachers and parents, perceive the program standards as too rigid for determining appropriate programs for individual students.
On the whole, students achieve at lower levels in larger classes, while other areas (social and affective indicators, as well as teaching methods) are unaffected by class size.
Teachers and administrators agreed on some aspects of class size standards and disagreed on others. Both groups consistently recommended smaller resource classes. However, teachers judged size standards for most self-contained and departmentalized classes as high, while administrators regarded most as manageable.
Neither student achievement nor social and affective indicators (e.g., motivation, self-concept, work habits, etc.) appear to be discernibly affected when students with educable mental retardation, emotional disturbances, and learning disabilities are instructed together. Teachers in mixed classrooms used significantly fewer methods of instruction, as well as more large group instruction, than those in classrooms where students with only one type of disability were taught.
Unlike special education directors, teachers in all categories oppose the practice of mixing students with educable mental retardation, emotional disturbances, and learning disabilities.
In general, class size and class mix standards for students with low incidence disabilities are seen as less problematic than those for students with emotional disturbances, educable mental retardation, and learning disabilities. However, there are a few exceptions, most notably caseload sizes for early childhood special education and speech-language impairment.
Another of the studys significant accomplishments, as documented by an external process evaluation by the Evaluation Center of the University of Virginia, was its successful implementation of a complex, participatory stakeholder-based design, that incorporated stakeholder input into the study process and formulation of findings.
Recommendations
The study resulted in nine recommendations that have been or will be used to develop new statewide standards for students with disabilities in Virginia. The major recommendations to the State Board of Education are described below.
The caseload for students with educable mental retardation and speech or language impairments should be reduced. On the strength of this recommendation, the State Board of Education requested additional funds in their 1994 budget to support the States share of costs for reducing class sizes for students with educable mental retardation and speech or language impairments. Study personnel further recommended that this budget request be approved by the General Assembly for implementation in the 1994-1995 school year.
Current teacher caseloads should be preserved when students with disabilities are integrated in general education settings.
New standards should not require that students with disabilities be grouped exclusively by disability category. Placement should be decided by a students individualized education program (IEP) committee based on appraisal of each students needs.
New standards should permit exceptions to be made to State regulations for innovative programs that are locally planned with stakeholder and local school board involvement, provided such programs do not override students IEPs or violate Federal regulations.
Additional recommendations call for conducting further studies in several areas, including investigating the impact of inclusion.
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