EDUCATION AND TREATMENT OF CHILDREN Vol. 29, No. 1, 2006
Elementary Day and Residential Schools for
Children with Emotional and Behavioral
Disorders: Characteristics of Educators and
Joseph C. Gagnon
George Mason University
Peter E. Leone
University of Maryland
This national study describes students, teachers, and principals
in elementary day treatment and residential schools for students
with emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD). A survey was
mailed to a random sample of 480 teachers and principals from
elementary-level public and private, day treatment and residential
schools. A total of 271 (56.5%) principals and 229 (47.7%) teachers
responded. Teachers and principals reported education and
certification generally consistent with professionals in public
schools. Also, most teachers and principals had been at their
current school five years or less. Students were involved with
foster care and juvenile corrections at higher rates than youth
in the general population. Students also commonly returned to
less restrictive settings upon exit. Results and implications are
Day treatment and residential schools are two of the more restrictive
educational placements within the continuum of services for
students with EBD. The use of these day treatment and residential
schools is consistent with the requirements of the Individuals with
Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) (2004), which guarantees students
the right to services in the least restrictive environment. These settings
are necessary to assure varied levels of restrictiveness and meet each
student's needs. Advocacy groups and experts in the field of EBD agree
Correspondence to:Joseph Gagnon, Ph.D, George Mason University, College of
Education and Human Development, 4400 University Drive, MS 1E8, Fairfax, VA 22030.
Tel: (703) 993-2045. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This research was supported by: Grant #522739, U.S. Department of Education, Office of
Special Education Programs; and Educational Policy Reform Research Institute (EPRRI)
Grant #H324P000004, U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education. The
views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the funding sources.
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that a full range of services, including day treatment and residential
schools, is necessary (Council for Children with Behavioral Disorders,
1994; Council for Exceptional Children, 1997; Gable, Laycock, Maroney,
& Smith 1991; Webber & Scheuermann, 1997).
Specifically, day treatment schools are structured day programs
that offer a combination of mental health intervention and special
education to children and adolescents, as well as social and clinical
support to their families (Armstrong, Grosser, & Palma, 1992).
Residential schools for youth with EBD are comprehensive therapeutic
educational settings where students have 24-hour monitoring and their
social, emotional, and educational needs are addressed (Kauffman
& Smucker, 1995). Residential schools are distinct from psychiatric
hospital programs and are not licensed as hospitals (Rivera & Kutash,
Throughout the U.S., there is a current emphasis on educating
students with disabilities with nonlabeled peers. However, more
students with emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD) ages 6-21
are placed in restrictive settings than youth with any other disability
classification. According to the U.S. Department of Education (2002),
the number of students with EBD served in day treatment and
residential settings has increased more than 13% in the last 10 years.
Currently, approximately 80,000 students with EBD are educated in
separate day treatment or residential schools.
Despite the importance of day treatment and residential schools
in providing appropriate levels of services to youth with EBD and
increasing enrollment, we know little about the students served, their
teachers, and principals (Landrum, Singh, Nemil, Ellis, & Best, 1995).
Periodic snapshots are needed to assist educators, policymakers, and
parents in monitoring both the students that are being served and the
educators providing the services. An understanding of student and
educator characteristics could lead to the identification of traits that
contribute to the poor performance of those students. For example, the
need for certified and trained teachers of students with EBD has been
a major concern (Lauritzen & Friedman, 1991). However, this issue
has not been adequately studied within day treatment and residential
schools. Additionally, the variability of student characteristics across
exclusionary settings that differ by school organizational structure
(i.e., public school, private non-profit, private for-profit) and school
type (i.e., day treatment, residential, combined day treatment and
residential) is unknown. Such variations could have important
implications about overrepresentation of certain groups of students
and further implications for policies and practices.
- .... �11 - .. ......... I."..,
CHARACTERISTICS OF EDUCATORS AND STUDENTS 53
Three primary areas of student characteristics are of interest for
students in day treatment and residential schools: (a) enrollment; (b)
services received; and (c) involvement of outside agencies. Currently
there is no national information concerning student ethnicity and
gender in day treatment and residential schools. However, we do
know that among students receiving special education services in
general, African Americans are overrepresented (U.S. Department
of Education, 2003). Similarly, this group is overrepresented in other
restrictive school settings, such as juvenile corrections (Building
Blocks for Youth, 2001; Quinn, Rutherford, Leone, Osher, & Poirier,
2005). Current data on student status in day and residential settings
does not provide information about the number of students who are
enrolled solely for an evaluation or student length-of-stay. Although
dated, the information that does exist indicates that as many as 77% of
students exit day treatment programs and return to the regular school
system (Baenen, Glenwick, Stephens, Neuhaus, & Mowrey, 1986).
Researchers have also noted that one-half to three-fourths of the
students in day treatment or residential schools are labeled ED (Duncan,
Forness, & Hartsough, 1995; McClure, Ferguson, Boodoosingh, Turgay,
& Stavrakaki, 1989). Variability in rates of identification across settings
may be associated with disability classifications based the fourth
edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
(DSM IV-R) (American Psychiatric Association, 1994) versus IDEA
A history of abuse and neglect and involvement with the
juvenile justice system can have a major affect on youth in day
treatment and residential schools and negatively impact student
success in such programs (Carran, Nemerofsky, Rock, & Kerins,
1996). As noted, most students in day treatment and residential
schools are identified as EBD and there is some evidence that youth
with EBD have higher incidence of both abuse and juvenile justice
involvement. For example, in one study of 812 youth with EBD from
residential schools in six states, over a seven-year period 43.3% were
arrested at least once and 34.4% were adjudicated (Greenbaum et al.,
1996). Students with EBD may also have experienced high rates of
participation with the foster care system due to family dysfunction,
abuse, or neglect. In a national survey, teachers estimated that 38%
of students labeled EBD were physically or sexually abused, 41%
neglected, and 51% emotionally abused (Oseroff, Oseroff, Westling,
& Gessner, 1999). Similarly, Mattison, Spitznagel, and Felix (1998)
reported that over half of students with serious emotional disturbance
in their study had experienced abuse. Researchers also identified that,
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for young children, family dysfunction was a significant contributor
to persistent psychiatric problems (Offord et al., 1992) and degree of
family difficulties predicted student behavioral progress (Grizenko,
Sayegh, & Papineau, 1994). Currently there is no national information
that identifies the number of students in day treatment and residential
schools that have previous or current involvement in foster care or
with juvenile justice systems associated with delinquency or being in
need of supervision.
Teachers and Principals
There are no studies that have examined teacher and principal
characteristics in day treatment and residential schools for students
with EBD. The available research on teacher characteristics focuses
more broadly on special educators and teachers of students with EBD.
Principal data are limited to general information on principals within
public and private schools. The available research is discussed below
for teachers and principals within two areas: (a) demographics and
experience; and (b) certification and degree.
Demographics and experience. There is a dearth of information
concerning demographics (e.g., age, gender) of teachers and principals
in day treatment and residential schools. However, researchers
(Clark-Chiarelli & Singer, 1995) have noted that half of teachers of
students labeled EBD were 35 years old or younger and about three-
fourths were female (Westat, 2002a). Additionally, in public schools
the average age of principals is approximately 49 years old and about
44% are female (Gates, Ringel, Santianez, Ross, & Chung, 2003). There
is some indication that teacher quality is related to teacher experience.
Specifically, teachers with less than two years experience are less
effective than more senior teachers (Rivkin, Hanushek, & Kain, 2000)
and teachers with greater experience are more effective than teachers
new to the field (Darling-Hammond, 2000). Also, principals in public
schools have an average of nine years of experience and those in
private schools average about 10 years of experience (Gates et al.,
2003). In addition to length of time teaching, length at a single school
is an important variable that provides for continuity and program
consistency within exclusionary schools. Almost two-thirds of teachers
of EBD students had been teaching at their present school for 5 years
or less (Clark-Chiarelli & Singer, 1995).
Certification and degree. The difficultly of measuring teacher
quality has compelled researchers to rely on indirect measures, such
as teacher education and certification (Clark-Chiarelli & Singer, 1995)
with some justification. Teacher certification is strongly correlated to
student math and reading achievement (Darling-Hammond, 2000).
CHARACTERISTICS OF EDUCATORS AND STUDENTS 55
Current legislation (The No Child Left Behind Act, 2001) mandates
that by the end of the 2005-06 school year, every U.S. classroom will
be staffed by a highly qualified teacher. The implication is that each
teacher will be certified by the state in an area that is consistent with
his or her teaching assignment (Educational Policy Research Reform
However, teachers of youth with EBD have historically had low
levels of teacher training and certification (Morse, Cutler, & Fink,
1964; Grosenick, George, & George, 1987). Recently, Clark- Chiarelli
and Singer (1995) reported that among teachers of youth with EBD,
about 20% were either not certified, had temporary certificates, or had
a probationary certificate. Additionally, teachers of youth with EBD
were less likely to be certified for their main teaching assignment than
general educators or special educators (Westat, 2002b).
Similarly, when assessing the quality of principals, certification
and education are common measures (Gates et al., 2003). Limited
information is available on these principal characteristics in general
and no national information exists with regard to principals in day
treatment and residential schools. However, Doud and Keller (1998)
noted that approximately 57% of public school principals had a
master's degree and 13% had earned a doctorate.
Organizational Structure and School Type
Relationships between student characteristics and school
type (e.g., day treatment, residential, combined day treatment and
residential) provide a needed perspective on the students served in
different educational settings (Cullinan, Epstein, & Sabornie, 1992).
Additionally, there is a possibility that other issues may be linked to
the characteristics of students placed in day treatment and residential
schools. For example, differences may exist for students served
based on school organizational structure (i.e., public school, private
non-profit school, private for-profit school.). Comparison of student
characteristics across school types and organizational structure may
highlight unique needs of students within certain school settings.
Currently, no information exists to identify if student characteristics
vary across different exclusionary schools.
The data reported here is part of a larger national study that
addressed characteristics and school-level policies for students with
EBD in restrictive settings (Gagnon, 2002). This report addresses
two research questions: (a) what are the characteristics of teachers,
students, and principals in day treatment and residential schools for
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students with EBD; and (b) how do characteristics of students in those
settings compare across school types and organizational structure.
The study consisted of a national random sample of private
and public day treatment and residential schools for children with
EBD in any of the first through sixth grades. A comprehensive list of
alternative education schools, alternative education programs, and
special education schools was purchased from Market Data Retrieval
(2002). The schools in the sample included public and private programs
operated by public school districts, counties, states, and religiously
affiliated organizations. An initial review of the 6,110 schools in the
comprehensive list revealed that many schools were neither day
treatment nor residential schools for children with EBD (e.g., schools
for the deaf, schools for the blind). Consequently, additional sampling
procedures were necessary to verify that schools qualified for the
Phone calls to a random sample of 20 schools on the original list
suggested that approximately 10% of the schools on the list would
meet criteria for inclusion in the study. Subsequently, to ensure an
approximate sample size of 400, 4,000 schools were randomly selected
from the total database of 6,110. Each school was called and asked
questions using a structured protocol to verify they met criteria for
inclusion in the study (i.e., day treatment or residential facility for
children with emotional or behavioral disorders; serve students in
any of grades 1-6; not solely a hospital program). As a result of this
process, 636 schools were identified and mailed a survey. However,
during the initial verification process, phone interviews commonly
occurred with an administrative assistant. Because we were concerned
that some administrative assistants might be unfamiliar with the
terms day treatment and residential schools for students with EBD, the
first question on the principal survey asked respondents to verify that
their school was day treatment or residential in order to ensure sample
validity. Subsequently, 156 principals or teachers responded that they
had been inaccurately classified and these schools were excluded from
the analysis. In situations where the teacher and principal reports
were inconsistent (n = 4), the principal report was used. In each of
these cases, the principal identified the school as day treatment or
residential and both teacher and principal surveys were included in
the sample. Therefore, the final sample consisted of 480 schools. This
multiple screening approach made certain that data were collected
and analyzed only from day treatment and residential schools serving
youth with EBD.
CHARACTERISTICS OF EDUCATORS AND STUDENTS 57
To identify characteristics of both teachers and principals, the
principal and one teacher were selected from each randomly selected
school. One principal and one teacher survey was mailed to the
principal at each school in the sample. To randomly identify one teacher
from each school, the principal was asked to use an alphabetized list of
teachers for students in grades 1-6 and provide the first teacher from
the.list with the teacher survey. Researchers (Epstein et al., 1997; Foley
& Mundschenk, 1997) have used a similar approach with principals
to randomly identify teachers. Although randomly selecting just
one teacher from each school provided a limited sample size, the
randomization of schools and teachers increased the likelihood that
the sample provided a nationally representative group of teachers in
day treatment and residential schools for elementary students with
Based on a review of relevant research, discussion with experts
in the field, a focus group for teachers, and another focus group of
principals, two surveys were developed. Questions concerning student,
teacher, and principal characteristics were part of a larger survey that
included 57 closed-end questions and took approximately 25 minutes
to complete. The current report focuses on survey questions in three
areas: (a) teacher characteristics based on self-reports; (b) principal
characteristics based on self-reports; and (c) student characteristics
based on principal responses to questions regarding all students in the
first through sixth grades in their school. Teachers responded to four
closed-ended questions concerning demographics and experience
and two closed-ended questions concerning certification and degree.
Teachers were asked about their gender and age, the number of years,
including the current year that they had been a teacher, and years they
taught at their current school, including the current year. Teachers
were also queried about all educational certifications currently held
and their highest degree earned.
Principals were asked the same six closed-ended questions about
their age, gender, years as an administrator, years as an administrator
in their current school, and highest degree earned. However, the
question about current certification varied from the teachers and
offered choices more specific to principals. Principals also responded
to 13 questions concerning characteristics of students in grades 1 - 6
at their school. Concerning enrollment, principals were queried on the
percentage of students enrolled in the school solely for a behavioral,
psychological, or psychiatric evaluation. Principals responded to all
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other survey questions based on those students who were not enrolled
solely for an evaluation. Principals also reported on the source of
students served in their school (i.e., from the school district; from the
state in which the school is located; and other states or the District
of Columbia), the average length of enrollment for students, and the
percent of students that exited to less restrictive settings. Principals
also provided information about the gender and ethnicity of students
Principals likewise provided data about the total number of
students receiving special education services in several disability
categories, and the number of students with a Section 504
accommodations plan. Concerning involvement of outside agencies,
principals reported the percentage range of students who had previous
or current involvement in foster care, with current involvement in
juvenile justice due to delinquency, and with current involvement in
juvenile justice due to being in need of supervision. Principals also
described their school type and organizational structure (i.e., public
school, private non-profit school, private for-profit school).
Reliability and Validity
Several procedures enhanced survey reliability and validity.
Teacher and principal surveys maintained a standardized format,
directions, and questions (Fink, 1995). The investigators used a
codebook to maintain consistency and record decisions during data
entry (Litwin, 1995). To ensure reliability during data entry, 30% of
teacher and 30% of principal surveys were coded independently by a
research assistant. Reliability was calculated by dividing the number
of agreements by the number of agreements and disagreements and
multiplying by 100%. Data entry reliability for both the teacher and
principal surveys was 99.9%. Two methods were used to increase
the validity of the survey instrument. Initially, an advisory group
reviewed and made recommendations regarding the survey and
study methodology. Also, individual teacher and principal focus
groups commented on the format and content of the surveys. These
instruments were modified based on the advisory group and focus
Initially, principals in the target schools received an introductory
letter about the study. The first survey mailing included a teacher
survey with a $2.00 bill attached, a principal survey with a $2.00 bill
attached, two self-addressed stamped envelopes, and directions for
randomly selecting a teacher to complete the survey. Two subsequent
mailings and phone calls encouraged principals to complete (or have
teachers complete) the survey.
CHARACTERISTICS OF EDUCATORS AND STUDENTS 59
For the 480 randomly selected. schools that met criteria for the
study, 271 (56.5%) principal surveys and 229 (47.7%) teacher surveys
were returned, representing 284 schools. Almost half (n = 216,44.58%)
of all schools had both teacher and principal surveys returned.
School-level comparisons between respondents and nonrespondents
on several characteristics such as school type and region in which
the school was located revealed very minor differences between
these groups. The only statistically significant difference between
respondents and nonrespondents was for school type (2 = 26.179,
2, p < .01) for schools in which both teacher and principal surveys
were returned and schools where no surveys were returned. A greater
number of teachers and principals returned surveys from special
education schools (n = 197) than alternative education schools (n = 12)
or alternative education programs (n = 7).
Descriptive statistics provided an overview of survey data.
To compare student data across school type and organizational
structure, chi-square, ANOVA, and Independent T-test comparisons
were completed. Specifically, chi-square analysis was used to
compare proportions and identify where significant independence or
dependence existed across the two noted variables. Interval data were
obtained for certain student characteristics (e.g., number receiving
special education services, number in various special education
classifications, number in each ethnicity, gender). ANOVA and
Independent T-test comparisons were conducted on these variables
and type of school and organizational structure. To maintain a balance
between controlling for Type I and Type II errors, an alpha level of .01
was used for all chi-square, ANOVA, and Independent t-tests.
Teachers were evenly distributed across three age ranges:
26-35 years (n = 84, 36.7%), 36-45 years (n = 58, 25.3%), and 46-55
(n = 65, 28.4%). Fewer teachers were 56 years or older (n = 12, 5.2%) or
25 years or younger (n = 10, 4.4%). Many more teachers were female
(n = 185, 80.8%) than male (n = 44, 19.2%). Most teachers reported
teaching five years or less in their current school (n = 124, 54.1%), 6-
10 years (n = 48, 21.0%) or 16 years or greater (n = 68, 29.7%). Fewer
teachers reported teaching at their current school 11-15 years (n = 24,
10.5%) or 16 or more years (n = 33, 14.4%). The majority of educators
reported that the total number of years teaching ranged from five
years or less (n = 68, 29.7%) or 6-10 (n = 64, 27.9%) years. Additionally,
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29.7% (n = 68) of educators reported teaching 16 or more years. A
smaller number of teachers (n = 29, 12.7%) reported teaching 11-15
Approximately an equal number of teachers held bachelors
(n = 105, 46.1%) and master's degrees (n = 119, 52.2%). Few teachers
had doctoral degrees (n = 3, 1.3%) or completed post-doctoral study
(n = 1, 0.4%). When queried about their educational certifications,
teachers (n = 229) reported all certifications that they held. In such
cases where respondents noted all answers that apply, percentages are
not noted. Teachers reported certification as a teacher of students with
EBD (n = 100), general or cross-categorical special educator (n = 94),
and elementary educator (n = 93). Also, teachers identified having
certification as a secondary educator (n = 27), other certification
(e.g., counselor, early childhood) (n = 63), or no certification (n
= 4). Additionally, 80 teachers reported having more than one
Principal respondents were primarily in the age ranges of 46-
55 years (n = 128, 47.8%) and 56 years or older (n = 61, 22.8%). Fewer
principals were ages 25 or younger (n = 1, 0.4%), 26-35 (n = 24, 9.0%),
or 36-45 (n = 54, 20.1%). Also, more female (n = 148, 55.2%) than male
(n = 120, 44.8%) professionals held 'these jobs. Most principals had
been in their current school five years or less (n = 133, 49.8%) or 6-
10 years (n = 62, 23.2%). Slightly more principals had been at their
current school 11-15 years (n = 58, 21.7%), than 16 years or greater (n
= 35, 13.1%). Most had been school administrators five years or less
(n = 80, 30.0%) and somewhat fewer 6-10 years (n = 59, 22.1%), 11-15
years (n = 58, 21.7%), or 16 or more years (n = 70, 26.2%).
Principals most commonly held master's degrees (n = 214, 81.1%)
or doctoral degrees (n = 26, 9.8%). Fewer principals had bachelor's
degrees (n = 17, 6.4%) or completed post-doctoral study (n = 7, 2.7%).
The most common certifications were principal, administrator, or
supervisor (n = 177), special education teachers of students with
EBD (n = 113), and special education teachers with general or cross
categorical emphasis (n = 102). Fewer principals held certification as
an elementary education teacher (n = 91), secondary education teacher
(n = 74), or other certification (e.g., counselor, early childhood) (n = 76).
Additionally, principals reported having multiple certifications (n =
199) and no certifications (n = 6).
Principals were asked to respond to questions about students
in the first through sixth grade of their school. Data are organized
CHARACTERISTICS OF EDUCATORS AND STUDENTS 61
into two categories: (a) enrollment and services received; and (b)
involvement of outside agencies. Because respondents did not answer
certain questions, sums across questions may not be consistent. For
example, principals identified a total of 8,315 students enrolled.
However, a total of 5,335 students were represented in responses to
Enrollment and services received. Most principals (n = 224, 85.2%)
indicated that 10% or fewer of the students at their facility were
enrolled solely for an evaluation. Fewer principals reported students
enrolled solely for an evaluation in the ranges of 11-25% (n = 12, 4.6),
26-50% (n = 4, 1.5%), 51-75% (n = 3, 1.1%), or' 76-100% (n = 20, 7.6%).
Principals also reported that most students were enrolled from across
the state in which the school was located (n = 115, 43.7%) or the district
in which the school was located (n = 73, 27.8%). Some principals noted
students were enrolled from more than one state (n = 36, 13.7%) or
other (i.e., multiple districts within a state, multiple counties) (n =
39, 14.8%). Principals noted that students in the residential program
were most commonly enrolled for one year or less (n = 50, 39.7%) or
two years (n = 49, 38.9%). Fewer students were enrolled in residential
programs for three years (n = 16, 12.7%), four years (n = 2, 1.6%), or
five years (n = 9, 7.1%). In contrast, students in day treatment schools
were frequently enrolled for 1 year or less (n = 50, 21.7%), two years
(n = 81, 35.2%) or three years (n = 54, 23.5%). Some principals also
reported student length of enrollment as four years (n = 20, 8.7%) or
five years (n = 25, 10.8%). Principals also had varied responses to the
percent of students that exited to less restrictive settings. The most
common ranges were 81-100% of students (n = 70, 26.3%), 61-80% of
students (n = 63, 23.7%), and 20% or fewer students (n = 55, 20.7%).
The other two ranges of students, 21-40% and 41-60%, both had 14.7%
(n = 39) of principal responses.
Principals were asked to write in a specific number of students
for four enrollment classifications: (a) day treatment; (b) residential;
(c) ethnicity; and (d) gender (see Table 1). Principal responses revealed
that students enrolled were predominantly Caucasian (n = 2,908) or
African American (n = 1,675). Additionally, based on all principal
responses, 4,350 of the students enrolled were male versus 1,168
female. Additionally, a total of 6,413 students were reportedly enrolled
in day treatment and another 1,902 enrolled in residential schools.
Principals also provided information about the number of students
with various disability classifications. There were a total of 5,850
students receiving special education services in responding schools.
The most common special education classification was emotional
disturbance (n = 4,355).
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CHARACTERISTICS OF EDUCATORS AND STUDENTS 63
Involvement of outside agencies. Principals were also asked about
the involvement of students in grades 1-6 with outside agencies:
(a) previous or current involvement with foster care; (b) current
involvement with juvenile justice due to being in need of supervision;
and (c) current involvement with juvenile justice due to delinquency.
Specifically, 35.0% (n = 93) of schools had 10% or fewer students
with previous or current involvement in foster care. The next most
frequent principal responses were 11-25% (n = 62, 23.3%) and 26-50%
(n = 60, 22.6%) of students involved in foster care. Less frequent were
51-75% (n = 27, 10.2%), 76-100% (n = 19, 7.1%), and don't know (n
= 5, 1.9%). Similarly, most schools had 10% or fewer students with
current involvement in the juvenile justice system due to delinquency
(n = 188, 70.4%). The next most common range of students with
involvement due to delinquency was 11-25% (n = 33, 12.4%). Principals
also reported 26-50% (n = 22, 8.2%), 51-75% (n = 5, 1.9%), and 76-100%
(n= 7, 2.6%). Principals also commonly reported 10% or fewer students
with current involvement in the juvenile justice system due to being
in need of supervision (n = 162, 61.6%). Similarly, for youth involved
with the juvenile justice system because they needed supervision, 11-
25% (n = 46, 17.5%) was the next most common range, followed by
26-50% (n = 21, 8.0%), 51-75% (n = 13, 4.9%), and 76-100% (n = 13,
4.9%). Noteworthy, were the 4.6% (n = 12) of principals who were
unaware of whether students were involved with the juvenile justice
system due to need for supervision and the 4.5% (n = 12) of principals
that did not know if students were involved in juvenile justice due to
Student Characteristics Across Educational Program
Student characteristics were compared across two educational
program characteristics: (a) type of services offered (day treatment,
residential, combined day treatment and residential); and (b)
organizational structure (public school, private non-profit school,
private for-profit school). The variables with interval data were
number of students: (a) receiving special education services; (b) with
LD; (c) with ED; (d) with MR; (e) with other disability classification;
(f) Caucasian; (g) African American; (h) Hispanic; (i) Asian; (j) Native
American; (k) male; (1) female. Independent t-test or ANOVA analyses
were conducted on educational program characteristics and the
student characteristics listed. No statistically significant differences
were noted for group means across type of service or organizational
For questions that resulted in nominal or ordinal data, chi-
square analyses were conducted to identify any statistically significant
differences between proportions. Specifically, the areas considered
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CHARACTERISTICS OF EDUCATORS AND STUDENTS 65
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GAGNON and LEONE
were length of enrollment in day treatment, length of enrollment in
residential, area from where students were served (i.e., within district,
within state, other), and involvement of outside agencies (i.e., juvenile
justice-in need of supervision, juvenile justice-delinquency, foster
care). A statistically significant difference was noted for area from
where students were served across organizational structure (public,
private non-profit, other) (X2 = 45.082, 4, p < .01) (see Table 2).2 Results
indicated that public school programs most often served students
from within district (n = 52, 20.3%) and private non-profit schools
frequently served students from within the state in which the school
was located (n = 66, 25.8%).
Two comparisons of student characteristics were statistically
significant for types of school (day treatment, residential, combined day
treatment and residential) based on principal responses (see Table 3).
A statistically significant difference was noted for student population
served and school types (x2 = 44.047, 4, p < .01). More students from
within district were enrolled in day treatment (n = 66, 25.4%). In
contrast, residential (n = 26, 10.0%) and combined day and residential
(n = 37, 14.2%) schools more commonly served students from across
the state in which the school is located. Also statistically significant
was the proportion of students with previous or current involvement
in foster care and school type (X2 = 48.681, 8, p < .01). Most day
treatment schools had 10% or fewer students involved in foster care
(n = 69, 26.7%), while residential schools more commonly had 26-
50% of students involved in foster care (n:= 10, 3.9%). Combined day
and residential schools more commonly had 26-50% of students with
foster care involvement (n = 16, 6.2%).
This study provides a national picture of student, teacher, and
principal characteristics in elementary day treatment and residential
schools that serve students with EBD. Although this study did not
focus on direct links between student and educator characteristics
and student outcomes, several indicators should be considered as
possible risk factors or factors that may promote student academic
and behavioral success and be noted in future research.
Within the current study, teachers in day treatment and residential
schools were largely female and evenly distributed across several age
ranges. Female teachers outnumbered male teachers by a ratio of
approximately 3:1. This is generally consistent with other research on
teachers of students with EBD (Clark-Chiarelli & Singer, 1995), as well
as national studies on general and special educators (Westat, 2002a).
CHARACTERISTICS OF EDUCATORS AND STUDENTS
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GAGNON and LEONE
However, the issue of teacher gender may have greater implications
for students enrolled in day treatment and residential schools;
particularly given the high percentage of male students in those
settings. While females play an important role in youth development,
access to positive male role models in these settings is also important
(Doud & Keller, 1998).
Approximately 1/3 of teachers in this study had been teaching
five years or less and over 1/2 of the teachers had been at their current
school five years or less. Researchers have noted the link between
teacher effectiveness and experience (Darling-Hammond, 2000;
Rivkin, Hanushek, & Kain, 2000). However, the data in the current
study are generally consistent with the tenure of teachers of students
with EBD (Carlson, Lee, & Willig, 2002). Unfortunately, there is a
nationwide shortage of almost 6,000 teachers for students with EBD
(Advocacy in Action, 1995; Wald, 1996) and teachers of students with
EBD have the highest attrition rate of any group of special educators
(Koyanagi & Gaines, 1993; Lauritzen & Friedman, 1991; Lawrenson
& McKinnon, 1982) or general educators (Boe, Bobbit, & Cook, 1997).
Additional research could shed light on the high percentage of new
teachers in these schools.
Certification and educational background also provide
information as to the preparedness of teachers to instruct elementary
students with EBD in day treatment and residential schools. About
half of responding teachers had bachelors degrees, while the other
half had masters degrees. This is generally consistent with teachers
of students with EBD, special educators, and general educators
(Westat, 2002c). Additionally, teachers commonly noted certification
as teacher for students with EBD, cross-categorical special education,
and elementary education. Only four teachers had no certification and
about one-third of the teachers had more than one certification. These
facts provide a slightly more positive picture than earlier studies
(Grosenick, George, & George, 1987; Morse Cutler, & Fink, 1964)
that reported teachers of students in EBD programs were essentially
unprepared to teach those children. However, the current study did
not ask teachers if they held emergency or probationary certification.
While many teachers were certified to teach students with EBD
and had master's degrees, additional research should consider the
requirements of current EBD programs, certification requirements,
and details of state licensure examinations for these teachers. In light
of the No Child Left Behind Act (2001), it is critical for all teachers
to develop an understanding of academic content, achievement
standards, and effective instructional strategies (Educational Policy
Reform Research Institute, 2003; McLaughlin, 2000).
.... .......... 1.11 1.~ . . ............ -.- ..
CHARACTERISTICS OF EDUCATORS AND STUDENTS 69
The current study provides an initial look at the characteristics of
principals in day treatment and residential schools on a national level.
There were slightly more female than male principals and almost
half of these professionals were in the 46-55 age range. Another 23%
of principals were 56 years or older. Compared to public schools in
general, there are about 11% more female principals in day treatment
and residential schools (Gates et al., 2003). However, the average age
is generally consistent with principals in public schools (Gates et al.,
2003). Given the overwhelming number of female teachers and the
relatively high percentage of female principals, it is important that
youth have access to both male and female role models (Doud &
Keller, 1998). This is particularly essential for children in residential
care that may have less frequent contact with their parents.
Principal education and certification provides important
information as to the preparedness of the professionals to work
with this population. A majority of principals in day treatment and
residential schools held master's degrees and most principals had some
type of educational certification. The most common certifications were
principal, administrator, or supervisor, followed by special education
teachers of students with EBD, and general or cross-categorical
special education teachers. Clearly, principals in day treatment and
residential schools have education and certification that supports
their qualifications to assist students and teachers within this school
setting. However, as Roza, er al. (2003) noted, there are limitations to
the use of these factors to assess principal competence. Certification
and educational attainment do not provide information on leadership
and interpersonal skills.
Results indicated that students served in the day treatment and
residential schools most commonly were male and came from across
the state in which the school was located. Fewer schools served students
solely from the school district in which the school was located. Also,
there was an overrepresentation of African American students and an
underrepresentation of Asian and Hispanic students among children
attending these schools. The most common lengths of enrollment for
students in day treatment were from two to three years. In contrast,
students were commonly enrolled in residential schools for one year
or less. Importantly, principals reported that most students exit the
day treatment or residential school and go to a less restrictive school
GAGNON and LEONE
For the sample of 271 schools, principals reported a total of 6,413
students in day treatment and 1,902 in residential school placement.
Male students outnumbered female students by about 4:1. Concerning
student ethnicity, African American students were more than twice
as likely to receive services in day treatment and residential school
placement as their numbers in U.S. student population; the placement
of Caucasian students in these programs was consistent but slightly
lower than their representation in the U.S. school population (U.S.
Department of Education, 2003). Enrollment of Hispanic students and
Asian students was lower than would be predicted based on their
representation among children attending U.S. public schools (U.S.
Department of Education). The extent to which enrollment of certain
groups of students is related to cultural characteristics or differential
access to these programs is unclear.
Involvement of outside agencies. Data indicated that students in
day treatment and residential schools were more likely than youth
in the general population to be involved with the foster care and
juvenile justice systems. These issues may have a significant impact
on student academic and behavioral performance in school. Based
on principal responses, a statistically significant difference was noted
in the proportion of students with previous or current involvement
in foster care and type of educational service. Most day treatment
schools had fewer students involved in foster care, compared to
residential and combined day and residential schools. The high rate
of student involvement in foster care highlights the importance of
school policies and practices that promote collaboration and efficient
information exchange between day treatment or residential schools
and social service agencies (Oseroff, Oseroff, Westling, & Gessler,
1999). Collaboration among professionals is a critical component of
effective services for children with EBD (Cheney & Osher, 1997) and
is identified as a goal of the National Agenda for Children and Youth
with Serious Emotional Disturbance (U.S. Department of Education,
Based on principal reports, most schools had 10% or fewer
students with current involvement in the juvenile justice system due
to delinquency or being in need of supervision. These results were not
surprising given the young age of children in grades 1-6. Nationally,
youth age 12 and under account for 1.7% (n = 194,411) of all arrests
(U.S. Department of Justice, 1996) and about 9% of juvenile arrests
for those 18 and under (Butts & Snyder, 1997). However, about one-
fourth of day treatment and residential schools had children involved
with the juvenile justice system due to delinquency at a rate equal
to or greater than 11%. Also, approximately 30% of principals noted
........... . 1- 11111 ........... . .. . ............. . ...
CHARACTERISTICS OF EDUCATORS AND STUDENTS 71
11% or more of youth at their schools were involved with the juvenile
justice system because they needed supervision. Student involvement
with multiple agencies requires systemized collaboration and sharing
of data. Exchange of records between educational and juvenile
correctional organizations is a longstanding problem that requires
attention (Gagnon & Mayer, 2004).
The current data on teacher, principal, and student characteristics
provides valuable information for educators, policymakers, and
parents. However, there are limitations regarding the depth of
information possible from a national survey and additional research
is needed. While this study provided information on a national
representative sample of children in the most restrictive educational
settings, descriptions of student characteristics were obtained solely
from principal reports, a practice widely used by federal and state
agencies. However, subsequent research should verify principal
reports with a review of school, local education agency, and state
documents of student characteristics in elementary day treatment
and residential schools. Another limitation is the response rate for the
survey. Researchers (Weisberg, Krosnick, & Bowen, 1989) acknowledge
that 50% is an acceptable response rate for mail surveys. While only
one minor difference (i.e., school type) existed between respondents
and non-respondents, a response rate higher than the 56.45% obtained
from principals in this study would provide more robust findings.
The current investigation is the first national picture of students,
teachers, and principals in day treatment and residential schools for
elementary students with EBD. While the study provides answers to
basic questions about who is served and by whom, a number of other
issues are raised. For example, while the level of teacher and principal
education and certification is encouraging, the high percentage
of principals and teachers with limited experience is a significant
issue. Ongoing and comprehensive teacher and principal in-service
training may be necessary to ensure continuity of educational and
behavioral programming and address the needs of students who
enter day treatment from many different school districts. Because
students are in day treatment and residential schools for significant
periods of time and commonly exit to less restrictive settings, it is
also critical that school-level policies align with state policies. For
students to successfully reintegrate into public or home schools, they
must be provided an education that is consistent with public school
GAGNON and LEONE
expectations and the requirements of No Child Left Behind (2001).
However, there is some indication that many day treatment and
residential school curriculum, assessment, and accountability policies
are not aligned with states (Gagnon & McLaughlin, 2004).
This study also documents that even among elementary-school
students, there is a relatively high level of involvement with foster care
and juvenile corrections. This requires cooperation and information
sharing between agencies and programs so that student needs are
adequately communicated and addressed. Such collaboration must
be institutionalized via specific agency policies to ensure that students
involved in more than one agency are guaranteed coordinated and
comprehensive services. Finally, the study also documents the on-
going and persistent disproportionate representation of African
American students and males in the most restrictive settings available
for special education services. A better understanding of the decision-
making process and family and community factors associated with
those placement decisions would help professionals, advocates, and
family members respond to disproportionate placement.
This study provides much needed information about the
characteristics of elementary students identified as having EBD
and served in day treatment and residential settings and those who
educate them. The current data allow for an initial look at principal
and teacher qualifications and experience, as well as student
characteristics (e.g., involvement with foster care, juvenile justice
systems) that may have an effect on student academic and behavioral
success. With this information, and the understanding that these
students typically return to a less restrictive setting, we can begin the
process of identifying necessary supports for students, and effective
policies and practices.
1 School type and organizational structure were defined differently
in the commercial database than on the survey.
2 In this Chi-square comparison, to assure an expected value of
five, values within the two variables were collapsed. For example,
"Other" was used to describe the organizational structures of
private for-profit and other settings (e.g., contracted school of
the public school, educational collaborative, public non-profit).
Similarly, students served from the state in which the school was
located and other states were combined with other structures
including multiple districts and multiple counties.
... .... .. ....... ....... . . .. ...................... ...
CHARACTERISTICS OF EDUCATORS AND STUDENTS 73
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TITLE: Elementary Day and Residential Schools for Children
with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders: Characteristics
of Educators and Students
SOURCE: Educ Treat Child 29 nol F 2006
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