Elementary day and residential schools: Characteristics and entrance and exit policies
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Title: Elementary day and residential schools: Characteristics and entrance and exit policies
Series Title: Gagnon, J. C., & Leone, P. E. (2005). Elementary day and residential schools: Characteristics and entrance and exit policies. Remedial & Special Education, 26, 141-150.
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Creator: Gagnon, Joseph
 Notes
Abstract: Limited information exists about treatment programs for children with emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD) in the elementary grades. This national study provides a description of firstthrough sixth-grade day treatment and residential schools for students with EBD in two areas: (a) characteristics of schools (e.g., philosophy, accreditation, length of school year) and (b) current school-level entrance and exit policies. A random sample of 480 principals from public and private day treatment and residential schools were mailed a survey. A total of 271 (56.45%) principals responded. The results indicated that schools relied on a behavioral philosophy, maintained a balance between education and therapeutic issues, and were commonly accredited by state departments of education. Furthermore, few schools had specific policies related to follow-up of students after discharge. The implications of these findings are discussed.
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Elementary Day and Residential Schools

for Children With Emotional and

Behavioral Disorders

Characteristics and Entrance and Exit Policies

JOSEPH CALVIN GAGNON AND PETER E. LEONE









ABSTRACT


Limited information exists about treatment programs for
children with emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD) in the ele-
mentary grades. This national study provides a description of first-
through sixth-grade day treatment and residential schools for stu-
dents with EBD in two areas: (a) characteristics of schools (e.g.,
philosophy, accreditation, length of school year) and (b) current
school-level entrance and exit policies. A random sample of 480
principals from public and private day treatment and residential
schools were mailed a survey. A total of 271 (56.45%) principals
responded. The results indicated that schools relied on a behav-
ioral philosophy, maintained a balance between education and
therapeutic issues, and were commonly accredited by state
departments of education. Furthermore, few schools had specific
policies related to follow-up of students after discharge. The impli-
cations of these findings are discussed.





S STUDENTS WITH EMOTIONAL AND BEHAVIORAL
disorders (EBD) often have difficulty integrating into the
mainstream education environment (Kauffman, 2001; Mus-
cott, 1997) and are frequently placed in exclusionary settings
that offer greater behavioral and therapeutic support than
general education settings. Students with EBD are more likely
to be placed in restrictive settings than youth with any other
disability classification (U.S. Department of Education, 2002).
Presently, close to 77,000 students with EBD are educated in


separate day treatment or residential settings-an increase of
13% in the past 10 years (U.S. Department of Education,
2002). Despite the growing number of students enrolled in
day treatment and residential schools, little information is
available concerning the quality of education they receive
while enrolled and the supports provided as they return to
their public or home school.
The issue of quality education in day treatment and res-
idential schools is particularly critical in light of current edu-
cational reform, such as the No Child Left Behind Act (2001).
This mandate holds students to an increasingly higher aca-
demic standard (Gagnon & McLaughlin, 2004). Furthermore,
mandates under the Individuals with Disabilities Education
Act (IDEA; 1997) require all students to have access to a
common, challenging curriculum. Moreover, the emphasis on
passing district and state assessments provides new chal-
lenges to students with disabilities and specifically to those
educated in exclusionary settings.
Despite these mandates, there is concern that students
with EBD who are enrolled in day treatment and residential
schools may not be receiving the educational opportunities
and support they need to meet increasing educational
demands. Specifically, there is a history of inadequate educa-
tional services in day treatment and residential schools. For
example, schools may place little emphasis on education, and
students may not receive a full-length school day (Grizenko,


REMEDIAL AND SPECIAL EDUCATION 141
Volume 26, Number 3, May/June 2005, Pages 141 -150








Sayegh, & Papineau, 1994). Moreover, most students even-
tually return to their public or home school, yet they may
receive inadequate or inconsistent levels of assistance during
entrance and exit (Katsiyannis, 1993). In light of current
reforms, policies and practices in day treatment and residen-
tial schools must support student access to a quality educa-
tion. In the sections that follow, several issues related to
school-level policies and practices are discussed to provide
the context of the current study: (a) definitions of day treat-
ment, residential schools, and students with EBD; (b) pro-
gram philosophy; (c) instruction and accreditation; and
(d) entrance and exit policies.


DEFINITION OF TERMS

Defining the settings and the students who attend them is
essential prior to describing day treatment and residential
school characteristics and entrance and exit policies. A resi-
dential school for youth with EBD is a comprehensive,
therapeutic, educational school in its own setting (AWMC
Working Party on Residential Resources, 1984), wherein stu-
dents have 24-hour monitoring and in which their social,
emotional, and educational needs are addressed (Kauffman &
Smucker, 1995). Residential schools serve as an alternative to
psychiatric hospitalization and are not licensed as hospitals
(Rivera & Kutash, 1994). In contrast, day treatment schools
are lnglil structured, intensive, non-residential mental health
programs that offer a blend of clinical intervention and spe-
cial education to children and adolescents, as well as social
and clinical support to their families [in a] therapeutic envi-
ronment that facilitates the coordinated delivery of mental
health and education services" (Armstrong, Grosser, & Palma,
1992, p. 18).
One half to three fourths of the students in day treatment
or residential schools receive special education services for
EBD (Duncan, Forness, & Hartsough, 1995; McClure, Fergu-
son, Boodoosingh, Turgay, & Stavrakaki, 1989). This appar-
ent inconsistency is actually due to the variation in approaches
between the educational and mental health systems. In fact,
students enrolled in day treatment and residential schools
need not be classified with a special education label of emo-
tional disturbance. Rather, emotional disturbance and behav-
ioral disorder are used in the mental health community as
general labels for students who have been identified with a
disorder based on the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and
Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (D- /-.V; American
Psychiatric Association, 1994). Whereas the educational def-
inition excludes social maladjustment (unless accompanied
by emotional disturbance), the mental health system does
include youth with diagnoses such as conduct disorder. Thus,
for the purposes of the current study, the terms emotional . -
turbance and behavioral . . .. are combined and referred
to as emotional and behavioral . - .. (EBD). The term
EBD is defined as the combination of students identified by


either educational or mental health systems for services in
day treatment or residential schools.


PROGRAM PHILOSOPHY

To frame issues concerning the time available for education
in day treatment and residential schools, it is necessary to
consider the unique characteristics of these schools, such as
their general philosophical orientation. General philosophi-
cal approaches include the following: (a) biophysical (e.g.,
psychoactive drugs, genetic counseling, perceptual-motor
ti.iiniii._) (b) psychodynamic (e.g., play therapy, expressive
therapy, psychoanalysis); (c) psychoeducational (e.g., de-
veloping self-confidence and belonging through lc.iiniiit
(d) behavioral (e.g., behavior modification, social ,ii ,,llini-)
(e) sociological (e.g., parent education, community develop-
ment); and (f) ecological (e.g., interventions that simultane-
ously work with child and environment). A common school
philosophy and the articulation of that philosophy can pro-
vide a shared vision and cohesion among school personnel
(Grosenick, George, & George, 1987). However, the current
theoretical orientation in American day treatment and resi-
dential schools is largely unknown.
The available research does provide information on gen-
eral trends and concerns related to school philosophy. In one
study, Saddi (1983) examined program characteristics in Vir-
ginia's residential schools for youth with EBD. Whereas
Saddi noted that 36.5% (n = 81) of schools adhered to a
behavioral model, another 25.2% (n = 56) relied on a psy-
chodynamic model. Potential concerns exist for school adher-
ence to either a behavioral or a psychodynamic philosophical
approach. For example, schools that base their approach on a
behavioral model are at risk for the merging of curriculum
and behavior management that Steinberg and Knitzer (1992)
labeled "the curriculum of control" (p. 148). Within this
merging of curriculum and behavior, behavior management
actually becomes the focus of student learning, to the exclu-
sion of academics. Concerns also exist for schools that follow
a psychodynamic approach. These schools may provide lim-
ited academic benefit to students, both while enrolled and
6 months after returning to their public or home school
(Grizenko & Sayegh, 1990; Kotsopoulos, Walker, Beggs, &
Jones, 1991). Greater behavioral than academic gains may be
expected in schools with a psychodynamic philosophy
because these schools have a greater focus on behavioral
issues than on academic skills and as few as 2.5 hours of
school each day (Grizenko & Sayegh; Kotsopoulos et al.)
Limited research indicates that philosophical orientation has
some effect on student academic outcomes. However, addi-
tional research is necessary to identify which children make
the greatest gains in day treatment and residential schools
with specific philosophical approaches (Zimet & Farley,
1985). One of the first steps in this process is to obtain a
national picture of the current philosophical orientations and


142 REMEDIAL AND SPECIAL EDUCATION
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emphasis on education versus treatment in day treatment and
residential schools.


INSTRUCTION AND ACCREDITATION

Instruction in day treatment and residential schools is also
affected by school-level policies. Critical issues include the
length of the school day, the total daily academic instruc-
tional time (i.e., school day excluding physical education,
lunch, recess, snack time, and nonacademic reinforcement
time), and the length of the school year. The amount of time
during the school day that students spend in individual or
group therapy or meeting with a mental health professional
may also affect academic instructional time. While instruc-
tional time alone is only a modest predictor of student
achievement (Karweit, 1983; Suarez, Torlone, McGrath, &
Clark, 1991; Walberg, 1988), available research indicates that
day treatment and residential schools for students with EBD
provide less than 5 hours a day of instruction (Adams, 1977;
Grizenko et al., 1994). Issues concerning the time available
for education are particularly important, as students com-
monly return to their public or home schools, and in light of
the need to ensure access to the general education curriculum,
as delineated in the No Child Left Behind Act (2001).
Accreditation is one method for holding schools ac-
countable for providing appropriate educational services (e.g.,
a school day that is consistent in length with the public
schools). Limited information indicates that accreditation
may generally have a positive effect on the reporting of stu-
dent behavior and education (Katsiyannis, 1993). When schools
are required to report information, there is the assumption
that this method of accountability will ensure that schools
adhere to a common set of standards and that it is possible to
assess if students benefit from their educational program
(Ysseldyke & Bielinski, 2002). However, national informa-
tion on the extent to which day treatment and residential
schools are accredited by state departments of education or
other agencies does not exist.


ENTRANCE AND EXIT POLICIES

Approximately three fourths of elementary-age students in
day treatment and residential schools eventually transition to
less restrictive school settings (Baenen, Stephens, & Glen-
wick, 1986; Gagnon & Leone, in press; Grizenko, Papineau,
& Sayegh, 1993; Grizenko & Sayegh, 1990; Grizenko et al.,
1994). Because of this common experience and the chronic
nature of EBD for many children, specific exit policies and
follow-up services are essential for specialized education and
treatment settings (Swan, Brown, & Jacob, 1987). For ex-
ample, Baenen, Glenwick, Stephens, Neuhaus, and Mowrey
(1986) noted that children often continue to exhibit behav-
ioral and educational problems upon discharge from a day
treatment school.


Although follow-up is critical, few studies have ad-
dressed the supports needed for children to transition from
day treatment and residential school to public or home schools,
and no common core of policies or practices exists (Kauff-
man & Smucker, 1995; McLeer, Pain, & Johnson, 1993).
Researchers have identified post-discharge follow-up proce-
dures for day treatment and residential schools as the pro-
gram area most in need of improvement (Saddi, 1983). In one
study, Katsiyannis (1993) found that 12 of 14 residential
schools in Virginia provided some form of after-care services
(e.g., follow-up parent surveys, parent support groups, phone
calls, consultation, staff visits, assistance with securing out-
patient care for the child). However, the anecdotal accounts
of after-care services did not identify the extent to which each
school included these components. Thus, the first step in
developing and testing specific approaches to assist youth in
their return to public or home schools is to identify what
types of services are currently being provided nationally.



PURPOSE

No national studies have yet addressed the characteristics of
elementary day treatment and residential schools for students
with EBD. Nor has there been research on the policies that
support student entrance into and exit from these schools.
The lack of research is disconcerting in light of the increas-
ingly rigorous academic demands, the growing number of
students enrolled in these schools (U.S. Department of Edu-
cation, 2002), and the fact that most students return to their
public or home school (Baenen et al., 1986; Gagnon & Le-
one, in press). Identifying national trends in school charac-
teristics and school-level policies is a critical first step in
ensuring that students receive an appropriate education in day
treatment and residential schools and receive the critical sup-
port necessary to reintegrate into public or home schools. To
address these issues, this study examined the following vari-
ables: (a) the characteristics of day treatment and residential
schools for elementary students with EBD and (b) the current
school-level entrance and exit policies of day treatment and
residential schools for elementary students with EBD.



METHOD

The data reported here are part of a larger national study of
day treatment and residential schools for elementary students
with EBD (Gagnon, 2002; Gagnon & Leone, in press; Gag-
non & McLaughlin, 2004). This larger survey included five
areas of concern: (a) teacher or administrator and student
characteristics; (b) characteristics of the schools; (c) curricu-
lar policies; (d) accountability policies; and (e) entrance and
exit policies. This article focuses on principal reports of the
school characteristics and entrance and exit policies.


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Sample


The researchers used a national random sample of public and
private day treatment and residential schools for youth with
EBD that served students in Grades 1 through 6. Because no
database existed that specifically identified the schools of
interest, a more inclusive commercial database (Market Data
Retrieval, 2002) of alternative and special education schools
was obtained. Then, from the list of 6,110 schools, 4,000
were randomly selected, and a phone call was made to each
school to verify that it satisfied three requirements for inclu-
sion into the study: (a) it included a day treatment or residen-
tial facility for children with EBD; (b) it was not solely a
hospital program; and (c) it provided educational services for
any of Grades 1 through 6. 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. To provide addi-
tional assurance that only the schools of interest were sam-
pled, the first question on the survey asked principals if
their school provided day treatment or residential services.
Subsequently, 156 schools responded that they had been in-
accurately classified, and these schools were excluded from
the analysis. 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.


Instrumentation
Survey questions concerning the characteristics of the schools
and entrance and exit policies were developed through a
three-step process. First, a literature review identified the
importance of and the limited information available concern-
ing day treatment and residential school accreditation (Kat-
siyannis, 1993), philosophy (Saddi, 1983), and instructional
time (Adams, 1977). Furthermore, previous studies identified
the importance of entrance and exit policies and support for
students (Baenen et al., 1986; Fuchs, Fuchs, Fernstrom, &
Hohn, 1991; Katsiyannis, 1993; McLeer, Pain, & Johnson,
1993). However, no national data existed for any of these
issues. This information provided the basis for the initial draft
of the survey. Second, experts in the fields of special educa-
tion, youth with EBD, special education policy, and counsel-
ing provided feedback on the survey. Third, a principal focus
group provided additional feedback. Following each of these
steps, survey questions were revised.

School Characteristics. The survey included 10 closed-
ended questions concerning school characteristics and 11
closed-ended questions concerning entrance and exit policies.
Specifically, in the C(h.i.,'cliii% of the Schools section,
respondents were asked to check the appropriate answer for
categorical questions, including the type of services offered
(e.g., day treatment, residential, or combined day treatment


and residential) and the school's organizational structure
(e.g., public, private nonprofit, private for profit). Principals
reported whether the school was accredited and, if so, by
whom (i.e., state departments of education, Joint Commis-
sion on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations [JCAHO],
Council on Accreditation for Children and Family Services
[COA], Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Fa-
cilities [CARF], or "other" accrediting agency). Principals
were also asked to identify the primary philosophical orien-
tation of their schools (i.e., biophysical, psychodynamic, psy-
choeducational, behavioral, sociological, ecological, or no
primary philosophical orientation). Principals also reported
on the relative balance between education and student behav-
ioral and therapeutic issues in their schools (i.e., first therapy,
then education; first behavior management, then education; a
balance between education and therapy or behavior manage-
ment; first education, then therapy; first education, then
behavior management; other).
Also included in the Ch.liiIic t of the School sec-
tion of the surveys were questions about school policies re-
lated to instruction. Principals were asked to identify the length
of the school day in hours, total daily academic instructional
time in hours (i.e., school day excluding physical education,
lunch, recess, snack time, and nonacademic reinforcement
time), and the length of the school year in days. Furthermore,
principals identified the number of minutes during academic
time that students typically spent in individual/group therapy
or meeting with a mental health professional.

Entrance and Exit Policies. The Entrance and Exit
Policies section of the survey included 11 categorical and
ordinal questions that focused on student entry into and exit
out of the exclusionary setting (i.e., day treatment, residen-
tial, or combined day treatment and residential school).
Respondents were asked if a specific policy existed for com-
municating with students' public or home schools upon stu-
dent admission. Furthermore, respondents were asked if a
person other than the classroom teacher was employed to fol-
low up after a student was discharged and, if so, whether that
person was employed part-time or full-time. Respondents
were also queried on the existence of specific policies to
communicate academic and behavioral progress to the public
or home school upon student discharge.
Principals were also questioned about the existence of
written policies regarding contact with public school person-
nel and parents upon student discharge. Those respondents
whose school policy supported follow-up contact were asked
to specify the number of contacts expected. Similarly, another
question focused on the existence of a policy for visits to a
student's public or home school upon discharge and on the
number of times that a visit was expected.

Validity and Reliability. To increase the validity of the
survey instrument and allow for greater generalizability, an
advisory group was formed consisting of leaders in the field


144 REMEDIAL AND SPECIAL EDUCATION
Volume 26. Number 3. Mav/June 2005








of special education and counseling. Moreover, principals
from day treatment and residential schools in the Washington,
DC, metro area participated in a focus group. The advisory
and focus groups commented on six issues: (a) layout of the
survey; (b) ease of the directions; (c) clarity of the questions;
(d) consistency between research questions and the survey
categories and questions; (e) importance of the categories and
the specific questions; and (f) recommendations for addi-
tional categories or questions (Krueger, 1998). Based on ex-
pert suggestions and focus group responses, the surveys were
modified.
Possible threats to reliability were addressed through the
standardization of the survey format, directions, and ques-
tions (Fink, 1995). Prior to data entry, returned surveys were
used to develop a codebook. Decisions were noted regarding
missing data, handwritten messages on the surveys, and con-
flicting answers (Litwin, 1995). Additional data entry issues
and decisions were made by the primary investigator and
entered into the codebook as necessary during data entry.
Reliability checks were conducted on data entered for 30% of
principal surveys. Agreement was calculated by dividing the
number of agreements by the number of agreements and dis-
agreements x 100. Reliability for data entered was 99.86%.


Survey Administration
Following an introductory letter to principals, the first mail-
ing included a cover letter to the principal, the principal
survey, a stamped self-addressed return envelope, and a
$2.00 bill attached to each survey. A second mailing occurred
3 weeks after the first mailing. At the second mailing, an
assistant began contacting nonrespondents by phone to
encourage the principals to complete the survey. A third mail-
ing occurred 3 weeks after the second mailing. Phone calls to
nonrespondents continued until the end of the data collection
period.


Respondents and Nonrespondents
A total of 271 (56.45%) principals returned surveys. Respon-
dents represented schools in 48 states and the District of
Columbia. Respondent and nonrespondent comparisons were
completed only on the 480 schools identified as day treatment
and residential schools based on information from the com-
mercial database (Market Data Retrieval, 2002). Specifically,
five variables were compared: (a) locale (i.e., urban, subur-
ban, or rural); (b) enrollment range (i.e., 1-99, 100-199, or
200 or more); (c) census bureau region (i.e., Northeast, Mid-
west, South, or West); (d) school type (i.e., alternative edu-
cation school, alternative education program, or special
education school); and (e) organizational structure (i.e., pub-
lic school, combined category of county or state, private,
non-Catholic, or Catholic). When comparing schools with
principal responses and schools without principal responses,
there were no significant differences for the noted variables.


Data Analysis
Due to the descriptive nature of the study, statistical proce-
dures consisted of frequency and percentage data. In instances
where principals were asked to "check all that apply," only
the frequency is provided. Some principals did not answer
every survey question. Thus, variation exists in the number of
responses for each question.


RESULTS

School Characteristics
Type of Service, Organizational Structure, and Ac-
creditation. Principals reported on the types of services
provided at their school (i.e., day treatment, residential, or
combined day treatment and residential), the school's organi-
zational structure (i.e., public, private nonprofit, or private for
profit), the accreditation status of the school, and the accred-
iting organization. Most responding principals (n = 268) indi-
cated that their school was day treatment (n = 167, 62.3%).
An additional 22.8% (n = 61) identified that they operated a
combined day treatment and residential school. Approxi-
mately the same number of respondents identified their
schools as public (n = 110; 41.7%) or private nonprofit (n =
117, 44. ', i Principals (n = 265) also reported that their
schools were accredited in 86.8% (n = 230) of the cases.
However, 3.4% (n = 9) of principals were unsure if their
school was accredited. Principals (n = 230) reported all agen-
cies that accredited their school. State departments of educa-
tion (n = 215), "other" accrediting agencies (n = 50), or
JCAHO (n = 37) were the most common accrediting agen-
cies. Few schools were accredited by the Council on Accred-
itation for Children and Family Services (COA; n = 22) or the
Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities
(CARF; n = 8). Moreover, 76 schools had multiple accredita-
tions.

Philosophy and Emphasis on Instruction. Principals
were asked questions about the philosophical orientation of
the school and the schoolwide emphasis on education versus
treatment. Most responding principals (n = 255) identified the
primary philosophical orientation of the school as behavioral
(n = 136, 53.3%) or psychoeducational (n = 73; 28.6%). A
number of principals noted no primary philosophical orienta-
tion (n = 31; 12.2'* i Few principals reported the primary
philosophical orientation as psychodynamic (n = 7; 2.7%).
Also, responding principals (n = 269) often reported a bal-
ance between education and treatment (n = 194; 72.1%) or an
emphasis on behavior management and then education (n =
44; 16.4'. i Principals (n = 14; 5.2%) rarely noted a primary
emphasis on therapy and then education.

Allocated Instructional Time. Principals reported the
total number of (a) days in an academic school year, (b) hours


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in a school day, (c) daily academic instructional time, and
(d) minutes of instructional time per week that students spent
with a mental health professional. Respondents (n = 270)
commonly noted 161 to 180 days in an academic school year
(n = 122; 45.2%). Also, an equal number of principals (n =
73; 27%) noted 181 to 200 days and 201 or more days in an
academic year at their school. Few principals noted 160 days
or less (n = 2; 0.7%). Principals (n = 270) also reported that
the length of the school day was 6 hours or more (n = 190;
70.4%) or 5 hours (n = 74; 27.4%). The same number of prin-
cipals reported 4 hours or 3 hours in a school day (n = 3;
1.1%). Principals (n = 269) most frequently reported that
total daily instructional time was 5 hours or more (n = 121;
45.0%) or 4 hours (n = 109; 40.5%). Few principals noted
3 hours (n = 32; 11.9%) or 2 hours or less (n = 7; 2.6%) of
daily instructional time. Principals (n = 266) also reported the
amount of academic time that a typical first through sixth
grade student spent each week in individual/group therapy or
meeting with a mental health professional. Responses varied
greatly, ranging from no time spent with mental health pro-
fessionals (n = 20; 7.5%) to more than 121 minutes (n = 26;
9.8%) per week. Principals most commonly reported the time
students spent with a mental health professional as 31 to 60
minutes (n = 86; 32.3%), followed by 1 to 30 minutes (n = 57;
21.4%), 61 to 90 minutes (n = 49; 18.4%), and 91 to 120 min-
utes (n = 28; 10.5%).

Policies to Facilitate Student
Entrance and Exit
Principals responded to questions concerning student admis-
sion into the school, communication with public or home
schools at discharge, and follow-up support provided. Re-
sponding principals (n = 269) commonly noted that a policy
existed for communicating with public school personnel on
student admission (n = 232; 86.2%). However, responding
principals (n = 267) commonly noted that there was no per-
son other than the classroom teacher to follow up after a stu-
dent was discharged (n = 129; 48. '. i Furthermore, 22.5%
(n = 60) had a full-time person and 18.7% (n = 50) had a part-
time person assigned to student follow-up.
Principals (n = 270) also identified the existence of spe-
cific school policies for providing reports of students' aca-
demic (n = 244; 90.4%) and behavioral (n = 240; 88.9%)
progress to the public or home schools at discharge. However,
specific policies for follow-up after student discharge were
more varied. Respondents (n = 269) noted contact with pub-
lic or home school following a child's exit from the school.
About one third of principals reported no policy (n = 100;
37.2%), another 37.2% (n = 100) indicated that contact by a
teacher or liaison was expected, and 24.9% (n = 67) reported
that teachers were encouraged, but that a specific number of
that contacts was not specified. When responding (n = 102) to
the follow-up question about the number of times that contact
was expected, most principals answered that this was deter-


mined on an individual basis (n = 67; 65.6%) or that two to
three contacts were expected (n = 19; 18.6%).
Principals responded similarly to questions concerning
written school policies for follow-up contact with parents and
visits to a child's public or home school following student
exit from the school. Respondents (n = 269) reported that no
policy for follow-up contact with parents existed in 47.2%
(n = 127) of schools, some contact was expected in 26.8%
(n = 72) of schools, and in 24.2% (n = 65) of the schools,
teachers were encouraged to make contact, but the number of
times was not specified. For principals (n = 73) reporting
policies for follow-up after student discharge, contact with
parents was most often determined on an individual basis
(n = 49; 67.1%), followed by a policy of two to three contacts
(n = 11; 15.0%).
Based on principal responses (n = 268), no policy ex-
isted for follow-up visits to a student's public or home schools
in 67.2% (n = 180) of the schools. Responding principals also
reported that in 17.2% (n = 46) of schools, the teacher was
encouraged to make visits, but the number of times was not
specified. In 13.1% (n = 35) of schools, teacher visits to a
child's public or home school were expected. Similar to other
follow-up policy questions, 85.7 % (n = 30) of principals
noted that the number of visits was determined on an indi-
vidual basis.


DISCUSSION

Increasing educational demands for all students is a major
component of recent educational reform (No Child Left Be-
hind Act, 2001). However, school policies and practices in
day treatment and residential schools may either enhance or
hinder the ability of youth to be successful with the rigorous
curriculum while in the exclusionary setting. Furthermore,
upon their eventual return to a public or home school, with-
out adequate follow-up support, students may continue to
experience academic and behavioral problems. Principal re-
sponses in the current study provide a broad perspective on
the current status of programs and policies for elementary-
age children with EBD placed in day treatment and residen-
tial settings and suggest areas that require further scrutiny by
parents, advocates, and professionals. The current study also
provides the groundwork for several issues that require addi-
tional investigation.


School Characteristics
Accreditation, Philosophy, and Emphasis on Educa-
tion. Three school characteristics were particularly notewor-
thy: (a) accreditation and accrediting agency; (b) primary
philosophical orientation; and (c) emphasis on education ver-
sus treatment. Approximately 90% of principals noted that
their school was accredited. State departments of education
accredited almost all schools in this study. However, what


146 REMEDIAL AND SPECIAL EDUCATION
Volume 26. Number 3. Mav/June 2005








remains unknown is the criterion for accreditation and the
specific monitoring procedures set by state departments of
education for day treatment and residential schools. There is
some indication that the schools that are accredited by state
departments of education do not adequately follow state and
federal assessment and accountability guidelines (Gagnon &
McLaughlin, 2004). This calls into question the extent to
which other school policies (e.g., length of school day, num-
ber of days in a school year) are established based on accred-
itation requirements.
With regard to philosophical approach, the findings re-
ported here are similar to those noted by Saddi (1983) con-
cerning residential schools. A majority of principals in the
current study identified a behavioral approach as the primary
philosophical approach for the school. Far fewer principals in
the current study identified psychodynamic as the primary
approach. In addition to a behavioral philosophy, many day
treatment and residential schools indicated maintaining a bal-
ance between education and therapeutic issues. This is con-
sistent with previous (Grizenko, Sayegh, & Papineau, 1994)
assertions that day treatment schools must use a multimodal
approach that addresses both students' academic and behav-
ioral needs. However, with the emphasis on the behavioral
model, educators and administrators must be aware of the
common merging of curriculum and behavior management
(Steinberg & Knitzer, 1992). As researchers have observed,
such an approach may reduce the emphasis on higher level
thinking and problem solving and reinforce I l 'il re-
sponses and behaviors rather than patterns and concepts and
making connections between concepts" (Steinberg & Knit-
zer, p. 148).

Allocated and Instructional Time. The study also
examined school-level allocated time in day treatment and
residential schools. Principals frequently responded that their
school had between 161 and 180 days or 181 and 200 days in
an academic school year. This is generally consistent with
state policies. Specifically, 41 states mandate a 173- to 180-
day school year, and another 4 require in excess of 180 days
(U.S. Department of Education, 2001). Principals in the cur-
rent study also noted a policy of 5 or 6 hours in a school day.
Within a school day, students were commonly provided 4 or
5 hours or more of daily academic instruction time. However,
a relatively large number of principals (n = 32; 11.9%)
reported only 3 hours of academic instructional time each
day. Limited research indicates that in a school with 2.5 hours
of school daily, youth are able to maintain academic levels,
but not progress (Grizenko, Papineau, & Sayegh, 1993). Fur-
thermore, there was great variation in the amount of time stu-
dents were removed from academic instruction each week to
meet with a mental health professional. Responses ranged
from no time spent with mental health professionals to more
than 121 minutes per week. Data did not provide information
on the nature of mental health services. However, such on-
site mental health programs have the potential to foster effec-


tive links between families and the school. This link can be
fostered through the employment of a school-family liaison
(Steinberg & Knitzer, 1992).


Policies to Facilitate Student Entrance and Exit
Day treatment and residential schools were much more
focused on communication with public or home schools at
student entrance than at exit. More than 80% of principals
reported that upon admission, a specific school policy existed
for communicating with public or home school personnel.
However, about half of the principals noted that there was no
person, other than the classroom teacher, to follow up after a
student was discharged. About one third of principals also
reported having no school policy for contact with public
or home schools following student exit from the school.
Approximately 50% of principals reported no policy for
follow-up contact with parents. Two thirds of principals also
noted no policy for follow-up visits to a child's public or
home school. These findings indicate a need for day treat-
ment and residential schools to develop an entrance and exit
program that is carefully planned and includes "close coop-
eration of school officials, utilizes available community re-
sources, and facilitates the development of support groups"
(Katsiyannis, 1993, p. 11). This is critical for effective man-
agement, exchange of records, and development of follow-up
activities.
When exit policies did exist, they were commonly in-
dividualized, rather than providing a minimum standard for
follow-up with all students. A relatively large number of prin-
cipals responded that the number of follow-up contacts with
public or home schools, contact with parents, and follow-up
visits were determined on an individual student basis. To
address problems associated with lack of follow-up, schools
should identify specific policies that ensure a minimum of
contact. Beyond that minimum, follow-up can and should be
individualized. Given that most schools did not have a desig-
nated employee to facilitate student entrance and exit, hiring
a person for that purpose may be needed.
A common theme in research concerning youth exit
from day treatment, psychiatric hospital, or separate school
for students with EBD was the importance of a transition spe-
cialist (Baenen et al., 1986; McLeer et al., 1993). Research
indicates that the length of time necessary to support reinte-
gration into the less restrictive environment for a single stu-
dent ranges from 5 hours (McLeer et al., 1993) to 20 hours
(Fuchs et al., 1991). However, simply employing a person to
assist with student entrance and exit without clear school
policies and procedures may decrease the likelihood of suc-
cessfully assisting students.


Limitations and Future Research
Two limitations of the current study are response rate and
concerns regarding the initial misidentification of schools as


REMEDIAL AND SPECIAL EDUCATION 147
Volume 26. Number 3. M hav/c u. 2005








day treatment and residential schools during the preliminary
phone interview. Although 50% is an acceptable response
rate for mail surveys (Weisberg, Krosnick, & Bowen, 1989),
a more commonly accepted return rate is 70%. Thus, the
56.45% principal response rate could be considered a limita-
tion; the results should be interpreted with this in mind. The
initial identification of schools could also be considered a
limitation due to the frequent inaccurate classification of the
school as day treatment or residential school for youth with
EBD during preliminary phone interviews. However, the ini-
tial question on the survey asked principals to confirm that
their school was a day treatment or residential school. The
survey question provided additional assurance that the schools
surveyed did fit the criteria established by the researchers.
Despite these limitations, the current results provide im-
portant information that will allow researchers to conduct
in-depth research on issues related to day treatment and resi-
dential school characteristics and entrance and exit policies.
For example, now that a national representation of policies
exists, it is possible to assess the impact of these policies and
begin to develop and validate effective school-level policies.
This study also provides the groundwork for future investiga-
tions to identify the factors that promote or are barriers to
providing a quality education to students and the supports
necessary for them to transition effectively to a less restrictive
environment.
Review of school policy documents, on-site observation,
and interviews in day treatment and residential schools are
necessary to validate school policies and practices and to
assess the effects of variations. Also, future research should
examine the variability that exists within these exclusionary
settings. For example, the current data indicate great variabil-
ity in the amount of academic time that students spend with
mental health professionals. To understand the differences
fully and make appropriate recommendations, practices unique
to certain schools that affect academic instructional time need
to be identified. Furthermore, future research should thor-
oughly describe the activities in which students engage
throughout the school day, the organization of the school day,
the curriculum, and other available course offerings (e.g., art,
music, physical education, computer lab, library, social skills
instruction).


Implications
Evidence from the current study indicates that systematic
deficiencies exist in school-level policies and practices with
elementary day treatment and residential schools for students
with EBD. These shortcomings have great potential to com-
promise the quality of education services for youth in these
settings. Of primary concern is that almost 90% of respond-
ing schools are accredited, most by their state departments of
education. Thus, implications should be considered in light of
the critical need to evaluate the criteria used by state depart-


ments of education for accreditation of day treatment and res-
idential schools and the procedures for monitoring school
compliance with these criteria. Schools and state departments
of education should collaborate to ensure that day treatment
and residential schools

* maintain a number of school days, hours in
a school day, and instructional time that is
consistent with state guidelines and public
school practice. This is critical to ensure
equal access to the general education cur-
riculum for all students in the exclusionary
setting.
* conduct meetings (e.g., individual, group,
and family therapy; meeting with a psychia-
trist) with mental health professionals during
noninstructional time when possible. For
example, scheduled meetings could occur
before or after school.
* conduct internal and external evaluation and
observations of schools to ensure a consistent
focus on academics and the use of behavioral
strategies as an approach to proactively
increase students' participation in academics
and activities with peers.
* identify and maintain a standard level of sup-
port (i.e., contact with public school person-
nel and parents, visits to a student's public or
home school) for all students upon discharge,
with individualized services as appropriate.


Conclusions
The data from the current national survey provide insight into
apparent inadequacies in educational services in many ele-
mentary day and residential schools for children with EBD
and call into question the opportunities provided to these stu-
dents for academic mastery. This is particularly troubling
given that most students will eventually return to their public
or home school (Gagnon & Leone, in press). The current
study highlights the need for state departments of education
to improve accreditation and monitoring policies and proce-
dures for day treatment and residential schools. Also note-
worthy was the relative absence of policies and staff to
facilitate follow-up of students after discharge. Without poli-
cies and designated staff, successful re-entry of students to
their home schools and communities may be elusive. School
type and organizational structure were defined differently in
the commercial database of schools than in the survey. *

JOSEPH GAGNON, PhD, is an assistant professor at George Mason Uni-
versity. His research interests include curriculum, assessment, and account-
ability policies in day treatment and residential schools and juvenile


148 REMEDIAL AND SPECIAL EDUCATION
Volume 26. Number 3. Mav/June 2005









corrections in light of standards -driven reform. He has also completed
research on effective math instruction for secondary students with emotional
disturbances and learning disabilities. PETER LEONE, PhD, is a professor
of special education at the University of Maryland. His research interests
focus on program environments for troubled youth, educational entitlements
of incarcerated youth, and policy studies. He directs The National Center on
Education, Disability, and Juvenile Justice (EDJJ). Address: Joseph Gagnon,
George Mason University, College of Education and Human Development,
4400 University Ave., MSN 4B3, Fairfax, VA 22030; e-mail: jgagnon@gmu.
edu


AUTHORS' NOTE

This research was supported by Grant 522739, U.S. Department of Educa-
tion, Office of Special Education Programs and Educational Policy Reform
Research Institute (EPRRI) Grant H324P000004, U.S. Department of Edu-
cation, Office of Special Education. The views expressed herein do not nec-
essarily represent those of the funding agencies.


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Initial Acceptance: 12/1/2004
Final Acceptance: 1/5/2005


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