close

Вход

Забыли?

вход по аккаунту

?

A case study of the effects of the Gaskin Case on seven school districts in Southeastern Pennsylvania

код для вставкиСкачать
A Case Study of the Effects of the Gaskin Case on
Seven School Districts in
Southeastern Pennsylvania
A Dissertation
Presented to the Faculty of the
College of Human Service Professions
Widener University
In Partial Fulfillment
Of the Requirements for the Degree
Doctor of Education
By
Suzanne H. Bell
Center for Education
December 2009
UM! Number: 3394714
All rights reserved
INFORMATION TO ALL USERS
The quality of this reproduction is dependent upon the quality of the copy submitted.
In the unlikely event that the author did not send a complete manuscript
and there are missing pages, these will be noted. Also, if material had to be removed,
a note will indicate the deletion.
UMI
Dissertation Publishing
UMI 3394714
Copyright 2010 by ProQuest LLC.
All rights reserved. This edition of the work is protected against
unauthorized copying under Title 17, United States Code.
uest
A®
ProQuest LLC
789 East Eisenhower Parkway
P.O. Box 1346
Ann Arbor, Ml 48106-1346
COPYRIGHT BY
SUZANNE H. BELL
2010
Title of Dissertation:
Author:
A CASE STUDY OF THE EFFECTS
OF THE GASKIN CASE ON SEVEN
SCHOOL DISTRICTS IN
SOUTHEASTERN PENNSYLVANIA
Suzanne H. Bell
Approved by:
Widener
University
David M. Rentschler, Ed.D.
Geraldin&JUoemker, Psy.D.
Noreen MsToder, Ed.D. L
U^ft»JU-^
Date: December 2, 2009
Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Degree of
Doctor of Education.
DEDICATION PAGE
Most great accomplishments are the result of a team effort. The completion of this
dissertation is not an exception to that rule. The following pages reflect the combined
effort of many mentors, friends and family members. I would like to dedicate this
dissertation to the following people who served as devoted members of my team:
To my superintendent, Dr. Robert Milrod, and my friends and colleagues at Upper
Moreland School District, who provided the inspiration and confidence needed to
complete this dissertation.
To my friend, Christine Harttraft, who encouraged and supported me as we
traveled together down the long road to completing our doctoral program.
To my dedicated group of supporters, Cindy, Leslie, Maureen, Alison and
Jeanine, who were there to assist with this process.
To my four children, Elizabeth, Frankie, Julie and Katie, who have stood by me
and been a continual source of joy during good and bad times.
To my husband and best friend, Frank, who has been supportive of me during all
my endeavors. He has been my emotional anchor through this program and
through a lifetime of challenges and successes.
IV
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
I would like to express my deepest gratitude to my advisor, Dr. Bernard Brogan, who
served as a mentor and role model. He continually demonstrated patience and concern
for me as I attempted to complete this research paper. He instilled in me the need to set
goals and he provided the support necessary for me to achieve them. Without his help,
my hopes of completing this dissertation would not have been realized.
I would also like to thank my committee members, Dr. Margaret Linn and Dr. David
Rentschler, for their enthusiastic support, their invaluable comments and suggestions,
their precious time and their attention to details. This process was enhanced greatly by
their input.
In addition, I would like to thank the supervisor and directors of these case studies who
have been so cooperative and generous with their time. The information they shared will
be of value to me and other professional in the field of special education who want to do
what is best for every child.
v
ABSTRACT
This qualitative study investigated the impact of the Gaskin v. Pennsylvania
Department of Education Court Settlement Agreement on school districts in Southeast
Pennsylvania. This class action suit was brought on behalf of students with physical,
behavioral and developmental delays, their parents and eleven national organizations.
The lawsuit alleged that disabled students were denied the right to a free and appropriate
education in a regular classroom and that Pennsylvania's schools failed to offer a
continuum of services needed to assist special needs students to function in a regular
school environment. This case has had a far-reaching impact on school districts, schools
and classrooms. It has had an impact on the way students are instructed, in the services
they are provided and in the placements where they are assigned.
This research study discovered common factors concerning the belief systems and
the policies and practices that special education and pupil services directors and
supervisors have employed to meet the mandates of the Gaskin Case. The information
gained through this study can be shared with district and school leaders to assist them in
reviewing, revising and implementing some of the successful common practices found
throughout other school districts in Southeastern Pennsylvania.
The information gained through ninety-minute interviews with eight special
education and pupil services directors or supervisors in seven school districts and one
county intermediate unit provided a wealth of comprehensive information that would not
be easily acquired through other research methods. The school district participants were
vi
chosen because their districts had successfully met the least restrictive environment levels
that were mandated by the state. The intermediate unit director was chosen to give a
more global perspective on the actions of all the school districts in a county in
Southeastern Pennsylvania. The literature review included a brief history of the Gaskin
Settlement, least restrictive environment, professional development, supplemental aids
and services, progress monitoring, welcoming of all students and the participants' input
on factors that have contributed to the inclusion of students with special needs into the
least restrictive environment. Demographic information was also included to gain a
clearer perspective of the districts involved in the research in order to compare and
contrast their data with other districts involved in the study. Further research could
include interviews with other district stakeholders to gain their perspectives of the effects
of the Gaskin Settlement in the districts. Results gleaned from this study indicate that
those districts that had successfully met the mandates of the Gaskin Settlement had many
factors in common. Many of the districts had begun the inclusion process before the
settlement. Most of the districts had the financial support from their school boards to
provide students with supports and services for special needs students. In addition, the
administrators in these districts had developed an inclusive vision which included staff
development and training, the parents were strong advocates for inclusion and the
teachers and students had developed a strong feeling of acceptance of special needs
students.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Abstract
vi
CHAPTER 1
1
Introduction
1
Statement of the Research Problem
4
Purpose
4
Research Questions
5
Significance of the Study
6
Glossary of Terms
7
CHAPTER E: Review of Literature
11
History of Special Education
11
Gaskin Agreement
14
Least Restrictive Environment
20
Progress Monitoring
28
Professional Development
33
Welcoming Special Needs Students
39
Supplementary Aids and Services
43
CHAPTER III: Methodology
49
Problems and Research Questions
49
Research Design
50
Methods of Data Collection
52
Participants
55
viii
Data Analysis Procedures
58
Bias
58
CHAPTER IV Results/Findings
60
Background Information
60
Demographics
62
Case Study A
62
Demographics
62
Participants
66
Response to Question # 1 - Affects of the Gaskin Case
66
Response to Question # 2 - Least Restrictive Environment
70
Response to Question # 3- Staff Development
74
Response to Question # 4 - Supplemental Aids and Services
75
Response to Question* 5- Monitoring Systems
79
Response to Question # 6- Welcoming All Students
80
Response to Question # 7 - Factors Affecting LRE
Case Study B.....
:
81
82
Demographics
82
Participants
85
Response to Question # 1 - Effects of the Gaskin Case
86
Response to Question # 2 - Least Restrictive Environment
89
Response to Question # 3- Staff Development
95
Response to Question # 4 - Supplemental Aids and Services
99
ix
Response to Question* 5- Monitoring Systems
102
Response to Question # 6- Welcoming All Students
105
Response to Question # 7 - Factors Affecting LRE
108
Case Study C
109
Demographics
109
Participants
112
Response to Question # 1 - Affects of the Gaskin Case
113
Response to Question # 2 - Least Restrictive Environment
117
Response to Question # 3- Staff Development
121
Response to Question # 4 - Supplemental Aids and Services
123
Response to Question* 5- Monitoring Systems
126
Response to Question # 6- Welcoming All Students
127
Response to Question # 7 - Factors Affecting LRE
130
Case Study D
130
Demographics
130
Participants
134
Response to Question # 1 - Affects of the Gaskin Case
134
Response to Question # 2 - Least Restrictive Environment
140
Response to Question* 3- Staff Development
145
Response to Question # 4 - Supplemental Aids and Services
147
Response to Question* 5- Monitoring Systems
149
Response to Question # 6- Welcoming All Students
150
x
Response to Question # 7 - Factors Affecting LRE
Case Study E
152
152
Demographics
152
Participants
155
Response to Question # 1 - Affects of the Gaskin Case
156
Response to Question# 2 -Least Restrictive Environment
158
Response to Question # 3- Staff Development
163
Response to Question # 4 - Supplemental Aids and Services
165
Response to Question* 5-Monitoring Systems
170
Response to Question # 6- Welcoming All Students
172
Response to Question # 7 - Factors Affecting LRE
174
Case Study F
174
Demographics
174
Participants
177
Response to Question # 1 - Affects of the Gaskin Case
178
Response to Question # 2 - Least Restrictive Environment
182
Response to Question # 3- Staff Development
188
Response to Question # 4 - Supplemental Aids and Services
190
Response to Question* 5- Monitoring Systems
195
Response to Question # 6- Welcoming All Students
196
Response to Question # 7 - Factors Affecting LRE
198
Case Study G
199
XI
Demographics
199
Participants
202
Response to Question # 1 - Affects of the Gaskin Case
202
Response to Question # 2 - Least Restrictive Environment
206
Response to Question # 3- Staff Development
209
Response to Question # 4 - Supplemental Aids and Services
210
Response to Question# 5- Monitoring Systems
214
Response to Question # 6- Welcoming All Students
216
Response to Question # 7 - Factors Affecting LRE
218
Case Study H
218
Demographics
218
Participants
219
Response to Question # 1 - Affects of the Gaskin Case
220
Response to Question # 2 - Least Restrictive Environment
223
Response to Question # 3- Staff Development
226
Response to Question # 4 - Supplemental Aids and Services
227
Response to Question# 5- Monitoring Systems
231
Response to Question # 6- Welcoming All Students
233
Response to Question # 7 - Factors Affecting LRE
234
CHAPTER V.- Themes, Personal Reflections and Conclusion
236
Introduction
236
Discussion
236
xii
District Populations
237
Special Education Population
238
Summary of Research Question # 1
240
Summary of Research Question # 2
245
Summary of Research Question # 3
249
Summary of Research Question #4
251
Summary of Research Question #5
258
Summary of Research Question # 6
260
Summary of Research Question #7
264
Research Summary
265
Relation to Literature Review
272
Limitations Noted
274
Recommendations
276
Reflections
279
REFERENCES
284
Xlll
LIST OF APPENDICES
APPENDIX A - Research Questions and Support Questions
295
APPENDIX B - Superintendent Permission Letter
398
APPENDIX C- Letter to Participants
300
APPENDIX D-Consent Form
301
APPENDIX E - Institutional Review Board Approval
306
xiv
1
CHAPTER I
INTRODUCTION
One of the greatest challenges facing today's leaders in education involves the area
of special education (Villa & Thousands, 1994). Advocacy groups, federal laws and
litigation have forced the educational community to address the needs of students with
disabilities. The passage of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975,
also known as Public Law 94-142, provided support from the federal government for the
education of special needs students. This law has been described as one of the most
important laws concerning the provision of educational services to students with
disabilities. This federal law mandates a free and appropriate education for disabled
students, the right to receive instruction in the least restrictive environment and the
assurance of due process rights to parents of students with disabilities (Wedl, 2005).
This law was updated with the approval of the Individuals with Disabilities Act of 1990
(IDEA) and again in 1997 (IDEA 97). IDEA identified thirteen categories of disabilities
and contained several mandates that supported the coordination of special and general
education (Wedl, 2005). With the passage of this law, the federal government has
committed to pay 40% of the cost to educate special needs pupils (National Education
Association, www.nea.org, retrieved 9/19/2007). In the last decade, there has been a
30% increase in the number of students enrolled in special education programs in the
United States. An estimated 75% of these students spend time in general education on a
full or partial basis. In almost every district and school, students with disabilities are
2
included in general education classes. The average cost to educate a special needs
student is about $17,000 per year. That is approximately $10,000 more than the cost for
a general education student. The difference between the federal government's
contribution and the local school districts contribution has created a burden on some
communities (National Education Association, www.nes.org retrieved 9/19/2007).
It is the responsibility of the leaders of districts and schools to make decisions
about the types of programs needed and the methods of financing these programs
(National Education Association, www.nes.org, retrieved 9/19/2007). It has also become
the responsibility of local schools and districts to provide special needs students access to
the general curriculum and to provide the supports and services needed to ensure success
in these settings. In addition, schools are mandated to monitor students' progress through
a variety of assessment measures (DiPaola & Walther-Thomas, 2003). While schools are
under increased pressure to address these issues, research has shown that few educational
administrators have received the preparation and training needed to create environments
inclusive for all students (DiPaola & Walther-Thomas, 2003).
Federal laws and court cases mandate the inclusion of students, progress
monitoring and staff development, but fail to give guidelines of how to effectively
implement these plans. One such court case advocating the inclusion of special education
students is the Gaskin v. Pennsylvania Department of Education (2004). This was a class
action suit brought on behalf of students with disabilities in Pennsylvania public schools.
The plaintiffs included twelve students with physical, behavioral and developmental
delays, their parents and eleven national organizations who champion for the rights of
3
disabled individuals (Gaskin v. PA Dept of Ed - US District Court. www.pde.state.pa.US,
retrieved 9/12/2007). One of these plaintiffs was Lydia Gaskin after whom the case was
named. This lawsuit accused the Pennsylvania Department of Education of violating
federal statues designed to protect the rights of disabled students. This lawsuit alleged
that students with disabilities were denied the right to a free and appropriate public
education in a general classroom and that Pennsylvania schools failed to offer a full
continuum of services needed to assist special needs students to function in a general
school environment (Gaskin v. Pennsylvania Department of Education
www.pde.state.pa.US retrieved 9/12/2007). This case resulted in a settlement agreement
that included a lengthy, but central portion titled'Settlement Terms, Conditions, and
Undertakings". In this portion of the agreement, Pennsylvania Department of Education
promised to begin to make changes in its special education procedures. These proposed
changes include the establishment of an Advisory Panel, the modification of the
Individual Education Plan format, the creation of a Least Restrictive Environment
compliance monitoring system, the establishment of a complaint resolution investigation
process and the development of a training and technical assistance program (Gaskin v.
Pennsylvania Department of Education, www.pde.state.pa.US retrieved 9/12/2007).
The Gaskin settlement also mandates school districts to assure that special needs
students have access to the general curriculum in the least restrictive environment. This
document outlines the need for the presentation of professional development for staff and
access to supports and services needed to successfully include these students with
disabilities into the general school environment.
4
Statement of the Research Problem
Court Cases and legislation have outlined the rights of special needs students to
receive a free and appropriate education in the least restrictive environment. The Gaskin
v. Pennsylvania Department of Education Settlement (2004) has outlined the changes and
supports necessary to assure that the needs of special education students are met in the
least restrictive environment. Each district is left to decide how these changes are to be
made. While some districts have managed to meet the mandates of the settlement, many
others have not been as successful. Despite their efforts to include more students into
the least restrictive setting, these districts continue to be cited for failing to reach the
percentage of included students as determined by the state. This study was intended to
discover common themes that have helped districts meet the mandates of the Gaskin
Case.
Purpose
While the Gaskin settlement has outlined the mandates necessary to assure that all
students are educated in the least restrictive environment, local school districts have been
provided little direction on how to implement these changes. There exist many varied
and different approaches from district to district to successfully educate special needs
students in their schools.
The intent of this research was to interview the Special Education Directors and
Supervisors of seven school districts in Southeastern Pennsylvania that have been
identified by the State of Pennsylvania through the LRE Levels as being successful or
5
making progress in implementing the mandates of the Gaskin Case. The purpose of
these interviews was to discover themes and features common to these districts that have
resulted in the successful inclusion of special needs students. Hopefully, the information
gleaned from this study will be shared with other districts to help them successfully meet
the mandates of the Gaskin Settlement and to help districts successfully educate students
with special needs in the least restrictive environment.
Research Questions
The major question this study sought to answer is what impact has the Gaskin
Settlement had on school districts in Southeastern Pennsylvania. Related questions
include the following:
1 What specific actions have districts' Special Education Supervisors taken to
include their special needs students into the least restrictive environment?
2
What types of staff development have been provided to district staff members
to prepare them to educate special needs students in regular education
settings?
3
What types of supplementary aids and services do districts have in place to
ensure the success of students with disabilities?
4
What programs do districts have in place that welcomes all students into their
schools?
5
What monitoring system is in place to assess the progress of special education
students throughout these districts?
6
6
What factor do the special education and pupil support directors and
supervisors feel are responsible for their districts' success at including special
needs students into the least restrictive environment?
Significance of the Study
An investigation of the effects of the Gaskin Case is important because of the
impact that it has had on public school districts in Pennsylvania. This law has affected
the educational experience of every special needs student in every public school in the
state. It is responsible for changing the way that teachers are functioning in their classes
on a daily basis. The information gained through this study can be shared with districts
and schools in the state of Pennsylvania to help district staff members successfully meet
the mandates included in the Gaskin v. Pennsylvania Department of Education Settlement
(2004).. The findings of the research have also outlined the range of least restrictive
environments available for the placement of special needs students and the success of
these students in these settings. This investigation has provided information on various
inclusion models and the impact of these models on student performance. In addition, the
findings have identified the focus areas addressed in staff development sessions aimed at
assisting general education teachers in the instruction of special needs students. This
study had identified the different types and purposes of the Supplementary Aids and
Services utilized by successful districts to meet the instructional needs of special
education students. Finally, it has examined the different types of programs and
7
assessment procedures used to monitoring the growth of special needs students in a
variety of subject areas.
Glossary of Terms
Accommodations-Techniques and materials that allow individuals with
disabilities to complete school or work tasks with greater ease and effectiveness"
(Lokerson, 1992).
AYP - Adequate Yearly Progress -An individual state's measure of progress
toward the goal of 100 % of students achieving to state academic standards in at least
reading, language arts and math. It sets the minimum level of proficiency that the
state, its school districts, and schools must achieve each year on annual tests and
related academic indicators" (US Department of Education,
www.ed.gov/legislation/ESEA02, retrieved 1/4/2008).
Americans with Disabilities Act-federal law that protects persons with
disabilities in the operations of public businesses and government' (National Center
for Leaning Disabilities www.ncld.org/content/view/92, retrieved 12/10/2008).
Curriculum Based Assessment-Tools for measuring student competency and
progress in the basic skill areas of reading fluency, spelling, mathematics and written
language" (National Council for Learning Disabilities,
www.ncld.org/content/view/921/retrieved 2/15/2008).
8
Differentiated Instruction-An instructional technique in which the classroom
teacher plans for the various needs of students. Learning styles, skill level, learning
difficulties, motivation and physical needs must be consider when planning lessons
for special needs students.
Free Appropriate Public Education - 'Every child with a disability has the right to
a public education at no cost to the parent. The child's educational program must be
individually designed to meet the child's unique needs" (Rutgers University Special
Education Clinic, www.specialeducation.rutgers.edu/definitions.pdfpl. retrieved
12/10/2008).
Inclusion-The practice of educating all or most children in the same classroom,
including children with physical, mental and developmental disabilities. Inclusion
classes often require a special assistant to the classroom teacher' (Association for
Supervision and Curriculum Development, www.ascd.org , retrieved 3/12/2008).
Individualized Education Plan-A written plan developed at a meeting with the IEP
Team that serves as the roadmap for the childs education. The IEP must state the
childs present levels of performance, measurable annual goals and short-term
objectives aimed at improving the childs educational performance, and instructional
activities and related services needed for the child to achieve the stated goals and
objectives. It also must state the reasons for the childs placement. The IEP must be
individually designed to meet the child's unique needs (Rutgers University Special
9
Education Clinic, www.specialeducation.rutgers.edu/definitions.pdf., pi, retrieved
12/10/2008).
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act_- A law ensuring services to children
with disabilities throughout the nation (United States Department of Education,
www.ed.gov retrieved 1/4/2008).
Least Restrictive Environment-Every child with a disability must be educated
with non-disabled children to the maximum extent possible" (Rutgers University
Special Education Clinic, www.specialeducation.rutgers.edu/definitions.pdf., pi,
retrieved 12/10/2008).
Least Restrictive Environment Tiers-The Pennsylvania Department of Education,
in response to the mandates of the Gaskin Settlement, identify the lower half of the
state's 501 school district that have made the least amount of progress in placing
student in to the'Least Restrictive Environment!' The PDE has placed these districts
into three tiers in an attempt to help these districts increase the number of students in
the LRE.
Special Education-'Specially designed instruction that is provided at no cost to the
parents of the child with a disability that affects the childs ability to learn. The
instruction is designed to meet the unique needs of the child with disabilities"
(Rutgers University Special University Special Education Clinic,
www.specialeducation.rutgers.edu/definitions.pdf.,
p. 1, retrieved 12/10/2008).
10
Supplemental Aids and Services-Aids, services and supports that are provided to
special needs students in order to help them become more successful in the regular
education environment. Examples include the assistance of an aid, use of calculators,
computers, extended time, etc!'
11
CHAPTER II
Review of the Literature
The purpose of this literature review is to investigate the Gaskin v. Pennsylvania
Department of Education Settlement. In order to gain an understanding of the chain of
events that lead to the Gaskin settlement, a brief summary of the evolution of special
education in the United States will be conducted. This review will also identify the areas
of the Gaskin settlement that can be addressed by school districts throughout the
commonwealth. These areas include the concept of least restrictive environment, the
exploration of professional development, the availability of support and services for
special needs students and the types of actions that can be taken to ensure that special
needs students and families feel welcome in their neighborhood schools. In addition, this
review will investigate progress monitoring techniques used by districts to assess students'
growth on the educational goals outlined in their Individual Education Plans.
History of Special Education in the United States of America
Throughout history, children with disabilities have been discriminated against in
all parts of the world. In some cases, disabled people were isolated, excluded and
physically harmed. This was also true for disabled children throughout most of America's
history. Government assistance for the disabled consisted of the establishment of
institutions and asylums for the children with auditory, vocal and visual disabilities. The
launching of the Soviet Sputnik brought changes to public schools in America. In an
12
effort to remain competitive with the Soviets, Congress passed the National Defense
Education Act of 1958. After signing the NDEA, President Eisenhower also signed a
small act that provided funding to universities to train teachers to educate students with
mental retardation. This act, known as Public Law 85-926, was expanded in 1963 to
include training teachers to address the needs of children with other classifications of
disabilities.
In 1965, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act was passed which
subsidized direct services for certain populations in public schools. This Act did not
initially provide services for handicapped students. However, Public Law 89-313 was
amended to provide services for special needs students in state operated schools.
In 1964, through the efforts of advocates for children with disabilities, the Bureau
for the Education of the Handicapped was established which provided grants to states to
establish and improve programs aimed at educating students with disabilities. This was
the first education act for the handicapped.
In 1975, Public Law 94-142 was passed. This law was aimed at providing
services for the education of deaf, blind and multi-handicapped children. It also
addressed the education of students with specific learning disabilities. As more programs
for the disabled developed, the Bureau of Education for the Handicapped codified these
programs into a more comprehensive Education of the Handicapped Act.
During the 1960s and 1970s, despite the new laws and funding, many disabled
students remained unserved. Advocates for the disabled turned to the courts for
assistance. A series of court cases including the PARC v. Commonwealth of
13
Pennsylvania (1971) and the Mills v. The Board of Education (1972), made it clear that
students with disabilities had an equal right to a public education.
In 1973, Public Law 93-112, known as the Rehabilitation Act, at Section 504 was
passed. This act mandated that any agency in the receipt of federal funding must not
discriminate in its services to disabled citizens. The Americans with Disabilities Act of
1990 (ADA) increased the rights of the disabled by forbidding discriminatory practices in
areas such as employment, public accommodations and transportation (Martin, Martin, &
Terman, 1996).
In 1975, Public Law 94-142, known as the Education for All Handicapped
Children Act, was passed. This act mandated that all disabled children should receive a
Free and Appropriate Public Education. The title of this Act was changed in 1983 and in
1990. It was known as the Individuals with Disabilities Act. In addition, the Bureau for
the Education of the Handicapped was changed to the Office of Special Education and
Rehabilitation Services.
According to Public Law 94-142, State Departments of Education have to develop
a system to locate all disabled students in their state. This system, known as'Oiild Find'
was created to identify disabled students and provide them with special services and
supports (Martin, Martin & Terman, 1996).
The Individuals with Disabilities Act was reauthorized in 1997. The Amendment
strengthened the role of parents, added a mediation process, called for inclusion of
disabled students on state and district wide assessments, added procedures for
disciplinary actions and required the presence of a regular education teacher at all IEP
14
meetings. IDEA was reauthorized in 2004. Changes to IDEA required more
accountability at state and local levels, aligned IDEA with the provisions of NCLB such
as adequate yearly progress and required the hiring of highly qualified personnel. It also
mandated districts to develop research-based interventions designed to prevent students
from being placed in special education. (Yell, Shriner & Katsiyannis, 2006).
The Gaskin Agreement
On November 18, 1983, Lydia Gaskin was born to Joseph and Karen Gaskin of
Carlisle Pennsylvania. Shortly after the child's birth, the doctors diagnosed Lydia with
Down syndrome (Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, 2004 www.pilcop.org ,
retrieved 10/20/2007). This genetic disorder occurs once in every eight hundred births. It
is identified by low muscle tone, a crease across the palm of the hand, slanted eyes and
flattened facial features. Individuals with Downs's syndrome have an extra chromosome.
They have 47 chromosomes instead of the normal 46 found in the rest of the population.
Downs Syndrome is caused by nondisjunction, an error in cell division and must be
verified by a chromosome study called a karyotype (National Association for Downs
Syndrome, http://www.nads.org/pagesnew/facts.html.retrieved 9/12/2007). When it
came time for Lydia to attend kindergarten, Carlisle School district gave her parents the
option of sending her to a local school without support or attending a mixed assessment
program with support. The second placement was two hours away from her home. The
Gaskins chose to send Lydia to the school with support. However, Lydia had problems
succeeding in this environment partially because of the lack of control in the classroom.
15
Her parents decided to transfer her back to the local school with the needed supports. She
was placed in a learning support class in first grade. Her family advocated for her to be
included in a general class and after eight hearings and a state appeal, Lydia was
mainstreamed for part of the day in non-academic classes. Through the efforts of her
parents, Lydia was included in most general education classes by the time she was in
middle school. Her parents believed that Lydia could continue to be challenged. They
wanted her educated in classes for college bound students. They appealed the district's
decision to educate her in a life skills placement. The district agreed to allow Lydia to
join the academic classes (Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, 2004.
www.pilcop.org, retrieved 10/20/2007). Lydia completed her high school course work in
2003 and spent two additional years in a vocational culinary arts program. She obtained a
job working at an area restaurant several nights a week. In addition, she attended class at
Harrisburg Area Community College and continued her education at an Employment
Center in Carlisle, Pennsylvania (Dickinson Magazine, 2008, www.Dickinson.edu ,
retrieved 10/ 7/2008).
On June 30, 1994, a state- wide class action suit was filed against the
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania's Department of Education. The Education Law Center
of Philadelphia represented"a class of 280,000 special education students, 12 named
plaintiffs, and 11 disabilities advocacy organizations, including The ARC of
Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania TASH, and Pennsylvania Protection and Advocacy, Inc"
(Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, 2004, www.pilcop.org retrieved
10/20/2007). The suit was named after Lydia Gaskin because her case was the first
16
inclusion matter to reach the state level in Pennsylvania (Public Interest Law Center of
Philadelphia, 2004, www.pilcop.org retrieved 10/20/2007). The suit alleges that the state
of Pennsylvania was in violation of the Children with Disabilities Education Act designed
to protect the rights of children with disabilities. It also alleged that students with
disabilities were denied their right to a free and appropriate education in general
classrooms with needed supplemental aides and services. Further allegations charged
that the state of Pennsylvania's Department of Education failed to offer a full continuum
of services, which would allow disabled children to be educated in general classrooms.
The dispute between the two parties continued for ten years with each side presenting
expert witnesses, dozen of depositions, thousands of pages of documentation and a
survey of ten Pennsylvania school districts. In March 2004, Judge Eduardo Robreno
elected to place the case in suspension, instead of ruling on the pending motions. He
directed both parties to enter into court-supervised mediation (Gaskin v. Pa Department
of Education (20041. www.pde.state.pa.us. 9/12/2007).
A provisional settlement agreement to this ten-year-old class action suit was
signed by counsel for both parties in the Gaskin Case on December 21, 2004. By the
terms of the agreement, Pennsylvania's Department of Education agreed to make systemic
changes to its role in the supervision of special education. PA agreed to:
Develop materials to be displayed in all public schools that show all children are
welcome. Provide increased professional development for teachers and other
school personnel. Expand information and training that supports parents of
disabled students. Ensure that the IEP team determines the appropriateness of
17
implementing IEP goals in regular classrooms with supplementary aids and
services. Provide a single plan for a student with a disability who also qualifies
for gifted support. Modify portions of an IEP or annotated IEP to provide more
information related to students participating in regular education. Clarify
complaint resolution and investigation procedures. Monitor the Least Restrictive
Environment requirements to ensure that districts comply with federal and state
laws related to student placement. Establish a Least Restrictive Environment
advisory panel of parents, advocates, and educators to review system-wide
progress in the delivery of instruction to students with disabilities in regular
education classrooms (PA Department of Education, Gaskin Settlement
Agreement-Overview, www.pde.state.pa.us., retrieved 9/20/2007).
The Advisory Panel established under this agreement was named the"Bureau
Director's Advisory Panel on Least Restrictive Environment Practices''The purpose of this
panel is to advise the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the Director of
Pennsylvania's Department of Education's Bureau of Special Education about issues
concerning special education. Twelve individuals of the fifteen-member panel are
selected by advocacy groups, which represent the plaintiffs in the Gaskin Case. The panel
is composed of members representing the population of special needs students in the
Pennsylvania school systems according to'race, ethnicity, cultural characteristics,
geography and age" (Gaskin v. PDE (2004), US District Court, Philadelphia,
www.pde.state.pa.us.pde., retrieved 9/12/2007). The Advisory panel is scheduled to
meet four times a year in order to review special education enrollment and inclusion data
18
collected by the Pennsylvania Department of Education (Gaskin v. PDE, US District
Court, Philadelphia www.PDE retrieved 9/12/2007).
The settlement also mandates revisions to the special education monitoring
procedures. A new monitoring program,"Least Restrictive Environment', mandates that
each of the five hundred and one school districts in Pennsylvania receive an annual
'LRE'rating. Each district is assigned a score based on its success including special needs
students into regular education settings.
IDEA and the Gaskin Agreement require the State of Pennsylvania to monitor the
placement of students in the least restrictive environment. The United States Department
of Education also requires the state to report the proportion of students educated in three
educational placement categories. The first category reports the number of students with
Individual Education Plans who receive special education outside the general classes for
less than 21 % of the day. In this category, a higher number of students is most desirable.
The second category includes the number of students with Individual Education Plans
who receive special education outside the general classroom for more than 60% of the
school day. In this category, a lower number of students is desirable. The third category
includes the percentage of students that are educated outside of the regular school district.
Once again, a lower number of students is desirable.
The LRE score is calculated for each district in these three data categories based
upon the percentage of special needs students that receive special education services in
the least restrictive environment as compared to the number of students in the least
restrictive environment in other districts in the state. A district with a high LRE index
19
score would have a high potential need for improvement while a district with a low LRE
index score would have a lower potential need for improvement within a data category
(www. Pennsylvania Department of Education retrieved 10/28/08). The LRE index
places school districts into multi-tiered monitoring levels. Districts with LRE scores in
the bottom half of all the schools in the Commonwealth, are placed on the monitoring
list. These districts are placed into three tiers.
Tier Three Level is made up of 180 school districts. These districts are placed on
'Alert'status. These districts are informed of their status and are given information
concerning areas of their programs that are in need of improvement. The Pennsylvania
Department of Education also shares information about available resources that can be
utilized by these districts to remediate their areas of weakness.
The Tier Two level is composed of schools in the bottom 10% of all of the
Commonwealth's districts. Personnel from these districts are required to attend training
and assistance programs supervised by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.
These districts must create an improvement plan that has been designed to address areas
in need of improvement.
Tier One level includes the 20 districts with the lowest LRE scores. Schools on
this tier are mandated to participate in'Tier One LRE Monitoring!'These districts are
appointed a Pennsylvania Department of Education monitoring team, which will make
on-site visits and assure that a corrective action plan is in place (Pennsylvania
Department of Education, www.pde.state.pa.us/special edu/lib/special edu./Settlement
retrieved 9/12/2007).
20
Districts implementing a Tier One LRE corrective action and improvement plan
are not included in the tier identification. The 23 districts, in the Tier One Level,
received on site monitoring by the state during the 2007-2008 school year.
In addition, Tier One and Tier Two districts are required to conduct staff training
sessions that are designed to remediate areas of deficiencies identified through the
compliance monitoring procedures (Gaskin v. PDE (2002), US District Court.
www.pde.state.pa.us.pde, retrieved 9/12/2007).
Least Restrictive Environment
In 1966, the Bureau for Education of the Handicapped was established under Title
VI of the Elementary and Secondary Schools Act. This Law passed by Congress gave the
Federal Government a role in the education and funding for efforts to provide a free and
appropriate public education for children with disabilities (United States Department of
Education-Report to Congress, US Department of Education 1995,
www.ed.gov/offices/OSERS7QSEp7products70SEP. retrieved 1/4/2008).
In 1975, Congress passed The Education of All Handicapped Children Act, P.L.,
94-142. This law placed the responsibility of educating disabled students on the state
rather than on the federal government. This was later updated in 1986 as P.L.99-457.
This law was passed to assure that the rights and needs of students with disabilities were
protected. It also, provided federal funding for educational programs. This act required
public schools to provided students with disabilities the right to a free and appropriate
education in the least restrictive environment (Ysseldyke, 2004).
21
Congress included the Least Restricted Environment requirement in the Education
for All Handicapped Children Act because it wanted to be sure that all children would be
educated in the setting that would most meet their individual needs. The Least Restrictive
Environment is the requirement that disabled students "receive their education, to the
maximum extent appropriate, with non-disabled peers and that special education pupils
are not removed from regular classes unless, even with supplemental aids and services,
education in regular classes cannot be achieved satisfactorily' (Education for All Children
Act 20 United States Code (U.S.C.) sec. 1412(a) (5) (A.)).
Federal law mandates that local education agencies must be certain that:
to the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities, including children
in public or private institutions or other care facilities, are educated with children
who are not disabled, and special classes, separate schooling or other removal of
children with disabilities from the regular educational environment occurs only
when the nature or severity of the disability of a child is such that education in
regular classes with the use of supplementary aides and services cannot be
achieved satisfactorily (Federal Code-34 Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.)
Sec. 300.550 (b) (1) and (2); 20 U.S.C. Sec. 1412 (a) (5) (A): California
Education Code (Cal. Ed. Code) Sec.56364.).
The laws defining special education come from two separate sources. The first
source is the statutory law source. This source comes from the legislature. In this case, it
is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The second source is case law. This
22
source leaves it up to the courts to interpret the law. This can lead to several different
interpretations of the law. Congress did not specify the conditions for Least Restrictive
Environment. In addition, the Supreme Court refused to hear the case to define the
statute. This left the interpretation of the Least Restrictive Environment to the Courts.
The courts rulings on IDEA are inconsistent. Courts in some states have interpreted the
law differently from courts in other states. Therefore, the interpretation of Least
Restrictive Environment may depend mainly on each state's interpretation. (Douvanis &
Hulsey, 2002).
IDEA has three requirements for the placement of students in the Least
Restrictive Environment. First, students with disabilities are to be educated to the
maximum extent appropriate with students who are not disabled. Second, students with
disabilities cannot be removed from the general class environment unless the nature of
the disability is so severe that education in a general education classroom cannot be
successful even with the use of supplementary aids and services. Third, to the maximum
extent possible, children with disabilities should participate in nonacademic and
extracurricular programs with non-disabled students.
IDEA also mandates that a full range of placements and services be available to
meet the needs of disabled students who cannot be educated in a general class. It requires
that each disabled student be educated in his home school whenever possible. When this
is not the case, they should be educated in a school as close to home as possible (State of
New Jersey, Department of Education, www.state.nj.us/, retrieved 10/18/2007).
The placement of students in special education is mandated by law, to be made by
23
the Individual Education Plan team. The state of Pennsylvania requires these teams to
make placement decisions based on several requirements.
First, a Free and Appropriate Public Education must be provided to every student
with an IEP. This Free and Appropriate Public Education must be delivered in the
Least Restrictive Environment as determined by the Individual Education Plan
Team. Second, students cannot be removed from regular classes simply because
of the severity of their disabilities. Third, local education agencies are required to
provide support in terms of specially designed instruction and services that are
needed by students with disabilities to benefit from education in the regular
classroom as determined by their IEP. Fourth, the IEP team is responsible for
determining whether a students goals listed in the IEP can be implemented in the
regular classroom with the support of specially designed instruction and services
before considering a placement outside the regular classroom. Finally, the school
must consider the full range of supports and services before placing a child in a
more restrictive environment. These services should be based as much as
possible on peer-reviewed research that should include curricular
modifications
(PA Basic Education Circular (Pennsylvania Code) - Least Restrictive
Environment, 2006, www.pde , retrieved 9/6/2007).
IEP teams are required to consider and address several factors when deciding if a
disabled student can be educated in a general classroom with supports and services.
These teams must report the outcomes that have occurred when efforts have been made to
accommodate a disabled student in the regular education setting. They must also
24
determine what accommodations can be made in a general education class and determine
what educational benefits are derived for the students from the use of these
accommodations. The IEP team should consider whether the placement of a student in a
setting will have negative affects on the other students. They must also be cognizant of
the rights of the other students in the class. A determination should be made to assess the
effects that the inclusion of a special needs child will have on the other students in the
class (Pa Basic Education Circular (Pennsylvania Code)-Least Restrictive Environment,
2006, www.pde , retrieved 9/6/2007).
IDEA, part B, requires schools to offer a continuum of placement options to meet
the individual needs of students. The following options are listed from least restrictive to
greatest restrictive environments. These include instruction in the'tegular education
classroom, special classes, special schools, home instruction, and instruction in hospitals
and institutions" (National Agenda for the Education of Children and Youths with Visual
Impairments, Including Those with Multiple Disabilities, www.tsbvi.edu , retrieved
3/11/2008).
There have been numerous federal court decisions on the issue of Least
Restrictive Environment. The court ruled in the P.A.R.C. v. Pennsylvania Case (1971)
that there is a presumption that among all placement options, the placement in a general
public school classroom is most preferable. In the Mills v. Board of Education Case
(1972), the court also ruled that placement in the general classroom with ancillary
services is the most desirable placement for special needs students. In addition, the court
stated in the Tokarick v. Forest Hills School District (1981) that denying a handicapped
25
student placement in a general education classroom without adequate justification
constitutes discrimination. The ruling in Oberti v. Board of Education (1993) states that
federal law mandates that school systems must supplement or realign their existing
system, structures and practices, which may have resulted in the segregation of
handicapped students from non-disabled peers. It also mandates that it is not the role of
the parent to prove that their child should be included in a general class; rather it is the
responsibility of the districts to justify the exclusion of a student from placement in a
regular class setting (Community Alliance for Special Education, 2005).
There have been several other court cases that have addressed the issue of Least
Restrictive Environment. In the Roncker v. Walter Case (1983), the courts developed
two questions to be used in deciding the appropriate placement for special needs students.
Schools need to decide if the educational services that would be provided in a segregated
class can be implemented in a non-segregated placement and they must also determine if
disabled students are being placed in the Least Restrictive Environment to the maximum
extent possible. In the Greer v. Rome Case (1991), the concept of the continuum of
placement options was established. This concept states that schools must consider
placing students in the Least Restrictive Environment. Schools must provide justification
for placing a student in a more restrictive setting (Douvanis &Hulsey, 2002).
Some educators believe that placement of students into a general education class,
is an inherent right of all students. Denial of this right is an act of discrimination.
Although the inclusion of students with special needs into the least restrictive
environment has been mandated by the courts, controversy remains as to the benefits of
26
placing students into general education classes.
Research has found numerous benefits for special needs students who are
educated in the general environment. Placement of special needs students in the general
education class has resulted in their improvement in appropriate social interactions,
higher rates of achievement, social support from non - disabled classmates and the ability
of teachers and students to adapt to different teaching and learning styles. The benefits to
the general education students include a lower teacher to student ratio in co-taught
classes, acceptance of disabled students, and an understanding of the differences and
similarities between disabled and non-disabled students (Hines, 2001).
'Research indicates that students with special needs can benefit socially and
academically when included in general classrooms'' (Stenger, 2004, retrieved from
www.geocities.com, 12/10/08). Research cited by Bursuck and Friend (2001) discovered
that students with learning disabilities who were included in general education classes for
reading and math achieved better than those students with learning disabilities that were
not included in regular education classes. They also discovered that students with mild
disabilities who were included in the general classroom performed equally as well as
their non-disabled peers.
The inclusion of students into the least restrictive environment has become a
controversial issue. Not all members of the educational community support the idea of
inclusion. There are many who oppose this idea for a variety of reasons. Those who
oppose the inclusion movement argue that is a philosophical position that is not
supported by empirical research. They question whether the full continuum of services is
27
considered when placing students with a variety of disabilities into the general education
setting (Pfeiffer& Reddy, 1999).
Opponents, also, argue that research has shown that some students perform best in
smaller groups with individualized instruction. They do not believe that all students learn
best in the same types of environments. They point out that educating all students with a
variety of disabilities in the same place, at the same time, by the same teacher is not
sound educational practice. In addition, they question whether the social benefits to the
child in an inclusive environment should outweigh the educational benefits that the child
would receive in a more restrictive setting. Opponents feel that the job of teachers is to
educate children not to be social engineers. Individuals opposed to inclusion also disagree
with the argument that pull out programs violate the civil rights of special needs students
because these types of programs segregate students from their peers. They point out that
many programs such as gifted education, sports teams and other activities are not
inclusive of all students but are not considered to be in violation of students' civil rights.
Some parents of special needs students also oppose inclusion. Many have been
involved in difficult battles to have their child receive the necessary services and
placements needed to ensure that their student will be successful. They do not want their
children returned to the same setting that they have fought so hard to leave. Parents of
other students in general education classes question the logic of placing students with
severe disabilities into a class where their needs and behaviors may impeded the progress
of the other students.
28
A majority of educators fall in the middle of the spectrum of the inclusion debate.
Most agree that a student should be placed into the least restrictive environment where
they can experience success with the use of aids and supports. The students IEP team
should dictate what placement is best for each student based upon their unique strengths
and needs (Rasch & Smeeler, 1994).
The inclusion of special needs students into general education classes has created
several challenges for educators. These include providing the training needed for general
education teachers to meet the needs of special education students in their classrooms. In
addition, districts must provide additional personnel to support the general education
teachers. Teachers need to divert time from general education students to accommodate
the needs of disabled students. Administrators must provide the necessary supports to
allow for additional scheduling time for lesson planning that is developed to meet the
needs of all students (Hammond & Ingallis, 2003).
Progress Monitoring
The reauthorization of IDEA mandated requirements that all students should have
access to and progress toward the general curriculum to the maximum extent possible.
Lawmakers, hoping to ensure this was happening, mandated that all students with
disabilities be required to participate in state and district assessments. They also wanted
to use the results of those tests to improve instruction of special needs students. In 2002,
the Presidents Commission on Excellence in Special Education emphasized the need for
progress monitoring. Progress monitoring is a set of techniques that help educators assess
29
students' progress. It is used on a regular basis and it is an essential component in an
inclusive standards- based system (Quenemoen, Thurlow, Moen, Thompson & Morse,
2004).
The four categories of progress monitoring include classroom assessments,
adaptive assessments, large score assessments and Curriculum-Based Measurement.
Curriculum Based Measurement (CBM) is often interchanged with Progress monitoring
(Quenemoen, Thurlow, Moen, Thompson & Morse, 2004)). CBM is a'teliable and valid
assessment system for monitoring student progress in basic academic skill areas" (Stecker
pi, www.studentprogress.org, retrieved 3/9/2008).
CBM was developed to test the effectiveness of a special education intervention
model. That model, called the Data Based Program Modification, was developed on the
concept that teachers of special needs students could use repeated measurement data to
evaluate and improve instruction (Deno, 2003). Research on teacher use of Data Based
Program Modification was conducted for six years at the University of Minnesota
Institute for Research on Learning Disabilities. One result of the research led to the
development of a generic set of progress monitoring procedures in the basic skill areas
(Deno, 2003).
Research has demonstrated that when teachers use student progress monitoring,
students learn more, teachef s decision-making improves and students become
more aware of their own performance. A significant body of research conducted
over the past thirty years has shown this method to be a reliable and valid
predictor of subsequent performance on a variety of outcome predictors, of
30
subsequent performance on a variety of outcome measures, and thus useful for a
wide range of instructional decisions. (Safer & Fleischman, 2005, p82 )
The original purpose of Progress Monitoring was to assess the improvement of
special education students in the area of basic skills. Current research has proven the
predictive use of CBM in early programs. Progress Monitoring has also been shown to
help identify at-risk students (Fuchs & Fuchs, 2002). After conducting an analysis of
research on progress monitoring which considered only experimental, controlled studies,
Fuchs and Fuchs concluded:
When teachers use systematic progress monitoring to track their student's
progress in reading, mathematics, or spelling, they are better able to identify
students in need of additional or different forms of instructional programs and
their student's achieve better. (Fuchs & Fuchs, 2002, p.l)
According to Fuchs and Fuchs there have been more than two hundred empirical
studies on Curriculum Based Measurement. These studies, published in peer-reviewed
journals'provided evidence of CBMs reliability and validity for assessing the
development of competence in reading, spelling and mathematics and documented CBMs
capacity to help teachers improve student outcomes" (Fuchs & Fuchs, 2002).
CBM can be used to gain knowledge about a student's progress. Data from CBM
can be used as a source on which to base educational decisions. This information can be
used as part of the referral process for students thought to be eligible for special
education services. CBM information can be used to help screen, evaluate and place
students in educational programs. The student"s progress in these programs can also be
31
monitored and evaluated through the use of data provided by CBM (Deno, 2003). New
research has shown that CBM may also be useful in predicting a student's success on
high-stake assessments and in content areas courses at the secondary level (Deno, 2003).
Progress monitoring is used by teachers to evaluate their teaching techniques and
to make decisions about student progress (Safer & Fleischman, 2005). It is used to decide
whether students are benefiting from instruction and to restructure programs determined
to be ineffective. Teachers measure students' performances on a regular schedule.
Measurements are usually taken on a weekly or monthly basis (Fuchs & Fuchs, 2002).
Most student assessments test for mastery of a single skill in a sequence of skills.
CBM assessments are different. They measure all the skills in a yeafs curriculum.
Therefore, all the tests measure the same skills but in a different form. In this way, the
test results from the beginning of the year can be compared to the tests in the later months
of the school year (Fuchs & Fuchs, 2002).
CBM is also a standardized test. Procedures for the creation, administrating,
scoring, and summarizing of these tests are prescribed. "By relying on standardized
methods and by sampling the annual curriculum on every test, CBM produces a broad
range of scores across individuals of the same age. The rank ordering of students on
CBM corresponds with rank orderings on other important criteria of student competence"
(Fuchs & Fuchs, 2002).
CBM can demonstrate reliability and validity by profiling student's scores on
CBM and comparing them to the same student's scores on state assessments. Students
who score high on CBM are also the students who score high on the state tests.
32
Conversely, students who score low on CBM also score low on state tests (Fuchs &
Fuchs, 2002).
The Pennsylvania Department of Education outlines seven steps in the Progress
Monitoring process. (PaTTAN, www.pattan.net. retrieved 1/10/2008) Before the
implementation of progress monitoring can begin, the determination of the present level
of student performance on the skills of their grade level's annual curriculum must be
established (Safer & Fleischman, 2005).
The first step in the process involves the identification of a goal that the student
should reach by year's end (Safer & Fleischman, 2005). These goals should be precise
and measurable. These goals are an estimation of what progress should be made in a set
period of time. Special education students have both annual goals and short - term
objectives. These are indicated on their Individualized Education Plans. The short- term
objectives serve as steps leading to the mastery of the annual goals (PaTTAN,
www.pattan.net, retrieved 1/10/2008). The second step begins with data collection. Data
is needed to make decisions about changes to instruction and to provide information
about progress toward annual goals and short-term objectives. It should be collected on a
regular basis in order to provided feedback about student progress. This information
should be used to develop interventions needed in order for the student to reach the
annual goal. The third step in the progress monitoring process should address the types
of data collection tools and schedules. The determination of the specific tools used will
depend upon the type, location and frequency of data collection. The next step provides
the representation of the data. This involves the use of graphs and charts to provide a
33
visual representation of the data collected on student progress. Step Five requires the
evaluation of the data. Student data should drive student instruction. It should be
analyzed and evaluated in order to determine the student's progress toward the established
goals and objectives. Decisions about needed interventions should be made based upon
the evaluation of the data. Step Six requires that interventions be devised to address the
needs of the students as determined by the progress monitoring probes. Finally, parents
as well as the students should be kept informed about the progress being made toward the
goals. Effective communication can be accomplished through the use of logs, reports, and
conferences (PaTTAN, www.pattan.net, retrieved 1/10/2008).
Professional Development
'Never before in the history of education has there been greater recognition of the
importance of professional development. Every modern proposal to reform, restructure or
transform schools emphasizes professional development as a primary vehicle in efforts to
bring about needed change" (Guskey, 1994, p.2).
Professional Development is an on-going process that is designed to provide
learning opportunities for educators and school personnel. Professional development at
both the district and school levels is important for the success of schools and the
development of positive attitudes of teachers (Department of Education,
www.edweek.org/, retrieved 1/16/2006). Educational leaders have noted the importance
that professional development has made on the successful development of school
organizations and their ability to adapt to change (Whitworth, 1999).
34
Today's schools are faced with a multitude of challenges. These include but are
not limited to an increase of diverse student populations, the development of new
technologies, the introduction of more challenging curriculums, mandated assessments
and increased accountability standards. In order to meet these challenges, educators need
to be able to continue to build on their knowledge and enhance their teaching skills
(Department of Education, www.ed.week.org/, retrieved 1/16/2006). All successful
educators need to be life long learners who are constantly acquiring knowledge and
developing skills (Whitworth, 1999). In order to met the increasing demands on teachers,
school districts need to equip their staff with instructional strategies based on the most
current research available ( Little & Houston, 2003 ).
'Effective, efficient professional development on a consistent and continuing basis
firmly rooted in research, will hold the key to the future of education for students"
(Whitworth, 1999, p.2). A survey commissioned by the Center for the Future of Teaching
and Learning and conducted by the SRI International found that"while the vast majority
of California teachers have special education students in their classrooms, many teachers
reported they do not have the training and support they need to meet the needs of these
students. This disparity is troubling given that on average, special education students in
California spend almost three-quarters of their instructional time in a general education
classroom" (The Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning , 2005, p. 2 www.cft.org,
retrieved on 1/25/08). In addition, 30% of responding teachers indicated that they had
adequate training on modification and accommodation for special needs students (The
Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning, 2005, www.cft.org, retrieved on
35
1/25/08).
Researchers in
the Study of Personnel Needs in Special Education conducted by the United States Office
of Special Education programs discovered that general education teachers who
participated in district supported professional activities found these sessions to be
somewhat helpful. General education teachers also reported that some of these activities
provided the opportunity to acquire skills that could be used with special needs students
in their classrooms. Researchers also reported that 21% of general educations teachers
surveyed reported that in a three-year period they typically received eight hours of
professional development in topics related to strategies to help adapt instruction for
students. While 21% received eight hours of professional development, 49% received
less than eight hours of development and 31% percent did not receive any professional
development. Researchers also discovered that 28 % received more than eight hours of
staff development, 46 % received less than eight hours and 26% received no in-service in
behavior management (SPeNSE, www.spense.org, retrieved 1/19/2008).
An increasing number of special needs students are being held to the same
standards and expectations as regular education students. In order to serve these students,
teachers need supports and professional development to meet students' needs. The
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act has mandated professional development for
special and regular education teachers (The Center for the Future of Teaching and
Learning, 2005, www.cft.org, retrieved on 1/25/08).
It is important for districts and schools to provide professional development in
areas that will help these teachers and their students to be successful (The Center for the
36
Future of Teaching and Learning, 2005). Professional Development provides the
opportunity for professionals to participate in activities that will assist them in creating
learning environments that are focused on student achievement (Sancore, 1996). It
focuses on providing educators with more extensive level of knowledge and practice
(Little & Houston, 2003).
The traditional approach to professional development has usually focused on
school in - service workshops. In this scenario, an outside consultant or educational
expert is invited by a school or district to give a one session seminar on a given topic.
This approach has been criticized because it lacks continuity and coherence; it fails to
address learning styles of adult learners and does not take into account the full scope of
teachers' responsibilities (Department of Education, www.edweek.org retrieved
1/16/2008).
Professional Development programs that are planned to motivate and challenge
teachers and have the ability to raise their confidence level will result in higher levels of
success for students (Whitworth, 1999). However, creating such programs is not easily
accomplished because successful development is constantly evolving and undergoing
change (Whitworth, 1999).
According to Guskey, it is often difficult to design an effective professional
development program because of the many differences that exist throughout every school
and between classrooms. However, some guidelines can be followed in planning and
implementing professional development programs. The first of these guidelines requires
that educators recognize that effective professional development must address the needs
37
of both the individuals and organization involved in the process (Guskey, 1994).
Secondly, professional development programs should be designed to gradually foster
change in small increments (Guskey, 1994). Thirdly, successful programs utilize a team
approach. Teams function best when individuals perceived that their input is valued
(Guskey, 1994). Changes made through professional development are more sustainable
when participants receive personal, meaningful feedback about the results of their efforts
(Guskey, 1994). In addition, in order to successfully implement the practices and
techniques introduced during professional development sessions, participants need a
balance between on-going supports combined with the urgings from administrators to
continue to strive for success (Guskey, 1994). Finally, new innovations and programs
need to be integrated as part of the entire educational framework. Educators need to be
able to understand how new strategies and practices can be combined with previously
established and future innovations that address the needs of the student population
(Guskey, 1994).
According to Joyce and Showers,"to be most effective, training should include
theory, demonstration, practice, feedback and classroom applicatioif (Joyce & Showers,
1980, p. 379). In their research, Joyce and Showers explored the effectiveness of
presentation of theory, modeling or demonstration, providing practice under simulated
conditions and structured feedback. They concluded that in order for staff in-service to
be effective, several or all of the components must be included. If any are omitted, the
results will not be adequate for teachers to reach a level where they will be able to
transfer the strategies and skills acquired to affect improvement throughout the school or
38
in individual classrooms (Joyce & Showers, 1980).
According to Whitworth, most teachers received their pre-service training in
traditional, non-inclusive settings. The success of including special needs students into
general education classrooms requires that these teachers need to acquire different types
of skills and strategies to teach in an inclusive educational settings. Whitworth makes
several recommendations concerning in-service training for teachers addressing the
needs of special education students. First, teachers should receive training when they are
practicing in the classroom. This is necessary because the differences between students
are varied and they need different types of strategies to support their individual needs.
Teachers should be afforded the opportunity to observe their peers while they are
teaching in special education and inclusive settings. He also recommends that teachers
decide what types of training they need to help them be successful in their own unique,
inclusive classrooms. Teachers' in-service should included problem solving sessions
where they work collaboratively to access resources and develop strategies to meet the
needs of individual students. A large portion of faculty meetings should be reserved to
address concerns about students. Teachers should receive training in strategies and
techniques that have been proven to be successful in meeting the needs of special
education students. Teachers should be trained in the adaptation of curriculum and
instructional techniques and assignments and the implementation and behavioral
management techniques (Whitworth, 1999).
39
Welcoming Special Needs Students
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, known as IDEA is the legal
mandate for inclusive education. However, the word inclusion is not written anywhere in
the law. Instead, the words,'least restrictive environment', are found in this document and
the words have been the basis for creating inclusive classrooms (Villa
& Thousand, pg 4-5, 1994). Inclusive education is a belief system that drives the actions
of schools that have developed an inclusion philosophy. Inclusion is based on the idea
that all students should be embraced and given the opportunity to belong. Advocates of
inclusion believe that all participants benefit when people with and without disabilities
live and learn together (Villa & Thousand, 1994).
Supporters of inclusion believe that good teaching is an important vehicle for
children to learn when given the appropriate supports and encouragement (Villa &
Thousand, 1994).
The term inclusion refers to the process and practice of educating students with
and without disabilities, in their neighborhood school with supplementary supports and
accommodations in the general education classroom ( Burstein, Sears, Wilcoxen,
Cabello, & Spagna, 2004).
There are many different views on what constitutes an inclusive school. The
factor found to be essential to all the various interpretations of inclusion is the underlying
view that all students share a common environment and all students are viewed as equal.
Special needs students are not considered second-class citizens (Malarz, 1996).
40
In order for schools to successfully incorporate inclusive practices, a complex
change must occur in the way these schools view the work of education. School
personnel must re-evaluate their current conception of ideas concerning teaching and
learning (Malarz, 1996). According to the Council for Exceptional Children, there are
twelve essential elements needed to be addressed by schools attempting to create
successful inclusive practices. These include creating a philosophy that all children can
learn. In addition, principals need to be actively involved in planning and implementing
strategies needed to ensure successful inclusion programs. Teachers and parents need to
encourage children to meet high standards of performance. Supportive strategies such as
peer tutoring and cooperative learning must be utilized to ensure success for all learners.
Every stakeholder needs to take responsibility for student learners. A variety of services
and aids must be made available to support the educational process. Parents need to be
viewed as equal partners in their children's education. Scheduling needs to be fluid and
flexible. All school programs should be research based. Alternate assessments should be
utilized to measure students' progress toward their goals. All schools need to make
modifications in the areas of facilities, curriculum, and technology to assure equal access
for all children. Finally, school personnel should be given research based on-going staff
development to help them meet the needs of their students (Council for Exceptional
Children, 1994, www.cec.sped.org, retrieved on 9/6/2008).
According to Villa and Thousand, there are five variables necessary to facilitate
change toward an inclusive school. First, schools need to build a vision that is based on
belief, faith and a commitment to the future. Inclusive visions state that all children are
41
able to learn, all children should be educated together in their neighborhood schools and
schools need strategies to meet the needs of all its students (Villa & Thousand, 1994).
Secondly, all school personal must receive meaningful training in the skills needed to
address the unique needs of all of its students (Villa & Thousand, 1994). Thirdly, all
stakeholders need meaningful intrinsic incentives in order to sustain momentum and to
continue to face the challenges of an inclusive school (Villa & Thousand, 1994).
For inclusive schools to be successful, adequate resources must be available to assist
educators in including all students into the school environment. These include technical,
material and organizational resources (Villa & Thousand, 1994). Finally, all inclusive
schools need action planning that addresses the process of change. This process needs to
address and communicate the "who, what, how and when" of the planning process (Villa &
Thousand, 1994).
According to Garrett (2008), the vast majority of American citizens think that our
country's public schools should be open to everyone. Some would argue, however, that in
reality our schools are not accessible to all students. Garrett believes that the exodus of
students from public schools into private schools, and other alternate placements such as
home schools and cyber-schools are evidence that our schools are actually becoming less
accessible to everyone. Schools can be dis-inviting for a variety of reasons. Educators
usually do not create uninviting places on purpose. School personnel should review their
policies and practices to assess their limiting affects on student access. Practical ideas that
are cost effective, such as changing the wording of signs to be more welcoming, should
be implemented to change the climate of schools (Garrett, 2008).
42
Another needed component in developing inclusive schools involves obtaining
the support of parents and families. There are a variety of strategies that can be utilized
to get families involved in their child's education. Communication between the school and
families is critical for building relationships in the school community. It is the
responsibility of the entire school staff to communicate in an effective manner with
parents of children with disabilities.
Parents should also be informed of their legal rights. Parents should receive
copies of due process procedures at all meetings. They should be informed of their right
to be involved in all educational decision making processes. They should be notified and
consulted about evaluations and placement changes (Price, Mayfield, McFadden &
Marsh, 2001).
Schools can make themselves inviting for the parents of special needs students by
reserving rooms for parent use. This room can be utilized for parent information and
support meetings. Pamphlets, books and current information can be available for their
perusal. Training sessions can be conducted to help parents cope with problems and
concerns unique to special needs students (Price, Mayfield, McFadden & Marsh, 2001).
In addition to an inviting atmosphere, schools need to be designed and modified
to meet the physical demands of special needs students in order for these students to have
the maximum amount of access to the regular education environments. As schools
include greater numbers of special needs students, it has become increasingly important
for these institutions to utilize the concept of Universal Design. This design principle
means,"accommodating, to the maximum extent possible, people with temporary or
43
permanent changes in mobility, agility, and perceptual acuity" (Abend, 2001, p2).
Universal design dictates that the safety and comfort of special needs individuals needs to
be considered when purchasing furniture and designing building areas. It addresses such
areas such as furniture, walkways, steps, ramps, doors and lighting and how these items
can be designed to help special needs students and their families feel more welcome
(Abend, 2001).
Supplementary Aids and Services
'Supplementary Aids and Services is not an option but an integral part of the
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1997. To be in compliance with
IDEA, Supplementary Aids and Services must be considered when determined
the maximum extent appropriate a child with a disability can be educated with
non-disabled childreif (Burns, 2003, p. V).
In 1997, the idea of educating special education students with their non-disabled
peers was reinforced with the passage of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA)
(Sec 300.28 Supplementary Aids and Services). As used in this part, the term
supplementary aids and services means, aids, services and other supports that are
provided in regular education classes or other education related settings to enable
children with disabilities to be educated with non-disabled children to the maximum
extent appropriate in accordance with Sees. 300.550- 300.556 (Authority: 20 U.S.C, 1401
(29). IDEA also requires that Supplementary Aids and Services are included in every
student's Individual Education Plan (Burns, 2003). Although the Individuals with
44
Disabilities Act mandates the use of aids and services, it does not adequately provide an
explanation of the terms (Steedman, www.specialchild.com, retrieved 9/2/2008).
According to Burns, although supplementary aids and services are necessary for
educating disabled students in the general education classroom, there is little guidance in
the law as to what these aids and services entail (Burns, 2003). As a result, schools are
left with responsibility of determining what supplemental aids and services are needed to
assure that their students are placed in the appropriate least restrictive setting (Steedman,
www.specialchild.com, retrieved 9/2/2008).
School districts have a moral and legal mandate to include disabled children in the
general education environment with the support of supplementary aids and services.
However, the decision as to what services and aids are needed for individual, disabled
students has been problematic for educational teams (Etscheidt & Bartlett, 1999).
In the past few years, there have been numerous court cases addressing the use of
supplementary aids and services that have resulted in varied opinions (Steedman,
www.specialchild.com, retrieved 9/2/2008).
In 1983, the Roneker v. Walter Case resulted in the courts ordering a school
system to return a multi-handicapped student to his home school from a segregated
program. The school was mandated to design a program that would address his individual
needs. Although the segregated placement was superior to the home school placement,
the court ruled that school systems must first attempt to educate special needs students
with services in the non-segregated settings (Steedman, www.specialchild.com, retrieved
9/2/2008). In the Oberti v. Board of Education Case. 1993, the court found that the
45
school had failed to provide adequate assistance to both the student and general education
teacher necessary to affect performance. The appropriate supplementary aids and
services involved support for the teacher from the Child Study Team or outside
consultants to help develop an IEP or behavioral management plan (Burns, 2003). In this
case, the court ordered that the Downs Syndrome Student should not be placed in a
segregated setting but rather in the general classroom with the aid of special education
techniques (Steedman, www.specialchild.com, retrieved 9/2/2008). In most cases, courts
have generally supported schools when there is evidence that school personnel have
attempted to educate the child in the least restrictive setting with the necessary supports
and services (Steedman, www.specialchild.com, retrieved 9/2/08).
According to the Gaskin Settlement Agreement, supplementary aids should be
'available to all students who need them!' They should be "designed to provide meaningful
educational benefits" and they should be'provided in a manner that avoids stigmatizing
students" (Gaskins Settlement Agreement, www.pde.state.pa.us, retrieved 9/12/2007).
There are many kinds of services available for students with disabilities. These
include special education services, related services and supplementary aids and services.
Special education services are designed to meet the individual needs of a disabled
student. Related services help disabled students to benefit from special education.
Supplementary aids and services assist the child with disabilities to receive instruction in
a setting with non-disabled students (Burns, 2003). According to IDEA, in order for a
student to receive special education related services or supplementary aids ands services,
that child must have a disability and be in need of special education (Burns, 2003).
46
IDEA recognizes thirteen categories for disabilities. These include speech and
language impairments, visual impairments, orthopedic impairments, specific learning
disabilities, other health impairments, hearing impairments, traumatic brain injury,
emotional disturbance, autism, deaf- blindness, mental retardation, and multiple
disabilities (Burns, 2003). The full range of Supplementary Aids and Services
includes special education, related services, supplementary services, support service, full
program options, accommodations and modifications, test accommodations as assistive
technology (Burns, 2003).
Etscheidt and Bartlett have developed a framework to assist educators when
determining which supplementary aids and services are needed to assure the success of
special needs students (Etscheidt & Bartlett, 1999). This framework highlights four
categories. These include collaborative, instructional, physical and social-behavioral
supplementary aids and services. Collaborative services focus mainly on ways that adults
can partner to provide the supports for students. Collaborative activities include coplanning, team meeting, para-educator supports, professional development, guided
support of the use of assistive technology and parental collaboration (Pennsylvania
Department of Education: Gaskin Agreement Fact Sheet-supplemental aids and services,
www.pde.state.pa.us, retrieved 3/20/2008).
The framework includes instructional activities to address the individual learning
needs of special education students. These activities include "providing codified
curricular goals, test modification, instructional adaptations, alternate assessments,
research-based supplementary materials, alternate materials and assistive technology. In
47
addition, the instructional category includes changing methods for the presentation of
information and using reader services" (Pennsylvania Department of Education Fact Sheet
- supplementary aids and services, www.pde.state.pa.us, retrieved 3/20/2008).
The physical category includes activities that make adaptations and modifications
in areas throughout the school and classrooms. The activities include "The arrangement of
furniture, adaptive equipment, adjustments to sensory inputs such as light and sound and
structural aids such as wheelchair accessibility and grab bars" (Pennsylvania Department
of Education Fact Sheet-Supplementary Aids and Services, www.pde.state.pa.us ,
retrieved 3/20/2008).
The fourth category includes activities that address behavioral concerns of special
needs students. These include "counseling support, social skills, instruction,
individualized behavior plans, peer support, modification of rules and expectations and
the implementation of learning strategies" (Pennsylvania Department of Education - Fact
Sheet-Supplemental Aids and Services, www.pde.state.pa.us, retrieved 3/20/2008).
The Gaskin Settlement has mandated that schools in Pennsylvania need to
improve the inclusion of special needs students into the least restrictive environment. It
is felt that a large percentage of students with special needs can be successful in a general
classroom where supplementary aids and services are available and where teachers have
been given the proper training to meet the needs of all students. Still, the concept of least
restrictive environment in education remains a controversial issue because it relates to
both educational needs and social values. Many educators have strong beliefs in favor of
inclusion while others adamantly reject the idea.
48
Those on the one end of the spectrum support the placement of all students into
the least restrictive environment and believe that all students belong in general education
settings. They argue that the students' needs can be met by good teachers employing good
teaching practices.
Those on the other side of the debate argue that placing all children into inclusive
settings violates the concept that all special needs students should have individualized
education plans that look at the childs strengths and needs as the basis for decisions
concerning educational placement.
In the middle of this issue, a large group of parents and educators remained
confused by the debate surrounding inclusion. They are puzzled about the legal
requirements involving inclusion. They are concerned about what is best for students.
They question what schools need to do to meet the needs of their children with
disabilities. Research has shown that there is no simple answer to these questions. This
paper attempts to examine these issues and to discover ways that districts have been able
to balance the desire to include students into the least restrictive environment while, at
the same time, meet individual needs of each student (Stout, 2001).
49
CHAPTER III
Methodology
Problem and Research Question
This qualitative study sought to investigate the impact of the Gaskin v. Pennsylvania
Department of Education Court Settlement Agreement on school districts in Southeastern
Pennsylvania. The purpose of this case study was to interview special education and
pupil services supervisors or directors from school districts in Southeastern Pennsylvania
that have met the "Least Restrictive Environment Level'mandates of the Gaskin
Settlement through their inclusive practices.
This study attempted to identify specific actions that district special education
supervisors have taken to include special needs students into the Least Restrictive
Environments. It also attempted to identify common themes in the models of staff
development that districts have provided to their staff members. In addition, the case
studies investigated the different types of student supports and services made available in
each district. It was hoped that the research would lead to the common features used to
welcome students with disabilities into each district. These cases studies also explored
the common methods of progress monitoring employed by each district to measure
students' academic growth. Identification of these districts was obtained from the 20072008 LRE report published by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.
50
The major question that this study sought to answer was,"What impact has the
Gaskin Settlement had on school districts in Southeastern Pennsylvania?' Related
questions include the following:
2. What specific actions have school district Directors of Special Education
taken to include their special needs students into the least restrictive
environment?
3 What types of staff development have been provided to district staff
members to prepare them to educate special needs students in regular
education settings?
4. What types of supplementary aids and services do districts have in place to
ensure the success of students with disabilities?
5. What programs do districts have in place that welcome all students into
their schools?
6. What monitoring systems are in place to assess the progress of special
education students throughout these districts?
7. What factors do the special education and pupil support directors and
supervisors feel are responsible for their districts' success at including
special needs students into the least restrictive environment?
Research Design
Given the investigative nature of this research, this study lent itself to a qualitative
design. Qualitative research is based upon the viewpoint that social reality is:"seen as a
51
set of meanings that are constructed by the individuals who participate in that reality
(Gall, Gall & Borg, 2005, p 305). Social phenomenon has different meanings for the
different participants in the experience.
The design for this study was a case study. "Researchers conduct case studies in
order to describe, explain or evaluate particular social phenomena" (Gall, Gall & Borg,
2005, p 306). Case studies are utilized when a researcher is interested in investigating the
'hoW and'Why' questions related to a situation or phenomenon. This study attempted to
answer'tioW districts have included special needs students in the least restrictive
environment. It also attempted to discover'Nvhy these districts have been successful in
including students with special needs when other districts have been unable to do so.
Case studies provide a thick description and a possible explanation of phenomena.
Educators are interested in case studies because they resemble stories of human interest
accounts that reflect reality as experienced by those who have been there. Reading about
cases that are similar to one's own experience in education can deepen an understanding
of phenomena that educators experience in their work. Case studies can provide insight
that can help to refine educational practices (Gall, Gall & Borg, 2005). This study was a
multiple case study. Interviews were conducted in seven school districts in southeastern
Pennsylvania. Analyzing multiple cases at the same time lends validity to generalizations
gleaned from the study.
52
Methods of Data Collection
This case study followed a six -step model. The first step was to define the
research questions. These questions were designed to help the researcher to discover the
actions taken by school districts to meet the mandates of the Gaskin Case. The main
question this study sought to answer was,"How have the mandates of the Gaskin
settlement affected school districts in Southeastern Pennsylvania?'The second step was to
identify the school districts in Southeastern Pennsylvania that have been identified by the
state as meeting the LRE levels for the 2005-2008 school years. A special education
director from a county intermediate unit level and special education and pupil services
directors and supervisors from seven school districts in Southeastern Pennsylvania were
interviewed for the study. Step three involved setting protocol and establishing
procedures for collecting data. Key informants were identified, letters of introduction
were written and rules of confidentiality were established. The fourth step entailed the
collection of data. Interviews were used to establish a database in order to categorize
information in a way that will enable the researcher to readily access the data. This
information was collected, coded, sorted and reported. Step five was to evaluate and
analyze the data in order to address the initial question of the study. The final step was to
report on the data (Palmquest, R., 1997.www.fiat.gslis.utexas.edu/ssov/usesusers/1391d/btm. retrieved 1/4/2009).
The data was collected from the emic perspective through interviews with the
participants. Interviews were conducted in the office of the director of special education
53
from the county intermediate unit and in the offices of the districts' special education and
pupil services directors and supervisors in order for the participants to feel comfortable
and relaxed in their natural environment. The participants were able to respond freely to
the researcher's queries. A general interview guide was utilized as an outline for areas to
be explored (Gall, Gall & Borg, 2005). (Appendix A)
The researcher initially conducted a ninety minute interview with the intermediate
unit special education director. The purpose of this interview was to gain a broader and
more encompassing perspective of the effects of the Gaskin Mandates on a county level.
The researcher also conducted ninety minutes interviews with each of the seven
school districts' special education and pupil services directors and supervisors. All of
these interviews were audio-taped, transcribed and analyzed in order to paint a coherent
picture of the participants' experiences as they implemented the Gaskin mandates (Gall,
Gall & Borg, 2005). Drafts of the narrative were returned to the participants for
correction, amendment and editing. In this way, both the researcher and the participants
were involved in "An interactive process of construct meaning" (Gall, Gall & Borg, 2005, p
309).
These interviews were conducted with the purpose of identifying common
themes, constructs and gestures that have resulted in the successful inclusion of special
needs students into the general education setting. A construct is a concept that is inferred
from commonalties among observed phenomena and is assumed to underlie those
phenomenon. The researcher was looking for constructs to bring order to descriptive data
to help relate that data to research findings in the literature (Gall, Gall & Borg, 2005).
54
In addition to interviews, data was collected through the inspection of each of the
participating school districts' performance data. (Gall, Gall & Borg, 2005) This data was
examined in order to identify factors other than the actions taken by the districts that may
have contributed to the success of inclusion in these districts. This information included
the total number of students in the district and the number of special needs students
enrolled in each district. Information about the population of the district such as their
level of education, the average income level and the percentage of students living in
single-family homes was also explored. It also included the percentage of students
enrolled by disabilities. The race and ethnic background of special education students
was explored as well as the rate of graduation for districts students. Information was also
obtained about the success of theses districts on the Pennsylvania State's Annual Yearly
Progress goals. This data included their proficiency levels in math and reading. Finally,
an analysis of the educational environments was examined to find the percentage of time
special needs students spend in the least restrictive environment. Specifically the
percentage of students who spend less than twenty-one percent of their school day
outside the general classrooms and the percentage of students who spend greater than
sixty percent outside the regular class environment. This information was obtained from
the Penn Data web site. This information was included in the Chapter IV of the research
paper.
55
Participants
The participants for this study consisted of the special education and pupil
services directors or supervisors in seven school districts in Southeastern Pennsylvania
that have been identified by the Pennsylvania Department of Education as having met the
LRE goals set forth by the State of Pennsylvania. Each year, the Pennsylvania
Department of Education collects data on the educational placement of all special
education students throughout the state. The state then assigns a score to each district
based upon the percentage of special needs students placed in three categories. The first
placement category includes students with IEPs who receive special education services
outside the general class less than 21% if the day. The second placement category
includes special education students who receive special education services outside the
general class more than 60% of the day and the third placement category includes IEP
students who are educated in settings outside the regular school. School districts that have
scores that are higher than 50% of the other districts in the state, are identified for
monitoring. The seven districts in this study were chosen because they have not been
identified by the state for monitoring for the 2005-2009 school years.
The setting for this study was two counties in Southeastern Pennsylvania. Data
collected in 2006 by the United States Census Bureau reveals the following:
Table 1
Demographic Data on the Case Study District's Counties
56
Suburban County
One
Suburban County
Two
Land Area
(square miles)
483
607
Population
(number of people)
775,688
623,205
Under the age of 18
(% of Population)
23.4
23.3
Racial Composition
(% of Population)
Caucasian
African American
American Indian/
Alaskan Natives
Asian
Hispanic
85
8.4
92
3.6
0.2
5.1
2.9
0.2
3.4
3.1
Speaks Language other
than English
(% of Population)
9.6
8.7
Educational Status
(% of Population)
High School Diploma
Bachelor's Degree
88.5
38.7
88.6
31.2
Median Household
Income (2004)
($)
65,889
64,696
Median House Value
(2000)
($)
160,700
163,200
Living Below the
Poverty Rate
(% of Population)
5.8
5.9
57
(Pennsylvania Quick Facts from the US Census Bureau, www.quickfacts.census.gov,
retrieved 10/16/2008).
The sampling procedure for this study was to identify school districts in
Southeastern Pennsylvania that have been identified by the Gaskirfs LRE levels as having
met the mandates of the settlement for the inclusion of special needs students into the
least restrictive environment. This study involves a purposeful, homogenous, systematic
sample research strategy that allowed the researcher to select only those districts that
have been identified as meeting the least restrictive environment levels toward the
inclusion of special needs students under the guidance of the state of Pennsylvania
(Fraenkel & Wallen, 2006). This sampling strategy allowed the researcher to identify
common themes and features that have enabled these districts to successfully implement
their district's inclusion program. Using samples from districts in Southeastern
Pennsylvania, also involved a convenience sampling because all the districts in the case
study were in close proximity to the researcher (Gall, Gall & Borg, 2005).
The population for the study included a special education director from a county
intermediate unit and the special education and pupil services directors or supervisors
from the identified school districts. The key informants from school districts were
selected based upon their organizations' successful implementation of the Gaskin Case
mandates as determined by the percentage of the districts' students that have been
included into the least restrictive environment.
58
Data Analysis
Ninety minute interviews with a county intermediate unit director of special
education and with the directors or supervisors of special education and pupil services in
seven school districts were audio-recorded and transcribed. An interpretational analysis
was utilized to identify and code common constructs, themes and patterns found in school
districts that have successfully implemented the mandates of the Gaskin Settlement. A
database was prepared which contained transcripts, field notes and documents. Each line
of the interview text was numbered sequentially and the text was divided into segments.
Meaningful categories were created to code the information. Segments were coded by all
applicable categories. Segments coded by the same category were clustered and
constructs were identified from the emerging categories (Gall, Gall & Borg 2005).The
data obtained through this system was used to identify specific actions or characteristics
that are responsible for these districts successes in including special needs students into
the least restrictive environment. District performance data was also inspected in order to
find additional factors that may be responsible for the ability of districts to include
students into the least restrictive environment. This process was carried out manually
Bias
'One of the major disadvantages of interviews is that the direct interaction between
researcher and interviewee makes it easy for subjectivity and bias to occur!'(Gall, Gall
and Borg, 2005, p. 134). Factors contributing to this notion of bias include the desire of
the interviewee to please the interviewer, the animosity that can arise between the two
59
participants and the preconceived ideas of the interviewer. In an attempt to limit the
amount of bias in this research, the interviews were recorded electronically and
transcripts were developed for analysis. The credibility and trustworthiness of the
interview data was verified by the case study participants. A draft of the interview was
given to the case study participants to inspect for accuracy and completeness. The
participants were requested to edit for corrections and amend the draft (Gall, Gall and
Borg, 2005).
60
CHAPTER IV
Findings/Results
Background Information
The following research study includes interviews conducted with seven special
education directors or supervisors from selected school districts in Southeastern
Pennsylvania, an interview with the director of special education at a county intermediate
unit, also in Southeast Pennsylvania and summaries of the demographic and performance
data of each of the case study districts.
A qualitative approach was selected for this research because of the investigative
nature of this study. Qualitative research is based upon the viewpoint that social reality
is:"seen as a set of meanings that are constructed by the individuals who participate in that
reality'(Gall, Gall & Borg, 2005, p 305). The design for this study is a case study. The
information gleaned from interviews with the special education directors and supervisors
will be used to develop this study. 'Researchers conduct case studies in order to describe,
explain or evaluate particular social phenomena" (Gall, Gall & Borg, 2005, p 306). The
case study approach is used in research to examine the'rioW'and"why'of the nature of a
social settings and the behavior of individuals in their district settings. This study
attempts to discover how districts have successfully met the least restrictive environment
levels of the Gaskin Settlement.
This study utilized a purposeful sampling procedure. This type of sampling can
limit the amount of participants involved in the study. However, the use of in-depth
interviews will enable the researcher to obtain rich, focused amounts of data. The districts
61
involved in the research study were identified by the state as having met the criteria for
the inclusion of special needs students into the least restrictive environment according to
the terms of the Gaskin v. The Pennsylvania Department of Education Settlement.
Interviews were conducted with the participants in an attempt to identify specific actions
that school districts have taken to include special needs students into the least restrictive
environment. An interview with a director of a county intermediate unit was also
included to give a more global perspective of how the Gaskin Settlement has affected
school districts in southeastern Pennsylvania. In addition, information about the
population of the school district, information about the students in the district and
information about the demographics of the special education students and the special
education subgroups was inspected to discover similarities and differences among the
districts.
The research participants were contacted by phone, e-mail and in person to invite
them to participate in this study. Written permission was obtained by the case study
districts' superintendents to conduct the interviews with their special education directors
or supervisors. The interviews were conducted in the offices of the participants during
the schools' summer recess over a four-week period. The protocol for the interviews was
discussed in advance with the participants and each participant voluntarily signed a
research consent form to participate in the study. The interviews ranged between one and
two hours in length. The same open-ended questions were asked in sequence. Probing
questions were also asked in order to clarify or elicit more information from the
respondents.
62
Demographic Data
This research study involved conducting interviews with seven special education
and pupil services directors or supervisors employed in seven school districts in
Southeastern Pennsylvania. The sampling group consisted of three special education
directors, one pupil services director and four special education supervisors. Four of the
participants were male and four of the participants were female. One participant has a
doctoral degree, one participant is currently a doctoral student and another participant has
completed the doctoral coursework but has not completed a dissertation. The other
participants have mastefsplus degrees. The administrators'total amount of experience in
education ranges from 13 to over 41 years. All the participants have a special education
supervisof s certificate.
Case Study A
Demographics
Case Study A is a suburban community located in Southeastern Pennsylvania,
which dates back to Colonial times and is known for its rich history and historic sites. It
covers 13.2 square miles and has an estimated population of about 25, 878 residents.
The school district has a total of four elementary schools, one middle school and one high
school. It points of pride include high SAT scores, outstanding theatre, art and music
programs a planetarium and an environmental center. (Philadelphia Inquirer, Report Card
on the Schools, www. philly.com/reportcard. retrieved, 7/1/2009).
Table 2
63
Demographic Data
Data
District A
1. Number of Households
9,049
2. Percentage of Single Family Households
7.5%
3. Education Level
High School
95. 9%
Bachelors Degree or Higher
62.1 %
4. Median Household Income
5. Percentage of Economically Disadvantage
$106,337
6.8%
6. Number of Teachers
306
7. Percentage of Teachers with Advanced Degrees
85%
8. Student to Teacher Ratio
14:1
9. Teacher Salary
$40,263-$91,553
10. Yearly Cost of Educating a Student
$12,455
11. Graduation Rate
98.6%
12. Average SAT Score ( 2008)
Mathematics
566
Reading
592
13. Percentage of Student PSSA Scores at Proficient or Above
Mathematics
88.2%
Reading
86.7%
64
14. Number of Students
4,346
15. Number of Students with IEPs
506
(School Matters, www.schoolmatters.com, retrieved 4/20/2009).
There are 506 special education students enrolled in the district. The districf s
percentage of special needs students is 11.65% that is lower than the PA state average of
15.1%. The following table indicates the percentage of students in each of the twelve
disability categories as outlined by the State of Pennsylvania for the 2008-2009 school
year.
Table 3
Percentage of Students in the Twelve Disabilities Categories
Disability Category
District Percentage
Pennsylvania Percentage
Autism
9.9%
5.3%
Deaf-blindness
0%
0.0%
Emotional Support
7.5%
9.2%
Hearing Support
0%
1.0%
Mental Retardation
3.0%
8.1%
Multiple Disabilities
0%
1.0%
Orthopedic Impairment
0%
.3%
65
Other Health Impaired
8.1%
7.0%
Specific Learning Disability
38.1%
51.0%
Speech and Language
30.2%
16.3%
Traumatic Brain Injury
0%
0.3%
Visual Impairment
0%
0.4
The percentage of special education students spending 80% or more of the day in
regular education classes is 67.5 %, which is higher than the state average of 55.2%. The
percentage of special education students spending less than 40% of the day in regular
education is 3.8%, which is lower than the state average of 10.8%. The percentage of
special education students placed in other settings is 4.6%, which is comparable to the
state average of 4.25%.
The district's special education population has a 0% American Indian subgroup,
which is comparable to the 0.0% districts subgroup for all students. There is a 7.1%
Asian /Pacific special education subgroup, which is lower than a 12.0% district subgroup.
The district has a 14.4% African American special education subgroup, which is higher
than the 8.2 % district subgroup. The district's Hispanic special education subgroup is 0
%, which is lower than the district's subgroup of 1.5%. The white subgroup is 76.5% that
is lower than the 78.2% subgroup of the entire district (Penn Data,
www.penndata.hbg.psu.edu, retrieved 5/30/2009).
66
Participant
The special education supervisor for the Case Study A school district is a female
with over 41 years in the field of education. She has taught in Kindergarten through High
School in urban, suburban and rural school districts. She has worked as a special
education supervisor for over 6 years and has presently been in her current position for
the last two years. She holds certification in three states as a special education
supervisor. She has a master's degree and a specialist certification.
Response to Research Question # 1
What impact has the Gaskin v. Pennsylvania Department of Education Settlement had on
your School District?
Supervisor A reports that her district has always been on the road to inclusion. Her
district invited Mr. Gaskins and his daughter, Lydia, to present to the staff and parents of
the district. Lydia did a power point presentation about her progress in public schools. At
first, the teachers were skeptical. They realized that Lydia had been in general classes
but they were not sure about the educational benefits that she received. After seeing the
presentation, teachers began to have meaningful conversations about Lydia and about
their own children or children of friends who were involved in special education. A
commitment to inclusion evolved through this process. Teachers and administrators
began to focus on ways to help their special needs students.
District A has been in the process of returning their special needs students from
outside placements to their home district. Some parents have been reluctant to agree to
67
move their children from settings where they are satisfied with their child's progress. The
supervisor believes that the Gaskin questions that are included in the IEP have helped to
raise awareness of the issues.
Supervisor A also reports that the district has had to remove several barriers that
have prevented them from moving forward with the inclusion of special needs students.
Although, the teachers voice a commitment to following the necessary steps to including
special needs students in to the regular education setting, there is not always follow
through on those commitments. The district acknowledges that teachers need more
training about how to implement the changes needed to accommodate these students into
their classes. Although most of the teachers have shown a commitment, there are still
some in the district who have not fully embraced the inclusion philosophy. It is hoped
that seeing the success that these students have made will help with this situation. The
supervisor also acknowledges that the district has had more difficulty including special
needs students into the regular education classes in the middle and high schools. She
believes that is due to the content and schedules at those schools. Staff development is
helping to break down these barriers.
Financial Impact
The supervisor does not feel that the district has experienced any significant
financial impacts because of the Gaskin Settlement. She believes there has been a trade
off. The district has saved money by bringing students into the district from private
placements but at the same time, they have spent money on new programs and support
services that they did not have before the settlement.
68
Staffing Increases
The supervisor shares that the district has hired a program support specialist to
work with the autistic support class. She feels this has helped to keep students in the
district who would normally go to the intermediate unit for instruction that would have
cost the district money. She mentioned that the district started their own emotional
support class for primary age students. In addition, a board certified behavioral analyst
was hired to work with students in the general education classes in an attempt to manage
student behaviors in the general education classrooms and avoid placement in special
education. This year an ABA program was developed for a few of the district's students.
Next year, the district will be starting a primary autistic support class in the
primary school for more involved students. A teacher will need to be hired for that class.
The district has hired an additional nurse to help with students' health related needs.
Instructional Areas
The special education supervisor has not needed to find more classrooms in the
primary schools. She is currently looking to find more space in the middle school to
provide for a sensory room for the special needs students. Some teachers have had to be
moved to other locations in the building. The high school is currently under construction,
so she is experiencing problems finding additional spaces at this time. She expressed a
need for counseling space and a'time out'room for students receiving autistic support in
this school. She projects that there will be places available after the construction is
completed.
69
Transportation
According to the Case A supervisor, the district has had to hire more assistant to
help the students on the school bus.
Food Services
The supervisor knows there are issues with peanut allergies but not necessarily
with the special needs students. She is aware that the district has some students that are
diabetic. She reports that the food service staff received training on when and why some
students need to have snacks, juice or water at various times of the day. They have also
been trained in helping to monitor sugar levels for some of the students.
Legal Services
The special education supervisor disclosed that the district has had some Due
Process hearings involving the return of students to the district from private placements.
Some of the parents do not want their children returned to the school district. They
would prefer that they stay in their current private school placements. In addition, she
spoke of parents who want their students taken out of the district schools and placed in
private schools. She thinks their children will make better progress in another setting.
The supervisor believes that the parents in the district are well intentioned. They are
strong advocates for their children. However, she believes that some parents do not have
realistic expectations. The district has to conduct information sessions with the parents so
they can get to a better understanding of their childs skill levels.
70
The supervisor adds that some of the parents have not been convinced that the
district can provide the same services that the private placements were able to give to
their children. They have gone to Due Process to have their child stay in the current'but
of district'placement. The district has had to prove that students will get the same amount
of services, such as occupational therapy and physical therapy that they received in other
placements. Supervisor A comments that school districts never"wiri'in Due Process
hearings because of the loss of parental good will and cooperation.
Response to Question #2.
What specific actions has your school district taken to include special needs students into
the least restrictive environment?
Learning Support
According to the special education supervisor, the district looks at data in order to
determine where students will be successful. The high school has eliminated the track
four level for mathematics. It was decided that the students in that class were being
labeled as slow. Therefore, the district has fully integrated the middle school and high
school math program. She explained that the standardized tests scores have been good
for the learning support students. The supervisor acknowledges that the difficulty with
co-taught classes at the high school level is finding special education teachers who are
certified in high school subject areas. She comments that this is not a problem for
teachers teaching students who will be taking the PASA instead of the PSSA. She also
71
contends that it is a problem for teachers supporting higher-level Asperger students who
are included in higher-level courses. She feels these students need special education
support to help with social aspects and to keep students focused and on task.
Emotional Support
The special education supervisor has shared that she hired a behavioral support
specialist and an itinerant emotional support teacher to work with emotional support
students in the classroom in the areas of social studies and science. She also hired a
certified teacher at the middle school that floats among classes and provides support
where necessary. This teacher was originally hired to support one student but this student
is no longer in need for a one- on- one assistant all day. Therefore, this teacher has been
freed up to assist other students.
Autistic Support
The district supervisor has started new autistic support classes. She reports that an
autistic support teacher has been hired. Her job is to monitor classes and provide
professional development. She feels that professional support is needed in the high
school because of the increases of numbers in the autistic support program.
Support For Students with Mental Retardation
The supervisor reports that the district has very few students with mental
retardation. Although there is no hard data to explain this situation, she believes that
72
good pre-natal care and early intervention has contributed to the low number of children
being diagnosed as students with mental retardation.
Multiple Disabilities Support
The supervisor comments that the district does have some students with multiple
disabilities. Their placement is determined on an individual basis. Low functioning
students with multiple disabilities are generally placed outside the district in approved
private schools. The supervisor feels that the district is not at the point, at the present
time, to provide an adequate program for these students.
Co-teaching
The supervisor relates that the district has had training from a nationally
recognized expert on co-teaching approaches. She explains that the district has
developed co-teaching teams in the past few years and is currently in the process of
forming a few more teams. She emphasizes that teachers cannot be assigned to coteaching teams. She feels that they need to volunteer to work with other teachers. She
acknowledges that that the district does not have any study groups on co-teaching.
Instead, she relates that the district has purchased E-communications, which is a webbased program that sends out weekly information about special education laws and
issues. All teachers have access to this website and may participate in self- directed
trainings.
73
Fully Included Students
The special education supervisor reports that the teachers have time to go into
classes and work with the students who need support. However, they do not have
scheduled time to meet with the general education teachers of these students. They
generally meet informally before school, during lunch or in the hallways. The special
education supervisor indicated that she is hoping to formalize this process in the future.
She noted that planning time has been an issue with both the general and special
education teachers.
Out of District Placements
The supervisor explained that the students who are placed in out of district
placements are primarily the students with severe multiple disabilities. There are also a
number of high functioning students with Aspergers who have a difficult time navigating
the hidden social curriculum of the high school who are in private placements. The
supervisor is in the process of bringing students with Aspergers back to the district.
There has been opposition from the parents of these students because of the academic
success that these students have achieved in these placements. The supervisor is
concerned about their academics but also about providing social interactions with their
age group peers. She is not convinced that these students are receiving that opportunity
in these schools. Therefore, she is hoping to have these students return to the district as
soon as possible.
74
Response to Question #3
What types of staff development have been provided to district staff members to prepare
them to educate special needs students into regular education settings?
According to the special education supervisor, the district has hired the
intermediate unit to do staff development in the area of support for autistic students. She
reports that training has also been provided for paraprofessionals who are now required to
obtain twenty hours of professional development every school year. She shares that the
district uses their internal resources for staff development whenever possible. The
district's behavioral support specialist and autism support specialist have provided training
for teachers. The district's behavioral analyst has provided CPI training for staff
members. These training sessions, in combination with classroom support, have helped
teachers who may have had fears of working with behaviorally challenged students
become more confident by using strategies that are effective in dealing with this
population. The supervisor acknowledges that the district needs to continue to provide
training and support for teachers. The districts teachers have asked for additional training
in the areas of co-teaching and differentiated instruction. The district is working with the
curriculum supervisors and reading specialists to provide training on RTI. Teachers are
trained on progress monitoring and computer based IEP writing.
The supervisor mentioned that a grant group had approached her from a local
college that would like to provide 50 hours of professional development on inclusion for
the district staff members. They conducted a presentation for parents on inclusion that
was televised to parent groups throughout the state.
75
The supervisor does not send many teachers out of district for training. She
believes that research has shown that one-day, one-session trainings has not been
effective. Instead, she invites specialists into the district to observe the classes and then
provide feedback to teachers on how to improve instruction. She reports that the schools
have been requesting this type of support.
The special education supervisor explains that the teachers in the district learned
about the Gaskin Settlement from a presentation by Mr. Gaskin and his daughter Lydia
Gaskin. The district superintendent has also held information sessions on the Gaskin
Settlement. In the beginning of every school year, teachers receive training by watching
videos on inclusion. All district administrators and school board members have attended
presentations on the topic of the Gaskin Settlement. The supervisor also points out that
the district has four program support specialists who work on staff development in each
school. They have focused on progress monitoring, differentiated instruction and coteaching.
Response to Question #4
What types of supplementary aids and services does your district have in place to ensure
the success of students with disabilities?
Collaboration Time
The supervisor concedes that time for collaboration is different for all the districts
schools. The middle school teachers have the most time because the teachers in that
76
school work on teams. The middle school special education teachers are included on
these teams. During these meeting times, they are able to discuss students and their
needs. In addition, they have an additional prep period. Scheduling time for collaboration
is difficult in all the schools. The district is hiring an outside specialist on scheduling to
help with the scheduling problem.
Paraprofessional Supports
The special education supervisor reports that the district had some supports in
place before the Gaskin settlement. She has commented that the district is trying to move
away from the use of one-on-one assistants being with students for an entire day. Each
childs schedule is analyzed to determine where students require assistance and where the
students are able to function without the assistants' support. The supervisor has received
approval for this from the parents who are now asking when the support from an assistant
will no longer be needed for their child. The supervisor reports that paraprofessionals
are receiving at least 20 hours of professional development each year. They receive
training during district in-service days. Most of the assistants have received Highly
Qualified Certification. A large portion of these assistants has college degrees in the area
of education. The supervisor believes that the level of education and training that these
assistants have received has made them an effective support in the district classrooms.
Assistive Technology
The supervisor reports that the district has purchased FM systems, laptops and
alpha-smarts. Students with visual impairments and students with Cerebral Palsy have
77
use of many supports including Dragon Speak. The district has been providing laptops to
many of the special needs students in the middle and high school.
Instructional Modifications
The supervisor relates that teachers use differentiated instruction to meet the
needs of many of the included students. She admits that this is a very high performing
district and that teachers are use to teaching students who are at or above grade level in
most academic subject areas. The district has performed very well on the PSSA's. She
also reports that helping teachers to realize that some of the special needs students will
not be able to perform up to grade level in reading and math has been an issue. She
believes that teachers have to know that just because this district is good, it is not yet
great. She believes that,'in order to become great, teachers have to work with all
students". She would like teachers to look at each students progress throughout the year.
She is hoping that the use of Performance Tracker in the district will help the teachers to
see the amount of improvement that each student has been making throughout the year.
The special education supervisor also admits that the teachers still need some
instruction in differentiated instruction for students. She acknowledges that the teachers
understand the concepts of differentiated instruction and she feels that they could pass a
test on differentiated strategies. She does not believe that teachers have an understanding
of how to implement the strategies into their everyday lessons.
The special education supervisor asserts that the special education teachers have a
better understanding of test and assignment modifications. She concedes however that
not all the results from these modifications have been successful. She would like
78
teachers to understand that reducing test items from 50 to 30 questions will not help a
student if he does not understand the concepts. She relates this to an analogy of someone
reducing the amount a child, without swimming skills, needs to swim from a mile to a
half mile. The child will still drown because he does not have the skill necessary to be
successful. She believes that type of thinking is most present in high schools.
Alternative Instructional Materials
The supervisor reports that the district uses Study Island, Mind Play and a number
of software products. She also mentioned Tier 3 interventions for RTI. The supervisor
reports that the district has purchased white boards because it is felt that the special needs
students attend more when they are taught on that modality. She shares that teachers also
provide notes and handouts to students. The teachers use the specially designed
instruction supports that are outlined in every student's IEP. The supervisor believes that
as teachers see the effectiveness of these materials, they will be more likely to use them.
Physical Supports
The case study supervisor indicates that the district has purchased wheelchairs
and walkers when needed. In addition, they have purchased some desks and other pieces
of furniture that are necessary to meet the students' needs. They have also provided FM
systems to be used in classrooms. Some of the restrooms in the older buildings needed to
be outfitted with grips, lower doorknobs and ramps. She commented that modifications
were not a problem in the newer buildings because they were installed when the buildings
were constructed. She added that the new high school will be handicapped accessible.
79
Behavioral Supports
According to the special education supervisor, students and teachers receive
support from the behavioral specialist and the autistic support teachers to help with
student behaviors. These specialists, along with the district social worker and speech and
language therapist, provide social skills training. The district also hired another
psychologist to help students, teachers and parents. The psychologist provides support to
the parents of newly identified special education students. He is also available for
counseling of students and providing informational support for teachers. She commented
that the district also provides students support through the district's SAP team and the use
of guidance counselors. Behavioral plans are developed for emotional support students to
address individual needs. These plans are based upon Functional Behavioral
Assessments.
Response to Question #5
What monitoring system is in place to assess the progress of special education students
throughout the district?
According to the special education supervisor, progress monitoring is used
throughout the district. She acknowledges that this is an area that is in need of
improvement. The teachers monitor progress in the areas of fluency and digits correct.
Some of the monitoring tools for fluency and comprehension include, Aims Web and
DIB ELS. The primary school monitors progress using Read 180. She mentions that the
initial progress monitoring training was conducted by the intermediate unit. The district
80
uses the'Train the Trainer Model'to share information with the rest of the staff.
According to the special education supervisor, one of the districts goals is to improve the
monitoring process. She hopes that teachers use the information obtained from progress
monitoring to inform instruction. The district will also be using Universal Screening as
part of the Response to Intervention process.
The supervisor shares that the information obtained from progress monitoring is
included to various degrees for the writing of the students' BEPs. Charts that are
developed to indicate student progress are developed for reporting progress in the areas
of math, reading and behavior.
Response to Question#6
What programs does your district have in place that welcome all students into their
schools?
Mission Statements
According to the Case Study A supervisor, the district mission statement includes
wording that welcomes all students into the district schools.
Parental Involvement
The supervisor relates that parents in the district have organized a special education
support group. This group is composed of a group of very informed parents. The group
meets on a monthly basis and addresses special education issues and parent concerns.
There are areas in all the schools that have special education information on display in
81
areas accessible to parents. The parents have access to an elementary school library for
meetings. The district supervisor estimates that less than 20% of the special education
parents are involved with the parent group. However, she reports that more than 90% of
parents of special education students attend IEP meetings. She also explains that teams
meet with parents several times during the year. She feels that it is rare for a student to
have only one IEP per year. She estimates that most IEP teams meet at least two to three
times during the school year. Parents of special education students have been included in
the districf s strategic planning sessions.
Extra Curricular Activities
The special education supervisor reports that a small number of special education
students are involved in extra-curricular activities. In some cases, assistants have been
provided to help students participate in these activities. In addition, transportation has
been provided to and from these activities. The middle and high schools have created
programs such as the Autism Support Club that includes regular and special needs
students into activities that foster social interactions.
Response to Research Question #7
What factors do you feel are responsible for your district meeting the LRE levels for
inclusion of special needs students into the least restrictive environment ?
The Case Study A supervisor believes that her district has been successful
including students because of several reasons. She feels that the district's long history of
82
including students is a major factor. She also admits that the district does not have a
large number of students with severely disabilities. She feels it is easier to include
students with mild disabilities such as students with learning disabilities. She also feels
that the parents have been a major support for inclusion. The parents in this district are
very informed about special education issues. A third factor that she cites is the support
that the special education department receives from the district superintendent and the
school board. She notes that the board is very generous with funds for special programs
or equipment. She mentions that the students are accepting of others with disabilities.
She credits that on the anti-bullying programs throughout the district.
Case Study B
Demographics
Case Study B is a district in a rural community located in Southeastern
Pennsylvania known for its large farms and beautiful landscapes. It covers 101 square
miles and has an estimated population of about 15,407 people. The school district has a
total of three elementary schools, one middle school and one high school. (Philadelphia
Inquirer, Report Card on the Schools, www.philly.com/reportcard , retrieved, 7/1/2009).
Table 4
Demographic Data
Data
District B
1. Number of Households
6,726
2. Percentage of Single Family Households
5.3%
83
3. Education Level
High School
90%
Bachelors Degree or Higher
31%
4. Median Household Income
$61,512
5. Percentage of Economically Disadvantage
5.6%
6. Number of Teachers
106
7. Student to Teacher Ratio
14:1
8. Teacher Salary
$ 37,700 - $90,782
9. Yearly Cost of Educating a Student
$14,954
10. Graduation Rate
90%
11. Average SAT Score ( 2008)
Mathematics
507
Reading
509
12. Percentage of Student PSSA Scores at Proficient or Above
Mathematics
80.6%
Reading
79.4%
13. Number of Students
2,065
14. Number of Students with IEPs
. (School Matters, www.schoolmatters.com, retrieved 4/20/2009).
357
84
There are 357 special educations students enrolled in the district. The following
table indicates the percentage of students in each of the twelve disability categories as
outlined by the State of Pennsylvania for the 2008-2009 school year.
Table 4
Percentage of Students in each of the Twelve Disabilities Categories
Disability Category
District Percentage
Pennsylvania Percentage
Autism
5.9%
5.3%
Deaf-blindness
0%
0.0%
Emotional Support
7.6%
9.2%
Hearing Support
0%
1.0%
Mental Retardation
4.5%
8.1%
Multiple Disabilities
0%
1.0%
Orthopedic
0%
.3%
Other Health Impaired
5.9%
7.0%
Specific Learning Disability
49.6%
51.0%
Speech and Language
23.0%
16.3%
Traumatic Brain Injury
0%
0.3%
Visual Impairment
0%
0.4%
85
The percentage of special education students spending 80% or more of the day in
regular education classes is 63.5 %, which is higher than the state average of 55.2%. The
percentage of special education students spending less than 40% of the day in regular
education is 4.0 %, which is lower than the state average of 10.8%. The percentage of
special education students placed in other settings is 3.1%, which is lower than the state
average of 4.25%.
The districts special education population has a 0% American Indian subgroup
that is comparable to the 0.0% districts subgroup for all students. There is a 0% Asian
/Pacific special education subgroup that is lower than a 0.9% district subgroup. The
district has a 0% African American special education subgroup that is lower than the 0.8
% district subgroup. The district's Hispanic special education subgroup is 0 %, which is
lower than the districts subgroup of 0.7%. The white subgroup is 97.2%, which is
comparable to the 97.3 subgroup of the entire district (Penn Data,
www.penndata.hbg.psu.edu, retrieved 5/30/2009).
Participant
The Case Study B participant is a male pupil services director who has a
bachelor's degree in psychology and sociology, a master's degree in general and
experimental psychology and a master's of education in school psychology. He has
certificates in school psychology and pupil services. He has been a school counselor, a
school psychologist and a director of pupil services.
As the director of pupil services, he is responsible for pupil services and special
education services in the district.
86
Response to Question # 1.
What impact has the Gaskin v. Pennsylvania Department of Education Settlement had on
your School District?
The Case Study B director thinks that the Gaskin Settlement has been an
additional impetus for his district to look closely at the extent to which their students are
included in regular education classes. He declared the district is making every effort to
include students into the least restrictive environment. Another impact, that he has
noticed, involves EEP meetings. When he examines the districts special education
program, he notices that the teachers do not necessarily directly answer the Gaskin
questions verbatim. He does note that the questions are discussed in conversations during
the IEP meeting. He has directed his staff to be sure to discuss the response with the
parents. He admits that the IEP teams do not necessary provide a written response. The
team reviews the questions with the parents and then asks if there are any questions
concerning the extent that their child is included in the general education setting. He
insists that the district tries to provide all the appropriate supports and services that are
needed so that students can be kept in the least restrictive environment and will not be
pushed out of the regular education classroom. He believes that the Gaskin Case has
caused the district to focus a little bit more on their inclusive practices than they have in
the past.
Financial Impact
The director does not think the Gaskin Settlement has had a financial impact on
the district. He reports that the district was a little bit ahead of the curve in terms of
87
inclusive practices. Prior to the Gaskin Settlement, he had created an inclusion facilitator
position. He hired someone for that position because the district had one or two students
that had multiple handicaps and were very involved. If they were to be included, the
regular education teachers would really need a consultant who could help them. He
concedes that they were a little bit ahead of the curve in thinking about inclusion. The
director does not think it had much of a financial impact on the district. He points out
that an exception would be that the district probably has a few more instructional
assistants at this point than they had prior to the Gaskin Settlement. This has made the
district think that some students could be maintained in the regular classroom with an
instructional assistant or someone to keep the child focused and on task.
Staffing Increases
The Case Study B director reports that the district had to hire a new teacher for a
child who has multiple disabilities. In the past, they have had to hire instructional
assistants. He explains that he did this because the inclusion facilitator was helping the
regular education teacher on a daily basis. She would provide the modifications for the
lessons and give the teachers a packet. In addition to the help from the inclusion support
teacher, the student had a one-on-one assistants help. He felt the student was getting too
much help. So he reassigned the paraprofessional and hired a teacher to work with the
child on a one- on-one basis. The teacher has a class or assignment of one. He reports
that the district had to hire more instructional assistants to help with the inclusion of the
students into the least restrictive environment.
88
Medical Personnel
The director reports that the district has not hired more nurses. He explains that
the district contracts out for nurses. He emphasizes that the district is very small and they
only have one student right now who needs additional medical services.
Instructional Areas
The Case B director admits that the district has had a struggle trying to find space
for new classes. He disclosed that the district does not have their own autistic support
class or emotional support class except in the high incidence range. He shares that they
work through the intermediate unit, so they do have to find the unit additional classroom
spaces in their buildings. He acknowledges that they have had some problems finding
rooms for these classes because space is tight. He is afraid that it may be a question of
whether or not the intermediate unit class can be placed in a certain building. He predicts
that the intermediate unit class will not be in a school if it becomes a choice between a
district class and an intermediate unit class being placed in the building.
Building Accommodations
The director mentioned that the district did have to do some work on their
buildings such as adding wheelchair accessible ramps. The district has two buildings that
were recently renovated. They are in good shape and they are ADA compliant. A third
building is currently being renovated. The district only had to add a few
accommodations because of the renovation process.
89
Transportation
The case study director feels that the Gaskin Settlement has not had an effect on
the district transportation department. He point outs that it is probably because the more
severely impaired students are transported through the intermediate unit. He thinks the
district may have to pay more for transporting additional students, but the Gaskin
Settlement has not affected the districts transportation department.
Food Service
The director adds that the food service department has not been affected by
request for special diets or help with feeding. He commented that the instructional
assistant or personal care assistants would do that if it were written in the IEP.
Legal Services
The director cannot think of any legal impact on the district because of the
Gaskins Settlement.
Response to Question #2
What specific actions has your school district taken to include special needs student into
the least restrictive environment?
Learning Support
The director feels that one of the biggest and probably the costliest thing that the
district has done is to move to a co-teaching model. In the high school, they have had coteaching in place for three years. In the middle school, they had it in place for math. This
90
year, they are putting it in place for English and math. He reports that the district had to
hire an additional math teacher at the middle school to help make the co-teaching model
work. At the elementary level, in the coming year, they are piloting a co-teaching model
for math to see how that works. The participant admits that the district is fortunate
because they have low numbers in terms of students in the learning support program in
that building, He decided to try a co-teaching model there. He mentions that the students
who are pulled out receive learning support for reading, language arts and math. The
students have always been in the general class for science, social studies and specials. He
confirms that the science and social studies classes are not co-taught but instructional
assistants support them. Sometimes, the learning support teachers will push into the
classes to provide additional help in those areas.
Emotional Support
The Case B director admits that the district has very few students with emotional
needs. He feels they are fortunate in that regard. The district's philosophy is that the
schools do not separate the emotional support students from the rest of the students.
They receive support from the learning support teachers. He has found that putting all the
students with emotional needs in one class results in the students patterning each other in
terms of negative behaviors. He has found that students with emotional needs are
included in general education or learning support classes, they engaged in fewer negative
behaviors.
He reiterates that this is a small district and they have a small number of students
with learning disabilities. Typically, their learning support teachers' rosters have about 18
91
students. Of these, two or three will be emotional support students. He shares that when
the district had their special education audit, the lack of an emotional support class
became a concern. The district was asked why they did not have supports and services
for students with emotional needs in the district. He disagrees with that because the
special education certification for a learning support teacher has the same requirements as
for an emotional support teacher. He feels that it is just a case of whether or not they
have been trained to create a behavior plan. He adds that all the learning support teachers
have been trained that way. In order to satisfy the state auditors, he identified a teacher in
the high school and made her an itinerant emotional support teacher. She has most of the
students with emotional needs on her caseload. He emphasizes that they are spread
completely across the buildings in terms of regular education classes and learning support
classes. He declares that he has one teacher for our emotional support program.
Autistic Support
The director reports that the district has not brought back any students with Autism
to the district. He points out however, that the district seldom placed children out of
district unless they were really severely involved. He explains that they do have other
students on the autistic spectrum that are currently enrolled in the general education
program. He emphasizes that including students with autism was not new to the district.
He says they have always been there. He explains that for students with a mild form of
Asperger's, the learning support teachers would be the first level of support for the regular
education teachers and the students would be on that learning support teachef s caseload.
The school psychologist serves as another level of support. The district also has an
92
intermediate unit program training specialist who can also help support the teachers. He
shares that the teachers can utilize the inclusion facilitator to work with the children with
Autism if there are behavioral issues or other issues that are more of an inclusion nature.
He comments that sometimes, it is the teachers that need some rearranging or changing of
their mindset on how to work with the student.
Collaboration Time
The participant comments that at the high school level, the more students with
learning disabilities are in co-taught classes. The co- teaching teams are given 90
minutes of preparation time a day to work together to plan their lessons. He explains that
they have block scheduling at the high school and each teacher has three ninety-minute
classes. The co-teachers work on their plans for another ninety-minute block.
The director mentions that he had to work with the high school principal to get the
teachers released from their duty period and lunch duty in order to get the 90 minutes
planning time. He admits that situation is not the ideal. He relates that if the principal is
short on teachers, and he needs to pull someone, the co-teachers are the ones that he is
going to have to pull. In spite of that, the special education teachers get more planning
time than other teachers do. He points to the middle school as a great model for
collaboration. He explains all the grades are divided into teams that meet to support
students. The school day is divided into an eight period day. According to the director,
the teachers get one period a day to meet and the learning support teachers are part of the
team. Teams meet 5 days a week for 45 minutes a day. He added that these teachers also
have a daily prep period on top of that.
93
Itinerant Support
According to the case study director, the district only has a half time itinerant
support teacher and a half time resource teacher. He admits that the districts support for
fully included students is probably the weakest. He states that the special education
teachers consult with the general education teachers on a as- need basis. Every two
weeks, the teachers put out a progress check at the high school level to see how the
special education students are doing. They check with the all the students' teachers to see
if any assignments or projects are late or incomplete. When a student starts to slide, or if
the general education teacher puts comments or indicates concerns, the learning support
teacher and the other teachers will schedule a meeting to discuss the problems.
The director relates that in the middle school, the itinerant students' progress can
be monitored through discussions during team time. The director is of the opinion that the
elementary teachers communicate the best. He attributes this to the fact the special
education teachers at the elementary level have smaller case loads than other special
education teachers in other schools in the district. He thinks that it is easier for teachers to
talk about students in the elementary level because the number of students in those
schools is very small. He comments that there are three resource room teachers at each
elementary building. Their average caseload is about 10 to 12 students.
Out of District Placements
The special education director reveals that highest number of out of district
placements would probably be at the high school level. He shares that these students are
94
usually in need of an alternative placement. He mentions that most of these students had
been students with learning disabilities in the past and who now have behavioral issues.
Some of them are students who have been diagnosed as students in need of emotional
support in the past. He explains that it is not unusual for a student to be placed out of
district for a combination of factors. Some students, who have an increase in discipline
offenses, have become involved in drugs or alcohol. The director notes that there are 32
students placed out of the district. He confirms that there are currently two or three
students at alternative schools. He relates that administrators from neighboring districts
met to talk about starting an alternative school program. The other districts spoke of a
need for placement for 40 or 50 students. The other districts were surprised when the
case study B director requested placement for five students. He feels the district is
fortunate because most of their students do not have severe behavioral issues. He
contends that the district is able to handle their students. The district superintendent has a
philosophy that he wants the teachers to be working with these kids, not trying to get rid
of them. The director reports that it is not unusual for administrators to get a little
frustrated because they have to go back to the drawing board to try to figure a way to
make a student successful or to come up with a successful program. He feels that in the
long run, they do what is best for the students. The students that are sent out of district
the most are the emotional support students in the high school and probably the autistic
students across all levels. He explains that the district sends out students with severe
autism because it is too small a district to run an autistic program. He counters that the
intermediate unit currently has two autistic classes at one elementary school and two at
95
the other elementary school. He feels that some of the district's students may be fortunate
enough to fit in with the focus of those classes; they can be included in those classes,
which are located in the district. If not, if they are higher functioning, they may have to
attend a neighboring district that can provide the program they need.
Response to Question #3
What types of staff development have been provided to district staff members to prepare
them to educate special needs students into regular education settings?
Staff Development
The director reflects that,'It doesn't sound like a lot but every year, we have an
inclusion focus for one full day of in- service. Autism has been a focus for us, especially
Asperger's, because we have Asperger's kids in the regular programs."He shares that the
district has had speakers come to talk to their teacher in grades K to 12. He reports that
the presentation is usually about 2 hours. The rest of the day is spent on other issues.
When he addressed the Gaskin Case, the teachers wanted to know,'Nvhy do we need to
include these students, we didn't have to do it in the past? He told them it is the law and
everyone has to do it.
The special education and some general education teachers have attended
presentations on how to keep special needs students in the classroom. It taught them
problem solving by using scenarios. The director broke the teachers into smaller groups
for the in-Service. The whole day was focused on a disability and on inclusive practices
in the classroom. He related that the district does this every year.
96
He commented that the special education department is allotted 1 Vi days of inservice time for special education. He devotes a day to inclusive practices and the other
half to other issues. He admits that he tries to address areas that the teachers feel a need
for instruction. He feels that it all really filters down on being inclusive.
The participant has also provided in-service training in the area of differentiated
instruction. He shares that differentiation was a major initiative of the district for about
three or four years. He points out that differentiated instruction is part of the teachers'
observations. It is ingrained in lessons throughout the district. He adds,'If we don't see
differentiation when the observations are taking place, the teacher is not going to do well
with that observation".
The director says that he plans the special education staff developments with a
team of about four or five special education teachers. He facilitates the sessions.
Sometimes, the district will bring in private presenters and intermediate unit people.
However, he also adds that the district conducts many in house presentations. He
acknowledges that the district does not usually use PaTTAN but they keep them as an
option.
The special education director explains that all general and special education
teachers are included in staff development. This past year, some of the instructional
assistants were included in some sessions. However, including assistants involves
contractual issues. Paraprofessionals are only contracted to work so many days. He
confirms that they were trained on the 20hours they need for the state requirements. He
97
recounts that some of the assistants did come to the staff development sessions. They
were all welcome to attend. The issue, however, was they could not be paid.
The case study director added that the counselors, psychologists and our nurses
also attend staff development sessions. One area that he would like to work on is
including secretaries in staff development sessions. However, often on staff development
days, they are handling the office.
The director admits that the district follow up sessions for staff development are
minimal. He declared that they do try to provide support after presentations. He cites an
example of a program training specialists with the intermediate unit who recently did a
session on early intervention and offered to do additional follow up after school. He
voiced his disappointment that no one wanted to attend.
He notes that teachers are given a chance to get practice in differentiated
instruction. It is a district requirement to differentiate their lessons. They talk about their
strategies in the pre-observation meetings with the principals. They talk about their use
of differentiated instruction for lessons, assessments and projects. There are high
expectations in this district that all teachers are differentiating.
The director mentions that the district generally holds staff development sessions
in the district but he concedes that if a teacher requests to attend a conference outside the
district, the school board usually approves it and provides the funding. The participant
reveals that there is money in a special fund that is allocated for these sessions. The
district also sends some teachers to PaTTAN for special training.
98
The director shares that administrators were expected to attend staff development
sessions on inclusive practices. He estimates that about 60% of the administrators attend
the sessions. He believes that the others were involved with other things during the
inclusive practices session. He is of the opinion that the administrators would have
benefited from attending these sessions because it would have shown their support for
inclusion. He shares that all three of the district's elementary principals were special
education teachers so they do have an understanding of Inclusion.
Behavioral Supports Training
The director admits that the district staff has not officially been trained on positive
behavioral supports strategies. He feels that the training they did have was not thorough.
He explains that it was only about an hour and a half long, and it was basically an
introduction. He is of the opinion that this is an area where the district needs to go
further. He clarifies that the special education department only has one day for staff
development. Therefore, he meets with the teacher to choose the most important issues
to address. He comments,"We don't have that many students with emotional needs, so we
needed to address other issues that were important to everyone. It is hard to maintain the
general education teachers' attention when they feel it is a waste of their time". He explains
that the special education teachers are included in other areas. He point out that the math
co-teachers attends math staff development with the math department. The elementary
education teachers teach everything so they have to decide which departments they wish
to join for staff development.
99
Response to Question #4
What types of supplementary aids and services does your district have in place to ensure
the success of students with disabilities?
Collaboration
The Case Study B director asserts that the district does have time built into the
teachers schedules for co-planning and team meetings.
Paraprofessional Support
The director confirmed that the district has had to increase the number of
paraprofessional in the district.
Technology
The director shares that there has been a big push on technology in the district.
Every class has computers that can be accessed by the special education students. He
mentioned that he has purchased laptops for some of the special education students. He
has also purchased communication devices and books on tape. He reiterates that
technology has been a top priority in this district.
Instructional Modifications
The director mentions that some of the instructional modifications used for
special needs students include co-teaching and changing the pace of the lessons. He
notes that the high school students are scheduled for 90 minutes of math for one semester
a year. The co-taught classes are for a full year. This allows the co-taught class to move
100
at a slower pace. It gives teachers time to place students into groups. He shares that most
teachers use differentiated instruction. He believes that using differentiated instruction all
the time is somewhat idealistic.
Assessment Modifications
The director comments that students use assistive technology such as hand held
devices or answering orally to the teacher as part of their assessment modifications. He
added that teacher use differentiation when designing project requirements for special
needs students. The students may choose to do a poster that emphasizes key concepts
instead of taking a test. They can do alternate assignments. He declared that the district
students are very polished on power point presentations.
Alternate Materials
The director admits that the district does not try to use alternative materials with
special needs students. He shares that the teachers like to keep them on the same
materials as the regular education students so that when they return to their class from
resource or pull out sessions, the material will not be foreign to them. He shares that they
do however have some special programs that they use with students who are struggling
such as the Wilson Reading program.
Physical Supports
The director mentions that the district has had to purchase some furniture for
special needs students. These include special tables that adjust for height to use with
101
wheelchairs and slant desks. He emphasizes that he looks at the students on a case-bycase basis to determine what supports are necessary to meet their needs.
The district has purchased Sound Field systems for students with auditory
processing problems. They also have FM systems for students with hearing impairments.
The director mentioned that they are setting up sound field system supports in all the
renovated schools.
The special education director reported that some structural aids were installed
throughout the district. In the middle school, they had to turn back the strength on door
closures. They will have to do the same in the high school. In addition, the director
commented that parents have expressed concerns that the doors do not have automated
buttons for students in wheelchairs. The district does not want to install them because of
security issues. The director asserts that there are people assigned to the doors to help the
students enter and exit the buildings.
Social Behavioral Supports
The case study director admits that social skills' training is a weak area for the
district. He contends that the lack of training is due to scheduling issues. He relates that
the district is reluctant to take students out of their subject area classes. He does share
that at the elementary level, the guidance counselor works on social skills and antibullying lessons. In the morning, the elementary level classes participate in a morning
circle group where students share and teachers address areas of concerns. The middle
school has peer support groups such as "Lunch Buddies" and'Qrcle of Friends".
102
The director relates that the middle school and high school use the Restorative
Practices Model. This approach has been very successful at dealing with student
behaviors. The director states,"That is why our district has so few problems. Teachers
help students to talk through their problems". He continues that the students need to
figure out ways to fix their problems. He acknowledges that it is much easier to suspend
students but it is not as effective. According to the director, Restorative Practices takes
place immediately when an inappropriate behavior happens. Teachers stop the lesson
and address the issues right away. The director adds that all of the teachers are trained in
Restorative Practices. He shares that the developers of Restorative Practices live in the
district and have been very helpful in providing staff development.
The director confirms that all of the identified students in need of emotional
supports have a behavioral support plan. These plans are based on functional behavioral
assessments. The director explains that there are three levels of functional behavioral
assessments. Level 1 is based on conversations between those who work with the
student including teachers and the school psychologist to identify the problematic
behaviors. Level 2 FBAs involve an observation conducted by the school psychologist
and an intermediate unit specialist usually completes Level 3 assessments.
Response to Question #5
What monitoring system is in place to assess the progress of special education students
throughout the district?
103
The case study director believes that the district needs to be doing a better job
with progress monitoring. He shares that the monitoring systems are somewhat
curriculum based. He mentions that not all of the district's special education students are
monitored. He confirms that all the teachers are told that they should be monitoring
student progress but not all teachers are as structured about it as others. He believes that
all students should be monitored once or twice a week. He mentions that the students are
typically monitored in math and reading. He states that it can take as little as a few
minutes to monitor a student doing a cold read. The director mentions that the district
teachers typically use Aims Web in reading and a curriculum based assessment in math.
They use Excel graphing in the elementary schools. In the middle school, they use Aims
Web but the teachers do not graph the results. Teachers in the high school also do not
graph the results. The teachers say,'! collect data", but the director admits that he is not
always sure what that "data" actually means.
The director states that the high school co-teaching teams do a lot of data
collection in math. He is of the opinion that it is more difficult to do data collection in
English especially when you are dealing with subject material like Shakespeare.
According to the director, some of the teachers have created their own curriculum-based
probes. He emphasizes that some teachers do use the data they receive from progress
monitoring to go back and make instructional decisions about something that they taught
and thought the students had mastered. When they review the data, they realize that the
students did not get everything. Therefore, they go back and look at the materials they are
using and make modifications or they slow down their rate of instruction. The director
104
shares,'There are other teachers that I am sorry to say, voice that they are going through
the steps of collecting data but they are not using the information for anything. It is as if
they collected the information just to follow the rules. They can say they have data but
do they use it?
The director adds that the teachers do use information from progress monitoring
for writing IEPs. He shares that the information is reported to the parents at the
elementary level. He believes that the elementary teachers typically have good
communication with the parents. He thinks the learning support teachers contact the
parents every other week or so. He relates that contact with parents dwindles by the time
the student reaches middle school. At the IEP meetings, CBA data is reported in the
present education levels. The director encourages teachers to explain the information in
the report to parents because some parents do not understand some of the phrases and
acronyms included in the document. The teachers in the middle school and the high
school do the least amount of data collection. They do not explain the assessment results
to the parents other than during an IEP meeting.
The case study director affirms that administrators at the elementary levels really
do understand progress monitoring. He also comments that the middle and high school
administrators do not have a background in special education so they are a little less
sophisticated when it comes to progress monitoring.
He also admits that there are problems with the testing results from one testing
tool used in one school from the results of the testing done at another level. He
comments,"The results don't always match up with the previous testing when they move
105
to the next school level. We are working to correct that. As we begin to move to the RTI
model, that is one of the first things we are saying. We need to get a consistent tool that
we can sue to collect our data. We want one that will be able to be used across all levels".
The director does not believe that when data is sent from the Elementary level to
the Middle School, it is thoroughly reviewed. Teachers will look at the data to get an
idea of where the student is and then they will start all over with their own data collecting
and their own progress monitoring. Therefore, there is not a continuum from the
Elementary School to the Middle School.
Response to Question#6
What programs does your district have in place that welcome all students into their
schools?
Mission Statement
The director confirms that the district mission statement contains words that show
that all students are welcome into their schools. The district also has developed a whole
inclusion policy. The director continues that this policy is posted on the district website.
Parental Involvement
The district also has an inclusion committee that addresses concerns of parents of
special education students. This committee meets four or five times a year. The director
states that the district transition coordinator currently heads the committee. He also adds
that there are parents on the committee along with regular education teachers, special
106
education teachers and one administrator. The director continues that the district has a
'Parents Support Network! This committee was started at the request of a parent who
wanted to network with other parents. The director agreed and said,"Well, let's do it
collaboratively with the district and the parents working together'. The director arranges
for key speakers to present at these meetings. Presenters have provided information on
topics such as anxiety, Autism and ADHD. After the meeting, the parents talk and
network with each other. The director confesses that he has been able to get all the
speakers for free by begging and twisting arms.
The director continues that the inclusion committee is working on creating a
parents center. Some of our schools have books and some schools have a parent
information area. The district is looking to find a central location, probably somewhere
up at the high school. They plan to use that as a central location for parent books and
informational materials. The director discloses that the schools do not want to give up
what they have in their buildings. He contends,'We are probably still going to have a
central location and individual buildings will still be able to do what they please".
The case study participant says that he would like more parent participation in the
Inclusion Committee and in the Parent Support Network. He reports that at the Parent
Support Network meetings, they usually have between 15 and 18 parents coming to
meetings. The Inclusion Committee may have another two parents attend. He estimates
that 20 parents are involved in the committees. He calculates that about 5% of the
parents' of special needs students participate in those meetings.
107
The director mentions that in the elementary school's parent attendance at IEP
meetings averages at about 100%. The middle school averages at about 90% for parent
attendance and the high school averages at about 75% for parent attendance.
The director indicates that the district has not directly invited parents to staff
development sessions on special education topics. He explains that if parents inquire and
want to attend, he usually says,"yes". He admits to having mixed feelings on allowing
parents at staff development. He thinks that sometimes at staff development, there needs
to be a safe setting where staff can feel vulnerable. I this way a teacher can say,'Oh, I
didn't know that'. He believes that when a parent is present, the person cannot be
vulnerable. He did disclose that when the district invited a guest speaker to talk about
inclusion and on Asperger's, he initially did not invite the parents. However, parents
indicated that they were interested in attending so he did allow parents to attend that
session. He points out that on other occasions they have had the speakers do an evening
session for parents.
The director also notes that parents are included in the Districts' Strategic Planning
Sessions and that some parents on the school board have special needs students. He is
not sure of the exact number because he knows that some of the children are older now.
Extra Curricular Activities
The director notes that the special education students join extra curricular
activities just like any other student. All of the children, including the autistic support
students are welcome to join activities. The director insists that the district will make
special arrangements. He relates that they had a student with multiple disabilities who
108
had severe disabilities but had low to average cognitive abilities. He wanted to be on the
yearbook committee. The district assigned an instructional assistant to help him on that
committee. He tells of another student who was included in marching band in 8l grade.
He admits that basically, all the student could do was hit the drum every now and then.
The director comments,'But, it was meaningful to him. He loved it. He was included'.
The student needed an instructional assistant to be with him for the entire time. The
director assures that if students are interested, he will find a way to help them participate.
He mentions that some of the teachers do not actually recruit students but they go out of
their way to get students to join extra curricular activities. The director also emphasizes
that the district will provides transportation for special education students to attend extra
curricular events. In one case, the parents only wanted their child to participate in
activities at school. They would bring him to events and then take him home. The
director also mentions a student at one of the schools who is deaf and in a wheelchair.
The district provided him with additional transportation so that he could attend extra
curricular events.
Response to Research Question #7
What factors do you feel are responsible for your district meeting the LRE levels for
inclusion of special needs students into the least restrictive environment ?
The Case Study B director feels that one of the reasons why his district has been
successful in including students into the least restrictive environment is because of the
109
support he receives from his superintendent, the school board, building administrators
and teaching staff.
He relates that the school administrators and teachers know about special
education and they do what has to be done to meet the needs of their students. He
explains that the parents are supportive of special education. There are parents in the
district who are very involved with the special education issues. He admits that the
district has to work quickly to keep pace with some of the parents. He also feels that the
culture of the district may have an influence on the inclusion of students. He explains
that the district is rural with very few towns or places for people to congregate. He feels
that the school is a very important part of the community.
Case Study C
Demographics
Case Study C is a suburban community located in Southeastern Pennsylvania known
for its mixture of small picturesque towns and fertile farmland. It covers 27.9 square
miles and has an estimated population of about 9,995 residents. It is composed of one
borough and one township. The school district has a total of two elementary schools, one
middle school and one high school (Philadelphia Inquirer, Report Card on the Schools,
www.philly.com/reportcard., retrieved 7/1/2009).
110
Table 6
Demographic Data
Data
District C
1. Number of Households
2. Percentage of Single Family Households
4,813
4.4%
3. Education Level
High School
96%
Bachelors Degree or Higher
59%
4. Median Household Income
$74,598
5. Percentage of Economically Disadvantage
1.3%
6. Number of Teachers
110
7. Student to Teacher Ratio
13:1
8. Average Teacher Salary
$73,219
9. Yearly Cost of Educating a Student
$19,533
10. Graduation Rate
97.6%
11. Average SAT Score ( 2008)
Mathematics
539
Reading
544
12. Percentage of Student PSSA Scores at Proficient or Above
Mathematics
87.2%
Reading
90.6%
Ill
13. Number of Students
1,466
14. Number of Students with IEPs
248
(School Matters, www.schoolmatters.com, retrieved 4/20/2009).
There are 248 special educations students enrolled in the district. The following
table indicates the percentage of students in each of the twelve disability categories as
outlined by the State of Pennsylvania for the 2008-2009 school year.
Table 7
Percentage of Students in each of the Twelve Disability Categories
Disability Category
District Percentage
Pennsylvania Percentage
Autism
6.0%
5.3%
Deaf-blindness
0%
0.0%
Emotional Support
8.9%
9.2%
Hearing Support
0%
1.0%
Mental Retardation
0%
8.1%
Multiple Disabilities
0%
1.0%
Orthopedic
0%
0.3%
Other Health Impaired
15.7%
7.0%
Specific Learning Disability
46.4%
51.0%
112
Speech and Language
18.5%
16.3%
Traumatic Brain Injury
0%
0.3%
Visual Impairment
0%
0.4%
The percentage of special education students spending 80% or more of the day in
regular education classes is 58.2 %, which is higher than the state average of 55.2%. The
percentage of special education students spending less than 40% of the day in regular
education is 8.2 %, which is lower than the state average of 10.8%. The percentage of
special education students placed in other settings is to small a group size to be reported
by the PDE, which is lower than the state average of 4.25%.
The district's special education population has a 0% American Indian subgroup
that is comparable to the 0.0% districts subgroup for all students in the districts subgroup.
There is a 0% Asian Pacific special education subgroup that is lower than a 1.5 % district
subgroup. The district has a 0% African American special education subgroup that is
lower than the 1.0 % district subgroup. The districts Hispanic special education subgroup
is 0 %, which is lower than the district's subgroup of 1.2%. The white subgroup is 94.0%,
which is comparable to the 96.1% subgroup of the entire district. (Penn Data,
www.penndata.hbg.psu.edu, retrieved 5/30/2009).
Participant
The Case Study C participant is a female supervisor of special education. She has
a bachelof s degree in education with elementary and special education certifications. She
also has her mastef s degree in educational leadership with a special education supervisor's
113
certificate.She has spent 31 years in the field of education. She taught regular education
for 10 years and special education for 15 years. She has been an administrator for 6
years.
Response to Question #1
What impact has the Gaskin v. Pennsylvania Department of Education Settlement had on
your School District?
The special education supervisor for Case Study C explains that this is a very
small district with a student population of under 1200 students. She comments that they
have had difficulties developing special needs programs within the district because the
numbers in each category are so small. She continues,"If the district has a student who is
Autistic in first grade, it is most likely that there would not be another student with
Autism in first grade. There may not be another student with autism until about 5th grade".
She asserts that it is difficult to develop an autistic support class in the district because
there are not enough students that could be included in the class. She believes that is why
the Gaskins Settlement did not have a big impact on this district. She notes that most of
the low incidence students remain in the district and are integrated into the regular
education classes with some learning support. The supervisor reports that if these
students need a place to go or time with fewer people, they can receive help in the
learning support classes where they can receive instructional supports or emotional
supports. She admits that the learning support program and the emotional support
program are the only two programs in the district. She believes that the Gaskin
114
Settlement did not have as big an impact on this small district as it would have had if it
were a bigger district that actually has classes designated for a variety of disabilities.
She shares that the district does utilize out-of- district placements for students who are
really more disabled than the district can handle in the their regular education, learning
support or emotional support programs.
Financial Impact
The supervisor reports that the district will be starting a new class this year. Prior
to this, they had their high functioning students with autism at the elementary level that
actually stay in the district. The intermediate unit came to the district and was responsible
for the class. The intermediate unit supplied the teacher, the assistants, and the
behavioral specialist. The supervisor reports that this year, their district has five students
in that program. Therefore, the district created their own program for high functioning
elementary students with autism because they wanted to keep them in the district. There
will be costs that will accompany the creation of that classroom. The supervisor predicts
that in the next year, the district will have to look to expand the program in the middle
school because some of the students will be in sixth grade. She explains that according to
state regulations, the school is permitted to have up to eight students on a caseload for
this disability. She reports that the district will be hiring a teacher and a half to service
the students in the two schools. She notes that the district has more teachers than the law
requires.
Staffing Increases
115
The special education supervisor comments that there are quite a few instructional
assistants in the district. She reveals that the district has more assistants than special
education teachers. She shares that they have one special education teacher at each grade
level. The Kindergarten and first and second grade have one and a half teachers for all
three grades. She confirms that the district has eleven and a half special educations
teachers in all. The district's special education students receive support from the
instructional assistants. Some of the students receive one-on-one assistance, while others
have the help of two assistants. The supervisor emphasizes that the students receive the
necessary amounts of supports from the assistants that they need to be successful. The
supervisor also shares that most of the districts instructional assistants are certified
teachers. She feels that it is a perfect job for individuals with other commitments that
want to work with students but do not want the responsibilities of full time teaching.
Medical Personnel
The Case Study C supervisor reports that the district did not have to hire
additional nursing or medical personnel. She is of the opinion that the two certified
nurses and the nursing assistant that are currently on staff in the district are sufficient for
a district with less than 1200 students.
Instructional Areas
The special education supervisor acknowledges that the district will need a room
for the new autistic support classes. She is confident that there will be enough space for
that. She reports that in the elementary level, there is a whole wing that is not presently
116
in use. There is a room for their sensory needs and there is an extra classroom and a room
for a child if he needs to take a breather. She continues that the district did not have to
expand any of the schools to accommodate special needs students. The high school has a
brand new wing and the middle school and the upper elementary are brand new
buildings. The lower elementary is an older school but it has a brand new wing. All the
schools are compliant with ADA requirements. They have elevators, ramps and
appropriate bathrooms.
Transportation
The supervisor mentions that most of the special needs students ride regular
buses. She point out that there are a few students who are in wheelchairs. She adds that
the parents of these students have chosen to transport them, even though the district does
have a small bus that is wheelchair accessible. She shares that they had a few children
who have been sent out of the district who also need special transportation. She explains
that the district contracts out with the intermediate unit for them.
Food Service
The supervisor shares that the director of food services is very good at addressing
the food concerns for some of the special needs students. The Director of food services
attends s IEP meetings when requested. He meets with parents to discuss students' needs.
He prepares meals for students with special diets.
Legal Issues
117
The special education supervisor has not seen an increase in due process cases
because of the Gaskins Settlement. The district does have parents who have lawyers who
will call to discuss issues. Their lawyers will contact the district lawyers to make
decisions. She feels that the biggest problem they have right now is a dispute with a
child's parents over the classification label that was given to their student after the district
did an extensive evaluation of the student. The supervisor sent them the procedural
safeguards that give them a very detailed method of having it stricken from the record.
However, the parents chose to use their lawyers. In addition, she shares that some
parents are looking to place their students in other settings. She shares the story of a
student with extreme emotional needs whose parents placed him in a facility that does not
address the emotional needs of students. She wanted the school district to pay the tuition.
The supervisor could not approve that placement because she has the responsibility to
follow the IEP.
Response to Question #2
What specific actions has your school district taken to include special needs student into
the least restrictive environment?
Learning Support
The Case Study'Csupervisor explains that students with learning disabilities,
students with emotional needs, students with physical disabilities and students with
mental retardation receive some instruction in a learning support class. She points out that
they are included for most of the day in general education classes. She notes that the
118
case managers for all these students are the learning support teachers. They collect the
data, write the IEPS and support students who need extra help. She relates that most of
the students are in regular education and receive itinerant support. A few of the students
receive supplementary support. The district does not have any full time classes. In the
high school, teachers are assigned to one subject area for reading, writing or math. There
are no resource rooms for social studies or science. All students in the district are
included for social studies and science. She believes that the district teachers are very
good at helping struggling students meet the state standards. The instructional support
teacher helps the regular education teachers meet the needs of students. The special
education teacher does modifications and helps the regular education teachers with
accommodations. The special education teachers identify the essential information that is
important for the special education students to know.
Emotional Support
The supervisor discloses that the district has a contract with the intermediate unit
for the support of a behavioral specialist for one day a week. The unit specialists help
with level three FBAs and level three behavior plans. The specialist also addresses some
of the inappropriate behaviors of some students. The supervisor reports that the district
has trained several people in each building to do Level 1 and Level 2 FBAs and to write
behavior plans.
Autistic Support
119
The special education supervisor states that most of students with autism are
included in general education classrooms. These students are spread throughout various
grade levels. She continues that in order for these students to receive their ABA, their
intensive tabletop instruction, each one of the students has about an hour and a half of
direct instruction with the specialist teacher. In addition, they each have their own
instructional assistant and they spend the rest of the day in the regular classroom working
with their typical peers on whatever their typical peers are doing. Their work is modified
and their assessments are modified. If they need to be coached, the teacher will help them
to be prepared for upcoming lessons in addition, subtraction or regrouping. She will preteach and re-teach. She will do what ever is needed to help those students to be successful
in the regular education class.
Support For Students with Mental Retardation
The supervisor reports that students with mental retardation are included in the
general education setting. They spend one period a day with the learning support teacher.
She explains,'The district uses Everyday Math. If our students are a little slower language
wise, it is a difficult program because it is language based and has difficult vocabulary.
Our students may be there for that part of the math class and then go back to the special
education where they are doing Saxon math'. She is sure that they are getting the same
math skills. She feels that the Saxon program is not language based and it is more math
oriented. The students are doing math during math class and they are not worrying about
the language piece. The combination of those two things together helps students become
more successful.
120
Multiple Disability Support
The supervisor shares that the district does have several students who have
degenerative physical conditions where they are getting weaker and weaker as time goes
on. Those students are also included in the general education classes. Some of those
students do not receive any learning support at all because they are at the same level
intellectually as their grade level peers. They may need support from an assistant to help
with bathroom needs and to get them in or out of chairs. However, they are still part of
the group.
Co-teaching
The Case Study C supervisor relates that the district is involved in very little coteaching because there is only one special education teacher at each grade level. The
special education teachers' schedules usually include teaching of one period language arts,
teaching one period of math and conducting one or two support periods to provide
students with additional help. She notes that their day revolves around working with
students. She adds that most of the regular education classes are supported by
instructional assistants.
Out of District Placements
According to the special education supervisor, the district does send children to
outside placements but theses are students with severe disabilities. She relates that they
have autistic students who are self-abusive. These students are in out of district
121
placements. She also shares that the district has two students between the ages of 18 and
21 who are working with the intermediate unit on a transition program.
Response to Question #3
What types of staff development have been provided to district staff members to prepare
them to educate special needs students in regular education settings?
Staff Development
The supervisor recounts that since she came to the district, she has talked about
the Gaskin Settlement almost every day. She is sure that the teachers received training in
the past on the Gaskin's Settlement and IDEA. She is not certain what staff trainings were
conducted on other topics. She shared that this year, the district changed to a different
IEP writing system. Most of this year's workshops been centered on teachers learning the
new system. She also mentions that there have been staff development sessions on
writing functional behavioral assessments and writing behavior plans. She adds that she
has conducted workshops on Crisis Prevention Interventions because it is a requirement
of the state that districts must provide this training. She also explains that she has
conducted a three-day Inclusive Practices training session with general, special education
teachers, and instructional support assistants. She reports the teachers have been asking
for more training on the IEP Writer because it is difficult. In addition, she relates that the
special education teachers have been working on curriculum teams. The special
education teachers are providing input as to what needs to be included in the curriculum
plans to address the needs of special education students. She also shares that when the
122
teachers come back, the first two days will be devoted to whatever the goals of the
district are for that particular year. This year the district is working on curriculum. She
explains that she is planning a half day of staff development on autistic supports for
regular and special education teachers so they will be prepared for students with autism
who will be included into their classrooms. She thinks it is important for all the teachers
to gain an understanding of Autism and how to work with students with the disability.
She stresses that most of the students with autism are high functioning but they still have
emotional, social and sensory issues. She will be hiring a specialist in autism to conduct
the training.
She admits that the district relies on their contact with PaTTAN for training. She
shares,'They are the people who I want to get in here to do the sessions". She expresses
that she would like to have a specialist in spectrum disorders from PaTTAN address the
regular education teachers, the special education teachers, the counselors, the nurse, the
social workers, and the administrators at a training. She feels it is necessary for everyone
to get the same message so that there are no misunderstandings about what the district's
expectations are for these students.
She also relates that the district did provide practice for the teachers on writing
FBAs. The teachers were divided into groups and given time to write a sample behavioral
plan together. Then, they presented it to each other so they had a different way of looking
and interpreting things. The teachers are given hands on opportunities to practice what
they have learned in sessions.
123
The supervisor adds that in the past, teachers have been sent out of the district for
trainings. She reports that this year, because of the economy, things will be a little
different. She explains that the superintendent has suggested that only one person from
the district be sent for trainings and conferences. They should utilize the'Train the Trainef
model to share this information with other staff members.
The supervisor confirms that she invites district administrators to the trainings.
When she does the crisis intervention sessions, she insists that the administrators attend.
She wants to be sure that the administrators are aware of the process and understand the
steps outlined in the program.
Response to Question #4
What types of supplementary aids and services does your district have in place to ensure
the success of students with disabilities?
Collaboration
The supervisor reports that in all the schools through middle school, the teachers
work in teams. The special education and support teachers are included on these teams.
The teachers have the opportunity to collaborate at that time. She admits that the high
school is a little bit different. She concedes that because of scheduling issues it is harder
to find time for high school teachers to collaborate. The supervisor conducts monthly
special education in every school in order to keep the teachers updated on changes to
special education regulations. She shares that the departments spent time ensuring that
124
the necessary procedures are followed to meet the regulations for Extended School Year.
The teams were able to meet during scheduled meeting times either before or after school
Paraprofessional Support
The Case Study C supervisor asserts that there has definitely been an increase in
the supports provided to Paraprofessionals. She explains that she went though the all the
assistants schedules in order to see where they could better utilized. She believes that
districts really need the support of their assistants.
Assistive Technology
The supervisor mentions that the district has provided communication devices for
some of the students who have difficulties being verbal. She comments that they have
sound field systems in every one of the district classes. In addition, all of the academic
classes have a FM system. She states that some students work with word processors
while other students work on laptops. The district has purchased a device that lines up
math problems for a student with poor eye-hand coordination. She is frustrated however,
that this student is unable to use the device for AP and SAT testing.
Instructional Modifications
The Case Study C supervisor reports that the teachers in the district do the typical
types of modifications that most special education teacher do. She explains that if a low
incidence student has a particular disability in an area, the teachers will modify the way
the instruction is given. They may even provide more instruction depending on the needs
of the child. She continues that some students may need to have things presented visually
125
or auditorally or through actions. She suggests that some students who lack social skills
may not ask questions so the teacher may have to teach them how to ask questions. She
suggests that students may need extended time or a reduction in the amount of work
assigned. She insists that the teachers in the district modify what is expected. She
explains that some students have problems with writing so the teachers may allow them
to participate orally by giving oral exams or having students tape their answers. She also
asserts that the teacher use graphic organizers. She contends that the instruction, the
participation and the assessments are modified to meet the needs of the child.
Adaptive Equipment
The special education supervisor reports the district has had to purchase special
chairs for some of the special needs students. She explains that some students have
degenerative diseases and every year they become weaker and weaker so the district has
to order special chairs because their conditions change or because they have grown out of
their present chairs. She mentions that the district also needs to purchase special paper,
special pencils and grips. Some students need to use assistive technology. She adds that
all the classes have auditory systems. She also shared that the district had to change the
lighting for some students who are prone to seizures from flickering lights. All of the
classes are air-conditioned and in addition, all the classes have windows that can open.
Behavioral Support
The Case Study C special education supervisor shares that the district has
contracted with a behavioral specialist who comes and works with students. She relates
126
that the district has a speech and language specialist who works with students in each
level in a conversation club. The students meet every morning during homeroom with the
speech specialist, the counselor, the school social worker and develop communication
and interaction skills. She adds that they usually try to include general education
volunteers into the groups so that the special education students have role models. The
supervisor shares that the district does not contract with outside counseling agencies.
However, they do have less than 1200 students in the district and one guidance counselor
at each level. She acknowledges that the district has a large amount of people providing
counseling to both the regular and special needs students. These professionals include
one guidance counselor in the elementary and middle schools and two counselors in the
high school. In addition, there are two full time social workers and two speech and
language specialist assigned to this district. She feels that the counseling department is
well staffed when the number of students in the district is taken into account.
Response to Question #5
What monitoring system is in place to assess the progress of special education students
throughout the district?
The special education supervisor shares that the district does progress monitor in
every goal listed on the students' IEPs. She also relates that the teachers use a wide
variety of assessment tools. These include running records, Aims Web and DIB ELS.
She continues that the district has trained personnel on the use of the Wilson Reading
Program. The teachers are required to collect data and graph that data. She feels that the
127
teachers are very good at progress monitoring. She adds that the autistic support teachers
have thick binders full of data on all their students.
The special education supervisor admits that teachers at the elementary level do
progress monitoring more often than the teachers at the high school level. The
elementary teachers monitor progress on a weekly basis, the high school teachers monitor
quarterly. They all monitor in the areas of reading, writing and math. The supervisor
mentions that the teachers use curriculum based assessments along with the formative
and summative tests. She also comments that the teachers do not use specific
standardized diagnostic tests. She believes that this is a problem because monitoring
tools and results are inconsistent from grade to grade and school to school. She states
that the special education department is looking for a consistent tool to use with the entire
district. She is of the opinion that this is a major priority.
She notes that most of the teachers use the progress monitoring information to
drive instruction. However, she notes that some do not and in her opinion those teachers
have some explaining to do. She mentions that parents receive the progress monitoring
information at IEP meetings and with the students' progress reports.
Response to Question#6
What programs does your district have in place that welcome all students into their
schools?
Mission Statement
128
The Case Study C supervisor acknowledges that the school district has a mission
statement that does include words welcoming all students.
Parental Involvement
She also points out that the district has a special education committee (SEC) made up of
teachers, parents and administrators. These are open meetings so that anyone can come to
the meeting. The committee meets once a month. She reports that a survey was sent to
all the parents of the special education students to discover where parents see weaknesses
and strengths in the special education program. She feels that the district received a good
response from the survey. The parents said they felt intimidated from all the people
present at the EEP meetings. Therefore, she is encouraging IEP teams to limit the number
of people invited to the meetings. She also shares that teacher are going to send the IEP
draft home before the meeting so that the parents have an opportunity to look at it before
they come to school. She intends to have information meetings with the parents of newly
identified special education parents in order to familiarize them with the whole special
education process.
The supervisor admits that the schools do not have a place where parents can meet
and the district does not have a parents' center. She points out that the schools do have a
place as you come into the buildings where information that parents need to know is
displayed. In addition, all upcoming events are posted on the district web site. She also
shares that teachers post grades and information on a web system that parents can access
from their homes. She believes that the special education parents are very much included
in the district. She notes that there is a very active Home and School Association at all
129
levels and they are invited to a meeting once a month with the principal. She shares that
there is a policy that allows parents the opportunity to observe in their child's classroom if
they make an appointment in advance. She shares that the district had an open door
policy in the past, but that became too distracting. She observes that on any given day,
there are usually more parents than teachers in the schools.
The supervisor insists that she has never been to an IEP meeting in this district
where parents did not come. There have even been occasions when parents have
participated on speakerphone. She is of the opinion that parents of special needs students
are 100 % connected to the schools.
The special education supervisor estimates that there are probably ten parents at
the Special Education Committee meetings. Teachers, parent, principals, and the
superintendent come to the meetings. The public is invited. She notices that the number
of parents attending these meetings varies according to the topic.
Extra-Curricular Activities
The special education supervisor admits that she does not know the exact
percentage of students who participate in extra curricular activities. She is aware that
some of the special education students are managers of sports teams and that others
belong to the pep club, the band, the choir and the drama club. The district also has a
homework club where some of the special needs students receive academic help from
students who are strong in those areas. She reports that the district pays special education
assistants to help during extra curricular activities. She is confident that if a student needs
support there is someone there to help them.
130
The supervisor explains that the district had bus service for all the students who
attended extra curricular activities. This year, the district stopped the service because only
seven or eight students took the bus. She clarifies, however, that if a special needs
student requires transportation, it will be provided.
Response to Research Question #7
What factors do you feel are responsible for your district meeting the LRE levels for
inclusion of special needs students into the least restrictive environment ?
The Case Study C supervisor feels that one of the main reasons that her district
has been able to meet the LRE levels is because of the small size of the district. She
explains that because the district is so small and because there are so few special needs
students in the district, they were forced to place special needs students into general
education classrooms. She also believes that the district has always had the philosophy
that they wanted to keep their students in their schools. She adds that because the district
is relatively wealthy, the board has always been able to purchase the supports and
services needed to keep special needs children in their home schools. She also comments
that all of the staff members have a clear understanding that special needs students have
a right to be included in the least restrictive environment and have developed a strong
commitment to help all their students become successful.
Case Study D
Demographics
131
Case Study D is a district with rolling hills and farmland located in Southeastern
Pennsylvania. It covers approximately 95 square miles and has an estimated population
of about 45,000 people. It is composed of eight municipalities. The school district has a
total of seven elementary schools, three middle schools and one high school (Philadelphia
Inquirer, Report Card on the Schools, www.phillv.com/reportcard., retrieved, 7/1/2009).
Table 8
Demographic Data
Data
District D
1. Number of Households
2. Percentage of Single Family Households
17,369
6.4%
3. Education Level
High School
90.0%
Bachelors Degree or Higher
30.0%
4. Median Household Income
$41,073
5. Percentage of Economically Disadvantage
10.7%
6. Number of Teachers
500
7. Percentage of Teachers with Advanced Degrees
74%
8. Student to Teacher Ratio
9. Teacher Salary
10. Yearly Cost of Educating a Student
11. Graduation Rate
17:1
$ 36,000-$89,393
$14,766
99.0%
132
12. Average SAT Score ( 2008)
Mathematics
498
Reading
524
13. Percentage of Student PSSA Scores at Proficient or Above
Mathematics
79.2%
Reading
80.5%
14. Number of Students
7,332
15. Percentage of Students with IEPs
17%
(School Matters, www.schoolmatters.com, retrieved 4/20/2009).
There are 1,170 special educations students enrolled in the district. The following
table indicates the percentage of students in each of the twelve disability categories as
outlined by the State of Pennsylvania for the 2008-2009 school year.
Table 9
Percentage of Students in each of the Twelve Disability Categorie
Disability Category
District Percentage
Pennsylvania Percentage
Autism
6.2%
5.3%
Deaf-blindness
0%
0%
Emotional Support
6.2%
9.2%
133
Hearing Support
2.6%
1.0%
Mental Retardation
3.9%
8.1%
Multiple Disabilities
0%
1.0%
Orthopedic
0%
0.3%
Other Health Impaired
13.8%
7.0%
Specific Learning Disability
49.6%
51.0%
Speech and Language
16.2%
16.3%
Traumatic Brain Injury
0%
0.3%
Visual Impairment
0%
0.4%
The percentage of special education students spending 80% or more of the day in
general education classes is 68.4%, which is higher than the state average of 55.2%. The
percentage of special education students spending less than 40% of the day in general
education is 6.3%, which is lower than the state average of 10.8%. The percentage of
special education students placed in other settings is 4.2%, which is comparable to the
state average of 4.25%.
The district's special education population has a 0% American Indian subgroup that
is comparable to the 0.2% district's subgroup for all students. There is a 1.1% Asian
/Pacific subgroup that is also comparable to a 1.7% district subgroup. The district has a
2.9 % African American subgroup that is higher than the 2.2% district subgroup. The
district's Hispanic subgroup is 2.1%, which is larger than the district's subgroup of 1.6%.
134
The white subgroup is 93.9%, which is slightly lower than the 94.3 subgroup reported by
the district (Penn Data, www.penndata.hbg.psu.edu, retrieved 5/30/2009).
Participant
The Case Study D participant is a male director of special education. He is
presently in the dissertation phase of a doctoral program in educational leadership. He
has an undergraduate degree in sociology and criminal justice, a mastef s degree in special
education and a master's degree in educational administration. He was a special education
teacher before he entered administration. He was formerly a college football coach.
Response to Question # 1.
What impact has the Gaskin v. Pennsylvania Department of Education Settlement had on
your School District?
The Case Study D supervisor admits that the Gaskins Settlement has had a couple
of impacts on his district. The first impact surfaced at the school board meeting to
approve his appointment as the district's special education director. He relates that a
group of parents demanded that the board not confirm him until they had the chance to
question him on his thoughts about the Gaskin Case. He shares that that incident made
him aware that there was an active group of parents in the district who were very
interested in the Gaskin Settlement but that had not yet embraced its philosophy. He
continues that the second impact became apparent when he surveyed the classes in the
district to assess the districts compliance to the Gaskin mandates. He noticed a number
of resource rooms and he discovered that the district's LRE numbers were quite low. He
135
confirms that he developed a three-year phasing program. He reports that since the
district created co-teaching classes that the LRE numbers increased. He discloses that
they were able to meet the Gaskin mandates by scheduling the special education students
from grades 4 to 12 into regular education for all of their classes. He explains the
exceptions would be a life skills class and a low functioning middle school class. Those
students are in the resource room for math, language arts and reading but are co-taught
for science and social studies.
He also states that the teachers had to drastically change their instructional
practices. He admits that the district was facing challenges on three fronts. The district
special education students were expected to meet AYP, the district needed to increase its
LRE numbers and the special education teachers were expected to become Highly
Qualified in a variety of subject areas. He shares that co-teaching seemed to be the
solution. He admits that it has been a three-year process to address these issues. He
relates that the district started at the high school, continued at the middle school and
finished this year at the elementary level. He acknowledges that the impact has been both
negative and positive on the teaching staff as well as the parent group. The parents' group
has developed more positive views about inclusion. He adds that from a public relations
standpoint, it was an easier win over the parents. He believes that the parents are pleased
that their children are in class and experiencing the same lessons as their peers. He
confirms that the students' achievement scores have increased because of co-teaching. He
is of the opinion that the students' scores are a result of being introduced to more PSSA
type information. He suggests that the biggest impact has been on the teaching staff. He
136
shares/Its still three years later, and it's been a struggle finding co-planning time and
meeting the demands of differentiation for the low, average and high level students".
Financial Impact
The special education director shares that financially there has not been much of a
difference as a result of moving from the traditional resource classes to full-time coteaching. He confirms that they have not increased staffing. Special needs students are
either in co-taught classes with a special education and a general education teacher, in
classes supported with a teaching assistant or in general education classes without
supports other than supervision from the students' case managers. He believes that
students are provided with instructional supports as well as the organizational supports.
He contends that co-teaching has not been much of a cost factor. He points out that the
district has only needed to buy supplemental materials and pay for co-teaching training.
Staffing Increases
The special education director does not believe that the district has had to hire
any new professional staff members in response to the Gaskin Case. He concedes that
there was some reassignment of personnel in order to develop effective co-teaching
teams. He is of the opinion that it is easier to implement co-teaching by putting teachers,
special education teachers specifically, in content areas where they feel comfortable. He
adds that the district curriculum supervisors conducted content training with the special
education teachers on the subject matter that they would be responsible for in their
classes. He states that the special education teachers were gradually integrated into
137
content area teaching. During the first year of co-teaching, the special education
teachers helped to facilitate differentiation and provide support by restating ideas or
revising materials. By the second year, the expectation was that the special education
teachers would begin to be involved in classroom instructions and by the third year,
teachers were expected to be fully engaged as content teachers.
The director also mentions that the district did have to increase support staff in the
middle and high school levels as a result of implementing co-teaching. He explains that
students who are two or three levels below grade level are usually assigned to co-taught
classes. Students who are one level below or who are being unsuccessful in their current
classes are placed in assistant supported classes. He shares that at some of the schools,
they needed to hire more assistants to support the teachers and provide help to the
students.
Medical Personnel
The director reports that there are no students with serious medical issues in the
district run classes. Students with severe medical concerns are usually enrolled in the
intermediate unit classes. He shares that the district has opened intermediate unit classes
in their buildings so these students may be in the building but not necessarily taught in
district programs.
Instructional Areas
The district director explains that the buildings were originally constructed with
plans for expansion. He relates that the high school was recently completed and current
138
demographic studies indicate that the student population will remain steady for the next
few years. The director also reports that the district has reconfigured the grade levels in
the elementary level from a K-6 level to a K-5 level, which allows for more available
space. He also mentions that the district opened another middle school, which will open
up more space at that level.
Transportation
The director admits that the district does have some transportation issues. The
director believes that it is his charge to see that the special education students are placed
on busses with regular education students whenever possible. However, the bus drivers
have been resistant to including these students onto their busses. The special education
director reveals that it has been a constant struggle to get the bus drivers to understand
that students with IEPs have the same rights as the other students. He explains that this is
not a new problem. In the past, the transportation director hired bus matrons to assist on
busses with what he believed were difficult special needs students. The special education
director argues that assistant support is not mentioned in these students' IEPS. Therefore,
the assistants should not be on the bus. He mentions that some parents of special needs
students have been use to having assistants on the bus with their children and want that
service continued. He also asserts that he will not include bus assistant support for a
student who does not display disruptive behaviors on the bus.
Food Service
139
The Case Study D director shares that the food service department in the district
has been very supportive. He explains that they are very understanding of allergies and
students needs for special diets.
Legal Services
The special education director comments that the district has not had to go to
court or to due process hearings but he reports that he has been in IEP meetings where
parents cite the Gaskin's Settlement. He explains that some parents misinterpret the
purpose of the Gaskin Settlement. He informs them that,'Gaskins allows access to the
general education curriculum for special needs students and you certainly have that for
your child'. He thinks parents, for the most part, are more appreciative and less combative
because the district has such a strong LRE approach and because the special education
students are included for so many classes. He insists that the district tries to do what they
can for these students. He continues that placing students into outside placements can be
problematic. Most of the parents do not want their children sent to an out of district
placement. The director asserts that before the district recommends another placement,
they try everything they can to keep the student in public school. He emphasizes that he
will take a stance when he sends students to alternative placements. Once the students
meet requirements that the alternative placements set, they schedule a transition meeting
for the student to come back to the district. He points out that if he discovers a placement
that just warehouses students then he stops sending students to that place and looks to
more effective placements. He adds that some parents however, want to leave their
students in the outside placement because they believe their children are doing well.
140
Response to Question #2
What specific actions has your school district taken to include special needs student into
the least restrictive environment?
Learning Support/Emotional Support
The Case Study D special education director reports that all students with
learning disabilities, students with emotional needs and students in life skills classes are
included in general education for as many periods as possible. He explains that while
most of the students are fully included they do receive support from instructional
assistants as well as the regular education classroom teachers. The assistants travel from
one room to another or are assigned to one specific class. He relates that assistants are
placed in areas that address their strengths. He feels that the district is very fortunate
because more than half of the teaching assistants are certified teachers who just do not
want to teach and do not want to do lesson plans. He also points out that the assistants
are required to attend content area, in-service sessions with the teachers. He shares that
the assistants support teachers and students by providing individual assistance to students
or by review material with small groups of students. He adds that each school has six
instructional assistants and several one-on-one assistants.
Autistic Support
The director reveals that the district has two classes for autistic students with
lower incidence autism that are in their schools but are serviced by the intermediate unit.
Each of these students has a one- on- one assistant in a classroom with 6-8 students. The
141
district does have two autistic support classes for the Asperger's students and higher-level
autistic kids in the elementary level. The director mentions that they were established two
years ago. The district also has an Autistic program in the 8l grade at the middle school.
The director predicts that next year, he will be starting an autistic support program at the
high school to accommodate the graduating 8th graders. He clarifies that he has autistic
support classes in the primary, intermediate and middle schools. He will be starting a
class at the high school level. He is aware that there will be available space at the high
school for the new class. He acknowledges that he will have to hire additional staff to
support the new program.
Support For Students with Mental Retardation
The director stresses that the life skills classes are heavily involved in the district
schools. The elementary students in life skills classes go out for special events. He
compares that class to'Grand Central Statiori'because the students are constantly going to
various activities throughout the school day. The students in life skills classes in grades
K-5 are all included in Science and Social Studies in the regular classes. They are also
included for their specials. Most of the students in life skills classes are included for
physical education unless they need an adapted program. They are included on all the
field trips. He adds that some of these students will be included for math with the support
of their one-on-one assistant. When these students are in the science or social studies
classes, an instruction assistant is assigned to the room to give help to the students with
attention or organizational issues.
142
Multiple Disabilities Supports
The special education director confirms that there are two multiple handicapped
classes in the district. There is one class at the elementary level and one at the middle
school level. In the intermediate unit class at the elementary level, four out of the seven
students are district students. He estimates that at the middle school level, there are 8
students and 3 of those are district students. He shares that these students are much more
involved. He relates that some of these students are on feeding programs and the lowlevel incident students are in need of assistance for such things as movement to feeding.
The director explains that teachers are schedule for co-planning periods at the
elementary level and the middle school level. The middle school teachers have an
additional team-planning period. He admits that the high school level, it is more difficult
to schedule periods for co-planning because of the large number and variety of classes.
He explains that because there is minimal co-planning time, the high school principal
allows teachers some compensation time after their scheduled hours to co-plan. He has
suggested to teachers during the districts on-going co-teaching trainings that they begin to
use the internet to E-mail lesson plans to each other. This way the teachers will both
know what is planned for the lessons and they can differentiate and modify the
instruction or assignments. He explains that these co-teaching teams have been together
for a few years. He expects that both teachers are familiar with the content and needed
modifications and accommodations. He is of the opinion that it will get easier for these
teachers to co-teach in the future.
143
Co-teaching
The director comments that developing co-teaching classes was actually one of
the goals in the district that was here before he arrived. There were supports already in
place to make co-teaching become a reality. He points out that every school had an
instruction support team in place. Differentiation was part of the supervision and
observation plan and there was an expectation that it was happening in all district
classrooms. The director feels that co-teaching is more difficult for the more experienced
teachers. He believes that the younger teachers are all coming out of college already
trained in differentiation and RTI. They are coming out of college feeling comfortable
going into general classrooms and accepting somebody into their classrooms. He
comments that some of the teachers are resistant to change. He tries to convince them that
co-teaching is valuable by presenting student performance data that supports the use of
co-teaching. He indicates that the districts achievement scores have gone up and the
disruptive behaviors have gone down. He has noticed that students who had behavior
issues in the resource room settings were better behaved in the co-taught classes. He
comments that peer modeling and peer pressure to fit in, has been partially responsible
for that change. In addition, he shares that parents are pleased that their children are in the
same classes, using the same books and doing the same assignments as the other children
in the neighborhood.
Support for Fully Included Students
The director also contends that the special education teachers have time in their
schedules to monitor the progress of fully included students. The special education
144
teachers have IEP periods in their schedules instead of duty periods. They use that time to
write IEPs, to check on their students, to do progress monitoring and to do testing. Some
of the teachers have resource study halls where any student in special education can
come to them for additional help.
The special education director also reports that the district does not include any
special education students in grades K to 3 in regular education classes. He believes that
these students need extreme intervention or the high-level interventions at those levels.
He reports that the students are instructed on SRA Reading and Saxon Math. Teachers
are also using Break the Code, Everyday Math and Investigations. He is of the opinion
that it is very difficult for students to be successful who do not have the basics, especially
in math and reading.
Out of District Placements
The Case Study D director reports that the districts have had some students with
disabilities that will go out sometimes if their problems are connected with other issues.
Some of these students may have family issues, may be learning disabled, may be
pregnant, may be involved in drugs or alcohol or they may not be coming to school. He
insists that they try everything to help the students but if they feel as though they are
unable to reach the students or are not seeing progress, they will consider another
placement that is better suited to address the students' needs. Most of theses students are
high school students with emotional needs. He points out that some of the students with
emotional needs who are in alternate placement are from the elementary level. He is
hopeful that these students will to return to the district when they are ready.
145
Response to Question #3
What types of staff development have been provided to district staff members to prepare
them to educate special needs students into regular education settings?
Staff Development
The special education supervisor reports that the district has provided staff
development on the Gaskin's Agreement to both the general education and special
education teachers. He has given a presentation to the community on the topic of"No
Child Left Behind'and on highly qualified certifications. He comments that it was an allinclusive "No Child Left Behind'instructional program that touched on IDEA needs and
Chapter 14 regulations. He shares that they had an expert on RTI present to the full staff
on what the RTI model looks like and what it entails. He explains that one of the
purposes of the presentation was to emphasize that RTI is a regular education initiative
but it is really about keeping students in the regular education classroom. He admits that
the district has not conducted staff development on the Gaskin's Settlement because the
districts LRE numbers are so high. He remembers that years ago, when the Gaskin Case
became the big issue, he did a presentation explaining that the Gaskin Settlement was the
law and that the district needed to include more students into general education classes.
He does point out that one of the biggest challenges to including students into the LRE
involves special education teachers. He shares that these teachers are very protective of
their students and needed reassurance that their students would be successful in general
education classes with supports.
146
The special education director shares that the staff development sessions are
usually held in-house and are conducted by one of the districts supervisors or by the
director. He feels fortunate that the district has supervisors in all content areas. He reports
that a major change in staff development for the special education teachers is their
inclusion in subject area in-service presentations. The director thinks that it is a good
idea. He feels that if special education teachers are co-teaching, they should be updated
on curricular changes in the content areas. He also feels fortunate that the district
schedulesl2 days to use for in-service activities. He shares that 10 Vi of those days are
used for content and he receives one of the first three days of the school year to work
with special education teachers. He plans to use that time to talk about changes in
compliance or changes in the IEP process. He also receives another half day in November
when he will normally bring in the district attorney to talk to teachers about a current, hot
topic.
The special education director explains that he conducts a two-day special
education academy for the district administrators. The first day is dedicated to legal
issues and policy changes that the principals need to know. He also talks about the LEA
responsibilities especially during IEP meetings. He also updates principals on issues
during bi-monthly administration meetings.
Response to Question #4
What types of supplementary aids and services does your district have in place to ensure
the success of students with disabilities?
Paraprofessional Support
147
The special education director reports that the district has the number of
Paraprofessionals that support students in the classrooms. He contends that the assistants
are needed to provide support in classes that are not co-taught. He explains that more than
half of the one-to-one assistants and the majority of instructional assistants are highly
qualified.
Instructional Modifications
The director shares that instructional modifications that teachers use with the
special education students in our regular class can range from simple accommodations
such as preferential seating and more time to complete tests, to more complex
modifications like modified tests, assistance with note taking and giving the students a
copy of notes. He feels that he needs to communicate to all teachers the importance of
knowing the level of mastery that the students need to be successful. He emphasizes that
teachers need to meet the IEP goals. However, he has heard teachers say,"rve got to
cover from page 1 to page 150 in the book. All the students have to do everything in the
book'. He suggests that the content area supervisors have been very effective at ensuring
that the students have mastered the key concepts. He explains that students functioning
on the lowest levels need to master the basic concepts and the average students do not
need to know the same concepts that the gifted students may need to know. He
acknowledges that differentiated teaching has been a difficult process but he asserts that
teachers are getting much better at it and are accepting the special needs students into
their classes.
148
Alternative Instructional Materials
The director points out that the district is focusing on reading and math. He shares
that the teachers use Saxon Math and the Level 3 Interventions. They use SRA
Corrective Reading as well as Breaking the Curve, which is a new program. It is similar
to Wilson and goes all the way through K to 8th grade. At the high school level, the
teachers use Achieve 3000 and Study Island. He knows that language arts supervisor met
with the special education department to look at Reading 180 for the high school level.
At the elementary level, the teachers use Reading Recovery and Rescue for Reading.
Physical Supports
The Case Study D director suggests that students in life skills classes are provided
with a plethora of physical supports that range from slant boards for writing to different
computers and laptops. He explains that the district contracts with different companies
for Reading on Tape, Reading on TV, and Reading on Computers for those students who
need that level of support. He shares that the district has FM systems that are in all the
schools. He mentions that an elementary student needed to be in an air-conditioned
environment so the district worked on installing a unit that would be free standing and
quiet enough so that the sound of the motor would not be disruptive to the students in the
class. The unit will be moved each year to her next class. The problem with this
situation was that several parents wanted to know why air conditioners could not be
installed in all the classes. The director shares that as the special needs students grow,
the district must provide larger modified desks and chairs. The district has purchased
adaptable seats for physically disabled students who are not yet ready to use a
149
wheelchair. The director repeats that the district needed to hire more instructional
assistants but also more one-on-one assistants.
Behavioral Supports
The special education director shares that the district has a partnership with Penn
Foundation, which is the local mental health agency in the area. The students with
emotional needs attend group-counseling sessions, which could address issues such as
social skills support groups to behavior management groups. He clarifies that the topics
can change, as the group's needs change. These counseling sessions are held once a week
throughout the year. The director adds that the district offers counseling to all students
not just the special education students. Students with anger management, depression or
anxiety may be referred for counseling.
Response to Question #5
What monitoring system is in place to assess the progress of special education students
throughout the district?
The director shares that the teachers use Power School to do a Power Book. The
director shares that it allows the teachers to put up everything from the students' grades to
quizzes to any kind of curriculum-based assessment that the students have taken. They
put that information in each students file so the special education teachers can just access
the file of any of their students and download it and see how well the students are doing
in classes. He notes that the teachers may use the Woodcock Johnson for IEP testing. He
disclosed that the special education teachers monitor at least four times a year but he
150
would like probes to be done every two weeks. He shares that they use a variety of
assessment probes such as the QRI or a curriculum-based tool.
The director suggests that the assessment results for special education students are
consistent. He explains that staff members from the each of the schools meet each year to
share data on the students. In this way, the teachers are able to address the needs of
students before gaps in performance occur.
Response to Question #6
What programs does your district have in place that welcome all students into their
schools?
The Case Study D director shares that the district has a parents' group and holds
parent meetings. He admits that this has not always been the case. Every year he asked if
the parents want to start a special education parents' organization. They never had anyone
respond that they were interested. He reports that this year, a few parents approached
him and said,"How do we do this?' He replied,"Somebody needs to be the contact person.
I can't do it for you but Im sure I can help you". He continues that one of the parents did
step forward and started to have monthly meetings at one of the middle schools. He
relates that in one way it was great because the parents were connecting and supporting
one another. On the other hand, he shares that it provided an opportunity for disgruntled
parents to complain about the different issues. Consequently, most of the parents stopped
attending. He reports that the remaining members of the group merged with parents from
other districts and have formed another group.
151
The director also comments that the school community is very welcoming to
special needs students. He tells a story about the districts "Best Buddies" program that is
made up of regular and special needs students. According to the director, the group held a
'Best Buddies Ball'in the school's cafeteria. He estimates that about 600 students from
four different states attended the dance. The students at the high school decorated the
cafeteria to look like Manhattan.
He insists that the district is supportive of the special needs students. He shares
that the coaches include students with special needs onto their teams. He explains that
some of the students prefer to be sports managers but they receive a uniform and are
considered part of the team.
The special education director states that each school has a spot in their office
foyers to display information for the parents of special needs students. He shares that
every month the superintendent hosts a parent information meeting. In the past, he has
discussed topics such as co-teaching, the 1ST process and the RTI process. The business
manager shares information about the budget and curriculum supervisors talk about new
strategies for instruction. He mentions that only a small percentage of parents attend
information sessions. However, he is certain that over 90% of parents do attend IEP
meetings.
Response to Research Question #7
What factors do you feel are responsible for your district meeting the LRE levels for
inclusion of special needs students into the least restrictive environment ?
152
The Case Study D director feels that the main reason that his district has been
successful in meeting the LRE levels set by the state is because of the support that the
special education department receives from the district"s superintendent. He reports that
the superintendent makes all of his decisions with children in mind. He admits that is not
always the easiest path to follow. He contends that the superintendent and the teachers
understand that the inclusion of special needs students into the least restrictive
environment is their responsibility. They work with the idea that they must give every
child whatever they need to be successful. He also points out that the teachers are very
happy with the co-teaching concept.
Case Study E
Demographics
Case Study E is a suburban community located in Southeastern Pennsylvania. It
boosts that it is one of Pennsylvania's first public school districts. It covers 23.6 square
miles and has an estimated population of about 57,388 residents. The school district has
a total of six elementary schools, two middle schools and two high schools (Philadelphia
Inquirer, Report Card on the Schools, www.philly. com/reportcard., retrieved 7/1/2009).
Table 10
Demographic Data
Data
1. Number of Households
District E
24,589
153
2. Percentage of Single Family Households
6.5%
3. Education Level
High School
96.8%
Bachelors Degree or Higher
70.8%
$114,608
4. Median Household Income
5. Percentage of Economically Disadvantage
5.0%
6. Number of Teachers
630
7. Percentage of Teachers with Advanced Degrees
80%
8. Student to Teacher Ratio
11:1
9. Teacher Salary
$ 44,250 -$88,603
10. Yearly Cost of Educating a Student
11. Graduation Rate
$21,918
97.6%
12. Average SAT Score ( 2008)
Mathematics
597
Reading
607
13. Percentage of Student PSSA Scores at Proficient or Above
Mathematics
86.8%
Reading
88.0%
14. Number of Students
6,914
15. Number of Students with IEPs
1,101
(School Matters, www.schoolmatters.com, retrieved 4/20/2009).
154
There are 101 special educations students enrolled in the district. The percentage
of the special education enrollment by disability is 15.9%, which is almost equal to the
state average of 15.1 %. The following table indicates the percentage of students in each
of the twelve disability categories as outlined by the State of Pennsylvania for the 20082009 school year.
Table 11
Percentage of Students in each of the Twelve Disability Categories
Disability Category
District Percentage
Pennsylvania Percentage
Autism
10.6%
5.3%
Deaf-blindness
0%
0.0%
Emotional Support
7.4%
9.2%
Hearing Support
1.5%
1.0%
Mental Retardation
2.6%
8.1%
Multiple Disabilities
0%
1.0%
Orthopedic Impairment
0%
0.3%
Other Health Impaired
7.1%
7.0%
Specific Learning Disability
51.9%
51.0%
Speech and Language
16.8%
16.3%
Traumatic Brain Injury
0%
0.3%
Visual Impairment
0%
0.4%
155
The percentage of special education students spending 80% or more of the day in
general education classes is 59.5 %, which is higher than the state average of 55.2%. The
percentage of special education students spending less than 40% of the day in general
education is 7.1%, which is lower than the state average of 10.8%. The percentage of
special education students placed in other settings is 4.4 %, which is almost equal to the
state average of 4.25%.
The district's special education population has a 0% American Indian subgroup
that is comparable to the 0.3% districts subgroup for all students. There is a 3.5% Asian
/Pacific special education subgroup that is lower than a 6.8% district subgroup. The
district has a 13.7% African American special education subgroup that is higher than the
8.1 % district subgroup. The district's Hispanic special education subgroup is 2.2%,
which is lower than the districts subgroup of 1.7%. The white subgroup is 80:5%, which
is lower than the 83.1% subgroup of the entire district (Penn Data,
www.penndata.hbg.psu.edu, retrieved 5/30/2009).
Participant
The Case Study E participant is a female supervisor of special education. She has
a bachelor's degree in special education and a mastef s degree in special education. She
also has a special education supervisor's certificate. She has completed all but her
dissertation in a doctoral program in educational leadership. She has been in the field of
education for 33 years. She has been in administration for 20 years. During that time, she
was a principal, special education director and a special education supervisor.
156
Response to Question # 1.
What impact has the Gaskin v. Pennsylvania Department of Education Settlement had on
your School District?
The Case Study E special education supervisor believes that her district has had
an inclusive model for a while. She comments that the district had the concept of an
inclusive model before the Gaskin Settlement came into being. She is of the opinion that
the district is aware of the mandates of the Gaskin Settlement and has taken steps to
ensure that supplemental services and supports are available to the special needs children.
Financial
The special education supervisor is not aware of any major financial impacts on
the district as a result of the Gaskin Case. She points out that one area that is requiring
some financial increases involves the education of students along the autistic spectrum.
She reports that the number of students in the autistic population is growing throughout
the district. She shares that parents are moving into the area and asking for inclusionary
settings for their children and that is changing the dynamics of their programming.
However, from a financial prospective, she thinks the district already had supports in
place and was not affected by the settlement.
Staffing Increases
The supervisor reports that the district had to hire instructional assistants and a
few more classroom teachers. She comments that all requests for more personnel have
157
always been approved. The supervisor asserts that the school board and the parent
population have always been supportive of special education. There is a special
education parents' support group that has been in existence for over 30 years. She relates
that the special education department has not had to struggle financially for any types of
support. Everyone has been very supportive.
Instructional Areas
The supervisor concedes that finding space in the buildings for new programs has
always been a problem. She shares that over the past five years, the district has been
doing reconstruction, so all of the six elementary schools have increased , the two middle
schools had been reconstructed a couple of years ago and now the two high schools are
being built. She is not sure whether that was an impact of the Gaskin Settlement or
whether that was because of the total population. However, the buildings have increased
in size over the last 8 years.
Transportation
The special education supervisor reports that the district has increased the amount
of bussing any more than normal. She admits that as a result of adding more programs
into the district, the transportation has hired more staff and added more busses but not to
a skewed rate.
Food Services
The special education supervisor does not feel that there has been a need for any
changes in the food services department as a result of the Gaskins Settlement.
158
Legal Services
The Case Study E supervisor reports that the district has become involved in more
legal cases as a result of the Gaskin Settlement. Most cases revolve around the parents'
insistence that more is better for service delivery. She also reveals that the district is
involved in a lawsuit where the parents are using the terms of the Gaskin Settlement as a
venue for Free and Appropriate Public Education. The suit revolves around whether a
class, which was called a general education class, was in fact a special education class.
The supervisor laments that her district is very litigious. Many of the parents are
attorneys who live in the district and bring attorneys that are with their firm to all the IEP
meetings. She shares that it is standard to have attorneys in meetings with teachers and
parents.
Response to Question #2
What specific actions has your school district taken to include special needs student into
the least restrictive environment?
Learning Support
The special education supervisor shares that the district has done a lot of training
with the staff. She reports that the special education students and the instructional
support assistants are all highly qualified. She reports that the district has done staff
development on inclusion models and strategies for supporting the general education
teachers. She comments that there has been a push from the district to make sure that the
159
regular education teachers are comfortable with the inclusion of special needs students in
their classrooms. The supervisor shares that she works collaboratively on a regular basis
with the principals on what the model is, what the law is, how to work with advocates
and how to work with attorneys. She stresses the importance of working with the
administrators on the legal aspect of inclusion.
The supervisor also reports that the district has done a lot of training on Autism.
She explains that the district had started doing a lot of education with students on the
autism spectrum. Before she started a new class, she planned for the entire building staff
to receive training for two or three days before the beginning of school. She had experts
come in from the field. She verifies that these were very highly qualified individuals and
they trained all the staff members.
She also shares that the schools do have resource rooms: full time and part time
for learning support students. The resource room students may come back for half an
hour or fifteen minutes for additional support. She asserts that the teachers provide pushin services with the itinerant support students. The district has an itinerant autistic support
teacher and an itinerant emotional support teacher at both the elementary and secondary
levels. She feels that by providing itinerant support, the schools will be able to keep
students in their home schools as long as possible before sending them to another
building.
Emotional Support
The special education supervisor mentions that most of the students are included
in general education classes. The programs for emotional support students in the
160
elementary schools range from itinerant support to part time support. She admits that the
programs in the middle and the high schools look a little different. She shares that
students in those schools may need more support because of mental health or drug and
alcohol involvement. For the most part, she acknowledges that most of the students with
emotional needs are included in the general classroom with supports.
Autistic Support
The Case Study E supervisor reports that the district currently has six autistic
support classes running in three buildings and the district has an itinerant autistic support
teacher. In addition, the learning support teachers have all of the students with aspergers
on their caseloads. She shares that anyone who is high functioning is in the learning
support classes. She concurs that there are currently six part- time and full- time autistic
support classes for students on the spectrum at the elementary level and probably ten at
the high school level. She is not sure of the reason but it seems like a large number of
students are being identified as being on the spectrum.
Support For Students with Mental Retardation
The supervisor suggests that most of thestudents with mental retardation are in the
autistic support classes because they are usually dually diagnosed and the parents, at least
at the elementary level, see the autistic label as something that is preferable to them. At
the middle school and high school, parents are beginning to look at the resources and
funding available to their children after they reach the age of 21 and then they begin to
161
look at the Students with mental retardation label. Therefore, at the elementary level,
there is not a program for students with mental retardation.
Multiple Disability Support
The supervisor shares that last year, the district started a physically disabled and a
multi-handicapped classroom. There are 10 children in the classroom. She points out
that the principals have really been very supportive of the inclusion program. She tells
her teachers,'These are our children; they do not go anywhere else. We own thenf. She
believes that is the districts mantra. She wants everybody to be on board with inclusion.
She does not want teachers saying,"This student does not belong in this program or this
building". Instead, she would like them to say, "These are our students and we are going to
work with them in our buildings". She believes that has a big impact on including
students.
Co-teaching
The supervisor admits that the district does not have any co-taught classes at the
elementary level. The co-taught classes are at the secondary level. She believes that coteaching has a different definition for different school districts. She confirms that the
district does not have a co-teaching model, where a special education teacher collaborates
and teaches simultaneously with a regular education teacher all day long. She clarifies
that they do have components of co-teaching but she does not know if it is a true coteaching model. She knows there are individual classes that are co-taught at the
elementary level, but the teachers do not team-teach together for the entire day.
162
Support for Fully Included Students
The special education supervisor shares that the district does provide support for
students that are fully included. The district employs itinerant support teachers to provide
support for the included students and the special education teachers provide push in
support in the regular education classes. She also mentions that time is put into the IEP
for consultation with the regular education teacher along with other relative services that
the students may need.
Primary Disability for Out of District Placements
The supervisor says that mental health issues are one of the main reasons that the
district sends students to out of district placements. She reports that the district provides
service for a multitude of disabilities. She admits that most of the students that the district
does send out are more aggressive types of students. She insists that it is not for a lack of
trying to keep them in the district. She mentions that they work with an agency in
Maryland on behavior support programs that they have implemented with students in the
district. She shares that they have worked with TSS workers and a multitude of other
specialists. However, she concedes that when the students cannot handle a school day or
handle the stimulation and become physically aggressive or in need of more mental
health then the district needs to look at other placements. Mental health is a big thing.
She reveals that an inter-agency group from the county comes to the district once a
month. She also states that they have met with representatives from MHMR and talked
about cases to try to keep the students in the district. She feels when the needed support
163
requires a more extensive mental health process that is not something that can be
facilitated in the district.
Response to Question #3
What types of staff development have been provided to district staff members to prepare
them to educate special needs students into regular education settings?
The Case Study E special education supervisor reports that the staff has received
information about LRE responsibilities on IDEA and the Gaskin Case on many
occasions. She stresses that the staff has also received training about supplemental aids
and supports, the rights of parents and children as well as the fact that the least restrictive
environment is what is most important for all the kids. She continues that they talk
together as a staff about what to do for a teacher who may say,'1 do not know how to
teach this child'. She has heard other teachers say,'Let's look at this and see what we can
do". She also stresses that the district has provided staff development on differentiated
instruction. There is a district coordinator that does just differentiated instruction and
inclusion. That is her entire job. Half the time she is doing teacher induction,
differentiated instruction, and the other half of the time, she goes into all of the 10
schools and works specifically with the teachers or students on inclusion issues.
The special education supervisor mentions that the district does use presenters
from outside the district and in house staff members to conduct in-service presentations.
She explains that for full day in service presentations that are usually two times a year,
the district brings in an outside presenter. She emphasizes that it is always a prominent
164
speaker. For the half day sessions that are scheduled every few months, the sessions are
usually conducted by district staff members. She asserts that the district is supportive of
scheduling outside presenters. All the teachers have to do is request someone and the
district will usually honor that request. The supervisor relates that everyone in the district
is included in the staff development sessions including the classroom assistants. When
the assistants negotiated their contract three years ago, it was agreed that they would
attend 14 hours of staff development beyond the school day each year. She shares that
when the 20 hours set by the state for highly qualified was mandated, the assistants
already had 14 hours that they needed contractually.
The supervisor adds that a staff development committee plans the staff
development sessions for the district. The district assigns a person to be in charge of
teacher training in the beginning of the year. The special education department head and
the supervisor conduct professional development sessions for the special education
department and the instructional assistants. She emphasizes that there really is a myriad
of people who conduct trainings throughout the year. She mentions that the teachers
have the opportunity to practice what they have learned at theses sessions in their
classroom. The follow up piece would definitely have to be the teachers coming back to
say,'! need more help with that'. If the math specialist or the reading specialist conducts
staff development, there is follow up by that person with a specific training focus such as
assessment or curriculum. She notes that the special education teachers receive training
with their regular grade equivalent teachers on assessment and curriculum topics. She
165
assures that whatever trainings the regular education teachers receive, the special
education teachers receive. They are never excluded.
The special education supervisor shares that the building principals are also in
attendance at trainings in their buildings. The district is currently in the process of
training staff on behavioral interventions and on positive behavioral supports. This is an
initiative that was started in the spring.
Response to Question #4
What types of supplementary aids and services does your district have in place to ensure
the success of students with disabilities?
Collaboration
The district special education supervisor admits that collaborative planning has
been a problem. She states that time is an issue. She believes that at the elementary level
it is difficult because the teachers are with the students all day long. She shares that they
try to provide time for collaboration during the district in-service trainings. In addition,
they have monthly meetings and they have grade level meetings with the principal. She
believes that it is helpful that the special education teachers are involved in the grade
level meetings. She acknowledges that the lack of collaboration time is one of the issues
that teachers bring up on a regular basis. She says,'There is just not enough time to
collaborate. She feels that teachers are involved in so many other things such as the
completion of paper work and data monitoring, they don't have enough time to work
together and still work with student^'.
166
The special education supervisor reports that every building has a staff meeting
once a week with the principals. She continues that she has steering meetings with a
representative from each of the buildings once a month. There are grade level meetings
every two weeks so there are meetings and time for collaboration built into the schedule.
Paraprofessional Support
The director relates that the instructional assistants do not have time built into
their schedules for collaborating with the teachers.
Assistive Technology
The supervisor believes that the teachers and students are very technologically
savvy. She shares that the district just gave all the students in the high schools their own
laptops to take home with them. In the middle school, she is not sure if there is a one to
one ratio of student to computers. In the elementary schools, she knows that each of
grade level has a computer cart with 25 computers on it. She notes that laptops are
plentiful. She is aware that programs like Inspiration are available. The supervisor also
adds that assistive technology is present in the special education realm. She relates that
the district has a multitude of assistive technologies. All the high school classrooms have
white boards. She also stresses that any type of technology that is used by the general
education students is available to the special needs students as well.
Instructional Modifications
The special education supervisor admits that the types of modifications used
throughout the district depend on the students and their disability. However, she suggests
167
that these generally include modification such as extra time on task, extra time to
complete tests, tests being read aloud and quieter environments for students to take a test
or read material. These are generally the kinds of things done for students receiving
learning support. It gets to be a little more difficult for students with emotional needs in
a general class because they may have a behavioral plan that someone may have to model
for them. She mentions that other accommodations may include note taking, the use of
daily logs or teacher written notes that may be given out prior to class so the student does
not have to worry about taking notes.
Alternative Instructional Materials
The Case Study E supervisor explains that most of the alternative materials are
not used in the general education classes as much as they are in the special education
classes. If there were a need for a supplemental reading or math program, those materials
would be used in the learning support class. She suggests that the teacher in the general
education settings are differentiating or modifying so that instead of having 10 problems
the student may have five problems. Teachers are really just interested in finding out if
they know the material. She shares that if a teacher has a student on the autism spectrum
and that child has problems with interactions, the teacher will pre-teach what the child
will be learning in a regular education classroom so he will have the answers scripted and
be part of the classroom. She also states that the teachers follow the IEP goals. She
stresses that the teachers are always taking data on the goals. For example, the speech
teacher will take the curriculum for science and may pre-teach the vocabulary or use a
picture schedule that the student will be using for the day. The special education teacher
168
may set something up on the computer so students in special education can click on it and
drag it with the mouse. She comments that there is a lot that is done to keep the students
included in the class but she admits it requires of lot of prep work.
Physical Supports
The supervisor shares that the district has created sensory rooms for students who
are on the autism spectrum. Students who are on behavioral programs can request sensory
breaks. Therefore, they can bounce on the balls or the trampolines. She reports that
each of the buildings has sensory rooms where teachers can actually take students. She
acknowledges that it looks a little different at the middle and high school because there
are still the therapy balls but there are also weights, a treadmill, and a bicycle. They try
to make it an appropriate life skills activity so as the students get older they can figure out
their sensory needs. It is not the elementary model. It is more the independent living
model.
The supervisor also shares that all the schools are ADA accessible. There are
elevators and ramps in all the buildings. All the accommodations were added when the
buildings were renovated or built. Sometimes a new child will come into the district with
special needs. The supervisor insists that they are added the next day. As for furniture,
the supervisor notes that the schools have special chairs, tables and beanbag chairs. She
share that the district does accommodate wheelchairs but most of those are provided by
the parents through medical assistance. The district also has a physical therapist and an
occupational therapist on staff and they make sure that modified equipment is available.
She also mentions that the district does a bus assessment before each school year to make
169
sure that the seating is appropriate and that the busses have booster seats, steps and seat
belts. All of those are put into place before the students come to school. She also adds
that they determine which students need a one -on-one assistant so that person is in place
before the school year.
Behavioral Supports
The Case Study E supervisor adds that social skills training is part of the
curriculum. The district uses a lot of Michelle Garcia Winner for the students especially
in the middle and high schools. In the elementary grades, it looks a little different. She
shares that they may use DRI, 4 time or ABA models. She is confident that there is a
social skills piece for all students across the board. She also reports that in the elementary
level, there is a program called 5steps which is a social skills, negotiating and anti
bullying curriculum. It is taught to all the students in kindergarten through 5 l grade. In
addition, the speech therapists do social skills training. If there is a part of the IEP that
indicates the need for social skills, that child receives a social skills program. According
to the supervisor, the district has full time psychologists in each one of the programs.
They also have a psychologist that does counseling in the elementary, middle and high
schools. She asserts that there is a psychologist assigned to each level. She also notes
that the district does not contract with outside agencies. Everything is done internally.
As for students with emotional needs, the supervisor is certain that they all have a
behavioral support plan based on a FBA. These students' FBAs are updated every year.
Response to Question #5
170
What monitoring system is in place to assess the progress of special education students
throughout the district?
The Case Study E supervisor is confident that all students with IEPs are progress
monitored. The district progress monitors across the curriculum in all subject areas. She
shares that they also progress monitor for reading in science and social studies classes.
Most of students are progress monitored on a weekly basis. At the elementary level, the
progress reports are sent to parents three times a year. At the high school level, the
reports go out four times a year. The more severe cases are progress monitored on a
weekly basis. She comments that there are also students on the spectrum who have
weekly progress reports. She relates that some parents want them daily but the district
tries to hold them to a weekly basis. The supervisor shares that the teachers use DIB ELS
but do not use Aims Web. They also use Performance Tracker and IEP Writer.
According to the supervisor, the teachers do use curriculum-based assessments.
However, she notes that the district found that curriculum-based assessments do not hold
up in court. She continues that since the district is in court so much, they are looking for
a research, data driven assessment. She shares that they are really looking at the WADE,
the DIBEL, the DWA and the DRP. She reports that the district had an assessment
meeting and they discovered that there were over 30 different types of assessment tools
being used throughout their schools. In spite of that, the supervisor does not believe that
any of the schools are having problems with monitoring results differing from grade to
grade. She credits that to the fact that the district does a very thorough and extensive
171
training on the assessment tools. The only problem that she is aware of is that some
assessments only go to a certain grade like the DIBELS. There is a disconnect when
student go into 6th grade. She asks,"How do we connect that data to the assessment used
in the middle and high school?' She shares that they really want a whole picture of the
child from K through 12th grade and she is not aware of an assessment tool that will test
that thoroughly.
She is sure that teachers use the results of the progress monitoring to drive
instruction. She explains that at the IEP meeting the team meets with parents to discuss
the assessment results. She reports the parents receive the information and they hold the
district accountable for the results. They want to make sure that their child is making
progress. She reports that the district has already gone to court over lack of progress.
She acknowledges that the case showed that the student was making progress but she
feels that districts are really being held to fairly high standards.
The special education supervisor admits that she cannot go to all the studenf s IEP
meetings but she attends the critical meetings. She relies on the school principals to act
as the LEAs of most IEP meetings.
Response to Question* 6
What programs does your district have in place that welcome all students into their
schools?
Mission Statement
172
The supervisor confirms that the district's mission statement includes welcoming
of students. She notes that it is written on the outside of the administration building. She
tells that the district just completed their strategic plan and one of the things they focused
on was examining the special needs population to see if the African American students
are being targeted for more special education. She asserts that the district's mission is to
look at that population and any other minority population to make sure that the district is
really addressing the needs of all the students.
Parental Involvement
She shares that the district has a parent committee that addresses the needs of the
special education population. The Committee for Special Education has been in existence
for over 30 years. It has two co-presidents and is a very strong parent group. The
supervisor shares that there is not a specially designated area for parents to meet. She
asserts that parents are welcome in the building and can come to any of the buildings at
anytime. She report that they do. She is aware that the parent committee has purchased
books for special education libraries in different buildings. They do not have a
designated meeting area but anytime they schedule a meeting, it is in the district. She
estimates that about 80% of the special education parents participate in the parent group.
She would also say that about 90% of the parents participate in IEP meetings.
She explains that parents are invited to some of the staff trainings on special education
issues but they are not invited to all of them. The parents in the special education
committee also hold their own meetings and conduct their own parent information
sessions. These are held once a month and the parents usually bring in a speaker. She
173
mentions that the parents invite the supervisor and her staff to the meetings. She also
states that although it is not a district policy, there is usually at least one parent of a
special needs student on the school board
Extra-Curricular Activities
The Case Study E supervisor cannot say for sure how many of the special needs
students are involved in extra-curricular activities. She sees children from all
classification involved in after school events. She tells about a recent meeting she
attended with the parents of twins on the spectrum who are also students with mentally
retardation and pretty significantly autistic. The parents wanted to join the homework
club, so the district agreed to supply one-on-one assistant for the girls to be able to
participate. She insists that whatever services and supplemental aids are needed, the
district will provide them. There are many special needs students in plays and in sports.
Students in learning support and the emotional support programs are involved in the
traditional after school activities. She contends that if they want to go out for an activity,
they can go out for it. It is not a problem. The supervisor adds that district transportation
is provided for students to attend extra curricular activities.
Response to Research Question #7
What factors do you feel are responsible for your district meeting the LRE levels for
inclusion of special needs students into the least restrictive environment ?
The Case Study E supervisor believes that there are two of the main reasons that
her district has been successful in including special needs students into the least
174
restrictive environment. The first is the commitment to inclusion that the district has had
for many years. She reports that the district had been including special needs students for
quite awhile before the Gaskin Settlement. She also acknowledges that the parents have
been very supportive of the special education programs for years. She adds that the
school board has always provided the students with the supports and services that they
need to be successful in the least restrictive environment.
Case Study F
Demographics
Case Study F is a suburban community located in Southeastern Pennsylvania. It
is one of the oldest school districts in the area. It is a mixture of single-family homes and
fertile farmland as well as corporate centers and shopping malls. It covers 17.2 square
miles. It is made up of four townships and two boroughs. The school district has a total
of four elementary schools, one middle school and one high school (Philadelphia
Inquirer, Report Card on the Schools, www.philly.com/reportcard, retrieved, 7/1/2009).
Table 12
Demographic Data
Data
1. Number of Households
District F
14,682
175
2. Percentage of Single Family Households
7.0%
3. Education Level
High School
94.3%
Bachelors Degree or Higher
48.8%
4. Median Household Income
5. Percentage of Economically Disadvantage
$80,077
12%
6. Number of Teachers
261
7. Student to Teacher Ratio
14:1
8. Teacher Salary
9. Yearly Cost of Educating a Student
10. Graduation Rate
41,203 - $82,521
$20,007
93%
11. Average SAT Score ( 2008)
Mathematics
519
Reading
528
12. Percentage of Student PSSA Scores at Proficient or Above
Mathematics
80.9%
Reading
81.4%
13. Number of Students
14. Number of Students with IEPs
(School Matters, www.schoolmatters.com, retrieved 4/20/2009).
3,677
538
176
There are 538 special education students enrolled in the district. The districts
percentage of special needs students is 15.1%, which is the same as the PA state average
of 15.1%. The following table indicates the percentage of students in each of the twelve
disability categories as outlined by the State of Pennsylvania for the 2008-2009 school
year.
Table 13
Percentage of Students in each of the Twelve Disability Categories
Disability Category
District Percentage
Pennsylvania Percentage
Autism
6.3%
5.3%
Deaf-blindness
0%
0.0%
Emotional Support
11.1%
9.2%
Hearing Support
2.0%
1.0%
Mental Retardation
5.6%
8.1%
Multiple Disabilities
0%
1.0%
Orthopedic Impairment
0%
0.3%
Other Health Impaired
10.9%
7.0%
Specific Learning Disability
38.2%
51.0%
Speech and Language
23.2%
16.3%
Traumatic Brain Injury
0%
0.3%
Visual Impairment
0%
0.4%
177
The percentage of special education students spending 80% or more of the day in
general education classes is 60.1 %, which is higher than the state average of 55.2%. The
percentage of special education students spending less than 40% of the day in general
education is 7.4%, which is lower than the state average of 10.8%. The percentage of
special education students placed in other settings is 6.1%, which is slightly larger than
the state average of 4.25%.
The district's special education population has a 0% American Indian subgroup
that is comparable to the 0.0% districts subgroup for all students. There is a 6.7% Asian
/Pacific special education subgroup that is lower than a 13.6% district subgroup. The
district has a 10.0% African American special education subgroup that is higher than the
8.8 % district subgroup. The district's Hispanic special education subgroup is 6.3 %,
which is higher than the district's subgroup of 5.9%. The white subgroup is 77.7%, which
is higher than the 71.6% subgroup of the entire district (Penn Data,
www.penndata.hbg.psu.edu, retrieved 5/30/2009).
Participant
The Case Study F participant is a female special education supervisor. She has a
bachelor's degree in general arts with a certificate in special education and a certificate in
regular education. She has a master's degree in educational leadership with a special
education supervisor's certificate. She taught for eight years as a special education
teacher and has been a special education supervisor for five years.
Response to Question # 1.
178
What impact has the Gas kin v. Pennsylvania Department of Education Settlement had on
your School District?
Financial
The special education supervisor for the Case F school district reported that the
Gaskin Settlement has had a positive impact on her district because they brought students
back from costly outside placements. She notes that the severity of the child's needs may
cause that impact to look very different. If a student needs to be placed into a small class
with a small teacher to child ratio, she admits that could have a significant impact on the
district. Prior to Gaskin, this district had a policy of keeping most of their children in the
district. The supervisor does not think that Gaskin Settlement changed their practices that
much. She admits the Gaskin settlement caused them to move even fewer students in
outside placements. This even includes students with significant disabilities. She relates
that they are trying to keep students with significant disabilities in the district and they
are developing programs to meet the needs of these students. She admits that the one
category that they have problems accommodating students in emotional support classes
with significant behavioral problems. She confesses that they have a difficult time
providing services for these students in district programs.
Staffing Increases
The district supervisor relates that in the past three years, they have reassigned
some teachers. If anything, the Gaskin Case has had an impact on co-teaching. She
shares that the district is having more co-teaching and less pullout. Their teachers'
179
caseload numbers have not changed. Their staffing has not changed. The category where
they have reassigned teachers would be to their emotional support and autistic support
classes. The supervisor believes that those populations have been more variable and
depending on the level of the disabilities of those kids, those classes often need more
support. The case study supervisor does not believe that there has been an increase in
support staff because of the Gaskin Settlement.
Medical Personnel
The supervisor does not remember hiring any new nurses in the district to help
with additional students because of Gaskin Settlement. She relates that,"we really did
keep our kids in the district for a long time. We really did not need to change what we
have herd'. She pointed out that it was not that the district had to hire new staff; they just
needed to maintain their current staff levels. She reported that as the district gets new
students through early intervention, they might need to add a nurse or assistant. She
knows that the district will have to hire additional support at some time but that will be
due to an increase in the district population. It will not be due to the Gaskin Case.
Instructional Areas
The district supervisor acknowledges that instructional space is always limited
and it is definitely a concern. In the past two years, the district opened a new autistic
support class at the elementary level. She added that those classes are getting full. Over
this summer, four new students have registered for that class. The district may have to
open a new class and the supervisor expresses a concern that there is not space in the
180
district for them. She knows that they will have to try to find space somewhere. She may
have to move people around. She points out that the district is continually growing.
The district is constructing new buildings and renovating older buildings. She is aware
that they are planning to have more space for these programs. That will happen in the
future. That will not be the solution for the current placement problems.
Transportation
The Case F supervisor suggests that if the transportation department had a say,
they would bring more of their students back into the district. She believes that is due
partially to the location of the district. The transportation department has a difficult task
of sending the more severely impaired kids to different outside placements in different
locations throughout the area. She shares that while one student is being transported in
one direction; another student is going in a completely different direction. She is aware
of the challenges the district transportation department must face in order to coordinate
for all the students.
Food Service
The special education supervisor reports that there have been some issues for the
food service department that are directly related to the Gaskin Settlement. Some of the
early intervention students in Kindergarten receive a full day of services. The general
kindergarten students only attend for a half a day. The food service department does not
have a lunch program for kindergarten so it becomes a challenge for them in terms of
how to code these students. However, the district does need to provide lunch for these
181
students and they do have to be feed. She explains that food service does not know how
to code these students because they are a full day. The secretaries and the nurses, also,
have problems with coding. She admits that these types of situations are part of the
challenges that need to be addressed in order to provide services for these students.
Legal Services
The district supervisor reports that most of the special education legal cases
revolve around parents who want a more restrictive placement than what is offered for
their child. When she reflects on the cases this year, that has been the case. The parents
want something more restrictive. The district is saying that they have an obligation to
provide services to the children in the least restrictive environment. The supervisor
asserts that the district can meet the students' needs in the students' neighborhood school.
She also points out that the district may offer placement in an approved private school but
the parents want something more. She reports that some parents are demanding that the
district send their children to a residential treatment facilities and wanting the district to
pay for the placement instead of the mental health agencies. She feels that some parents
'bre going in the opposite direction from us. We are saying that we have to comply with
the regulations that we are given but that is not what parents seem to want!'
She also relates that there have been times when the district has recommended a more
restrictive setting in a district run program but not in the childs home school. She
recounts that parents were opposed. They wanted to have their child in the general
education kindergarten class in their neighborhood school with typical kids. They
wanted the child to be included in the class. She points out that it is very difficult for the
182
district to include students who needed an intensive program. In that case, she comments
that the tried the placement, collected the data and they continue to offer another
placement because the IEP team thinks it is a more appropriate placement.
Response to Question #2
What specific actions has your school district taken to include special needs student into
the least restrictive environment?
Learning Support
The special education supervisor relates that the district has been including
learning support students all along in the general education setting. If anything, she says,
they were placing more learning support students into the regular education setting than
any other category. She admits that the Gaskin Settlement helped in the fact that she was
able to say to the regular education teachers,"This is the law. You have to do if. She
reports that there are a lot of learning support students that receive a combination of
resource room support and itinerant support. She also explains that some students in
special education in the general education classes do not receive much support. She
contends that the general education teachers provide the necessary accommodations for
the special education students in their classes. She believes that one of the reasons for the
districts success with inclusion is a result of the actions that the teachers are taking to
coordinate services. She comments that the reading teacher and the special education
teachers really work well together. She suggests that is unusual. She refers to her own
experiences as a teacher to prove the point. She tells about times when she was in
183
another districts when the reading specialists said,'1m not touching that child because he
is special education". In addition, the special education teacher said the opposite. 'That the
child is not special education. I can not work with him". She affirms that most of the
districts elementary special education teachers are reading specialists as well. She
contends that the teachers really collaborate and give a lot of joint effort when it comes to
providing support that is more supplemental. She also mentions that some of the students
need a different curriculum but that is decided on a one - to -one basis. She adds that the
district teachers are able to work together to provide the needed supports. The district
teachers also work together on RTI in the elementary school and the supervisor
acknowledges that is working well. "They are going into classes and providing support'.
She pointed out however, that there seems to be a mentality across the district that
if a teacher has a special education student in class, they will need additional support.
The supervisor asserts that the district is trying to move away from this idea.
The Case F supervisor explains that most of the students receive general
education reading and math and then receive supplemental services if they are needed.
There may be an exception to this if there is a group of students who really need a small
group setting with direct instruction. In that situation the students will receive pull out
services to address their needs.
Emotional Support
The special education supervisor feels that one of the biggest challenges that her
district faces is including students with emotional needs into the least restrictive
environment. That is because, even if there is a one- on -one assistant for students who
184
have serious mental health issues and behaviors, an assistant is not going to fix that
problem. She is of the opinion that a serious new trend, that she is noticing, is an increase
in mental health needs even for younger students. The district has had an increase in
younger students being hospitalized for mental health issues. She concedes that this issue
will continue to be a concern for everyone, as the students get older. She reveals that
some of these students have become involved in drug and alcohol issues and it is
becoming increasingly harder to handle them because they continue to have the mental
health issues such as anxiety and depression while some are bi-polar. She reports that she
has seen a huge increase in that area. She admits that she does not know if it is the
culture of the area or the culture of the times we live in that is the cause of these
problems. She also suggests that some of the parents may be in denial. The supervisor
complains that some parents do not seem to access the services their children need. She
points out that the district has social workers who try to help families to access services
through mental health agencies in the county. The district also does psychiatric
evaluations of the students. She does not feel that these tests give much information from
an educational standpoint but they help the family to understand what is going on with
their child. She relates that the district is trying to help identify the problems that are
going on with theses children and trying to help parents access the treatment that is
needed to help these students. She admits that if the family is not willing to get the proper
treatment for their child, it is difficult to provide the appropriate programming in the
district. She also shares that there is an alternative school in the district that is used for
placements. There are general education students involved there as well. It is not
185
technically identified as one of the districts buildings but it is a district program and it is
uses the district curriculum. The supervisor is not sure how that is viewed in terms of
Gaskin Settlement because it is not identified as one of the district buildings. She finds
that mental health issues are the cause for many out- of- district placements. She hopes
that the students will receive mental health supports in these placements.
Autistic Support
The special education supervisor reports that the district started two new autistic
support classes that have been very successful. These classes are actually supported from
PaTTAN and the intermediate unit through a joint project. She explains that there are
some significantly impaired students in those classes who are non-verbal or have limited
verbal abilities. She admits that there are some students in that class that are not actually
identified with an autistic diagnosis but their behavior and programming needs are very
similar. She thought they could really benefit from that type of program rather then
sending them to the intermediate unit or a part time learning support class. In this class,
they are getting intensive language based instruction. She considers it to be a language
based disabilities class. She shares that some of these students are included in the regular
education class on an individual basis. There are two classes in the elementary level and
in the same school. She reports that one of the classes is a little higher functioning,
therefore, some of these students are included in math and reading. They receive direct
instruction in writing. She believes that writing is an area that is really language based
and is very difficult for these students. According to the supervisor, all of these students
are included for recess and other activities. Some of the students are in the class for most
186
of the day but go into the resource room for direct language instruction. The group that is
non-verbal spends most of the day in autistic support class with the opportunity to be
included for specials.
Support For Students with Mental Retardation
The supervisor shares that the districts students with mental retardation population
is growing. At the same time, the population of students who are physically impaired has
decreased in the district. The supervisor reports there are very few students with Downs
Syndrome. Most of the students who are students with mental retardation are in the
borderline range. She mentions that most of the borderline students have not been
exposed to programs before kindergarten. She believes that may be due to the fact that
some of the parents may be limited in the support that they can provide for their children.
Co-Teaching
The Case F supervisor shares that the teachers do a lot of co-teaching in the
district. The special education teachers at the elementary level do a lot of reading with
the special education and regular education students. The supervisor feels that the
teachers try to meet the needs of the students as much as possible. They plan their
schedules around the students needs. She explains that some of the students will need pull
out or other services. The supervisor reports that co-teaching is usually well received in
this district but she pointed out that there are some teachers who have not embraced the
idea of co-teaching. The supervisor acknowledges that scheduling for co-teaching can be
problematic. In the middle school, she helps schedule teachers into classes where they are
187
most needed. She identifies those students who need support in English, math, social
studies and science. She places them into classes and then assigns teachers to the classes.
The teachers are scheduled from the beginning of the year and co-teaching is part of their
schedule. She concedes that the scheduling in the middle and high schools is not as
flexible as the elementary school schedule. She mentions that the district has conducted
co-teaching workshops with the high school and the middle school. She admits that it has
not been too intense. She explains that another special education supervisor focuses more
on instruction and goes into the classes. The supervisor explains that there is a lot of on
sight training for the teachers. The supervisor shares strategies with the co-teaching
teams. She is especially supportive of the newer teams who are struggling with the coteaching process She voiced her concern that some special education teachers are not
included in the class by the general education teacher. She exclaims,"When I walk into a
co-taught classroom, I want to see two teachers teaching that class. I want to make sure
that everyone is doing their job and not one person doing everything and the special
education teacher being treated like an assistant in the classroom". She contends that it
should be very difficult for someone from the outside to know who is the general
education teacher and who is the special education teacher.
The special education supervisor has not noticed an increase for the need of
support in a particular grade or building. She believes it comes in waves. Last year, she
noticed a large 7th grade group of students that needed resource math instruction. She
would agree that it is much harder to include middle school and high school students if
they really have not mastered the skills that are taught or covered in a regular class. She
188
believes that it is much harder to include the students at these ages if they do not have the
skill set.
Response to Question #3
What types of staff development have been provided to district staff members to prepare
them to educate special needs students into regular education settings?
Staff Development
The Case F special education supervisor suggests that her district does not provide
a lot of special education in-service workshops for the benefit of special education
teachers or regular education teachers. She believes that is because there are so many
district initiatives that require staff development. She mentions that the district is
currently working on a new math program, and a new science program and staff
development is really focused on those areas. She laments that there is not much time
for special education in-service by the time all the other initiatives are addressed. She
concedes that the special education teachers really need to be a part of the math and
science programs. She understands that she cannot pull out the special education teachers
from those programs. The district math program has invited a presenter to address the
special education components of the new program. She is not certain if the session is for
special education or if the regular education teachers will be included. She would like all
teachers to be present so that they can learn the strategies that will need to make
accommodations to the program for special needs students.
189
The supervisor shares that in the past, the district has provided training with the
staff on differentiated instruction. She feels there is a need to do more with the staff
because she does not think that teachers really understand what differentiated instruction
really is and what steps need to be followed to successful implement differentiation
strategies. She thinks that the introduction of the districf s RTI pilot in the elementary
school will necessitate the need to know how to differentiate. In addition, she points to
the fact that the district is no longer going to be tracked in math in the high school and
middle school levels. She feels that is another impetus for teachers to learn how to teach
students on various levels. She emphasizes that all the teachers need to learn to
differentiate because if they do not it will affect all the students. She explains that the
district is going to teach Algebra I in 8th grade and the students will continue along
through the levels. There will be a level for students with severe needs and there will still
be some honors level classes. She estimates that about 90% of the district students will
not be tracked for math. The teachers will definitely need to differentiate. She shares
that this is something that the teachers and superintendent have spoken about at length.
The supervisor also points out that the high school has developed professional
learning communities. She adds that they conduct staff development through these
learning communities. These communities include the counselors, speech teachers and
psychologists. She shares that the district does do trainings for assistants.
The special education supervisor explains that the district uses their own staff for
professional development sessions whenever possible. She relates that administrators do
not always attend the special education sessions but they understand co-teaching and
190
differentiated instruction. She is certain that they have received some training. She gets a
sense at administration meetings that they understand what it is about and how difficult it
can be.
Response to Question #4
What types of supplementary aids and services does your district have in place to ensure
the success of students with disabilities?
Collaborative Supports
The Special Education Supervisor concedes that finding common planning time is
an issue. She feels that it has been difficult for the teachers because the special education
teachers do not have common planning time with the general education teachers. She
explains that at the middles school, there will be common planning time built into the
teachers' schedules because they are being assigned to a team. She also admits that
finding time for high school teachers is difficult. She believes that the mandate to highly
qualify teachers has been somewhat responsible for this. The district needs to assign
special education teachers to teach classes in the subject areas in which they are certified.
This means that special education teachers may be teaching 9th grade math for one period
and then 10th grade math for another. In addition, they may have to teach a period or two
of social studies and science. The supervisor explains that the special education teachers
were cross-teamed so they did not have time to meet. This year, everyone has received
the certifications that they need to teach most subjects. It is now possible for each special
education teacher to be placed on a team. They will have team time every day with their
191
team members and they can meet with the special education group twice a week. The
supervisor predicts that there will be more opportunities for planning. She admits that the
high school teachers do not have scheduled time to meet. These teachers need to find
time during the day to meet. The supervisor, however, has not heard that planning time
there has been an issue.
Paraprofessional Support
The supervisor disclosed that the classroom assistants do not have the opportunity
for planning with the teachers in the classrooms where they provide support. Most of the
assistants are highly qualified. According to the special education supervisor, that is due
to the fact that any assistants hired in the last 5 years had to be highly qualified. She
reports that the district was not going to hire anyone who was not qualified. She point
out that the district was moving in the direction before it was mandated. The assistants
who have been with the district for a very long time might not be highly qualified yet.
However, she confirms that they are pursuing certification by taking courses offered at
PaTTAN.
Instructional Modifications
The special education supervisor contends that a large number of the instructional
modifications used in the district address organizational needs. Modifications include the
re-teaching of students and providing the students with additional opportunities to
practice, especially in math. She relates that the students are provided with supportive
practice if needed.
192
Assessment modifications
The supervisor states that the teachers provide assessment modifications such as
tests read aloud, the reduction in the number of problems and less multiple-choice
options.
Alternate Materials
According to the supervisor, the district has purchased CD players and recordings
on tape for the blind and dyslexic students. Some of the students have been provided with
books on tape. She explains that the books on tape are usually for home use. She feels
that most of the students do not need these during class, because the teachers modify the
lessons so that the students can understand the content without the recordings. She also
adds that some of students get different reading programs. The district has purchased a
variety of supplementary programs for the special needs students. She mentions programs
such as the Waterford, Foundations and Odyssey. Students in the high school and
middle schools receive instruction on SRA Corrective Reading and READ 180.
Physical Supports
The supervisor confirms that the district had to buy adaptive equipment to meet
the needs of students in the least restrictive environment. She referenced the story of a
student who came from another country with severe physical impairments. The district
had to order special equipment. The schools purchased the standard types of equipment
needed to address the child's physical impairments. They also had to buy pieces of
assistive technology such as a laptop with an eye scanner device. The supervisor explains
193
that the district tries to provide sensory input for students by finding activities that can be
done in the buildings that will provide help with sensory issues. The district has
purchased a variety of sensory items for students, particularly for autistic students, such
as swings and water tables. She has also noticed a huge increase in the use of FM systems
even for the learning support students. She is not sure of the reason, but she has observed
that more students are qualifying for the use of FM systems.
Social Behavior Supports
The Case Study F supervisor reports that the autistic support teachers will do
social groups with students. She also relates that the guidance counselors do social skills
groups with students. The district also contracts with community counselors through
outside agencies for counseling support for students. At the high school, a program has
been developed that meets five days a week for two periods a day with two teachers that
work on social skills and job training skills. They meet at the last two periods of the day.
Students have the opportunity to work in the community. Some students go to the
township building and work there. The supervisor also shares that some students help
with jobs at the administration building. She continues that the special needs students in
the class run a little business out of their program. She explains that she sends out letters
to everyone in the district asking them if they need any help and if they would like to
assist with these special needs students. The teachers use these experiences as a part of
social skills training. The supervisor believes that most of the students in autistic support
and students with mental retardation are in need of counseling sessions that include a sex
education component. These students need social skills especially as they get older. She
194
has supported the development of this type of program. It will begin in the next school
year.
Social Skills for Emotional Support
The special education supervisor reports that all of the districts counselors work
with students in general education, special education and students with emotional needs.
They will work with anyone that was identified by a teacher as being in need of support.
She instructs her teachers to be sure that their DEPs reflect the counseling services that the
students receive. She recalls times when she has attended IEP meetings for students who
were receiving counseling but she did not see the counseling support indicated in the
document. She mentions that the district is working to make sure that all students in
emotional support classes that are being seen by a counselor have goals on their IEPS that
explain the reason and extent of their services.
Behavioral Support
The special education supervisor acknowledges that not all of the district's
emotional support students have a behavioral support plan. She points out that some of
the emotional support students have anxiety issues or other emotional needs that are
being taken care of through medication or counseling. She does not feel that they need a
behavioral support plan. She tells her teachers,'Tf your classroom behavioral management
system is working well with a student, there is really no need for a FBA. If it is not
working, you may need to do a FBA to see what is causing the behavior'. She confirms
that all the special education teachers, psychologist and counselors are trained in doing
195
FB As and in doing data driven observations. She wants the team to do the FB As rather
than a contracted behavioral support person. She comments that the district wants to train
their teams to do the process because they want the team to own the plan and live it.
Response to Question #5
What monitoring systems are in place to assess the progress of special education students
throughout the district?
The Case F special education supervisor states that all of the district students in
special education are progress monitored. Some of the schools use programs such as
Aims Web and Fuchs and Fuchs, while other buildings are using DEB ELS. She
acknowledges that at the high school level, progress monitoring is more difficult. The
high school teachers use Aims Web for students who are functioning below the 8l grade
level. She thinks that students above that level should have the skills to be a successful in
their classes and, therefore, are at a level where they do not need to be progressed
monitored on reading fluency or math fluency. She does feel that they need more
monitoring on organizational skills and study skills. She directs teachers to create rubrics
for monitoring these problem areas. The special education supervisor would like to see
students monitored on a weekly basis in the areas of math, reading, writing and
organizational skills.
She shares that all the special education teachers have been trained on progress
monitoring. She also relates that he teachers use the information gained from progress
monitoring to develop their DEPs. The information gained through progress monitoring is
196
reported to parents on a quarterly basis and sent home with the report cards. The reports
show progress on the goals in the IEP and the information is plotted on graphs.
She has a concern about the progress monitoring tools used in the district. She has
not seen a real connection between the tests used at different levels. Each level does
things differently. Each school has a different focus. She is not convinced that the tools
necessarily match from school to school.
Response to Question#6
What programs does your district have in place that welcomes all students into their
schools?
Mission Statement
The Case Study F supervisor affirms that the district has a mission statement that
welcomes all students into the district schools. The mission statement includes,"Inspiring
excellence in every student, every day. The supervisor believes that she is part of a very
welcoming district.
Parent Support
She mentions that the district does not run a parents' support group. However,
there is a township parent support group that is organized by several of the districts
parents. The supervisor shares that the district makes efforts to collaborate with them.
The parents and district personnel have met several times. This year, the supervisor is
scheduled to meet with a representative on a monthly basis. The support group provides
197
information sessions for parents. At times, they have asked the district to send
representatives to one of their meetings. The supervisor explains that there is not a
specific place in the building for parents to meet but that every school has information
displays in their lobbies. She estimates that 99% of the parents of students in special
education attend IEP meetings. She believes that most of the district's teachers have
developed a good working relationship with parents. She relates the story of one of the
elementary school's autistic support teachers who arranges to meet with her students'
parents in order to show them how to increase their involvement in their childs
development. The teacher meets with the parent on an individual basis. The supervisor
acknowledges that the parents' of special education students have been involved in the
districts strategic planning sessions. She also shares that there are parents of special
education students who serve on the district's school board.
Extra Curricular Activities
The supervisor contends that the district does include special needs students in
extra curricular activities. She also adds that the district has not needed to assign district
personnel to support the students in these activities. She predicts that she will be asked to
assign an assistant for support at sometime in the near future. She also explains that
students with special needs who are involved in activities have not needed special
transportation. They generally take the late bus home with everyone else.
Response to Question #7
198
What factors do you feel are responsible for your district meeting the LRE levels for
inclusion of special needs students into the least restrictive environment ?
The Case Study F supervisor feels that one of the most important reasons that her
district has been successful in including students with special needs into the least
restrictive environment is because of the support that the special education department
receives from the superintendent, the school board, the building principals, the parents
and the teachers. The superintendent and the school board have given the support needed
to create new programs and classes. The parents are very involved with the education of
their children. The teachers try their best to make the necessary accommodations for all
their students.
Case Study G
Demographics
Case Study G is a suburban community located in Southeastern Pennsylvania.
This community was once a small rural community. Today it is a bustling township with
large residential developments with plentiful shopping locations. It covers 6.77 square
miles and has an estimated population of about 11,240 residents. The school district has
a total of one elementary school, one middle school and one high school (Philadelphia
Inquirer, Report Card on the Schools, www.philly. com/reportcard, retrieved 7/1/2009).
Table 14
199
Demographic Data
Data
District G
1. Number of Households
2. Percentage of Single Family Households
14,285
5.0%
3. Education Level
High School
94.5%
Bachelors Degree or Higher
51.0%
4. Median Household Income
$82,597
5. Percentage of Economically Disadvantage
1.9%
6. Number of Teachers
113
7. Student to Teacher Ratio
15:1
8. Teacher Salary
9. Yearly Cost of Educating a Student
10. Graduation Rate
$ 44,909 - $92,064
$14,283
98%
11. Average SAT Score ( 2008)
Mathematics
564
Reading
581
12. Percentage of Student PSSA Scores at Proficient or Above
Mathematics
89.1%
Reading
89.8%
200
13. Number of Students
2,026
14. Number of Students with IEPs
235
(School Matters, www .school matters .com, retrieved 4/20/2009).
There are 235 special educations students enrolled in the district. The districts
percentage of special needs students is 11.4% which is the lower than the PA state
average of 15.1%. The following table indicates the percentage of students in each of the
twelve disability categories as outlined by the State of Pennsylvania for the 2008-2009
school year.
Table 15
Percentage of Students in each of the Twelve Disability Categories
Disability Category
District Percentage
Pennsylvania Percentage
Autism
5.1%
5.3%
Deaf-blindness
0%
0.0%
Emotional Support
9.8%
9.2%
Hearing Support
0%
1.0%
Mental Retardation
0%
8.1%
Multiple Disabilities
0%
1.0%
Orthopedic Impairment
0%
0.3%
Other Health Impaired
16.6%
7.0%
Specific Learning Disability
54.0%
51.0%
201
Speech and Language
11.9%
16.3%
Traumatic Brain Injury
0%
0.3%
Visual Impairment
0%
0.4%
The percentage of special education students spending 80% or more of the day in
general education classes is 53.9 %, which is slightly lower than the state average of
55.2%. The percentage of special education students spending less than 40% of the day
in general education is 7.0%, which is lower than the state average of 10.8%. The
percentage of special education students placed in other settings is too small a group to be
counted toward the LRE levels and is lower than the state average of 4.25%.
The districf s special education population has a 0% American Indian subgroup
that is comparable to the 0.0% districts subgroup for all students. There is a 5.5% Asian
/Pacific special education subgroup that is lower than a 13.6% district subgroup. The
district has a 0% African American special education subgroup that is lower than the 1.0
% district subgroup. The districts Hispanic special education subgroup is 0 %, which is
lower than the districts subgroup of 1.2%. The white subgroup is 91.1%, which is higher
than the 85.9% subgroup of the entire district (Penn Data, www.penndata.hbg.psu.edu
retrieved, 5/30/2009).
Participant
The Case Study G participant is a male director of special education. He has a
bachelor's degree in criminal justice and mathematics. He also has a masters degree of
education in special education and a master's degree in educational leadership with a
202
special education supervisors certificate. He taught for 6 years as a special education
teacher. He has been an administrator for 7years. He has been in his current position for
1 1/2 years.
Response to Question # 1 .
What impact has the Gaskin v. Pennsylvania Department of Education Settlement had on
your School District?
The Case Study G special education director believes that the biggest impact of
the Gaskin Settlement is that it has forced the district to look at some of the programs that
are provided to the special needs children and to look at the number of students that have
been outsourced to the intermediate unit or other districts. He shares that since he
became the director, the district has brought back students into an emotional support
program. He also shares that they have brought back students into the districts life skills
program. He credits the Gaskin Case as the catalyst for those changes. He also asserts
that the district has been bringing students back into their home school in an attempt to be
more fiscally responsible by creating their own programs as opposed to using the
intermediate unit. He estimates that the $40,000 cost for placing a student at out of
district program can be used toward bringing students back and using the money to pay
for a teacher with benefits. He also points out that the special education staff has been
examining their record keeping procedures to make sure that paperwork is documented
correctly to reflect the students' appropriate placements. The teachers are really looking at
the amount of hours that each child spends in special education.
203
Financial Impact
The director reports that the district has brought back five students. He stresses that
the district is small and that the total enrollment is less than 2100 students. He adds that
12% of the students are in special education placements. The director points out that the
savings for bringing back those five students was significant. He explains that in addition
to factoring in the tuition for placements, districts must also calculate the cost of
transportation, which can be equal to or greater to the tuition. Having the students return
to their home schools will result in savings for the district. He is of the opinion that the
district actually saved some money because of the Gaskins Settlement. He also
acknowledges that some of that money will be used to hire additional staff.
Staffing Increases
The director shares that the district has had to hire staff for two emotional support
programs, a life skills program and a learning support class as a result of the Gaskin
Settlement. The district has had to hire teachers as well as support staff for those
programs.
Medical Personnel
The director mentions that the district thought they might have to hire an additional
nurse to help with the health needs of one of the students in the life skills class. However,
they were able to transfer a paraprofessional on the staff who is also a certified nurse to
help with the student, thereby eliminating the need to hire more staff.
204
Instructional Areas
The Case Study G director shares that the district has not had to add to buildings but
admits that one of the schools is at maximum capacity. He has had to make adjustments
throughout the buildings to provide additional space for the new classes. He points out
that the special education code in Chapter 14 specifies that classes need to be large
enough to provide 28 square feet of room per student. He asserts that because of that
mandate for special needs classes, other general education classes have to be moved to
smaller spaces. He continues to explain the elementary schools are in the process of
expanding due to rising enrollment. They are adding more classes and reconfiguring the
grade levels in the elementary and middle schools. The reconfiguring of grades will
increase the number of students in the elementary schools but will free up space in the
middle and high schools.
Transportation
The special education director adds that the district has had to run two additional
busses for special needs students as a result of compliance to the Gaskins Settlement.
The district contracts with an outside transportation provider, and they have had to add an
additional run throughout the day for students with special needs.
Food Service
The director reports that there have not been changes in the food service department
because of the Gaskin Settlement. He points out that the district has been providing
training for food allergies but not as an effect of the Gaskin Case.
205
Legal Services
The Case Study G director shares that the district has not been involved with
litigation based on the Gaskin case. He attributes that to the fact that the district has been
looking at their programs and looking to bring students back to the district before parents
can say,"Why is my child not back in the district?' He feels that because they are being
pro-active in that way, they are not becoming involved in litigation. He also mentions
that the district used their legal advisors to provide some staff development to teachers on
the Gaskin Settlement and the ramifications of the case on the teachers and their
programs. He also mentions that some parents still want their children in approved
private schools. He discusses a current controversy that involves parents demanding an
outside placement for their child on the basis that the district is discriminating against
their child. They want the child moved to another placement at the cost of the district.
Response to Question #2
What specific actions has your school district taken to include special needs student into
the least restrictive environment?
Learning Support
The special education director states that the biggest step the district has taken to
include students into the least restrictive environment has been incorporating the coteaching model for teaching students with special needs. . He continues that the district
has the co-teaching model in place from 1st grade through high school. He shares that coteaching is not used in kindergarten because, in his opinion, there is not that drastic of a
206
difference between the special education learning support kindergarten class and the
regular education class. He admits that in high school, the mandate to have highly
qualified teachers was also an impetus to start co-teaching and that is not part of Gaskins
Settlement but both seem somewhat interrelated.
Emotional Support
The director relates that the level of support that has grown the most is in the
emotional support program. In the past 2 years, the district has developed a middle
school emotional support program and this upcoming year, they are developing a high
school emotional support program. He shares that the teachers are not use to having
many students who have behavior issues staying in the building, let alone stay in their
classes. He continues that up until the last few years, if a child had not fit the mold
behaviorally, they were quickly moved to an intermediate unit class or an emotional
support class in another district. He admits that the teachers are growing in that area. He
feels that is due to the fact that the district has emotional support programs within the
buildings and it is no longer,'DK, Im having a difficult time, they really shouldn't be herd'.
Now, it is,"Tm having a difficult time, and I need to talk to the emotional support teacher
to see what I can dd'. He also discloses that the special education department looked at
the students' behavior plans and adjusted them to make sure that all the teachers are being
consistent with the implications of those behavior plans. He adds that they have brought
back four students into the district emotional support program and they have not
outsourced any students since the program started.
207
Autistic Support
The Case Study G special education director predicts that the districts new focus is
on including children with autism into the least restrictive environment. He admits that
the district does not have any autistic support classes throughout their buildings. He ex
plains that up until this year, there was an autistic support class supported by the
intermediate unit at the high school. These classes did not have any students from this
district because the district had developed its own life skills class and some students with
autism were placed in that class. He asserts that they were able to take back some
students in autistic support classes and meet their needs in the life skills class. He also
feels that the programs at the middle and elementary levels are lacking. The director has
completed a 5-year plan of staffing with the district administration. He is pleased that
those plans include developing an autistic support class at the middle school or
elementary school.
Mental Retarded Support
The director shares that the district does not have many students with mental
retardation in the district. It is one of the district's low incident disabilities. He mentions
that the majority of students with mental retardation are in the high school. They are part
of the life skills class that was developed 2 years ago. He shares that there are two
students at the middle school level and the district will be getting more students with
mental retardation through early intervention. He notes that the district will be
developing a life skills class at the elementary level.
Multiple Disabilities Support
208
The director shares that the district does not have a class for students with multiple
disabilities. He explains that there are only two students with multiple disabilities
throughout the district and they are both in intermediate unit classes.
Co-teaching
The director shares that the district has been focusing the available staff
development sessions on Differentiated Instruction. In addition, the director has been
offering co-teaching workshops this summer. He estimates that he will be conducting two
or three sessions this summer. He relates that during these sessions, he talks about
accommodations, modifications, IEP goals and teachers responsibilities.
Support for Fully Included Students
The director says that the 51 grade students going into 6l grade are probably the
students that are out of the general education classes the most. He shares that there is a
pocket of those students that are out of the general education classes a little more than
students in other grades.
Primary Disability for Out of District Placements
The director reports that the primary groups of students placed outside of district are
students with multiple handicaps and students with autism.
Response to Question #3
What types of staff development have been provided to district staff members to prepare
them to educate special needs students into regular education settings?
209
The Case Study G special education director shares that he has provided staff
development on differentiated instruction and co-teaching. He also shares that the
district's attorney conducted sessions on the Gaskin Settlement. Two years ago, at the
beginning of the school year, the attorneys came and did a presentation on IDEA and the
Gaskin settlement. The director believes that the district needs to improve its approach to
staff development. The problem centers on the number of days that the teachers have to
work. The teachers are contracted to work 187 days a year. They are given three days at
the beginning of the year for staff meetings and room setup. That leaves the
administration only two days for staff development for the entire year. He continues that
the administration has been trying to address this issue with the school board but have
been unsuccessful up to this point.
The director reports that the staff development sessions that are scheduled can be
one-day presentations while some topics are discussed over the entire school year. Topics
such as new teacher induction, curriculum development and differentiated instruction are
part of a yearlong process. He also shares that many of the special education teachers will
be included in curriculum development for language arts.
The special education director also shares that the district hires outside consultants
do some of the development sessions. The director provides most of the staff
development for special education topics. However, he admits that he will also look for
out of district presentations for areas that he does not feel confident to address. He
mentions that the counselors and psychologists are invited to his staff presentations. He
also adds that the instructional assistants are invited to some staff development sessions
210
to help them fulfill the requirement that they receive twenty hours of staff development
each year. The director indicated that the district tends to provide in-house training for
teachers but they are not opposed to sending teachers to out of district presentations. He
mentions that his district is pairing with another district to do staff development for the
gifted teachers. The teachers will travel to the other district for these sessions and the
two districts will share the cost. The director is aware that the district teachers are
receiving professional development on special education topics but he admits that he does
not know what training the district administrators have had on these topics.
Response to Question #4
What types of supplementary aids and services does your district have in place to ensure
the success of students with disabilities?
Collaboration Time
The Case Study G director feels that the district is not doing a good enough job at
getting collaboration time for teachers because of schedules and a lack of space. He
explains that the schools are filled to capacity. He reports that because there is no room
to add any additional classes, teachers are at the maximum for their caseloads. The time
needed to address so many students' issues decreases the amount of time they can have for
co-planning. He points out that there are grade level planning periods that occur on a
weekly basis, but they are not designed as time for co-teaching planning. He stresses that
there is some time in the teachers' schedules that can be used for co-planning but teachers
have to plan this based on their individual schedules. He also tells that if the teachef s
211
caseload is made up of primarily itinerant students, those teachers will have additional
time that they can build into their schedule to provide the needed support for special
needs students that are fully included. Teachers can also schedule time for progress
monitoring. The director mentions that teachers are given the liberty to schedule some
periods to accommodate their students' needs. He tries not to get too involved with their
schedules until he discovers that progress monitoring is not occurring or that some
students needs are not being met.
Paraprofessional Support
The Case Study G special education director tells that the instructional assistants
have been offered training on a list of different topics. The assistants can attend district
trainings, or sessions offered at the intermediate unit or at PaTTAN. The district does not
pay for the sessions if the assistants chose to go out of the district. The director stresses
that the assistants are free to attend sessions wherever they want but the district will only
pay for the in-house sessions.
Assistive Technology
The director comments that the some students in special education classes use Cowriter, Read Aloud, Write Aloud, Alpha Smarts and Laptops to help them in their classes.
The students also have access to several voice activation devices.
Instructional Modifications
The director of the special education department points out that the teacher use basic
types of instructional accommodations such as preferential seating, frequent prompts to
212
remain on task or redirection. They also use some others that are more individualized for
students that have anxiety issues. The teachers use reminder cues and coping strategies
that have been taught to those students. They also use assistive technology, which is
individualized. He is aware that students are provided with extended time, frequent
breaks and test questions read aloud. He feels that the variety of modifications are
dependent on the content.
Alternative Instructional Materials
The director mentions that the teachers use picture schedules and pictures with some
of the special needs students. They usually use more visuals because they are trying to
meet the needs of visual learners. They use tactile materials for blind students. He
suggests that the curriculum is adapted to look at essential skills or even modified
essential skills. He also asserts that for some students a completely modified curriculum
may be needed.
Physical Supports
The special education director reports that the district has a couple of students in
wheelchairs and a student who is blind who has a cane and a Braillewriter along with
other types of assistive technology. The district also has busses with lifts. The director
reports that the district has been making plans for a ramp for the high school auditorium
because there will be students coming to the school who are in wheelchairs and who are
part of the choir. The district has also purchased a FM system for a student who is in the
middle school. The director notes that the district has not had to change lighting in any of
213
the buildings. He discloses that the district did have to sound proof a room in the middle
school that was adjacent to the band room. This was necessary because the adjacent
room was a special needs class where students were easily distracted. He is uncertain if
the room was 100% sound proof. However, he feels that they did give it a fair try.
He also notes that the district did purchase furniture for some of students with physical
disabilities.
Behavioral Supports
The director reports that the staff has been trained on behavioral support strategies.
He discloses that a certified "trainer of the trainers"of CPI conducted the trainings.
He also shares that the district has provided on-going social skills training with guidance
counselors and that these skills are used throughout the districts emotional support
programs. He mentions that at the middle school level, they use the Second Steps
program.
The director explains that the school counselors conduct most of the social skills
training. However, the district also has a contract with an outside counseling agency that
works with both regular education students and special education students. It is a
community-based counseling agency that works with students who are emotionally
challenged. The agency provides help for students with drug, alcohol and psychiatric
issues.
The director confirms that at this time, not all of the district's behavioral plans are
based on functional behavior assessments. He explains that some of the students still
214
follow plans that were developed during their last re-evaluation. The director feels that
the plans do not need to be revamped if they are working.
Response to Question #5
What monitoring system is in place to assess the progress of special education students
throughout the district?
The Case Study G special education director reports that most of the progress
monitoring assessments are curriculum based. The teachers use the more standardized
assessment tools such as the KTEA and the DIB ELS. He reports that the district is
currently looking at Aims Web. The director is under the impression that all the special
education students are being progressed monitored. He stresses that the teachers need to
provide progress reports on a quarterly basis. He wonders if the assessments are actually
monitoring the deficit areas of the students. He is concerned that the assessment results
do not always align with the goals and objectives on the students' IEPs. He suggests that
this shows a need for more staff training and a need for more tools to help support the
teachers with progress monitoring. He continues that the intermediate unit has come to
the district to provide some training on class monitoring and graphing. A majority of their
trainings are based more on reading, writing, and math monitoring and do not address the
monitoring of the soft skills areas such as behavior and organization. The director
clarifies that the middle and high schools use curriculum based assessments while the
elementary school usually use assessments such as DIB ELS. The teachers also use the
QRI and KTEA for reading and the Key Math. They use rubrics to monitor behavioral
215
goals. All of the students should be monitored on a weekly or biweekly schedule. The
information gained from progress monitoring should be driving the students' IEP goals
and affecting instruction. The director hopes that both the regular and special education
teachers are looking at assessment data to make instructional decisions about a child or a
group of children who need remediation of skills. The school administrators ensure that
monitoring is happening and that reports are being shared with parents at the IEP
meetings. The special education director does not worry that the progress monitoring
results can vary from one level to another level or from one grade to another grade. He
believes that other factors may affect the score on a child's test from one day to the next.
He thinks that what happens at home has a greater impact on the results than the
assessments.
Response to Question#6
What programs does your district have in place that welcome all students into their
schools?
The Case Study G special education director assures that there are welcoming
posters in every building. He also mentions that there is a welcoming group of people in
the district. When students come to register, they do screening tests for placement. The
director has seen teachers take the new children for tours around the building. He feels
that the responsibility for welcoming students falls onto the teachers. They decide how
they are going to introduce new students to the other students. The director adds,'Our
teachers are very good at making a new student feel welcome. Occasionally, we will
216
have a new child come into the district with transition issues. If we find out ahead of
time, we might coordinate the transition by helping the student get use to the building and
meet with the teachers".
The director affirms that the district mission statement does contain wording that all
students are welcome. He suggests that the districts superintendent believes in welcoming
all students.
Parental Involvement
The superintendent conducts two information sessions each year to address any
questions or issues that the parents may have. One session is held in the Fall and the other
is held in the Spring. He admits that an overwhelming number of parents have not
attended these sessions. The director continues that the district has started a committee
called SPEAC. It stands for Special Education Awareness Council. The members of the
committee do many activities that involve students with special needs. Some of their
activities include a Halloween party and a swim-a-thon to raise funds. The district also
has a group called parent group. This committee has had a low percentage of parents
attend their information sessions. Therefore, they have decided to dissolve the
organization and join the districts SPEAC group. Although the number of parents
involved in the parents' support group is low, the director says that about 95% of the
parents attend IEP meetings. He also comments that parents have attended the district's
strategic planning committee sessions. He estimates that about two of the nine school
board members are parents of special needs students.
217
Extra Curricular Activities
The director does not know the exact number of students with special needs who are
included in extra curricular activities but he estimates that it is high. He stresses that the
district actually has students with special needs participating on the sports team, the choir
or the band. In the high school, there is a"Buddy Group" whose members help students
with special needs participate in activities. The director reports that the district has had to
hire assistants to help the students participate in activities. He also mentions that the
district has not had to provide special transportation to extra curricular activities for these
students.
Response to Research Question #7
What factors do you feel are responsible for your district meeting the LRE levels for
inclusion of special needs students into the least restrictive environment ?
The Case Study G director reports that he feels his district has been able to meet
the LRE levels set by the state for a variety of reasons. He first mentions the
demographics of the district. He shares that the district is very small and has a small
number of students with special needs. He shares that it is easier to include small
numbers of students. He notes that the district is somewhat affluent and that most of the
parents are highly educated. He shares that the board is able to purchase the supports and
services necessary for special needs students to be included in the least restrictive
environment. He also reports that parents are very interested in the education of their
218
children. He also reports that the superintendent and the district administrators have a
high level of commitment to students with special needs. He believes that the teachers
attitudes toward the inclusion of students with special needs into their classes has
changed. They are very accepting of all students into their classes.
Case Study H
Demographics
An interview was conducted with the special education director of a county
intermediate unit. There are 29 intermediate units in Pennsylvania. These units were
established in 1971 to provide support to school districts.
Intermediate Units.
These agencies provide programs in a cost effective manner through collaboration
between districts and community agencies. Each of the intermediate units provides
services based on the individual needs of the school districts they serve. Some of the
services they receive include evaluation of pre-schoolers, parent education, special
education support services and professional development for educators.
Case Study H is an intermediate unit in a suburban county in the Philadelphia area.
It encompasses an area of 483 square miles. The county population is estimated at
780,000 people. It is estimated that 85% of the population in the county has graduated
from high school and that 38.9% of the population has a bachelors degree or higher. The
median household income for this county is estimate at $73,985.
Participant
219
The intermediate unit case study participant has been in education for over 29
years. She has a bachelors degree in elementary education, a mastef s degree in special
education and a doctoral degree in educational leadership and administration. She had
certifications in elementary education, special education for the mentally and physically
handicapped, reading specialist certification, elementary and secondary principal
certification and a superintendents letter of eligibility. She has been an elementary
teacher, a special education teacher, a special education supervisor and a director of
special education.
Response to Question # 1.
What impact has the Gaskin v. Pennsylvania Department of Education Settlement had on
the intermediate unit and on school districts in the county?
The intermediate unit special education director reports that school districts are
opening up their own district operated programs. She discloses that the intermediate units
are seeing fewer students in the intermediate unit operated classrooms. Districts are not
referring students to the unit as much as they did in the past. However, the intermediate
unit director is receiving more requests to provide services to help support school districts
with their inclusive practices. The intermediate unit is offering the services of specialists
such as autistic support teachers or inclusion specialists. The director comments that there
is a new focus on inclusive environments for pre-school students. This is also an effect
of the Gaskin's Settlement. The intermediate unit is the LEA for all pre-school students in
220
the county. The director reports some concern about the process of transitioning these
students into districts. The intermediate unit includes the students into the least
restrictive environment. When students are enrolled in their neighborhood districts, they
are being referred to full time or part time placements. She comments,'There seems to be
a disconnect. When it comes to transitioning to school age, what districts are looking for
may not be very inclusive".
Financial Impact
The special education director from the intermediate unit believes that hiring more
personal care assistants to help support the children in the general education environment
has had the biggest financial impact on school districts. She points out that for some
districts; the financial impact has also been for co-teaching because districts may have to
hire additional professional staff. On the positive side, districts have been able to reduce
costs because they are not transporting students to the intermediate unit operated
classrooms. School districts have saved money as a result of purchasing new and other
services from the intermediate unit that does not entail a classroom placement. At the
same time, they incur additional costs by hiring more personal care assistants plus
transportation. According to the director,'On the positive side, they are able to put
money back in the district by not sending students to other settings. On the negative side,
they have to open up their own classrooms". Districts have also had to incur the costs of
providing professional development and training to teachers in general education that
now have special needs children with severe disabilities included in their classrooms.
The director also points out that school districts need to spend money and time on
221
training administrators and support staff. The director relates that districts have said to
her, "We are going to open up our own classroom because it is less expensive then sending
our students to an intermediate unit class with transportatiori'. She believes that is only
part of the picture. She asked the districts,'What are you calculating as your costs"? She
does not think that districts calculate the entire cost for the salaries of professional staff
and support staff. She adds that when she is determining the cost of sending a student to
the intermediate unit, she includes the rate for a portion of the cost for the social worker,
a portion of the cost for a psychologist, a portion of the cost for a supervisor and a portion
of the building. She is of the opinion that is not a fair financial comparison because if
districts were to take into account, not just the salary of the teacher and the support staff,
but the building and all the other therapists, they would find that it is not a fair financial
comparison.
Staffing Increases
The special education director affirms that districts have had to hire more
professional staff members. She also believes that because some severely impaired
students are now included, the districts definitely have to hire more one-on-one assistants.
She mentions that as a result of students coming back into the districts who may need
feeding tubes, the district may have to hire an additional nurse especially if it is written
on the students' IEPs. She also comments that districts may need a nurse on the bus. She
confesses that she did not know if the Gaskins settlement is the reason that they would
incur more cost for the nurse. She suggests that the students were in their district and the
district would be responsible for the nursing care.
222
Instructional areas
The intermediate unit director asserts that the unit did not need to add additional
space onto their building to accommodate students. She confessed that she did not know
of any of the county districts that had added additional space to their facilities because of
students returning to the district as a result of the Gaskin Settlement.
Transportation
The director acknowledges that districts save money on transportation by having
children stay in their own home schools as opposed to coming to an intermediate unit.
Legal Services
The intermediate special education director admits that the intermediate unit has
had to deal with some legal problems associated with the Gaskins settlement, particularly
in preschool. She suggests that parents are now becoming more demanding. She
references a form letter entitled,'Parent Demand Letter'. She finds that parents are seeking
reimbursement for enrolling in general education preschools and demanding that the
intermediate unit pay for the cost of a private care assistant.
The director also recounts that they have gone to'Due Process Hearings"because
some parents do not want their children returned to their home districts. They are very
pleased with the progress that their children have been making at the intermediate units.
They want them to stay there.
Response to Question #2
223
What specific actions has your school district taken to include special needs student into
the least restrictive environment?
Learning Support
The director commented that districts provide co- teaching training to general and
special education teachers so they can address the needs of learning support students who
are placed into regular education classes. She also added that districts must provided
training for personal care and instructional assistants who follow students into general
education settings.
Emotional Support
The director tells of districts that have had to create new programs or add additional
classes to accommodate emotional support students in their schools. In order to do this
successfully, they have had to bring in additional personnel such as behavior consultants.
In addition, they have had to contract with specialized counseling centers to address the
emotional needs of these students.
Autistic Support
The director points out that districts that establish autistic support programs need
to provide the supports and services required to address the needs of this population.
These services include teacher training, specialized behavior consultants and additional
staff. She believes that if the methodology used in these programs is Applied Behavioral
Analysis, districts will need to send staff out of district for training at centers such as
224
PaTTAN and PDE. She cautions that districts may need to consider how they will staff
the special education rooms when teachers are at the training sessions. She advises that
they may need to reconsider using regular education substitutes if the teacher will be
gone for long periods of time.
Support For Students with Mental Retardation
According to the intermediate director, school districts are bringing their students
with mental retardation back from outside placements into their home districts. To her
knowledge, most of the districts are including these students into general education as
much as possible.
Multiple Disabled Support
The director relates that districts are not bringing back students with multiple
disabilities into their home schools as much as they are returning children with other
types of disabilities. She concedes that the students most frequently found in the
intermediate unit classes are students with severe multiple disabilities, students with
severe emotional disturbance, and students who are severely autistic.
Co-teaching
The intermediate unit special education director shares that one of the biggest
complaints from teachers involved with the inclusion of students with special needs is
the lack of collaborative planning time. This is particularly true for those teachers
involved with co-teaching.
225
Services at the Intermediate Unit
According to the director, the intermediate unit is able to provide psychiatric
consultation and a psychiatrist who is available to the team. She questions whether every
district has a social worker for assisting families with medical assistance, or if every
district is involved with the competent learner model or the verbal behavior project. She
is not sure if the districts have a behavior management specialist assigned to particular
classrooms or the knowledge of the latest research and technology. She is wonders if that
the school districts' teachers have the same level of training as the intermediate unit staff.
Response to Question #3
What types of staff development have been provided to district staff members to prepare
them to educate special needs students into regular education settings?
Staff Development
The director believes that some teachers, when questioned, would not have a broad,
deep level of understanding of the Gaskin Settlement. She thinks they might know about
it on a surface level. The special education director shared that the intermediate unit
conducts all kinds of staff development. These include sessions on supporting a particular
disability in the general education setting, co- teaching, RTI, behavioral interventions,
FBAs or writing an DEP. The intermediate unit also conducts information sessions on
specific reading strategies and assistive technologies. Trainings are offered in progress
monitoring and the role of administrators in the inclusion of special needs students. The
226
intermediate unit offers training to administrator and staff members on the role of the
building principal in inclusive environments and the laws and regulations surrounding the
Gaskins Settlement. She adds that psychologist, behavior management specialists,
training support members, or a project associate from the curriculum division conducts
the sessions. The intermediate unit offers training to regular and special education
teachers, parents, administrators, counselors, psychologists and therapists.
The director also points out that the intermediate unit sessions are not, "once and done"
trainings. The intermediate unit does follow up presentations by their staff members for
the county districts.
The intermediate unit offers training to teachers on how to develop behavioral
supports for their students. According to the director, the feedback that she receives from
teachers about this training is that it is time consuming. However, the teachers report to
her that their feelings are that if they develop the right behavior plan and get help
facilitating, monitoring and reviewing the plan; it will result in increased positive
student behaviors.
Response to Question #4
What types of supplementary aids and services does your district have in place to ensure
the success of students with disabilities?
Collaboration
The intermediate unit special education director relates that districts are providing
time for collaborating in a variety of ways. Some districts are inviting specialists to help
227
with their districts' schedules to include time for teacher collaboration. These specialists
help districts create a schedule in which there are dedicated blocks of time for the whole
reading and language arts block and some math. They are dedicating time for teachers to
spend with students who are not making success.
She also comments that some districts
build time to collaborate into their operational schedule especially if they have teams.
Some districts are providing time for collaboration by assigning teachers to grade group
or subject area teams. In this way, the special education teachers are included when the
team meets, and are able to utilize this time for collaboration. She also notes that some
districts pay teachers to collaborate after the normal school hours. She cautions that
some collective bargaining groups may not approve of this idea.
Paraprofessional Support
The director affirms that the intermediate unit does extensive trainings for
instructional and personal care assistants. This year, they offered two major trainings for
the districts' assistants and she predicts that they will continue to do so in the future.
These sessions are helpful for the assistants by fulfilling what they need to know for the
chapter 14 regulations. They have done a variety of trainings on topics such as data
recording, mainstreaming and the use of assistive technology
Assistive Technology
According to the director, the intermediate unit has provided trainings for districts
on the SETT process that is a procedure used to determine what types of technical
supports can be used to meet the needs of special education students. She also shares that
228
districts often send staff members to the intermediate unit to borrow equipment from their
library to do trials with various pieces of assistive technology.
Instructional Modifications
The director has observed teachers, throughout the districts in the county, using
assistive technology, making modifications, using interpreter and using C-Print
Captionists. C-print Captionists are staff members that actually take notes for students
that are visually impaired. She has also noticed instructional modifications being made to
the actual work that students do in the classroom. In addition, she reports that she has
seen a variety of environmental modifications. The Intermediate Unit provides training
to teachers on how to best arrange the classroom and how to make modifications as far as
seating. Their occupational and physical therapists will show teachers how to seat the
children if they are in need of preferential seating for behavioral, visual or hearing issues.
The intermediate unit director is aware of modifications to the acoustics of some
classrooms. She has received requests for classroom acoustic measurements and for FM
field systems. The intermediate unit has helped districts make modifications to the
environment such as putting up mats or heavy drapes to get the proper acoustic level.
They have also offered advice about modifications to a student's schedule where students'
classes are arranged to accommodate their social and emotional needs.
Alternative Instructional Materials
The director is aware that most districts are using new reading approaches for
struggling students. Because there is a big emphasis on reading and math, the districts
229
have requested assistance from the intermediate unit to have their technology specialists
come to their schools and provide training with a variety of different reading programs.
Additional Adaptations
In addition to instructional and assessment modifications, the director points out
that districts need to provide other types of adaptations including adaptations for sensory
issues. She explains that preplanning must take place with students with special needs
for activities and events that occur in school environments. She cites examples of school
fire drills, special assemblies and changes in daily schedules. She believes that some
students with special needs, especially students in autistic support classes, need to know
in advance, about changes in schedules and events. Teachers need to help these students
prepare for these changes. She suggests the use of social stories to help students prepare
for such events. She also discusses the importance of providing staff information sessions
to the cafeteria aides, the bus aides, and all those people that come in contact with the
students. She shares that the intermediate unit has conducted classroom assemblies and
whole school presentations. She explains,"We let them know that the child is in the
building and may need different types of supports and modifications". The intermediate
unit has invited speakers from various agencies such as the Tourette's Association and
medical facilities to talk about a particular disability. They have also invited parents to
come to schools to share information about their child with the teachers, students and
other parents.
Physical Supports
230
The director acknowledges that many districts have made changes to sound,
lighting, heating and air conditioning systems. Some buildings have had blinking lights
installed for students who are hard of hearing so they are aware of fire drills. In some
schools that she has visited, she has noticed Braille on the door signs and mats in
cafeteria or classrooms to dim the sounds. She also shared that the intermediate unit has
had to purchase specific furniture for students. These include specialized computer
keyboards, computer screens, specific technology, and certain kinds of chairs, special
tables and special adaptive physical education equipment. The intermediate unit has
provided training in adaptive physical education and on the different equipment.
Behavioral Supports
The special education director at the intermediate unit reports that districts are
offering a variety of counseling services that could include social relationships
counseling, drug & alcohol counseling, family counseling and counseling with a group of
peers. She mentions a"Lunch Bunches"group that is a program where general education
and special education students get together at lunch. She believes that most students with
emotional needs in programs in the districts have behavior support plans in place. The
functional behavior assessments that are given in most districts are conducted by a
variety of people such as the behavioral specialist, the psychologist and the classroom
teacher. She indicates that the intermediate unit, as well as some school districts, wants
to move away from the model where the behavior management specialist is the only one
that knows about behavior. She feels that the teachers see the children more often than
231
the behavior specialist and should be able to be trained to do the behavioral assessments
with the guidance of the behavior management specialist.
Response to Question #5
What monitoring system is in place to assess the progress of special education students
throughout the district?
The director is of the opinion that every district in the county does progress
monitoring with every child who has an IEP in all school levels. She knows that districts
use the DEB ELS and 4sight as a progress monitoring tool in many districts. She has seen
evidence that curriculum based assessments are used in the districts. She is under the
notion that most districts are monitoring students in all subject areas. The intermediate
unit offers trainings on the tools used in progress monitoring. The director does not think
that the information from the progress monitoring is used by everyone to guide
instruction. She has attended IEP meetings where the child is not making progress and
nothing different is done. She has said to her teachers,'Don't let an IEP come for the
annual renewal and find out that you have done nothing to change a strategy, a goal or the
specially designed instructioif. She is concerned that districts and teachers need to realize
the importance of monitoring. One of her goals is to make sure that a parent of a special
education student is able to lay their students IEPs next to each other and see evidence of
progress. If that is not happening, she feels it is incumbent upon the team to call that IEP
group together and say,"Johnny is not making progress, what do we need to tweak?'
232
The director believes that school administrators have to be the instructional leaders
and the "teacher of the teachers". She thinks that administrators have to be able to make
sure that his or her staff is collecting the right kind of data and is reviewing and analyzing
the data. Most importantly, they have to make sure their teachers are using the data to
determine and drive any kind of changes within that child's program or instruction. In her
role at the intermediate unit and in her experience while working in a district, the director
saw some problems when a child was making progress with instructional adaptations and
modifications at one level but not at the next level. She heard teachers say,'We don't do
that or that's not part of our program or I don't agree with that kind of modificatiori'.
Response to Question#6
What programs does your district have in place that welcome all students into their
schools?
Mission Statements
The director reports that the intermediate unit has a mission statement that welcomes
all students. They have the Gaskin Posters,'Welcoming All Students'', in their hallways
and lobby. She is very proud that all the schools districts in the County received their
posters when this all came about. The intermediate unit also has the Gaskin Video on
their website.
Parental Supports
She shares that at the preschool level, there is a parent group know as'Parents as
Partners". The intermediate unit does not have a parent group for the classroom programs.
233
However, she points out that the county does have a very active "Right to Education Local
Task Force" that meets one time a month with advocates and district representatives.
Many of the intermediate unit parents and parents who are leaders in their school districts
attend these meetings. She notes that the Task Force is very active and very involved. She
also reveals,'! think a few districts do not have a parent group because of a lack of
interest from the parents". The director thinks that the number of parents who participate
in meetings depends on the time of day that the meetings are scheduled. During
discussions with parents, she discovered that many of the parents preferred meetings
during the day when their special needs children were in school. She estimates that 98%
or 99% of the intermediate unit parents attend their childs IEP meetings. The intermediate
unit invites parents to staff development sessions and to their strategic planning sessions.
Extra Curricular Activities
The director revealed that the intermediate unit does not have any extra-curricular
activities. The unit does work with the districts. She states that if a child wants to
participate in an activity at their home school, the intermediate unit will work with the
district. She mentions that the district is responsible for providing the transportation of
these students to the extra curricular events. She has not had many requests in this area.
Response to Research Question #7
What factors do you feel are responsible for your district meeting the LRE levels for
inclusion of special needs students into the least restrictive environment ?
234
The special education director feels that there are a variety of reasons why some
school districts have been successful in including their students into the least restrictive
environment. She believes it starts with a vision. She also feels that it involves a
commitment of every administrator in that district to lead the district into looking at
welcoming all students in general education. In her opinion, schools that are successful
are in school districts that offer a variety of programs. They provide intensive
professional development and data monitoring. She has seen some success with coteaching. She has also seen success when districts formed creative partnerships with
outside agencies for behavioral health or special counseling. She believes that districts
that partner with the intermediate unit have been successful because they have had the
intermediate unit TAC advisors to guide them. She confirms that the intermediate unit
has done intensive work with school districts under corrective action. She also believes
that the commitment to work through some of the difficulties that may be encountered
with an inclusion program is also important for success. She advocates for making
decisions that are best for the child. She argues that sometimes looking at what is best for
the child is not inclusion. She has heard some parents say,"Having my child included in
general education all of time may not be appropriate!' She points out that there is a reason
for the letter'Tin IEP. She stresses that the'Tstands for individualized. She is of the
opinion that every child is an individual and inclusion may not be appropriate. She has
sat in meetings with parents who have said, "The only time my child was invited to a
birthday party was when he was in a specialized environment. So, please, don't force that
on me when that is not what my child needs or what I want for my child'. She insists there
235
are a variety of ways to look at the Gaskins settlement and the individual meaning it
holds for each child.
236
CHAPTER V
Themes, Personal Reflections and Conclusion
Introduction
The Gaskin v. the Pennsylvania Department of Education Settlement has been a
catalyst for change in school districts throughout the state. The intent of the settlement
was to increase the number of special needs students included in the least restrictive
environment. A critical part of the settlement involves the identification of school
districts that need to raise the percentage of students included in the least restrictive
environment in their individual districts. Some districts, such as those included in this
study, have successfully met the quotas set by the state for inclusion. Chapter V
summaries some of the factors that have been instrumental in that success. A large
percentage of districts, however, have not made the state's minimum requirements. It is
hoped that the information obtained in this chapter can be of use to all districts that are
attempting to increase the number of included students and the quality of support services
needed for the inclusion of special needs students.
Discussion
Information was obtained from interviews conducted with the special education
and student services directors or supervisors from seven school districts and from a
director of a county intermediate unit. The focus of the questions centered around areas
related to the Gaskin Settlement. These areas include the effects of the Gaskin
Settlement on the case study districts, the least restrictive environment, professional
development, supplemental aids and services, progress monitoring and welcoming
237
students. The responses to the interviews were transcribed and reviewed by the
participants to ensure the validity of the content. The responses were analyzed in an
attempt to identify factors that have contributed to the inclusion of students in the case
study districts. Additional district data was collected to identify the similarities and
differences that exist between the districts included in the study.
District Population
Table 16
Seven Districts
Pennsylvania
12,455-219,189
9512
High School
90%-94%
81.9%
Bachelors Degree or Higher
30%-70.8%
22.4%
3. Median Household Income
$46,073-$106,337
$48,562
4. Percentage of Single Family Households
1.3% - 10.7%
31%
5. Number of Students
1,466-7,332
6. Number of Schools in Each District
4-20
7. Graduation Rates
90%-98%
1. Yearly Cost of Educating a Student
2. Education level
8. Average SAT scores
Mathematics
509-607
515
Reading
498 - 597
502
238
9. Percentage of Student PSSA Scores at
Proficient or Above
Mathematics
79.5%-89.1%
69.2%
Reading
79.4%-90.6%
67.7%
10. Percentage of Students in Special
Education
11.4%-17.8%
15%
11. Percentage of Students Spending 80% of
the School Day in General Education
53.9% - 55.2%
55.2%
12. Percentage of Students Spending Less
Than 40% of the Day in General Education
3.8% - 8.2%
10.8%
13. Percentage of Students Placed in Other
Settings
Not Significant
6.1%
4.25%
(www.collegeboard.com/student/testing/scores/understanding/average.com, retrieved
8/16/2009) (www.pde.state.pa.us./a-and-+/lib/a-and-t/2007-fast-facts.doc, retrieved
8/16/2009).
Special Education Population
Table 17
Disability Category
Autism
District Percentage
5.1%- 10.6%
Pennsylvania Percentage
5.3%
Deaf- blindness
0%
0%
Emotional Support
6.2%- 11.4%
9.2%
Hearing Support
0% - 2.6%
0.1%
Mental Retardation
0% - 5.6%
8.1%
239
Orthopedic Impairment
0%
0.3%
Other Health Impaired
5.9% - 16.6%
7%
Specific Learning Disability
38% - 54%
51%
Speech and Language
16.0% - 30.2%
16.2%
Traumatic Brain Injuries
0%
0.3%
Visual Support
0% - 7.2%
0.4%
Support
Information about the special education population includes data about the special
education subgroups. The information compares the percentage of students in each
subgroup with the number of general education students in each district. The American
Indian subgroup in each of the case study districts was below the district averages. The
percentage of special education students in the Asian Pacific subgroup ranges from 0.9%
to 6.8%. The percentage of Asian Pacific students receiving special education, in all
seven of the case study districts, was below the districts averages for general education
students. The percentage of students receiving special education in the African American
subgroup ranges from 0.8% to 8.2%. Three of the seven case study districts have larger
percentages of African American students in the special education program than in the
general education population. The percentage of students with special needs in the
Hispanic subgroup in the case study districts ranges from 0.7% to 8.8%. Three of the
seven districts have smaller percentages of Hispanic students in their special education
program than the percentage of students in the general education setting. The percentage
240
of students in the White subgroup ranges from 71.6 to 96.1. Two of the seven districts
have numbers above the percent of White general education students in the districts and
three of the seven case study districts have the percentage for white special education
students below the percent of general education students in the district.
Summary of Research Question #1
1. What impact has the Gaskin Settlement had on school districts in Southeastern
Pennsylvania?
Information shared by the case study participants revealed that the effects of the
Settlement were different for each individual district. Four of the seven directors and
supervisors believe that the Gaskin Case had less of an impact on their district than on
other districts because they had begun the inclusion process prior to the Gaskin
Settlement. They emphasized that their districts had embraced the concept of inclusion
before it was mandated by the state. One of these districts shared that it was out of
necessity that they had begun inclusion because of the small number of students in the
district. That district did not have enough students with special needs to justify additional
classes.
Four of the seven participants shared that the Gaskin Case was an impetus for
their districts to examine and reflect upon their use of supplemental aids and services to
make sure that their included students were receiving the necessary supports to be
successful in their classes. Some of the participants reported that the Gaskin Settlement
241
helped the inclusion process in their districts because it forced some of the reluctant staff
members to include students with special needs into classes and activities.
All of the participants explained that the Gaskin Settlement brought attention to
the needs of all students in special education programs. It caused all of their districts to
rethink their beliefs about the rights of students with special needs.
Four of the seven participants shared that the Gaskin Settlement did not have a
major financial impact on their districts. Many thought that the cost of starting new
classes and hiring more personnel was off- set by the amount of money saved from
tuition costs and transportation costs for out of district placements. Four of the seven
administrators shared that they had to spend money to open new autistic support classes
but did not feel that had a significant effect on their district's budget.
The intermediate unit director feels that the Gaskin Settlement has directly
affected the agency. She shares that districts are sending fewer students to the
intermediate unit programs. However, she has seen an increase in requests for the
assistance of specialists who can provide direct program support and provide staff
development. She cautions that districts need to examine all the costs associated with
starting a new program before determining the final budget. She stresses that they need
to calculate the cost of support personnel, of specialists and of supplemental supports.
Six of the seven districts reported a need to hire more teachers and more
instructional assistants in order to provide the support needed for new classes and for
support in co-taught classes. The participants stressed the need to hire more instructional
assistants to help students in fully included classes. Some of the districts reported that
242
specialists in behavior, speech and language and inclusion were hired to support the
current and existing special education programs. The intermediate unit director shared
that she has seen a large increase in hiring one-on-one and instructional assistants in the
schools throughout the county. She also suggests that some schools may need to hire
more nurses to help students with severe medical needs.
Six of the seven districts acknowledged that space for additional special education
classes has been problematic. In addition, one supervisor discussed the importance of
having more than one room available for students that may need quiet areas or sensory
rooms. All of the districts are currently constructing new buildings, expanding existing
buildings or have recently completed construction projects. They admit that the new
construction will help with the space needed for new classes but also acknowledge that
the construction was partially due to the Gaskin Settlement but also due to expanding
enrollment in the schools. The intermediate unit director reports that their agency has not
had to provide for additional space.
Three of the case study administrators responded that the Gaskin Settlement has
affected their transportation departments. They mentioned the need for more busses,
drivers and special education assistants for the busses. One director mentioned problems
with parents who feel that their children need to be on special busses with assistant
support. While another expressed a problem with bus drivers being resistant to driving
with students with special needs on their busses.
Three of the seven administrators mentioned that their districts did not have
problems with transportation while one suggested that the Gaskin Case had a positive
243
effect on her district because the drivers did not have to travel to so many schools in so
many different locations. One administrator shared that her district does not have
transportation problems with the special needs students because almost all of the students'
parents have chosen to transport their children in their own vehicles. The intermediate
unit director shares the opinion that districts are saving money on transportation costs.
Six of the seven case study participants do not believe that the Gaskin Settlement
has had an effect on their food service departments. They do mention concerns about
food allergies but do not believe that is strictly a special education issue. One district did
report problems with the food service department as a result of the settlement. The
supervisor reports that the district has created a new full day autistic support kindergarten
class. The general education kindergarten classes meet for half -day sessions. The food
service department and school secretaries could not code the full day kindergarten
students into their system for lunches. It took quite a while to rectify the situation. Two
other participants shared that their personal care assistants were responsible for
accommodating any eating issues for their special needs students. One district
administrator shared that the food service director is very involved with the special needs
population throughout the district. He shares that the food service director attends all the
IEP meetings for students with eating or special diet issues.
The case study participants were very passionate about the number of legal issues
that involve students with special needs. They concede that not all the cases are the direct
result of the Gaskins Settlement but many are related to the placement of students with
special needs. One director believes that his district has very few due process hearings
244
because the district has been proactive in their approach to inclusion. Another district
administrator added that her district is very litigious and that a large percentage of the
parents are lawyers or bring lawyers to IEP meetings. These parents are very
knowledgeable about the terms of the Gaskin agreement and often cite it to support their
concerns. Another director shares that the Gaskin Settlement is often mentioned by some
parents for issues that are not related to the Gaskin Case. The case study participants
acknowledged that some of the parents want their children included into least restrictive
environments while other parents want a more restrictive placement for their child. The
parents who want a more restrictive placement usually want their child placed in an APS
or private school at the district's expense. One administrator explained/Some parents are
going in the opposite direction from us. We are saying that we have to comply with the
regulations that we are given but that is not what parents seem to want'. One of the case
study supervisors reports that some parents use the Gaskin Settlement to request
additional services for their children. In some situations it is warranted but in other
situations is becomes a case of a parent believing that their child will benefit from as
many services as possible even if the child is not in need of them.
The intermediate unit director reports that the major portion of the Due Process
hearings that she attends involves parents who do not want their child's placement
changed from their current placement at the intermediate unit to a less restrictive
environment in their home school.
Summary of Research Question #2
245
What specific actions have districts' Special Education Supervisors taken to include their
special needs students into the least restrictive environment?
All of the directors shared that students in learning disabilities and emotional
needs are included in general education classes. Some districts added that students in
life skills, physically handicapped and students with mental retardation programs are
included in the general education classes for as much of the day as possible. These
students receive assistance from the general education teachers, the special education
teachers, the instructional assistants and, in some districts, inclusion specialists. Four of
the seven districts reported that they are using the co-teaching model to help include the
learning support students into the general education classes. All of the districts
commented that a few of the students do receive supplemental support in subjects where
additional support is needed. In addition, four of the case study administrators related that
their learning support teachers will push in to general education classes to provide
support. All of the districts include their learning support students in general education
science and social studies classes. One district includes the majority of their students with
special needs in general education math classes. Some students may receive help from
assistants in those classes. Two of the districts reported that they have provided additional
staff trainings to help the general education and instructional assistants meet the needs of
the special needs children in their classes. One supervisor emphasized the importance of
collaboration between general education teachers, special education teachers, specialists
and instructional assistants.
246
Most of the schools shared that they include students with emotional needs into
general education classes whenever possible. One supervisor reports that including
students in need of emotional supports into the general classes has been a challenge.
Another director explained that he feels that including students with emotional needs into
the general education environment decreases inappropriate behaviors. Several of the
districts are concerned with the increase of mental health issues in conjunction with drug
and alcohol use. They shared that they try to provide support in terms of counseling,
psychiatric testing and connections with mental health agencies. The case study
participants mentioned that they have district personnel trained on conducting Functional
Behavioral Assessments and on writing behavioral plans based on these assessments.
Four of the seven district administrators shared that they have hired behavioral specialists
or itinerant emotional support teachers to provided assistance to the district's students with
emotional needs.
Four of the seven case study administrators shared that they have or are planning
to start new autistic support programs in their districts. Several of the participants shared
that there seems to be an increase in the number of students who have been identified as
being on the autistic spectrum. Two of the administrators reported that they have autistic
support classes in their districts but the intermediate unit supports these classes. Three of
the case study participants mentioned that students with autism are included in the
general education classes and learning support classes with modifications and
accommodations. Four of the participants stressed the need for one-on-one assistants to
help those students with severe needs. The intermediate unit director also reported the
247
need for specialist support such as psychologist, autistic support specialists and inclusion
specialists to help these students as they transition into their new environments. Some of
the students receive assistance from the learning support teacher who will do pull out
lessons to pre-teach or re-teach concepts.
Three of the seven administrators reported that they do not have many students
with mental retardation in their districts. Two participants theorized that might be due to
good pre-natal care while one participant felt that some students with mental retardation
students are dually diagnosed. She has experienced parents wanting their child labeled as
autistic as opposed to being labeled as students with mental retardation. She has also
seen a trend that as the students approach graduation, the parents may prefer the students
with mental retardation label because of all the extra supports they can receive when they
graduate with that label. The participants reported that students with mental retardation
are included in the general education classes as much as possible. Most of these students
receive help from instructional assistants or a one-on-one assistant. Some of the districts
place students with severe disabilities into their life skills classes.
Three of the seven district administrators shared that they do not have classes for
students with multiple disabilities in their districts. One director shared that the
intermediate unit has two multiple disability classes in district schools but they are the
responsibility of the unit. The director of the intermediate unit confirms that schools are
not bringing back students in this category as much as students with other disabilities
because these students need so much support and services. Two districts are planning to
open classes for students with multiple disabilities.
248
The directors of six of the seven case study districts reported that they have coteaching teams in their building. Three of these districts have had co-teaching teams for a
few years. One district reported that they do not have enough special education teachers
to co-teach and perform their other duties. Three of the seven districts reported that that
they have had staff training on co-teaching that was presented by an outside expert or by
a staff member. The presenters talked about accommodation and modification strategies,
IEP goals and co-teaching models. Three of the case study participants addressed the
issue of obtaining teacher support for co-teaching. One supervisor suggested that
teachers need to volunteer to be part of a team. She does not feel that a team will be
successful if someone is forced to co-teach. Another director feels that co-teaching is
difficult for teachers who have worked alone for most of their teaching careers. He feels
it is easier for new teachers who have been trained in college to do co-teaching. One
director commented that less planning time is needed for teams that have been working
together for a few years. Two directors reported that students' achievement scores have
increased as a result of co-teaching.
Four of the seven case study participants shared that they do send student who are
severely autistic or who are multiple disabled to out of district placements. Three of the
administrators reported that they send students in need of emotional support and learning
support out of the district. They clarify that these students usually have a combination of
problems such as drug and alcohol problems, truancy, pregnancy or mental health issues.
The participants explained that they do try many interventions before they decide that
they are no longer able to address the students needs. They intend for the students to
249
return to their home schools when they have the necessary skills to enable them to be
successful.
Summary of Research Question #3
What types of staff development have been provided to district staff members to prepare
them to educate special needs students in regular education settings?
Three of the seven case study participants shared that time is a factor that affects
the amount of staff development provided to district staff members. In some districts, the
special education department is given a day or two a year for staff development. This
limits what can be accomplished during a school year. The one exception would be a
district that has 12 days of staff development included in their yearly calendar.
All districts reported that district staff members have conducted some of their
staff development sessions. All districts mentioned that they do invite outside speakers,
usually experts in their fields, to present to their staff members. All of the districts
reported that all professional staff members are invited to in-service presentations. These
include counselor, psychologist and nurses. Four districts reported that instructional
assistants are invited to the professional development sessions. Some of the districts
invite the instructional assistants but do not pay them for attending.
Six of the seven districts have conducted sessions on the Gaskin Settlement.
Districts also reported that they have conducted sessions on IDEA, RTI, IEP training,
inclusive practices, supplemental aids and services, assistive technology, progress
monitoring, CPI, behavioral assessments and co-teaching. Two of the administrators
250
reported that professional development on Autism has become a district focus. They feel
that it is imperative for teachers to receive some training on spectrum disorders before
they meet students with these disabilities in their classes. Three of the administrators
shared that staff members have requested training on some topics. In one of the districts,
a staff development committee plans the in-service days. In addition, to receiving
information on special education topics, the special education teachers are included on
curriculum committees and are attending staff development sessions in those areas.
Several of the participants have stated that their districts have been conducting
sessions on differentiated instruction. They feel that the teachers know the reasons for
differentiation and the strategies needed for differentiation. Two of the participants
expressed concern that they are not sure whether they are implementing differentiation in
their classes. One director shared that the teachers in his district are required to
differentiate during their classroom observations. In this way, he is sure that they are
differentiating.
The intermediate unit director shared that her agency conducts staff development
on a variety of topics. Some of the topics include co-teaching, RTI, behavioral
interventions and sessions on particular disabilities. They also do trainings on reading
strategies, assistive technology, progress monitoring and on the role of administrators in
the inclusion of special needs students. These sessions are offered to staff members in
the schools throughout the county. These sessions included teachers, parents,
administrators, counselors, psychologists and therapists. Some of the psychologists,
251
behavior management specialists, training support members and project associates from
the curriculum division, conducted the presentations.
Three of the case study administrators stressed that they do not feel that one-day
staff development sessions are as valuable as presentations that include follow up
sessions. One supervisor shared that she prefers to invite specialists into district
classrooms to observe and then offer feedback to the teachers. The intermediate unit
director asserted that her agency conducts additional sessions as a follow up to their
presentations. One district shared that they have been approached by a nearby college to
conduct 50 hours of staff development on inclusion as part of a grant that they have
received.
Four of the districts reported that school administrators are invited to staff
development sessions on special education topics. The case study participants reported
that some of the administrators attend these sessions. They are confident, however, that
these school leaders are knowledgeable about the topics of the special education
presentations. This is evidenced by their supervision of programs in their schools and by
their input during administrator meetings. One director pointed out that it would be easier
to implement some of the ideas from the staff sessions if the teachers could see that the
administrator supported the concepts.
Summary of Research Question #4
What types of supplementary aids and services do districts have in place to ensure the
success of students with disabilities?
252
The director of the Intermediate Unit shared that'bne of the biggest complaints
from teachers involved with the inclusion of special needs students is the lack of
collaborative planning time. This is particularly true for teachers involved with coteaching". Five of the seven administrators supported that point of view. Four of the
participants felt that it is extremely difficult to provide common planning time for high
school teachers because of the number of courses and the differences in teachers'
schedules. Some of the administrators and school principals have devised ways to help
with the co-planning problem. They have suggested that teachers be excused from duty
periods to co-plan or allowed to meet during in-service time. They have also offered
compensation time for teachers willing to meet after school. In addition, they have
suggested that teachers can solve the problem electronically by using the district's e-mail
for planning. One district has hired a scheduling specialist to help the district find time
for co-planning.
Five of the seven participants reported that it is much easier to find time in the
middle and elementary schools because they are based on a team approach. One
supervisor implied that it is more difficult for elementary teachers to collaborate because
they are always with students. Teachers are scheduled to meet with their grade level
teachers for a certain number of periods a week. Special education teacher are included
on these teams. They use this time to talk about the itinerant students. In addition, one or
two periods a week can be scheduled for co-teaching teams to meet. Several of the
participants insisted that teachers need the support of the school administrators if
collaboration time is needed. Three of the case study administrators confessed that
253
providing collaborative support for itinerant level students is also difficult. Two
participants related that teachers meet on an "as needed'basis. These meetings are very
unstructured and usually occur in the hallways or over lunch. One supervisor reported
that there is time specified in the students' IEP for consultation.
The director of the intermediate unit concurred with the district administrators.
Other districts are also inviting scheduling specialist to find time for collaboration.
Districts included a special education teacher in grade and subject area teams. She is
aware of some districts that have paid teachers to meet after school but she cautioned that
district bargaining units might not approve of this approach.
The case study participants shared that teachers also have time to collaborate
during staff meetings, special education and subject area department meetings and district
steering meetings.
Four of the seven case study participants reported that there has been an increase
in the amount of training that is given to paraprofessionals in their districts. This is
partially due to the Chapter 14 regulations that require paraprofessionals to receive 20
hours of training a year. Most of the trainings have been conducted in the districts by the
special education department or at PaTTAN or the county intermediate units. Three of the
seven administrators shared that most of their instructional assistants have obtained
'Highly Qualified'certifications. One district shared that in the past five years; only
qualified individuals were hired in her district. Two of the participants believe that the
assistants are an important factor in the success of inclusion.
254
Five of the seven district administrators shared that their districts have purchased
computers and laptops for their students. The participants also stated that they have
purchased white boards, books on tape, organizational technology, communication
devices, and special computer programs such as Inspirations and Dragon Speak. They
also reported that some of the districts have installed sound field systems as well as FM
systems throughout the schools. One of the directors stated that increasing technology is
a top priority of the district. The intermediate unit director shares that her agency has
conducted SETT assessments in other school districts. The unit also sends out
technology specialists to districts to help with their technology needs.
All of the case study participants reported that teachers provide instructional and
assessment modifications to students with special needs. They range from very simple
such as preferential seating to more complex such as differentiating content. The
participant stated that teachers present lessons in different modalities, re-teach concepts,
engage in modeling appropriate actions and provide opportunities for students to practice
skills. They also provide teacher notes, prompts, redirection, modified tests and
assignments, coping strategies and extended time to complete tasks. They allow students
to respond orally or tape responses. Two of the participants also explained that teachers
identify the key concepts that are required for the course and differentiate what is
expected for all students. The intermediate unit director adds that teachers are requesting
more technology to help with special needs students. She has observed teachers making
modifications for instruction and assessments. She has also noticed teachers utilizing the
assistance of interpreters and C-print captionists.
255
Five of the seven participants responded that their districts have purchased
alternative materials for use with their students with special needs. One supervisor
reported that her district does not encourage the use of alternative materials because she
feels that inclusion is the districts goal and that instructing students on alternate materials
would make the transition into the general education classrooms more difficult. The
other participants shared that alternate materials are basically used in the districts
resource rooms. The district's use very similar alternative materials for their students with
special needs. These include reading and math programs such as Corrective Reading,
Breaking the Code, Achieve 300, Study Island, Reading 180, Reading Recovery,
Resource for Reading, Saxon Math, Foundations, Odyssey, Waterford and Wilson
Reading. Districts have also purchased materials that can be used with students with
visual impairments and for severely dyslexic readers such as books on CD and books on
tape. The intermediate unit director added that the unit receives many requests from
district's to provided training on many of the alternate reading and math programs.
All of the districts and the intermediate unit report that they had to purchase
equipment or make changes to their school's environments to meet the physical needs of
their special education populations. Five of the eight participants have installed FM
systems in their buildings. Two participants shared that their districts have installed
sound field systems for use with all the district's students. All of the districts have
purchased adapted furniture such as wheelchairs, walkers, modified chairs, desks,
adjustable tables, chairs and adaptable seats. One district shared that the district conducts
a yearly bus assessment to ensure that the busses are equipped with the necessary booster
256
seats, lifts and steps. The participants also shared that they needed to purchase sensory
items such as swings, water tables, weights, treadmills, bounce balls, and trampolines.
One district reported that they have created sensory rooms where students can go for
breaks in all the districts schools. These rooms are primarily used with life skills, autistic
support and emotional support classes. Another district had to install special lighting
that would not cause seizures while another had to install blinking fire alarms for a
student with a hearing impairment. One district had to install air-conditioning for a
student with special medical issues while another district needed to sound proof a special
education room that was adjacent to the music room. Modifications had to be made to
existing buildings such as the installation of ramps, elevators, bathroom grips, Braille
signs and lower doorknob grips. All the new buildings will be ADA compliant. The
participants also needed to purchase assistive technology such as specialized computer
boards, Reading on Tape, Reading on TV and Braille Writers. Districts had to hire
occupational therapists, physical therapist, and more one-on-one assistants to help
students in need of physical supports.
All of the case study participants commented that their districts use a variety of
professional staff members to provided social skills trainings for special needs students.
These vary at different districts but the majority of staff used for social skills include
counselors, speech and language specialists, autistic support teachers, social workers and
psychologists. The areas addressed by these professionals include communication, social
interactions and anti-bullying. One district superintendent reported that her district
incorporates social skills training into the district's work transition program. The
257
participants reported that the counselors use a variety of programs to meet the social
needs of all the students. Some of the districts are using programs such as Second Steps,
4time, and Restorative Practices. One participant stated that social skills training is part
of the districts curriculum. One district superintendent stated that her district incorporates
social skills training into the district's work transition program. This program is district
based and provides training for students in various locations throughout the school
district buildings. This supervisor also added that the district is planning a sex education
counseling group for their special needs population. The districts were evenly divided in
their opinions about contracting with outside counseling agencies to provide group
sessions for students with mental health, drug and alcohol problems. Some thought that
their district's counselors and SAP teams were able to provide the supports needed while
others felt the need for additional outside assistance. One participant shared that his
counselors have a problem scheduling sessions because the district does not want
students removed from instructional time for counseling. Several of the administrators
reported that they have created conversation clubs and'Lunch Buddy'groups that include
both regular education and special education students.
Seven of the eight participants responded that all their students with emotional
needs had behavioral support plans. They confirmed that most of these plans are based
on Functional Behavioral Assessments. District staff members generally conduct Level 1
and Level 2 FBAs while behavioral specialists complete Level 3 assessments. Several of
the participants shared that they would prefer that the Level 3 assessments be completed
by the teachers and district staff that work with the children because they have first hand
258
knowledge of those students. Several of the participants explained that they have
conducted CPI trainings as well as sessions on conducting an FBA and writing a behavior
support plan. One participant shared that the psychologist in the district do counseling
sessions with the parents of newly identified special needs students in order to familiarize
them with the special education process and to answer any questions they may have about
the program or their childs disability. One district administrator shared that all the
students with emotional needs in the district are involved in counseling groups.
Summary of Research Question #5
What monitoring system is in place to assess the progress of special education students
throughout these districts?
All of the participants shared that the students with special needs in their districts
are progress monitored. They are also sure that all the teachers have been trained on the
use of the assessment materials. Two of the administrators felt that their districts need to
improve their progress monitoring procedures and provide more efficient testing
materials. Two of the participants were aware that most of the teachers in their districts
have done a good job at monitoring but they were also aware that some teachers are more
diligent about it than others. All of the case study administrators expect that the results
received through progress monitoring are used to drive instructions. The participants
were sure that most of the teachers do use this information but they are aware that others
do the testing but do not use the results to change their instructional approaches. One
259
administrator believes that teachers need on- going staff development on the monitoring
tools and the use of monitoring data in lesson planning and writing IEP goals. All of the
participants confirmed that the information gained from monitoring should be used to
develop students' IEPs. One director shared that she had not always known that to be the
case. She has seen IEP goals addressing areas that were not identified through testing as
a weakness and other areas that showed weaknesses that were not addressed in goals.
The majority of participants shared that they expect that students are being monitored on
a weekly or biweekly schedule. They also know of some students who need daily
monitoring for some skills. Most of the districts monitor progress in the subjects of math,
reading, writing, organization and study skills while one district also monitors for social
studies and science. The districts use a variety of assessment tools to monitor student
progress. These tools include Aims Web, DEBELS, Fuchs and Fuchs, Read 180, Wilson
Reading, Power School, Performance Tracker, IEP Writer, the QRI, the Woodcock
Johnson and the Universal Screener for RTI. Most districts also use Curriculum Based
Assessments. One of the supervisors cautioned that the use of a CBA did not stand up in
court as an appropriate testing tool during a due process hearing in her district. Several
of the administrators reported that they are not satisfied that the assessment tools that they
currently used are providing a clear, consistent picture of a special needs students
progress from class to class and school to school. They shared that their districts are
looking for a testing instrument that can be used with all students from kindergarten
through to 12th grade. Other participants reported that they are satisfied that the
assessments they are using are adequate. One administrator declared that transition
260
meetings between staff members in each of the schools have provided teachers with an
accurate picture of the incoming students and their needs. The participants explained that
information about monitoring is shared with parents on a quarterly basis. This
information is converted to graphs or recorded on rubrics. Some of the administrators felt
that communication between parents and teachers is strong at the elementary level and
decreases as the students enter middle or high school. The participants also shared that
progress monitoring at the high school level can be problematic because of the different
courses and different schedules. One director stated that it is extremely difficult to
monitor high school literacy. One supervisor reported that she expects that most of the
high school students, who have tested at the 8' grade level in reading and math, will only
be monitored in study skills and organizational skills.
The case study special education administrators explained that they can not be at
all IEP meetings so they rely on building administrators to ensure that teachers are
collecting, analyzing and applying data to create programs for students in special
education that address their individual needs. In order to do that, the building
administrators must be up to date on the changes in programming and regulations
concerning special education. One case study supervisor suggested that school
administrator need to be the "teacher of the teachers'!
Summary of Research Question #6
What programs do districts have in place that welcomes all students into their schools?
261
Seven of the eight case study administrators confirmed that their districts' mission
statements contain statements that welcome all students into their schools. One
supervisor pointed out that the statement is written on the outside of the administration
building. Another director shared that his district has developed a policy welcoming all
students into the district. This policy is posted on the districf s website. One supervisor
explained that the mission statement was created to welcome all students. That includes
students in special education, minority students and students who are economically
disadvantaged . All the districts reported that they had displays for welcoming posters
and information materials about special education in the lobbies or special places in their
buildings. One district is in the process of creating a parenting center in one of its new
buildings. This room can be used as a library for books and information about special
education. Other districts shared that they provide space for parent groups to meet. All
of the districts have some kind of special education parents groups in their districts. The
parents with the support of the district run most of these groups. The districts try to
support the groups in various ways. Some districts provide guest speakers while others
meet with the groups or their representative to discuss topics and issues. In two districts,
the school superintendent meets with the parents on a regular basis to exchange
information and discuss current issues. In another district, the superintendent invites
other district administrators such as the business manager and curriculum supervisor to
the meetings to share what is happening in their departments. The supervisors reported
that the support of the superintendent is very important for the success of their programs.
One district does not have a parent group but there is a township special education group
262
that supports parents. One of the supervisors shared that there is a very strong special
education parent group in her district that has been in existence for over thirty years. The
majority of the districts reported that only a small percentage of parents attend these
meetings. One director explained that he had attempted to start a parent group but he
could not find any parents who were interested in joining a group. This year, he has been
able to get a small group of parents to start a district parents' group. The participants
shared that some of the groups have been unsuccessful because they do not address the
issues that are important to all the parents of special education students in the district.
Some of the groups have been unsuccessful because some parents want to champion their
own agendas. The intermediate unit director shared that she chairs a special education
task force that meets monthly with advocates, parents and school district representatives.
She reported that the sessions are well attended. She suggested a change in time for the
meetings but the parents preferred to meet during the day as opposed to at night because
of their many other obligations.
All of the case study participants reported that 90% to 100% of their parents
attend IEP meetings. The majority of the case study administrators feel that they have a
good working relationship with most parents. One of the districts sent out a survey to all
the parents of special needs students. The results revealed that some of the parents need
to have the wording and acronyms of the IEP explained and several others mentioned
that the large number of staff members at the IEP meeting was very intimidating. Several
of the districts have an open door policy for parents to visit at their schools. One
supervisor shared that on any given day, there are more parents in the buildings than
263
staff. Another supervisor clarified that the parents are welcome at any time but they need
to let the office know that they are coming for security reasons. Several of the case study
participants indicated that they do not usually invite parents to special education staff
development sessions but have included them when the parents have requested
permission to attend the sessions.
All the case study participants reported that they have parents on their districts'
strategic planning committees. A majority of the case study districts have parents of
special needs students on their school boards.
One director reported that there is support in his district for the inclusion of
students. He spoke about a prom that was held in his district for students with special
needs. He indicated that over 500 students attended from over four states. The high
school students decorated the cafeteria to look like the Academy Awards Event. The
students entered the affair on a red carpet. Other districts also reported that the general
education students in their district have also planned special events and groups for
students with special needs in their schools.
All of the case study participants stated that all students are welcome to join extracurricular activities. The participants reported that most students in the learning support
and emotional support programs are included in the same activities as general education
students. Other students with special needs have been included on sports teams as players
or managers while others have joined the pep club, choir, band, drama club, yearbook and
homework club. The districts reported that they have provided assistants in some
instances but they have not had many requests for that type of service. Most of the
264
students with special needs take the same busses home from activities as the general
education students but all the participants agreed that if special transportation is needed, it
is provided. Many of the parents of students with special needs transport the students to
and from out -of -district activities.
Summary of Research Question #7
What factors do the special education and pupil services directors and supervisors feel are
responsible for their districts meeting the LRE levels set by the Gaskin Settlement?
Five of the case study participants felt that having the support of the district
superintendent was extremely important for their success in including students with
special needs into the least restrictive environment. Six of the participants reported that
their districts school boards were willing to provide the supports and services that were
needed to include students.
Six of the eight directors and supervisors reported that the district's staff members
had embraced the idea of inclusion and were doing what ever they could to include
students with special needs into their classrooms. Five of the district administrators
shared that they believe that the support of their parents was a factor for the districts
success with inclusion. Three of the participants stated that their districts had a vision and
commitment to inclusion before the Gaskin Settlement. Two of the districts felt that it
was easier for them to include students because they were small districts with a small
number of students with special needs .Other mentioned co-teaching, affluence, student
265
awareness and a community culture of belonging as additional factors that could
contribute to their successful inclusion of special needs students.
Research Summary
The summary of Chapter V is based on these themes: the effects of the Gaskin
Settlement on the case study districts, the least restrictive environment, professional
development, supports and services, progress monitoring, welcoming all students and
district data.
Effects of the Gaskin Settlement on Case Study Districts
In the area of the effects of the Gaskin Settlement on school districts in this
research study, the data seems to suggest all the case study districts are different and
therefore were affected by the case in different ways. Some of the district administrators
felt that the Gaskin Settlement had very little impact on their districts because they had
already taken steps to include students with special needs into the least restrictive
environment. For some districts, that was by choice while for others it was out of
necessity because of the small size of their districts. All the districts shared that the
settlement gave them an opportunity to examine and improve their existing programs.
Most of the districts reported that they did not experience much of a financial impact as a
result of the settlement. They felt that they saved money by bringing students back into
the districts while at the same time they did have to spend money for the cost of new
classes and more supports and services. The majority of the administrators reported that
they either have created new autistic support classes or they are in the process of creating
266
them. All the districts mentioned that they needed to hire more personnel especially
instructional assistants, one-on-one-assistant and support specialists. Most of the
districts have had some difficulty finding space for all the new programs but new
construction seems to be the solution. The administrators were divided on their reporting
of the legal effects of the Gaskin Case on their districts. Some saw no increase in Due
Process Hearings, some saw an increase in hearings unrelated to the Gaskin Settlement
and others reported an increase in hearings directly related to the Gaskin Settlement.
Least Restrictive Environment
All the districts reported including students with learning disabilities, emotional
needs, mental retardation, physical handicaps and autism into general education classes.
They also reported that many of the students have been successfully included with the
assistance of general education teachers, special education teachers, paraprofessionals,
and specialist teachers. Most of the districts have created co-teaching teams to address the
needs students with disabilities in the general education classes. In addition, most of the
districts include the majority of students with special needs into the general education
science and social studies classes. Some districts are beginning to include the majority of
their students into general education math classes. All the participants have been
providing special education in-service sessions to teachers and paraprofessional to
provide them with the skills needed to accommodate students with special needs into the
least restrictive environments. Most of the districts have created new programs for their
students with autism in their district schools. These students are also included in general
267
education classes when possible with the support of a paraprofessional. Most of the
districts revealed that they have had difficulties meeting the needs of some students with
emotional needs, autism and multiple disabilities and have sent those students to outside
placements to get them the programming they need to be successful.
Staff Development
The majority of administrators reported that they are not provided with adequate
time to conduct staff development sessions on all the topics related to special education.
They have provided training in the areas of the Gaskin Case, IDEA, RTI, and CPI,
differentiated instruction, co-teaching and IEP writing. The participants reported that
they all have invited outside presenters to conduct some sessions while they also depend
on district staff for other trainings. Most districts reported that they try to provide follow
up sessions for these sessions but the lack of time has also had on affect on the number of
sessions that can be scheduled. Some of the administrators are providing follow up on
development topics by providing feedback to teachers through classroom observations.
They also report an increasing trend to include special education teachers into curriculum
development sessions, which they feel is extremely helpful to those teachers that are coteaching and to the co-teaching programs. The participants also felt that the success or
failure of inclusion depends greatly on the support provided by district and school
administrators.
Supplemental Aids and Supports
268
Most of the participants acknowledged that they had some difficulties providing
time for collaboration. They mentioned that it is easier to collaborate in some schools
than in others. Most of the administrators have employed the support of the school
principals to try to schedule some time for teachers to meet and discuss students. All
agreed that more time is needed, especially for instructional assistants to meet with the
teachers who they support in the general education classes.
All of the districts have purchased new technology equipment such as laptops and
computer software to help their special needs students be successful in the least
restrictive environment. Some of the districts have also purchased alternate programs that
can be used in the general education classes but more often in the resource, rooms to
provide the academic skills that may be needed for a student to be included. The districts
have also purchased or installed sensory equipment such as swings, weights, ball chairs,
air conditioning or special lighting. The administrators also report that special furniture
has been purchased to accommodate the physical needs of students in special education.
Some of the districts have had to make changes to the schools to comply with ADA
specifications. Many of the districts have recently completed or are in the process of
completing construction projects that will be ADA compliant.
The district administrators reported that the general and special education teachers
are trained in accommodating and modifying lessons, assignments and assessments.
They also report that district personnel has been trained in conducting FBAs and writing
behavioral plans based on those assessments. The districts also report that the emotional
needs of students are being met through individual and group counseling sessions with
269
district personnel such as behavioral specialists, autistic support specialists, guidance
counselors and school psychologists. Most of the districts receive additional support for
their students from outside counseling agencies.
Progress Monitoring
All of the districts' administrators reported that students in their districts are
progress monitored and all special education teachers have been trained on the
monitoring tools. Some of the participants reported that they need to improve the
monitoring process by providing more staff development on using data from progress
monitoring to change instructional practices and on using the monitoring results to write
relevant EEP goals and objectives. The progress monitoring results are sent home
quarterly but many district administrators know that some teachers send the information
home on a more regular basis. Most of the districts monitor in reading, writing and
math. Some monitor social studies and science as well. The districts use a variety of
assessment materials throughout their schools. Many of the common tools include Aims
Web, DIBELS and RTI assessments. Most of the districts reported the use of CBM to
assess students' progress. One supervisor cautioned that the use of CBM for assessments
did not hold up in a Due Process hearing as an adequate assessment of progress. Many of
the districts reported problems monitoring the progress of high school students. They
contribute that to the difficulties scheduling monitoring sessions and the types of
monitoring that need to take place at that level. Many of the students with special needs
do not need to be monitored in reading and math but still have organizational and study
skills issues that need to be continually addressed. Some of the district administrators
270
had concerns about the use of multiple testing materials throughout their districts. Many
felt that results from grade to grade and level to level were inconsistent because of the
differences in testing tools. They mentioned that they are looking for one tool that can be
used with all their students.
Welcoming All Students
The case study participants reported that all their districts have mission statements
welcoming all students into the district. One district has an inclusion policy. All of the
administrators felt that they worked in a very welcoming district. Many relayed stories of
teachers, students and parents doing things to help special needs students feel like
members of the district. Most of the districts mentioned that their district superintendents
and school boards were very supportive of the inclusion students with special needs. All
of the districts have a parent support group that meets to discuss the needs of the students
with special needs. Most of the participants admitted that they need to improve
attendance at those meetings. All the districts reported a very large percentage for
parents' attendance at IEP meetings. They stated that between 90% and 100% of their
parents are involved in the IEP sessions. They also report that parents of students with
special needs attend some staff development sessions and strategic planning meetings and
are on most of the districts' school boards.
All of the districts reported that students with special needs are included in extra
curricular activities. They admitted that most of the students with special needs in
activities are in learning support or emotional support programs. However, all the
districts reported that students in the other disabilities categories have also been included
271
in activities. Some of theses students need the support of a paraprofessional to be
involved in these activities while others need special transportation to events. All of the
districts reported that if a child needs an assistant or transportation, the school districts
would provide those accommodations.
Factors Responsible for School District's Success with Inclusion.
Most of the participants reported that they believe that the support of the various
stakeholders in their districts was the major factor that affected their districts' ability to
include students with special needs into the least restrictive environment. These
stakeholders include the districts' superintendents, school board members, parents and
staff members. Some of the participants felt that their districts were successful because
they had committed to the philosophy of inclusion before it was mandated by the state.
Others mentioned that they felt that the size of their districts had an effect on their ability
to include students.
District Demographic Data
The demographic data included on the districts in this case study is too
statistically insignificant to be considered as a factor for the districts' ability to include
special needs students into the least restrictive environment because only seven out of
five hundred and one districts were included in the study. An examination of the data did
reveal some similarities between the districts that may serve as the basis for further
research. The data reveals that all of the districts are located in suburban or rural
communities. A large proportion of the residents of the districts are high school and
272
college graduates. The average family household income for the districts ranges from
average to well above the state's average family household income. The number of
children living in single parent households is significantly below the state average in that
area. The average SAT and PSSA scores for the students in these districts were above
the state average and the graduation rate for high school students was above the state
average as well. The number of students labeled as autistic, hearing impaired, other
health impaired and speech and language support students was above the state average
throughout most of the case study districts. The number of students with mental
retardation was below the state average in most districts. The percentage of Asian
American and Hispanic students identified for special education was lower when
compared to the percentage of those students in most of the individual districts. The
percentage of African American students identified for special education was higher in
three districts than the percentage of African Americans in the district.
Relation to Literature Review
Villa and Thousands (1994) state that there are five factors needed to create an
inclusive district. First, there must be a vision based on belief and commitment. Most of
the participants in this study pointed out that their districts had a plan for inclusion before
the Gaskin Settlement. They also shared that the mission statements of their district
include wording that addresses their inclusive beliefs. One district has a policy related to
the inclusion of all students.
The second factor needed for an inclusive districts states that all personnel must
receive meaningful training in skills and strategies that will help teachers meet the needs
273
of their special education teachers. The information obtained from this study reveals that
all the districts have provided staff development in areas such as differentiated
instruction, co-teaching and inclusive practices. According to Joyce and Showers
(1980), quality staff development should include components for theory, practice and
feedback. Some of the special education directors reported that one of the problems with
their professional development sessions was that they did not always have time to
provide practice and feedback to their teachers. Some have begun to have specialists
come to the schools after presentations to do observations and provided feedback for
teachers.
The third component that was cited by Villa and Thousands (1994) stresses the
need for all stakeholders to have meaningful intrinsic incentives to sustain momentum for
the inclusion model. Gaining teacher and community support for inclusion can be
difficult for district special education administrators. The responses from the research
questions revealed that one supervisor actually had a presentation by Lydia Gaskins. She
felt that was the catalyst for support from the community. Teachers could relate to this
student and wanted to help others like her. Another director shared that when parents
were able to see that their children with special needs were being successfully included
in general education classes, they no longer opposed inclusion but actually embraced it.
One of the most important factors that provide motivation for teachers to continue with
the inclusion process has been the achievement results that the special education students
are making in their classrooms.
274
The fourth factor that Villa and Thousands shares that is needed for a successful
inclusion program is the availability of adequate resources and supports that are needed
for students with special needs to be able to function in an inclusive setting. The reports
from the participants provided a plethora of examples of the types of supplementary
services that they have provided to their students. According to Burns (2003),
supplementary aids are not optional. They are an integral part of the rights of special
needs students. The participants have reported that they have been given approval from
their school boards when they have requested additional personnel, more technical
equipment or even changes to the school environment. The stakeholders in these districts
have shown that they are willing to purchase the supports needed for their special
education populations.
According to Villa and Thousands (1994), the fifth factor that all districts need for
a successful inclusive program is the presence of a planning procedure that addressed the
process of change. All the districts have a special education strategic planning
committee. This committee is comprised of district administrators, regular education and
special education teachers, parents, board members and other district personnel. The
purpose of these committees is to plan for changes that are needed in the districts' special
education programs.
Limitations Noted
'No proposed research project is without limitations. There is no such thing as a
perfectly designed study'(Marshall & Rossman, 1999, p.42). Qualitative research has
275
been criticized by those who have suggested that this type of research lacks rigor, is
difficult to qualify, is subject to researcher bias, and limited in its applicability to other
situation..
As with most studies, this research had limitations. One of the limitations of this
study was its lack of generality to school districts outside of Southeastern Pennsylvania
due to the difference in the composition of districts between counties. In addition, the
results of this study cannot be generalized to large urban districts due to the fact that the
sizes of the school districts in suburban southeastern Pennsylvania are limited to smaller
more centralized districts.
The use of a tape recorder during the interviews with the case study participants,
points to another type of limitation. The interview process was interrupted when the tapes
and batteries were exhausted and needed to be replaced. In addition, the tapes often
recorded environmental noises that detracted from the clarity of the recording.
Another limitation of this study is the possibility of misinterpretation of data
results. The researcher gave copies of the final draft to the participants in order to verify
the findings. In addition, interviews were conducted with participants who were not well
known by the researcher in order to control for participants' reaction to the researcher that
may have influenced their responses to the study question. Another limitation of this
study was that the interviews were only conducted with the special education and pupil
services supervisors and directors from the districts. Interviews were not conducted with
district superintendents and school administrators who are responsible for the placement
of special needs students. An additional limitation of this study involves the
276
employment background of the researcher. It is a possibility that the researcher1 s
experiences during twenty years in special education had an effect on the interpretation of
the data and therefore the results of the study.
A final limitation concerns the purpose of the study. Participants were selected
to be interviewed because their districts had been successful in meeting the least
restrictive environment levels of the Gaskin Agreement. This may have created an effect
by which the participants concentrated mainly on the successes of their efforts while
downplaying some of the challenges they encountered while trying to include special
needs students.
Recommendations
1. The results of this study stress the importance of having the support of all
stakeholders for the inclusion of students with special needs. One of the
supervisors credits the presentation by Lydia Gaskins as having a great impact
on the views of those in her district toward the inclusion of students.
Presentations by students, who have been successful in an inclusive
environment, may be helpful to ensure that all district members understand the
importance of inclusion.
2. Many of the district administrators admitted that their districts are not
equipped to handle students with severe emotional problems in combination
with drug, alcohol and mental health concerns. Exemplary programs that
have been successful in other districts should be explored and information
about those programs should be shared with the districts' administrators.
277
3.
Most of the participants expressed frustration with the limited amount of staff
development time allotted for special education presentations. Collaboration
with the districts' curriculum and instruction team may result in future
presentations developing a"co-presentef format where special education
concerns are included in staff development sessions addressing general
education issues.
4. Some of the participants reported that current progress monitoring tools are
usually not appropriate for their high school populations. In addition, other
participants felt that the use of multiple assessment tools throughout their
districts did not present a cohesive report of a childs progress from grade to
grade and level to level. The development of a research based assessment tool
that can monitor progress from kindergarten through high school would help
to eliminate this problem.
5. All of the case study participants reported the importance of paraprofessionals
in the inclusion process. Many of these administrators reported that the
paraprofessionals, in the special education programs, rarely have time
scheduled in their day to collaborate. Discussions concerning the importance
of collaboration time should be held with principals and district administration
in order to find a solution to this dilemma.
6. Most of the district special education directors and supervisors reported that
there is a parent support group associated with their district. They also
reported that a very small percentage of parents attend these meetings. One of
278
the participants shared that parents requested that meetings be held during the
day when their children were in school. Other participants related that some
parents did not attend because the meetings were more complaint sessions
than support meetings. Inviting speakers and having a publicized planned
agenda for each meeting may provide more opportunities for parents to
become more involved in these sessions.
7. Data was collected to discover similarities and differences that exist between
the case study districts. Additional research should be conducted to explore
the effect that district demographics have on the inclusion of students into the
least restrictive environment.
8. The districts included in this study were identified as being successful in
meeting the LRE levels as determined by the Gaskin Agreement. Future
studies should include school districts that have not been able to meet Least
Restrictive Environment Levels. In this way, the actions taken by those
districts that have met the Gaskins mandate could be compared with the
actions taken by those districts that were less successful at meeting the LRE
levels.
9. The need for support from district leaders was identified by the participants in
this study as a contributing factor for the successful inclusion of special needs
students. The School System Leadership program at Widener University could
assist future school leaders to provide support in their districts by
familiarizing students with the details of the Gaskin Agreement and providing
279
them with strategies that have been helpful for districts to include special
needs students into the least restrictive environment.
Reflections
The Gaskin v. The Pennsylvania Department of Education Settlement has affected
the placement of special education students in all schools throughout Pennsylvania. The
premise behind this settlement is that students have the right to be included with their age
group peers for as much time as possible during the school day. This researcher has
surmised through the personal interview sessions and the participants' responses to the
interview questions that each and every one of these administrators fervently believes that
including special needs students into the least restrictive environment is the right thing to
do. It is also evident that these study participants have shared their passion for inclusion
with all the members of their districts. It became apparent that the stakeholders in the
case study districts have also accepted the importance of inclusion for the students in
their schools. For inclusion to be successful, it is critical to have the support of the district
superintendent and the school board. It is clear that these districts have both. It is also
obvious that the teachers, assistants and other members of the schools such as the
facilities managers, transportation directors and the food service directors are aware of
and in support of the districts' inclusion policies.
The chances are small that these districts will be placed in the corrective action
phase by the state for not including enough students into the least restrictive environment.
For most of the districts, this was never a concern because they had already started
including special needs students into the least restrictive environment before the Gaskin
280
Settlement. However, they still are trying to find additional ways to include more
students. The information obtained through the interview sessions and the interview
transcripts revealed that many of the districts are experiencing the same successes and
some of the same frustrations. At the conclusion of the all interviews, the participant
asked if they could receive a copy of the research results. They shared that they wanted to
know what actions other districts were taking to address some of these problems.
This researcher also perceived that these administrators had the confidence to
think out of the box for solutions to including students and providing supports for those
students. They seemed to know that the traditional approaches to educating students in
special education programs needed to be re-examined to find better ways to teach
students.
The responses to this inquiry reveal that the participants are also avid supporters
of their educational staff members. They all are aware of the difficult task that teachers
face in including students into their classes. These administrators spoke often of the need
to provide the teachers in their districts with the necessary supports and training to help
them meet the needs of their students. It was evident also that the teachers in these
districts are receptive to including students and are willing to try new strategies to help
these students.
Some opponents to inclusion argue that special education should be driven by the
IEP. They feel that inclusion often ignores the individual component of education
planning. It would be a misrepresentation of the research data to assert that these
directors and supervisors believe that all students with special needs can be
281
accommodated in the general education classrooms for the entire day. The participants in
this study did not ignore the individuality of the students in their care. They constantly
made reference to providing support and services to meet the individual needs of their
students. They also shared that they believe there are times when students and their
parents feel they are better accommodated in a resource or full time placement. The
general education classroom is not always a synonym for the least restrictive
environment.
The Gaskin Settlement has been the catalyst for change for special education in
the state of Pennsylvania. In the past, special needs students had been isolated and
treated differently from their age group peers. The settlement has been responsible for
these children gaining access to the same curriculum and activities that other students
experience. Special needs students are being challenged to succeed to the best of their
abilities. This settlement has created and opportunity for school districts throughout the
state to examine the policies and practices that have been established for special needs
students. Districts have made great strides in trying to provide the supports and services
necessary to help all students feel welcome and included. Teachers and school personnel
have begun to embrace special needs students and include them as members of their
classes. Special needs students are undertaking new challenges in the classroom and
throughout the school community. I believe that this has been a very positive result of
the settlement.
The pendulum has definitely swung, from a place where special needs students
were mistreated and ignored, to a place where they are accepted and welcomed. Some
282
supporters of the settlement would like to see the pendulum swing even further to the
point where all special needs students are included with supports into the general
education setting at all times. After researching this topic and interviewing special
education supervisors and directors, I believe that the pendulum should stop somewhere
in the middle of the spectrum. I do believe that all special needs students should be
included as much as possible into the general education environment with supports and
services. I also believe that inclusion in the general education setting should be
considered on an individual basis by the members of the IEP team and should address the
individual needs of the child. All students should receive the instruction and experiences
that they need to help them to achieve to their highest potential. I do not believe that
students should be included in activities for the sole purpose of meeting guidelines. They
should be included in classes and activities where they will receive some benefit from
participation.
The information that I have gained by researching this topic has been very helpful
to me in my position as a special education supervisor in a district that did not
successfully meet the Gaskin mandates for the inclusion of students into the least
restrictive environment. I have already started to use ideas and strategies that have been
shared by the participants in the study to increase the time that special needs students in
my care have been included into the Least Restrictive Environment. It is hoped that the
information from this study can be shared with other teachers and administrators who
would like to make a positive change in the lives of special needs students throughout the
state.
283
The Gaskin Settlement will come to a conclusion. There are some who believe the
supporters of the settlement will ask for a continuance of the settlement while others
argue that a settlement is complete when all of the terms of that settlement have been
met. This however, will not be the end of the inclusion movement. It is hoped that
information that has been shared by these participants can be used by districts to develop
a successful inclusion program that will meet the individual needs of students with
disabilities.
284
References
Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, Education Topics/
Inclusion. Retrieved on Marchl2, 2008, from
www.ascd.org/portal.site/ascd/menuitem.7doo8a279d/28addeb3ffd.b621089Oc.
Abend, A. (2001) Planning and designing for students with disabilities. National
Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities, Educational Research Center,
ED454699, EF005988 2-7.
Basic Education Circular (Pennsylvania Code) (2006), Least Restrictive Environment
(LRE) and Educational Placement for Students with Individualized Education
Programs, 22Pa. Code @ 14.102 (a) (2) (xxiv). Retrieved on September 6, 2007,
from www.pde.state.pa.us/kl2/cwp/view.asp?A=l 1 ©QUESTION ID=67483
&pp= 12@n=l.
Bureau Director's Advisory Panel of Least Restrictive Environment Practices.
Retrieved on September 6, 2008, from
www.pde.state.pa.us/special edu/lib/special edu/Settlement Agreement.pdf.
Burns, E.F. (2003), A Handbook for Supplementary Aids and Services, Springfield,
Illinois: Charles C. Thomas V. 35-84.
Burstein, N., Sears, S., Wilcoxen, A., Cabello, B., & Spagna, M. (2004), Moving
toward inclusive practices, Remedial and Special Education, March/April, Vol. 25,
(2).
Building the Legacy, IDEA 2004. Retrieved on March 12, 2008, from
www.idea.ed.gov.
285
Bursuck, W., Friend, M. (2001), Including Students with Special Needs: A Practical
Guide for Classroom Teachers. (3rd edition). Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.
Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning, (2005) Special Education: Every
Teachef s Responsibility, All California teachers need professional development
and on- the-job support to teach special education students, Centerview_l-4.
Retrieved on January 25, 2008, from www.cft/.org?Centerviews/Augustpr.html.
Code of Federal Regulations (34 Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.) Sec.
300.550(B)
Community Alliance for Special Education, (2005), Special Education Rights and
Responsibilities, Chapter 7, Information on Least Restrictive Environment, 13Chapter Manual, Protection and Advocacy Inc., Ninth edition, 1.
Council for Exceptional Children, (2007), Supplementary and Related Services in
Special Education. Retrieved on September 6, 2008, from
www.cec.sped.org/AM/Template.cfm?template=/CM/ContentDisplav.cfm&
ContentID=2466-38K.
Deno, S. (2003), Development in curriculum based measurement, Journal of Special
Education, 37, 184-192.
Department of Education. Retrieved on January 16, 2006, from www.ed.week.org/
Dickinson College, For Lydia, for all, Dickinson Magazine .Winter 2008, Vol.85.
Retrieved on October 7, 2008, from
www.dickinson.edu/magazine/article.cfm?article=178.
286
DiPaola, M., Walther-Thomas, C. (2003), Principals and special education, the
critical role of school leaders, Center on Personnel Studies in Special Education,
University of Florida, Educational Resources Information Center, (ERIC)
ED44715,EC309925 5-13.
Douvanis, G., Hulsey, D. (2002), The least restrictive environment mandate: How has
it been defined by the courts, ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted
Education, Arlington, VA. ED 469442 2-6.
Education for All Handicapped Children Act (20 United States Code (O.S.C) sec. 14.2
(a) (5) (A))
Etscheidt, S., Bartlett, L. (1999), The IDEA amendments: A four-step approach for
determining supplementary aids and services; Exceptional Children, 168-172.
Franenkel, J., Wallen, N. (2006), How to Design and Evaluate Research in
Education, sixth edition, McGraw Hill, 439.
Fuchs, L., Fuchs, D. (2002), What Is Scientifically- Based Research on Progress
Monitoring?, Vanderbilt University, CTB/ McGraw-Hill LLC/ Monterey
California, 3-9.
Gall, J., Gall, M., Borg, W. (2005), Applying Educational Research, A Practical
Guide, fifth edition, Allyn and Bacon, 311 -539.
Garrett, J. (2008), Is your school accessible and inviting, Kappa Delta Pi Record,
106-107.
287
Gaskin Settlement Agreement, (2006), Fact Sheet, Supplementary Aids and Services.
Retrieved on September 12, 2007, from
www.pde.state.pa.us/special edu/lib/special edu/ Settlement Agreement pdf.
Gaskin v. Pennsylvania Department of Education (2004). Retrieved on September 12,
2007, www.PDE.State.Pa.US.
Gaskin v. Pennsylvania Department of Education, Gaskin Settlement AgreementOverview. Retrieved on September 20, 2007, from www.pde.state.pa.us. pdf.
Gaskin v. Pennsylvania Department of Education, United States District Court,
Philadelphia-Summary of Principal Provisions in the Proposed Settlement
Agreement. (2004). Retrieved on September 12, 2007, from
www.pde.state.pa.us.pde internet Gaskin.
Guskey, T. (1994), Professional Development in Education: In Search of the Optimal
Mix, University of Kentucky, Educational Resources Information Center, (ERIC)
ED 369181, EA025807.
Hammond, H., & Ingallis, L. (2003), Teachers attitudes toward inclusion: survey
results from elementary school teachers in three southwestern rural school districts,
Rural Special Education Quarterly, Abstract, 1-3.
Hines, R. (2001), Inclusion in the middle school, Eric Digest, Clearinghouse on
Elementary and Early Childhood Education, ED 0-PS-01-13, 1-3.
Historical Society of Montgomery County. Retrieved on October 16, 2008, from
www.hsmcpa.org.
Individuals with Disabilities Act (Sec. 300.28 Supplementary Aids and Services)
288
Inside Information (2007), Inclusive education, The Newsletter of the Institute on
Disabilities at Temple University, Vol. 5.1.
Joyce, B., Showers, B. (1980), Improving in-service training: the message of
research. Educational Leadership, February 37(5), 375-385. Eric EJ216055.
Joyce, B., Showers, B. (2002), Designing, training and peer counseling: our need for
learning, VA, USA, ASCD, National College for School Leadership, 1-5.
Retrieved on September 6, 2008, from www.ncsl.org.uk/media-F7b-94-randdengaged-jovce2.pdf.
Little, M., Houston, D. (2003), Research into practice through professional
development, Remedial and Special Education, 24 (2), 75-87.
Lockerson, J. (1992), Learning disabilities, glossary of some important terms, ERIC
Digest, E 517, ED352780.
Malarz, L. (1996), Using staff development to create inclusion schools. Journal of
Staff Development, 17 (3) 1-11. Retrieved on September 6, 2008, from
www.nsdc.org/library/publications/isd/jsdmalar.cfm.
Martin, E., Martin, R., Terman, D. (1996). The legislative and litigation history of
special education, The Future of Children, Princeton-Brookings, Spring 1996, p.
26-30. Retrieved on 12/10/08, from www.future ofchildren.org/ information
2826/information show.htm.
289
Marshall, C , Rossman, G., (1999). Designing Qualitative Research, 3 r edition, Sage
Publications, International Educational and Professional Publisher. 42. Retrieved
on January 6, 2009, from
www.depts.washington.edu/methods/readings/com501 marshal the what of
study.pdf.
National Agenda for the Education of Children and Youth with Visual Impairments,
Including those with Multiple Disabilities, (2006), Least Restrictive Environment
and Provision of Services Requirements, p. 1-4. Retrieved on March 11, 2008,
fromwww.tsbvi.edu/agenda/policy3.htm.
National Association for Down Syndrome. Retrieved on September 12, 2007, from
www.nads.org/pages new/facts.htm/.
National Center for Learning Disabilities, IDEA terms to know. Retrieved on
December 10, 2008, fromwww.ncld.org/content/view/92/.
National Education Association, Special Education and the Individuals with
Disabilities Act, p. 1-2. Retrieved on September 19, 2007, from
www.nea.org/specialed/index.html.
Palmquest, R., 1997, The case study as a research method- uses and users of
information, The University of Texas at Austin Graduate School of library and
Information Sciences. Retrieved on January 6, 2009, from
www.fit.gslis.utexas.edu/-ssov/usesusers/1391d/b.htm.
Penn Data retrieved on May 30, 2009 from www.penndata.hbg.psu.edu.
290
Pennsylvania Basic Education Circular (Pennsylvania Code) - Least Restrictive
Environment, 2006. Retrieved on September 6, 2007, from www.pde.
Pennsylvania Department of Education, Bureau of Special Education, Settlement
Agreement, Gaskin v. Pennsylvania, Fact Sheet, Bureau Director's Advisory
Panel on Least Restrictive Environment Practices. Retrieved on September 12,
2007, from www.pde.state.Pa.,us/special edu/lib/special edu./Settlement
Agreement.pdf.
Pennsylvania Department of Education, Gaskin Settlement Agreement-Overview.
Retrieved on September 20, 2007, from www.pde.state.pa.us .
Pennsylvania Department of Education, Gaskin Agreement Fact SheetSupplemental Aids and Services. Retrieved on March 20, 2008, from
www.pde.state.pa.us.
Pennsylvania Quick Facts from the US Census Bureau. Retrieved on October 16,
2008, from www.quickfacts.census.gov.
Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Network, Progress monitoring for
informed instructional decision-making for all students. PaTTAN. Retrieved on
January 10, 2008, from www.pattan.net.
Pfeiffer, S., Reddy, L. (1999), Inclusive practice with special needs students, theory,
research and application, Haworth Press, New York, New York, p. 4.
Philadelphia Inquirer, Report card on the schools. Retrieved on July 1, 2009 from
www.philly. com/reportcard.
291
Price, A., Mayfield, P., McFadden, A., Marsh, G. (2001), Collaborative teaching,
special education for inclusive classrooms, Parrot Publishing, LLC. Partnerships
with Parents, 1-9. Retrieved on September 6, 2008, from
www.parrotpublishing.com.
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, (2004), Gaskin Profile. Retrieved on
October 20, 2007, from www.pilcop.org/archive/2004-2%20Pilcop%20
news/LTR. pdf.
Quenemoen, R., Thurlow, M., Moen,R., Thompson, S., Morse, A. (2004), Progress
monitoring in an inclusive standards-based assessment and accountability system,
(Synthesis Report 53), University of Minnesota, National Center on Educational
Outcomes, 1-16.
Rasch, B., Smeeler, R. (1994), Education research complete, Thinking of inclusion
for all special needs students? Better think again, Phi Delta Kappan, September
1994, Vol.76, Issue 1.
Rutgers University Early Intervention and Special Education Glossary, The State
University of New Jersey Rutgers University, Special Education Clinic, School of
Law- Newark, Newark, New Jersey, p.l. Retrieved on December 10, 2008, from
www.specialeducation.rutgers.edu/definitions.pdf.
Safer, N., Fleischman, S. (2005), Research matters/ How students progress
monitoring improves instruction, Educational Leadership, 62, 81-83.
292
Sanacore, J. (1996), Ingredients for successful inclusion, Journal of Adolescent and
Adult Literacy, 40, 222. Retrieved on December 20, 2007, from http://oweb.ebscohost.com.
Schafer, L., Stuberg, W. (2002), Special Education Related Services: Volume 2,
Nebraska Department of Education, 2-6.
School Matters, retrieved on April 20, 2009 from www. schoolmatters. com
SPeNSE Summary Sheet, A study of personnel needs in special education, Funded by
OSEP and the U.S. Department of Education, Conducted by Westat. Retrieved on
January 19, 2008, from www.spence.org.
State of New Jersey, Department of Education, Placement in the Least Restrictive
Environment. Retrieved on October 18, 2007, from
www.state.nj ,us/education/specialed/Ire?Ire2.htm.
State University of New Jersey, Rutgers University, Special Education Glossary,
Special Education Clinic, School of Law, Newark, New Jersey. Retrieved
December 27, 2007, from www.specialeducation.rutgers.edu.
Stecker, P., Clemson University, Monitoring student progress in individualized
educational programs using curriculum-based measurement, National Center on
Student Progress Monitoring, Clemson University, p. 1-6. Retrieved on March 9,
2008, from www.studentprogress.org.
Steedman, Wayne, Esq., Legal Files Archives, Inclusion. Retrieved on September 2,
2008, from www.specialchild.com/arachives/lf-012.html.
293
Stenger, K., (2004), Appropriately implemented inclusion programs benefit all
students, Chapman University, March 2004. Retrieved on December 10, 2008,
fromwww.geocities.com/Krstenger/AppropriatleyImplementedInclusionPrograms
B enefitAll students. doc.
Stout, K. (2001), updated Houston, J. (2001), WEACs Director of Instruction and
Professional Development, Special education inclusion, Wisconsin Education
Association Council, retrieved on April 28, 2009 from
www.weac.org/issues Advocacy/Resources Paages On Issues One?special
Education?speci...
United States Department of Education-Report to Congress, U.S. Department of
Education. (1995). Retrieved January 4, 2008, from
www.ed.gov/legislation/ESEA02.
Villa, R., Thousand, J., (1994), Creating an inclusive school. Association for
Supervision and Curriculum Development, Alexandria, Virginia, 8, 59, 62-73.
Willis, S., Mann, L. (2000), Differentiating instruction, finding manageable ways to
meet individual needs, Curriculum Update, Winter 2000. Retrieved on
September 3, 2008, from www.ascd.org/ed topics/cu2000win willis.html.
Wedl, R. ( 2005), Response to intervention, an alternative to traditional eligibility
criteria for students with disabilities, Education/ Evolving, Center for Policy
Studies and Hamline University, 3-7.
294
Whitworth, J. (1999), The effects of professional development activities on the skill
acquisition of teachers, Education Resources Information Center (ERIC), ED
432537, SP038649, 1-16.
Yell, M., Shriner, J., Katsiyannis, A (2006), Individuals with Disabilities Education
Improvement Act of 2004 and IDEA Regulations of 2006: Implications for
Educators, Administrators, and Teacher Trainers, Focus on Exceptional
Children, 39(1)1-4.
Ysseldyke, S. (2004), Assessment In Special and Inclusive Education, Houghton
Mifflin, 52.
295
Appendix A
Research Questions and Supportive Questions
What impact has the Gaskin v. Pennsylvania Department of Education Settlement (2004)
had on seven school districts in Southeastern Pennsylvania?
1. What has been the financial impact of the Gaskin Case on your district?
2. Has the case affected the hiring or reassignment of staff?
3. Has the case affected the hiring or reassignment of medical personnel?
4. Have you had to find additional instructional areas in the school buildings to
accommodate students returning to their neighborhood schools?
5. How has the mandate affected your transportation department?
6. How has the mandate affected your food service department?
7. How has the case affected the amount of services required of your legal
department?
What specific actions have districts' Special Education Supervisors taken to include their
special needs students into the least restrictive environment?
1. What steps has your district taken to include learning support students into the
least restrictive environment?
2. What steps has your district taken to include emotional support students into the
least restrictive environment?
296
3. What steps has your district taken to include students across the Autistic Spectrum
into the least restrictive environment?
4. What steps has your district taken to include MR students into the least restrictive
environment?
5. What steps has your district taken to include Multiple Disability students into the
least restrictive environment?
6. What steps have been taken to give teachers time for collaborative planning?
What types of staff development have been provided to district staff members to prepare
them to educate special needs students in regular education settings?
What types of supplementary aids and services do districts have in place to ensure the
success of students with disabilities?
1. What opportunities are scheduled for school personnel to collaborate with
each other concerning their roles in the education of special needs
students?
2. How are para-educators given the opportunity to collaborate with teachers
and other support staff?
3. Who is responsible for the modification of test and assignments for
included students?
4. What types of alternative assessments are used with included special needs
students?
5. Has the district made any changes to the physical structure of their
buildings to accommodate students with physical disabilities?
6. What types of adaptive equipment have been used with the special needs
students?
7. What types of behavioral supports have been put in place to help students
with emotional needs?
What monitoring system is in place to assess the progress of special education students?
What factors do you feel are responsible for your district meeting the LRE levels for
inclusion of special needs students into the least restrictive environment ?
298
Appendix B
Permission Letter from District Superintendent
May 24, 2009
Dr. Barbara Patterson,
Chairperson, Widener University Institutional Review Board
Office of the Provost
Widener University
One University Place
Chester, PA
Dear Members of the IRB Committee,
On behalf of the XXXXX School District, I am writing to formally indicate my
awareness of the research proposed by Suzanne Bell, a Supervisor of Special Education
at Upper Moreland Township School District and a doctoral student at Widener
University. I am aware that Suzanne Bell intends to conduct an interview with
XXXXXX to investigate the effects of the Gaskin Settlement Agreement on
XXXXXX School District.
I have been assured that the information gleaned from this study will be
anonymous and will be kept in strict confidence.
I have the authority as District Superintendent to grant permission for Suzanne
Bell to conduct this interview in the
XXXXX School District. If you have any
questions or concerns, you may contact me at
Sincerely,
Superintendent of XXXXX School District
300
Appendix C
Letter to Participants
This is a follow up to a conversation that we had on XXXXX. At that time, I
spoke to you about your willingness to participate in an interview to be used in my
dissertation on the Gaskin Settlement Agreement. My proposal has been accepted and the
IRB at Widener has provisionally approved the interview. The IRB committee is
requiring that I obtain written permission from your District Superintendent for your
participation in this interview. I will be contacting your Superintendent and sending a
permission letter to be signed and placed on district letterhead. I will call you, as soon as
this process is completed, to set up an interview. The dissertation chair has requested that
I complete the interview by the end of June or the first week of July. Thank you once
again for your help. I look forward to meeting with you. If you have any questions or
concerns, please feel free to contact me at 215-830-1590.
Sincerely,
Suzanne Bell
Supervisor of Special Education and Student Services
Upper Moreland Township School District
301
Appendix D
CONSENT FORM
Widener University IRB Protocol Number Leave a blank, a number will be assigned
INVESTIGATOR(S) NAME:
Suzanne Bell, MA
Supervisor of Special Education and Student Services
Doctoral Candidate, Widener University
STUDY TITLE: A Case Study of the Effects of the Gaskin Case on School Districts in
Southeastern Pennsylvania
PURPOSE OF THE STUDY
This qualitative study seeks to investigate the impact of the Gaskin v. Pennsylvania
Department of Education Court Settlement Agreement on School Districts in
Southeastern County, Pennsylvania.
I am being asked to be a participant in the study because I am a director or supervisor in a
school district that has successfully met the mandates of the Gaskin Settlement Agreement.
DESCRIPTION OF THE STUDY.
302
. I am participating in this research study because of the information I may
be able to provide about my district's success in meeting the mandates of the Gaskin
Settlement. The interview for this study will be conducted in my school office. The
Interview will be audio-taped and transcribed. In addition, demographic data will be
collected about the student population in my district.
The amount of time required to participate in the study will be ninety minutes to
participate in the interview and an additional thirty minutes to verify the transcription of the
interview. There will be no cost to me for participating in this research.
RISKS AND DISCOMFORTS
As a participant in this study, I may experience a minimal amount of risk. The
probability of harm will not exceed the amount of harm experienced in the
execution of ordinary tasks in my daily life.
BENEFITS
As a participant in this research, I will receive a copy of the results of the
study. These results should help to inform me about procedures used in other
districts that have been helpful in meeting the mandates of the Gaskin Case. The
results of the study can be modeled in my districts to aid in improving the inclusion
of students in my district.
CONFIDENTIALITY
303
All documents and information pertaining to this research study will be kept
confidential in accordance with all applicable federal, state, and local laws and regulations. I
understand that data generated by the study may be reviewed by Widener University's
Institutional Review Board, which is the committee responsible for ensuring my welfare and
rights as a research participant, to assure proper conduct of the study and compliance with
university regulations. If any presentations or publication result from this research, my
school district and I will not be identified by name.
The information collected during my participation in this study will be kept for the
length of the study in a locked drawer in the researchers school office.
My confidentiality will be also protected by assigning codes to be used to identify
the participants and their districts in lieu of actual names.
TERMINATION OF PARTICIPATION
I may choose to withdraw from this study at any time and for any reason. If I choose
to drop out of the study, I will contact the investigator and my records will be destroyed.
COMPENSATION
I will not receive payment for being in this study. Participation in this study is
strictly voluntary. There will be no cost to me for participating in this research.
INJURY COMPENSATION
Neither Widener University nor any government or other agency funding this
research project will provide special services, free care, or compensation for any injuries
304
resulting from this research. I understand that treatment for such injuries will be at my
expense and/or paid through my medical plan.
QUESTIONS
All of my questions have been answered to my satisfaction and if I have further
questions about this study, I may contact Suzanne Bell, ,at Sbell@ UMTSD.org or at 215674- 4185. If I have any questions about the rights of research participants, I may call the
Chairperson of the Widener University's Institutional Review Board at 610-499-4110.
VOLUNTARY PARTICIPATION
I understand that my participation in this study is entirely voluntary, and that refusal
to participate will involve no penalty or loss of benefits to me. I am free to withdraw or
refuse consent, or to discontinue my participation in this study at anytime without penalty or
consequence.
I voluntarily give my consent to participate in this research study. I understand that I
will be given a copy of this consent form.
Signatures:
Participants Name (Print)
Participant's Signature
Date
I, the undersigned, certify that to the best of my knowledge, the subject signing this
consent form has had the study fully and carefully explained by me and have been given an
opportunity to ask any questions regarding the nature, risks, and benefits of participation in
this research study.
Suzanne Bell
Investigatof s Name (Print)
Investigator's Signature
Date
Widener University's HUB has approved the solicitation of participants
for the study
Appendix E
ERB Approval
Widener University
o*.**.*™-
Memorandum
To:
Suzanne Bell
From:
Dr. Barbara Patterson
Chairperson, Widener University Institutional Review Board
Date:
June 18, 2009
RE:
Protection of Rights of Human Subjects Review
This letter serves to inform you that your research, (#127-09) An Investigation into the Effects
of the Gaskin Case on School Districts in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania has been
reviewed and approved by the Widener University Institutional Review Board (IRB) for the
protection of rights of human subjects. You may begin data collection as proposed in your
application.
The authorization to solicit participants for this study is in effect for one year from the date of
approval contained in this letter and is eligible at that time for renewal. The Widener University
IRB must receive continuing review requests no later than 14 days prior to the meeting date before
the expiration of approval to be placed on the IRB agenda. This form can be found on the IRB
website www.widener.edu/irb. Should you fail to obtain approval of the study prior to the
expiration date, all research activity must cease until an approval to extend the study is obtained.
If, for any reason, the approved research data collection method changes, regardless of how minor,
except to eliminate apparent immediate hazards to subjects, you are required to notify the IRB, in
writing. Please, remember that the IRB and Widener University accept no responsibility for
liabilities associated with this study. Ultimately, responsibility rests with the investigators).
Upon completion of the study, a final written report of the research is to be submitted to the IRB.
This form can be obtained on the IRB website. The members of the IRB extend their best wishes
for your successful completion of this research project. If you have any questions, please email
irb@mail.widener.edu or call 610-499-4110.
)OA6CU.O.
-fm&tASdx?
Barbara Patterson, RN, PhD
CC: Dr. B. Brogan
Документ
Категория
Без категории
Просмотров
0
Размер файла
11 627 Кб
Теги
sdewsdweddes
1/--страниц
Пожаловаться на содержимое документа