Curriculum, assessment, and accountability in day treatment and residential schools
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Title: Curriculum, assessment, and accountability in day treatment and residential schools
Series Title: Gagnon, J. C., & McLaughlin, M. J. (2004). Curriculum, assessment, and accountability in day treatment and residential schools. Exceptional Children, 70, 263-283.
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Creator: Gagnon, Joseph
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Abstract: This study determined school-level curricular, assessment, and accountability policies and practices in private and public day treatment and residential schools for elementary-age children with emotional or behavioral disorders (E/BD). A national random sample of 271 (56.45%) principals and 229 (47.70%) teachers responded to a mail survey. No significant differences existed between teacher and principal reports of school-level curricular, assessment, and accountability policies. However, several statistically significant differences existed in school policies for schools that served students from a single district and those that served students from across a single state or more than one state. Across all schools, teachers and principals indicated a prescribed school curriculum was common. District and state standards and student individualized education programs (IEPs) were used to receive information on curriculum of local schools. Approximately two-thirds of all of the schools administered district and state assessments and most schools used their state’s accommodations guidelines. Assessment results were frequently reported to parents, teachers, and used to adjust instruction and curriculum. Implications and suggestions for future research are provided.
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I E x ce i n l d I -


Vol. 70, No. 3, pp.263-283.
�2004 Council for Exceptional Children.


Curriculum, Assessment, and

Accountability in Day Treatment

and Residential Schools


JOSEPH CALVIN GAGNON
George Mason University
MARGARET J. MCLAUGHLIN
University of Maryland

ABSTRACT: This study determined school-level curricular, assessment, and accountability policies
and practices in private and public day treatment and residential schools for elementary-age chil-
dren with emotional or behavioral disorders (E/BD). A national random sample of 271 (56. 45%)
principals and 229 (47.70%) teachers responded to a mail survey. No significant differences ex-
isted between teacher and principal reports of school-level curricular, assessment, and accountabil-
ity policies. However, several statistically significant differences existed in school policies for schools
that served students from a single district and those that served students from across a single state or
more than one state. Across all schools, teachers and principals indicated a prescribed school cur-
riculum was common. District and state standards and student individualized education programs
(IEPs) were used to receive information on curriculum of local schools. Approximately two-thirds of
all of the schools administered district and state assessments and most schools used their state' ac-
commodations guidelines. Assessment results were frequently reported to parents, teachers, and used
to adjust instruction and curriculum. Implications and suggestions for future research are provided.


The demand for increased ac-
countability for schools and
school districts has been among
the most visible and controversial
of the educational reforms un-
dertaken in the United States. Improved student
performance on assessments and other important
indicators has been at the forefront of national
educational policy for well over a decade, and the
recent reauthorization of Title I of the Elemen-


tary and Secondary Education Act (No Child
Left Behind Act of 2001) has moved the account-
ability requirements for schools to an even higher
level. The dominant feature of today's educational
accountability is the emphasis on assessing stu-
dent performance (Fuhrman, 1999; Heubert &
Hauser, 1999; Linn, 2000; Olson, Jones, &
Bond, 2001; Thurlow, Nelson, Teelucksingh, &
Ysseldyke, 2000) and the logic that it is necessary


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to test students' knowledge to know whether they
have met the content standards.
New federal and state accountability sys-
tems also focus directly on schools. School-level
data, most notably student achievement, are col-
lected and reported publicly statewide, typically
on school report cards. In the new systems, per-
formance data are used to sanction or reward in-
dividual schools as well as target improvement
efforts at the school level (Fuhrman, 1999; Linn,
2000; Olson et al., 2001). Consequences range
from public reporting of performance on key in-
dicators to rewards and sanctions. These reports
are an almost universal feature of accountability
systems.
When students are held directly account-
able, it is most typically at the high school level
and based on completion of a specific curriculum
or set of courses (Heubert & Hauser, 1999). All
but four states prescribe the minimum number of
courses that high school students must take in
specific academic areas (Guy, Shin, Lee, & Thur-
low, 1999). In 1998, most states required stu-
dents to complete 4 years of English, 3 years of
social studies, and 2 years each of mathematics
and science to receive a high school diploma. In
addition, in a recent national survey, Olson et al.
(2001) indicated that 27 states have policies that
require students to pass some sort of assessment
to receive a high school diploma, though only 19
states currently administer the exams. Increas-
ingly, these "exit" tests focus on 10th grade stan-
dards or higher (American Federation of Teachers,
1999).
For the students who receive special educa-
tion services, the new demands for public ac-
countability for student achievement represent a
major shift from an accountability model that was
grounded in individually referenced individual-
ized education program (IEP) goals and the
school system's compliance with procedures
(Thurlow et al., 2000; U.S. Department of Edu-
cation, 2002a). Accountability for individual stu-
dent performance or educational outcomes has
been individualized and based on the IEP review
process, as opposed to being benchmarked against
a standard and publicly reported in the aggregate
(McDonnell, McLaughlin, & Morison, 1997;
McLaughlin & Thurlow, 2003; Wolf & Hassel,
2001). The 1997 amendments to the Individuals


With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) clearly
established new policies regarding assessment, ac-
countability, and the expectation that every stu-
dent with a disability will be held to the same
high expectations as their typical peers. Among
these new IDEA provisions are the requirements
that students with disabilities be provided access
to the general education curriculum, participate
in state and local assessments with appropriate ac-
commodations, and have their results reported in
the same manner as other students. The intent of
these new provisions is to promote higher expec-
tations and better results for all students with dis-
abilities.
One group of students who may challenge
the implementation of these new policies are stu-
dents with emotional or behavioral disorders
(E/BD) who are being educated in separate day
treatment and residential schools. Students with
E/BD often have difficulty remaining part of the
mainstream educational environment (Kauffman,
2001; Muscott, 1997) and are placed in exclu-
sionary settings, such as day treatment and resi-
dential schools, which offer greater behavioral and
therapeutic support than the regular public
school. For students ages 6 to 21 who are served
under IDEA, those with E/BD are more likely to
be placed in restrictive settings than youth in any
other disability classification (U.S. Department of
Education, 2002a). Currently, approximately
77,000 students with E/BD, ages 6 to 21, are ed-
ucated in these settings (U.S. Department of Ed-
ucation, 2002b).
The ultimate goal for most elementary-age
students with E/BD who are placed in day treat-
ment or residential schools is to transition back to
their home or public school (Grosenick, George,
& George, 1987). Although information is lim-
ited, most of these students do transition to a less
restrictive setting within traditional schools (Bae-
nen, Glenwick, Stephens, Neuhaus, & Mowrey,
1986; Gagnon & Leone, 2003). For this transi-
tion to be successful, the students must have con-
tinuous access to curriculum and instruction that
is based on general education standards. They
must also be afforded the benefits of school im-
provement strategies and initiatives designed to
promote higher achievement. Furthermore, stu-
dents with E/BD who expect to graduate from
high school must be afforded the opportunity to


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learn the critical content necessary to pass re-
quired coursework and assessments. To ensure
that students with E/BD who are being educated
outside of mainstream schools do have access to
the curriculum, their performance must be as-
sessed, reported, and accounted for within the ed-
ucational system.
This study investigated current school-level
educational policies and practices in private and
public day treatment and residential schools for
elementary students with E/BD.The results re-
ported in the current study represent one compo-
nent of a larger national survey of day treatment
and residential schools serving students with
E/BD that investigated the characteristics of stu-
dents, teachers, principals, and programs, as well
as a variety of school-level policies and practices
(see Gagnon, 2002). The results related to school-
level curricular policies, assessment, and account-
ability are discussed in this report. The following
five questions are addressed:
1. What are the curricular policies?
2. What are the policies related to assessment of
student academic performance (e.g., participa-
tion in assessments, assessment accommoda-
tions, alternate assessments)?
3. What are the policies related to educational ac-
countability (e.g., primary accountability, re-
porting assessment results, using assessment
results)?
4. Do policies and the percentage of students par-
ticipating in district or state assessments relate
to student and program characteristics?
5. Do reports of school policies relate to respon-
dent roles (i.e., teacher and principal)?


METHODOLOGY
Survey research of teachers and administrators
provides an opportunity to identify salient fea-
tures of school-level educational policy (Epstein,
Foley, & Cullinan, 1992). The study described
here included one survey for teachers and another
for principals.
INSTRUMENTATION
The first author developed the two surveys for the
study based on a review of literature, considera-
tion of current educational reform, discussion


with experts in the field of special education, and
separate teacher and principal focus groups. There
were five sections on both teacher and principal
surveys: (a) teacher or administrator and student
characteristics; (b) characteristics of the educa-
tional program; (c) curricular policies; (d) ac-
countability; and (e) entrance and exit policies.
However, the current description focuses on the
curricular policies and accountability sections of
the survey (see Gagnon & Leone, 2003 for other
results).
RELIABILITY AND VALIDITY OF THE
SURVEY
Possible threats to reliability were addressed
through the standardization of the survey format,
directions, and questions for each of the two
groups (i.e., teachers, principals; Fink, 1995).
Prior to data entry, returned surveys were used to
develop a codebook. Decisions were noted regard-
ing missing data, handwritten messages on the
surveys, and conflicting 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 teacher and 30% of principal
surveys. Agreement was calculated by dividing the
number of agreements by the number of agree-
ments and disagreements X 100. Reliability for
teacher surveys was 99.87% and 99.86% for prin-
cipals.
To increase the validity of the survey instru-
ment and allow for greater generalizability, an ad-
visory group consisting of leaders in the field of
special education reviewed the survey and
methodology. In addition, teachers and adminis-
trators participated in separate focus groups and
commented on six issues: (a) layout of the survey;
(b) ease of directions; (c) clarity of questions, (d)
consistency between research questions and sur-
vey categories and questions; (e) importance of
the categories and specific questions; and (f) rec-
ommendations for additional categories or ques-
tions (Krueger, 1998). The surveys were modified
based on feedback.
SURVEY SAMPLING PROCEDURES
The study included a random sample of private
and public day treatment and residential schools


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for students with E/BD that serve students in any
of Grades 1 to 6. Because there was no compre-
hensive national list of schools that met the crite-
ria for inclusion in the study, a three-stage process
was followed to identify the sample. In the first
stage, a database was obtained from Market Data
Retrieval (2002). However, no national list ex-
isted that specifically identified the schools of in-
terest. Thus, the company provided a more
comprehensive list that included public and pri-
vate day treatment and residential schools serving
elementary-age students with E/BD. Specifically,
the schools were grouped into six segments. Each
segment included a variation of school classifica-
tion (e.g., public, private non-Catholic, Catholic,
state school, county school), and school type (e.g.,
special education school, alternative school, alter-
native program).
In the second stage, a decision was made on
an appropriate sample size and a random sample
of schools was selected. Although it was antici-
pated that the database would include many
schools that were not of interest in the study, the
total 6,110 schools were used to calculate the
number of schools necessary for a .05 margin of
error at the 95% confidence level (n = 362). A
random sample of 20 schools was called to iden-
tify an approximate percentage of schools that fit
the criteria for inclusion in the study. Assistants
who made the calls followed a specific written
protocol. Schools needed to satisfy three require-
ments: (a) served as a day treatment or residential
school for children with E/BD, (b) was not solely
a hospital program, and (c) provided educational
services for any of Grades 1 to 6. The calls re-
vealed that approximately 10% of the schools
qualified for the study. Thus, with a goal of sur-
veying approximately 400 schools, a random sam-
ple of 4,000 schools was selected from the
database.
In the third stage, a phone call was made to
each of the 4,000 schools to verify that each
school was a day treatment and/or residential
school program for children with E/BD. During
the process of calling schools, 20 schools refused
to provide any information. Another 104 schools
had gone out of business, moved, and/or the
phone number had been disconnected. An addi-
tional 12 schools had only partial phone numbers
in the database. These 136 schools were deleted


from the database. Based on the remaining 3,864
phone interviews, 636 schools were identified as
fitting the criteria for inclusion in the study.
Following administration of the survey, 156
schools responded that they had been inaccurately
classified as a day treatment or residential school
program for children with emotional or behav-
ioral disorders. Thus, the final sample consisted of
480 schools.
The sample of 480 included schools from
48 states and the District of Columbia. All census
bureau regions were represented, with 25.4% (n =
122) from the Northeast, 26.3% (n = 26) from
the Midwest, 29.6% (n = 142) from the South,
and 18.8% (n = 90) from the West. The total
sample also consisted of 61 (12.7%) alternative
education schools, 15 (3.1%) alternative educa-
tion programs, and 404 (84.2%) special educa-
tion schools. Most schools in the sample were
included in the combined category of county,
state, private non-Catholic, and Catholic schools
(n = 326, 67.9%). An additional 154 (32.1%)
were public schools. The schools were primarily
located in suburban areas (n = 193, 40.7%), fol-
lowed by urban areas (n = 160, 33.8%) and rural
locales (n = 121, 25.5%). In addition, 67.6% (n =
324) of the schools had enrollments between 1 to
99 students.

PARTICIPANT SELECTION

Because of possible variations in perceptions of
school policy according to job title (Hollenbeck,
Tindal, & Almond, 1998), the principal and one
randomly selected teacher were surveyed from
each randomly selected school. The principal was
defined as the person responsible for supervision
of the educational program. Although the actual
title varied among facilities, the survey cover letter
requested that the person responsible for the edu-
cation program complete the survey. Each princi-
pal was directed to randomly pick a teacher to
complete the survey. The cover letter in each prin-
cipal packet included specific directions on the
method for randomly choosing a teacher to com-
plete the survey (i.e., select the first name in an al-
phabetized list of teachers who instruct students
in any of Grades 1 to 6).


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DATA COLLECTION
Data was collected between January 2001 and
March 2002. An introductory letter was mailed
to each principal informing him or her that a sur-
vey would be arriving and the purpose of the sur-
vey. Two weeks later, each principal received a
packet that included five items: (a) cover letter to
the principal; (b) principal survey; (c) teacher sur-
vey; (d) $2.00 bill attached to each survey; and (e)
two self-addressed, stamped envelopes. Three
weeks after the first mailing, a second mailing oc-
curred. Packets and cover letters were adjusted in
instances where a response was obtained by the
teacher only, principal only, or neither the teacher
nor principal. At the time of the second mailing,
an assistant began contacting nonrespondents by
phone to urge them to complete the survey. These
calls continued until the deadline for accepting
responses. A third mailing occurred 3 weeks after
the second mailing.
RESPONDENTS AND NONRESPONDENTS
A total of 271 (56.45%) principal surveys and
229 (47.7%) teacher surveys were returned repre-
senting 284 schools. Of these, 216 (44.58% of
schools in the sample) schools had both a teacher
and principal survey returned. In instances where
a teacher responded that the program was not a
day treatment or residential educational program
serving students with E/BD in any of Grades 1 to
6, but the principal identified that the school was
such a program (n = 4), both surveys were in-
cluded.
Respondent and nonrespondent compar-
isons were completed using school-level data from
the Market Data Retrieval (2002) database.
Teachers and principals from each school were
surveyed separately. Thus, three types of respon-
dent and nonrespondent chi-square comparisons
were conducted: (a) schools with only teacher re-
spondents versus schools with only principal re-
spondents, and schools with neither teacher nor
principal respondents; (b) schools with only prin-
cipal respondents versus schools with only teacher
respondents, and schools with neither teacher nor
principal respondents; and (c) schools with both
teacher and principal respondents versus schools
with neither teacher nor principal respondents.
With a single exception, statistically signifi-
cant differences did not exist between respondents


and nonrespondents. Only school type (e.g., al-
ternative education schools, alternative education
programs, special education schools) was signifi-
cant (X2 = 26.179, 2, p < .01) when comparing
proportions of schools in which both teacher and
principal surveys were returned and schools in
which no surveys were returned. One hundred
and ninety-seven special education schools had
surveys returned by the teacher and principal.
Fewer alternative education schools (n = 12) and
alternative education programs (n = 7) had both
surveys returned. With this exception, the sample
appeared to be nationally representative of day
treatment and residential elementary schools for
students with E/BD.
DATA ANALYSIS
Descriptive statistics and chi-square analysis were
used to answer each of the five research questions.
Specifically, descriptive statistics (e.g., frequency,
percentage) were used to summarize responses
concerning school-level curricular, assessment,
and accountability policies. Chi-square analysis
was conducted to identify if statistically signifi-
cant independence or dependence in proportions
existed and to answer two research questions: (a)
do policies and percentage of students participat-
ing in district or state assessments relate to stu-
dent and program characteristics?; and (b) do
reports of school policies relate to respondent
roles? All analyses were conducted separately for
teacher and principal responses. In cases where
more than 20% of the cells had an expected value
less than 5 or the minimum expected frequency
was less than 1, rows or columns were collapsed
(Norusis, 1997). To maintain a balance between
controlling for Type I and Type II errors, a com-
mon alpha level of .01 was set.


RESU LTS
Chi-square analyses were calculated to compare
teacher and principal responses for the 216
schools in which both principals and teachers re-
turned surveys. Responses were compared for
questions relating to school-level curricular policy
(e.g., existence of prescribed curriculum, basis of
prescribed curriculum, method of school text and
curriculum materials selection); assessment (e.g.,
existence of policy regarding accommodations on


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district and state assessments, basis of the accom-
modations policy); and accountability (e.g., pri-
mary accountability). No statistically significant
differences in responses were noted. Additional
results are organized under five general categories:
(a) curricular policies; (b) primary accountability
and participation in assessments; (c) alternate as-
sessments and assessment accommodations; (d)
reporting and using assessment results; and (e)
school policies as they relate to student and pro-
gram characteristics.

CURRICULAR POLICIES

Teachers and principals were asked to respond to
several questions to address the research question,
"What are the curricular policies?" (see Table 1).
Most teachers (n = 176, 77.9%) and principals
(n = 219, 83.9%) responded that their school fol-
lowed a prescribed curriculum. In addition, many
teachers (n = 67, 39.9%) in schools using a pre-
scribed curriculum indicated that their school fol-
lowed a state curriculum, whereas 27.4% (n = 46)
of teachers reported that their school based its
curriculum on the curriculum of the local district.
Also, 27.4% (n = 46) noted their school had de-
veloped its own curriculum. Principal responses
concerning the basis of the prescribed curriculum
were relatively evenly distributed for school-devel-
oped curriculum (n = 59, 23.3%), curriculum of
the local district (n = 65, 25.7%), and curriculum
of the state (n = 59, 23.3%).
Teachers and principals were also asked to
identify school policies for obtaining information
on local school curriculum and the selection
process of school texts and other curriculum ma-
terials. Teachers and principals reported the pri-
mary method for obtaining information about
local school curriculum was through district and
state standards (n = 178 and n = 218, respec-
tively) followed by individual student IEPs (n =
168 and n = 207, respectively). Also, when asked
how their school's text and curriculum materials
were selected, teachers (n = 54, 28.0%) and prin-
cipals (n = 61, 26.8%) reported that decisions
were made by a multidisciplinary team. Remain-
ing teachers and principal responses were spread
across several approaches (see Table 1).


PRIMARY ACCOUNTABILITY AND
PARTICIPATION IN ASSESSMENTS
More than half of all teachers (n = 131, 59.0%)
and two-thirds of the principals (n = 167, 66.3%)
reported using assessments required by the local
district and/or state as the basis for their school's
accountability. But, about 30% (n = 66) of teach-
ers and almost one fourth of all principals
(n = 56, 22.2%) reported that it was their school
policy to permit individual teachers to select the
assessment methods of student performance that
would be used for accountability.
Teachers and principals who identified that
school accountability policies were based on local
district and/or state assessment were also asked to
identify the percentage of students who partici-
pated in assessments. Most teachers (n = 81,
58.7%) and principals (n = 119, 64.7%) reported
that 81% or more of students in their schools par-
ticipated in district and state assessments. How-
ever, 22 (15.9%) teachers and 17 (9.2%)
principals reported fewer than 20% participating.
Based on the principal responses, student
participation in district and state assessments dif-
fered significantly among schools serving different
student populations (e.g., students from within
district, across a single state, or from more than
one state); (x2 = 13.668, 3, p < .01). Schools in
which 61% or more of students participated in
district and state assessments commonly served
students from within a single district (n = 47,
26.7%) or from within their state (n = 52,
29.5%).
ALTERNATE ASSESSMENTS AND
ASSESSMENT ACCOMMODATIONS
Teachers and principals who identified district or
state assessments as their primary accountability
for student learning were also questioned on
school policies concerning alternate assessments
and assessment accommodations. Both groups of
respondents indicated that state standardized
norm-referenced or criterion-referenced assess-
ments were used at their school for alternate as-
sessments (teachers n = 57; principals n = 76).
The next most common response was teacher-
made assessments (n = 47 and n = 57, respec-
tively). In addition, 18 teachers and 17 principals
reported no alternate assessments were available at
their school.


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TABLE 1
School-Level Curricular Policies
Policy Teacher Response Principal Response
No. (%) No. (%)
School Follows a Prescribed Curriculum
No 50(22.1) 42(16.1)
Yes 176 (77.9) 219 (83.9)
Description of Prescribed Curriculum
School-developed 46 (27.4) 59 (23.3)
Entire school follows a prescribed curriculum
of the local district 46 (27.4) 65 (25.7)
Entire school follows a prescribed curriculum
of the state 67 (39.9) 59 (23.3)
Other 9 (5.4) 29 (11.5)

Method for School Staff to Receive Information on
Curriculum of Local Schools*
Student IEPs 168 207
District and state standards 178 218
Personal communication with district teachers
and principals 106 155
Teachers attend district staff development 90 127
Local education agency liaison 55 94
School curriculum specialist 60 79
Principal provides information 134 132
Staff do not receive information on curriculum
of local schools 15 10
Other 5 11

Method of Selecting School's Text and Other
Curriculum Materials
Based on local districts 28 (14.5) 50 (21.9)
Based on student IEPs 25 (13.0) 30 (13.2)
Based on individual teacher judgment 38 (19.7) 24 (10.5)
Based on group teachers' judgment 31 (16.1) 39 (17.1)
Based on administrator or administrative board
judgment 7 (3.6) 9 (3.9)
Based on multidisciplinary team 54 (28.0) 61 (26.8)
Other 10 (5.2) 15 (6.6)


Policy for Communicating With Public or Home
School Regarding Educational Needs of Students
With Disabilities*
Exchange of student records 198 222
Specific procedures for inviting public or home
school teachers to student IEP meetings 121 182
Personal communication with district teachers
and principals 125 169
Meeting with local education agency liaison 92 152
Other 9 22
Note: * = Where respondents were asked to mark All ThatApply to a question, no percentages are provided.


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Most teachers (n = 117, 86%) and princi-
pals (n = 157, 84.4%) reported that their school
had a policy for assessment accommodations.
When asked to identify the basis of their school's
accommodation policy, 66.7% (n = 74) of teach-
ers and 79.2% (n = 118) of principals indicated
that their school used state accommodations
guidelines.
REPORTING AND USING ASSESSMENT
RES UL TS
Teachers and principals who indicated that local,
district, state, or school-developed assessments
were used in their schools were asked how assess-
ment results were reported. The most frequent re-
sponses were: (a) reporting assessment results to
parents or guardians (n = 113 and n = 169, re-
spectively); (b) reports to teachers (n = 113 and
n = 157, respectively); and (c) results maintained
in each student's file (n = 115 and n = 162, re-
spectively). A relatively large number of teachers
and principals (n = 83 and n = 133, respectively)
also noted that reports were made to each stu-
dent's home district and fewer noted aggregate as-
sessment results were reported to the state (n = 55
and n = 97, respectively). Teachers and principals
also responded that assessment results were used
to adjust instruction and curriculum (n = 109 and
n = 157, respectively) and identify areas in which
school performance was unacceptable and where
improvement was needed (n = 101 and n = 139,
respectively). Approximately one-fourth of teach-
ers (n = 23) and principals (n = 24) reported that
assessment results were not used.
SCHOOL POLICIES ACROSS STUDENT AND
PROGRAM CHARACTERISTICS
Teacher and principal reports of school-level cur-
ricular, assessment, accountability policies, and
student participation in district and state assess-
ments were compared separately across student
characteristics (i.e., whether students were served
from within the district in which the facility is lo-
cated, within the state, or other) and six program
characteristics: (a) primary philosophical orienta-
tion (i.e., biophysical, psychodynamic, psychoed-
ucational, behavioral, sociological, ecological, no
primary philosophical orientation); (b) persons)
responsible for setting school policies (i.e., admin-
istrative board, principal, group of teachers and


the principal, multidisciplinary team, other); (c)
balance between education and treatment/behav-
ior management; (d) length of school day; (e)
total daily academic instruction; and (f) school
days in academic year.
Principal responses were also compared
using the school policies and six student charac-
teristics: (a) population served; (b) length of en-
rollment in the residential program; (c) length of
enrollment in the day treatment program; (d) pre-
vious or current involvement in foster care; (e)
current involvement in juvenile justice because of
identification as in need of supervision; and (f)
current involvement in juvenile justice because of
delinquency. In situations where Chi-square ex-
pected cell size was less than 5, certain compar-
isons are not reported. For example, comparisons
of communication with public or home schools
on student admission and student characteristics
omitted three variables with insufficient expected
cell size: (a) previous or current involvement in
foster care, (b) current involvement in juvenile
justice because of identification as in need of su-
pervision, and (c) current involvement in juvenile
justice because of delinquency.
Curricular Policies Across Student and Pro-
gram Characteristics. Based on teacher reports, a
comparison of school policies for selecting text
and curriculum materials and the student popula-
tion served was statistically significant (X2 =
18.084, 6, p < .01; see Table 2). Schools that
served students from within the district in which
the school was located tended to base text and
curriculum selection on local districts. Schools
that served students from within a single state
commonly relied on teacher judgment (n = 30,
17.4%). Similarly, schools that served students
from the "Other" category (e.g., state in which
the program is located and other states, more
than one district, more than one county) also re-
lied on teacher judgment (n = 21), but more fre-
quently used multidisciplinary teams (n = 29).
Teacher reports of school-level policies were also
compared across the six program characteristics
and no significant differences were noted.
Principal responses were compared across
the school policies and the same six program
characteristics used for teacher responses. Daily
academic instructional time and existence of a
schoolwide policy identifying a prescribed cur-


Spring2004


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riculum was the only statistically significant com-
parison (x2 = 10.371, 2, p < .01; see Table 3).
Based on 252 principal responses, schools with a
prescribed curriculum commonly had four
(n = 80, 31.7%) or five (n = 107, 42.5%) hours of
academic instructional time daily. Schools that
did not have a prescribed curriculum, most com-
monly had four hours (n = 25, 9.9%).
Principal responses were also compared
using the school policies and six student charac-
teristics. Several comparisons yielded significance.
A comparison of the basis for prescribed curricu-
lum (e.g., school developed, local district, state,
other) and student population served was statisti-
cally significant (see Table 4; X2 = 30.221, 9,
p < .01). In schools where students were primarily
from local districts, the local district curriculum
was commonly the basis for the prescribed cur-
riculum (n = 33, 16.0%). Additionally when stu-
dents were enrolled from across the state in which
the facility was located, use of a prescribed cur-
riculum of the state and a school-developed cur-
riculum were equally common (n = 28, 13.6%).
Based on principal responses, there was a
significant relation between how a school's text
and other curriculum materials were selected and
two student characteristics (see Table 5). The stu-
dents served and proportion of specific curricular
selection policies was statistically significant
(X2 = 18.487, 6, p < .01). In schools where stu-
dents were enrolled from the local district, a rela-
tively large number of respondents (n = 24,
12.2%) said that their school relied on the local
district policies as the basis for selecting texts and
curriculum materials. In contrast, schools that en-
rolled students from across a single state com-
monly (n = 34, 17.3%) relied on the judgment of
the school's teachers to select the text and other
curriculum materials.
The length of enrollment in a day treat-
ment program was also statistically significant
when comparing the basis of text and curriculum
material selection (X2 = 17.262, 6, p < .01). In
schools where the average length of enrollment
was 2 years, teacher judgment (n = 25, 14.3%)
was most commonly the basis of selecting texts
and curricular materials. However, for day treat-
ment schools with average enrollment lengths of
3 years or more, a multidisciplinary team was


most frequently the basis for text and curriculum
materials selection (n = 28, 16.0%).
Participation in Assessment and Student and
Program Characteristics Teacher reports of student
participation in district and state assessments were
compared to student population served and the
six program characteristics previously noted. Par-
ticipation in district and state assessments and
number of days in an academic year was the sole
comparison identified as statistically significant
(X2 = 7.824, 1, p < .01; see Table 6). A relatively
large number of teachers (n = 46, 34.1%) re-
ported their school had 161 to 180 days in an
academic year and 61% or more students partici-
pating in the assessments. Those schools with 181
days or more in an academic year were evenly dis-
tributed, with 36 (26.7%) having 0% to 60% of
students participating and 37 (27.4%) having
61% or more students participating.
Based on principal reports of student par-
ticipation in district and state assessments, no sig-
nificance was noted for the six program
characteristics. However, significance existed for a
single student characteristic. Student participation
in district and state assessments was statistically
significant for different student populations (e.g.,
students from within district, within state, within
state and other states; x2 = 13.668, 3, p < .01; see
Table 7). The greatest number of schools (n = 20,
11.4%) with less than 60% of students participat-
ing enrolled students from within the state in
which the facility is located. Schools in which
61% or more of students participate in district
and state assessments served students from within
a single district (n = 47, 26.7%) or from within
one state (n = 52, 29.5%).


DISCUSSION
The findings in the current study further our
knowledge of school-level policies in day treat-
ment and residential schools for children with
E/BD and provide a national picture regarding
curriculum, assessment, and accountability within
these settings. Results also reveal several issues
that must be addressed to ensure that students
with E/BD who are being educated within these
separate settings receive the quality education to
which they are entitled and which is necessary for
their eventual reintegration into public or home


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TABLE 3
Principals: Prescribed School Curriculum and Program Characteristics
N o. (%) :. [:, ,...,, ,'
Characteristics 2
Yes No df X p
Responsible for Setting School Policies 3 .372 .946


An administrative board
Principal
Group of teachers and the principal
Multidisciplinary team

Primary Philosophical Orientation
Psychoeducational
Behavioral
None

Emphasis on Education vs. Treatment
First behavior management, then
education
A balance between education,
therapy, behavior management

Length of School Day
5 hr
6 hr or greater

Daily Academic Instructional Time
3 hr
4 hr
5 hr or greater

Academic Time With Mental Health
Professional Per Week
None
1 - 30 min
31 -60 min
61 -90 min
91 - 120 min
121 min or more


39 (17.7)
22 (10.0)
26(11.8)
94 (42.7)



61 (26.3)
110 (47.4)
23 (9.9)


2 .469 .791


11 (4.7)
21 (9.1)
6 (2.6)


1 .919 .338


34 (14.8)


9 (3.9)


159 (69.1) 28 (12.2)


57 (22.4) 15 (5.9)
157 (61.8) 25 (9.8)


23 (9.1)
80 (31.7)
107 (42.5)



14 (5.5)
43 (16.8)
73 (28.5)
41 (16.0)
21 (8.2)
22 (8.6)


7 (2.8)
25 (9.9)
10 (4.0)


1 1.958 .162


2 10.371 .006


5 5.364 .373


schools. Five general areas of school-level policies
are discussed: (a) school policies based on respon-
dent roles; (b) curricular policies; (c) primary ac-
countability and participation in assessments; (d)
alternate assessments and assessment accommoda-
tions; and (e) reporting and using assessment re-
sults. Limitations to the current study are also
addressed.

SCHOOL POLICIES BASED ON RESPONDENT ROLES

The consistency of responses across teachers and
principals, coupled with the random selection of


participants, supports that the school-level poli-
cies and practices reported throughout the current
study are an accurate representation of day treat-
ment and residential school policies and practices
in the United States.

CURRICULAR POLICIES

Students commonly return to public or home
school settings following enrollment in day treat-
ment and residential schools (Gagnon & Leone,
2003). Upon return, students are met with an in-
creasingly rigorous curriculum, emphasis on high


Exceptional Children


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standards, and increasing graduation require-
ments (Gagnon, McLaughlin, Rhim, & Davis,
2002). Thus, it is important to link the curricu-
lum and texts within the exclusionary settings to
the local district and state. Two topics are dis-
cussed concerning curricular policies and the cur-
rent study: (a) prescribed curriculum; and (b)
selection of texts and other curriculum materials.
Prescribed Curriculum. Although teacher
and principal reports indicated a prescribed
school curriculum was common, approximately
one-third of the teachers and one-fourth of the
principals responded that their prescribed curricu-
lum was school developed. For those schools, the
extent to which this curriculum was linked to
local district and state curriculum guidelines is
unknown. Concerns with the basis for prescribed
curriculum should be viewed in light of a related
issue. Teachers and principals also reported dis-
trict and state standards and student IEPs as pri-
mary methods of receiving information on the
curriculum of local schools. However, IEPs are
not necessarily standards based. Rather, they may
reflect the individualized goals and instructional
strategies needed by a student with a disability
without regard for specific curricula goals and ob-
jectives. An IEP is not a curriculum (Nolet &
McLaughlin, 2000) nor can an IEP define a scope
and sequence or the performance expectations of
a general education curriculum. Several principals
also reported that staff in their school did not re-
ceive information on the curriculum of local
schools.
There was a statistically significant differ-
ence between schools in terms of population
served and the basis of the prescribed curriculum.
In schools that enrolled students from local dis-
tricts, the local district curriculum was most often
reported as the basis for the school's prescribed
curriculum. In contrast, when students were en-
rolled from across the state in which the facility
was located, schools most often used the pre-
scribed curriculum of the state or a school-devel-
oped curriculum.
It is a concern that 25% of the day treat-
ment and residential schools offer a school-devel-
oped curriculum that may not be related to the
"general education curriculum." If youth enrolled
at these schools are to be held accountable for
learning specific content at specific levels, then


That most schools have 80% or more of
students participating in assessments is
a promising and positive finding.

these students are at an educational disadvantage.
This is particularly the case for students as they
transition back into home schools and districts.
Greater collaboration is required between day
treatment and residential schools, local school dis-
tricts, and state departments of education. In ad-
dition, "sustained and planned staff development"
(Thurlow, Elliott, & Ysseldyke, 1998, p. 156)
should be a key requirement in these separate
schools to ensure that all teachers understand the
state standards and the general education curricu-
lum and assessments.
Selecting Texts and Curriculum Materials.
Most teachers and principals reported use of mul-
tidisciplinary teams to select texts and other cur-
riculum materials. However, it is unclear from the
current study who comprises these teams. Many
schools also relied on individual or group teacher
judgment to select school texts and curriculum
materials. Textbooks and other curriculum mate-
rials should also be aligned with a state's standards
and curriculum. Based on teacher and principal
responses, how a school selected texts and curricu-
lum materials was, not surprisingly, significantly
related to the student population served. Schools
that enrolled students from across a single state
faced the challenge of selecting texts and curricu-
lum materials that would be appropriate in a vari-
ety of districts, each of which might have a
different text for math or science or a different
reading series. Yet, the issues surrounding selec-
tion of curriculum materials further punctuates
the need for teachers, administrators, and multi-
disciplinary team members in the separate schools
to receive professional development focused on
standards, curriculum, and assessments. Such in-
formation and training is necessary to assure that
day treatment and residential schools' texts and
curriculum materials are aligned with district and
state standards and assessments.
PRIMARY ACCOUNTABILITY AND
PARTICIPATION IN ASSESSMENTS
Most of the schools indicated they were using
state and local assessments as their accountability


Spring2004


278













mechanism and also reported that about 80% of
their students participated in these assessments.
Further, about one-third of all schools reported
fewer than 80% of their students participating in
state or local assessments. Schools reporting fewer
than 60% of their students participating in assess-
ments enrolled students from across the state in
which the school was located or served students
from more than one state. That most schools have
80% or more of students participating in assess-
ments is a promising and positive finding. How-
ever, several questions remain unanswered: (a) to
what degree do assessments match the IEP in-
structional and curricular goals of students?; (b)
were students receiving instruction in the general
education curriculum?; (c) were students tested in
appropriate curricular domains?; and (d) did indi-
vidual students receive accommodations during
instruction and did they also receive these accom-
modations on the assessment? As noted earlier, al-
most all principals noted the IEP as a source of
receiving information on the curriculum of local
schools and there is no suggestion that any rela-
tionship exists between student IEP goals and as-
sessments.
Approximately one-third of the teachers
and a fifth of the principals identified teacher-se-
lected assessments as the primary accountability
for student learning. In addition to relying on
teacher assessments, about 11% of both teachers
and principals noted that their school primarily
used school-developed assessments.
These findings suggest that a number of
day treatment and residential schools may have
little or no link to district and state accountability
systems. Although there is a need to ensure that
day treatment and residential schools administer
district and state assessments and full student par-
ticipation, it is also clear that schools enrolling
students from multiple states may have unique
needs concerning which assessments to adminis-
ter. As such, greater collaboration and communi-
cation with home districts regarding
accountability demands is necessary.
ALTERNATE ASSESSMENTS AND
ASSESSMENT ACCOMMODATIONS
In the current study, teachers and principals rep-
resenting 31 states indicated that state standard-
ized norm-referenced or criterion-referenced


assessments were available to students as alternate
assessments. However, state policies regarding al-
ternate assessments are still evolving and a num-
ber of different methods are being used. As
policies develop and are implemented, continued
research is necessary to identify the link between
the school policies and practice and state policies.
Furthermore, information is needed regarding the
basis for deciding which students receive alternate
assessments.
Accommodations. Although over 80% of
teachers and principals reported that their school
had an assessment accommodation policy, ap-
proximately 20% of day treatment and residential
school staff reported that their schools offered no
assessment accommodations. These findings are
disconcerting because the IDEA and Sec. 504 of
the Americans with Disabilities Act establish the
right to accommodations. Teachers and principals
must be provided with comprehensive training to
ensure they are aware of student rights concerning
assessment accommodations.
REPORTING AND USING ASSESSMENT
RESULTS
In addition to simply administering state assess-
ments, both the IDEA and Title 1 of the No
Child Left Behind Act require that assessment re-
sults of students with disabilities be reported sepa-
rately at school and district levels and that
separate performance benchmarks be set for this
subgroup of students. According to both teachers
and principals, student assessment results were
commonly reported to parents or guardians. Less
encouraging is that fewer teachers and principals
noted that assessment results were reported to
each student's home district or state. Reporting of
assessment results is a key element of accountabil-
ity. The results provide educators, parents, and
policymakers with the information necessary to
see that students with and without disabilities
are benefiting from their educational program
(Ysseldyke & Bielinski, 2002).
The most common use of students' assess-
ment results was to adjust instruction or curricu-
lum and identify areas where school
performance was acceptable and where improve-
ment was needed. Some teachers and principals
also responded that their schools used assess-
ment data to make decisions regarding students'


Exceptional Children


279













return to their public or home schools. How
they used the assessment data to make these de-
cisions, which criteria were used, and how crite-
ria were used to make these decisions is not
clear, particularly given the nature of many of
the state assessments.
LIMITATIONS
Two limitations exist with the current study: (a)
low response rate; and (b) differences in the
characteristics of respondents versus nonrespon-
dents. Researchers (Weisberg, Krosnick, &
Bowen, 1989) acknowledge that 50% is an ac-
ceptable response rate for mail surveys. However,
the more commonly accepted return rate is
70%. The 56.45% response rate from principals
satisfies the less rigorous standard. However, the
44.58% of teacher surveys returned only ap-
proaches this criterion. Additionally, as noted, a
single significant difference existed for respon-
dents and nonrespondents. As such, some cau-
tion is necessary when generalizing the results.

IMPLICATIONS

FUTURE RESEARCH
The current study provides an initial view into
school-level curriculum, assessment, and accom-
modations policies in day treatment and residen-
tial schools for elementary-age youth with
E/BD. The results of this study indicate a need
for more research concerning how the policies
related to increased accountability are being im-
plemented in special schools. For example, as in-
dicated in this study, many of the day treatment
and residential schools developed their own
school curriculum and assessments. Future re-
search is needed to identify the reasons for this
choice and to determine the degree to which
these curricula and assessments are aligned with
district or state prescribed curricula. Addition-
ally, inquiries should be made into the extent to
which school-developed assessments are refer-
enced to district and state accountability.
In addition, day treatment and residential
schools that serve students from across a state or
more than one state differ from schools serving
only students from a single district in their ap-
proach to school-level curriculum, assessment,


and accountability policies. More in-depth
analyses are needed to identify the potentially
competing demands on schools from district and
state accountability requirements and how indi-
vidual schools broker these demands. Through
such research, it may be possible to identify spe-
cific processes to help schools provide access to
general education standards, curriculum, and as-
sessments and support the effective reintegration
of youth into their home district or school.
Future research should triangulate the re-
sults of the survey using a combination of direct
classroom observation, teacher and administra-
tor interviews, and reviews of school-level policy
documents and student records. For example, a
review of school-level policy documents on as-
sessment accommodations could be compared to
district and state policy documents. Further,
school documents could be compared to accom-
modations listed on student IEPs, and those ob-
served in class and during district and state
assessments. Research is needed to identify


The survey results indicate that many
students with E/BD in day treatment
and residential schools are exposed to a
curriculum that has little link with the
general education curriculum.


trends within schools that rely on teacher deci-
sions for choosing curriculum materials, selec-
tion of assessments, and development of
alternate assessments. Additionally, comparisons
should be made between schools that rely on
teacher judgment and those that rely on principal
decision, district policies, or state policies.
In light of teacher and principal responses
regarding accountability for student learning,
more information is needed on the standards re-
quired for state Department of Education accredi-
tation of day treatment and residential schools
and the extent to which schools are actually held
accountable for these standards. Specifically in
question are school-level policies for assessment
accommodations, alternate assessments, and the
manner in which data are reported and used.
IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE

Significant implications exist for a number of
school-level curriculum, assessment, and account-


Spring2004


280














ability policies in day treatment and residential
schools:
* School curriculum, curriculum materials, and
texts should be aligned with districts and
states. For successful reintegration, students
must have access to a rigorous curriculum that
is comparable to peers in their public or home
school. To ensure that this occurs, comprehen-
sive and ongoing professional development
should be provided to all principals of day
treatment and residential schools. This is criti-
cal to ensure that they understand state poli-
cies regarding standards, curriculum, and
assessments.
* During the accreditation or approval processes
for day treatment and residential schools, state
education agencies should ensure that the
school is providing all students with a curricu-
lum that is aligned with their respective con-
tent and performance standards.
* All students should participate in district and
state assessments with appropriate accommo-
dations or participate in an alternate assess-
ment that is recognized by the state
department of education.
* District and state assessment results should be
reported at the district and state levels, by each
student's home school, and by the day treat-
ment or residential school the child is attend-
ing.
* Schools that serve students from multiple dis-
tricts and/or states should increase their collab-
oration with districts and states to assure that
curriculum and accountability measures are
consistent with students' public and home
schools.
* District and state assessment data should be
used for their intended purposes, which is
school accountability. These assessment results
should not be used to decide if a student with
E/BD can be reintegrated into his or her pub-
lic or home school, unless they have specifi-
cally been validated for these purposes.
* Ongoing and comprehensive staff development
should be conducted for teachers and adminis-
trators in the separate schools to assure ade-
quate understanding of district and state
curriculum, assessment, and accountability
policies.

CONCLUSIONS
We know through previous research (U.S. De-
partment of Education, 2000; Wagner, 1995) that


academic outcomes for youth with E/BD are
often negative. These students typically have high
dropout rates and difficulty maintaining employ-
ment (Carson, Sitlington, & Frank, 1995; Malm-
gren, Edgar, & Neel, 1998). They may also be at
risk for involvement with the juvenile or adult
justice systems (Doren, Bullis, and Benz, 1996;
Silver et al., 1992; U.S. Department of Educa-
tion, 1994). Although information is limited, stu-
dents who attend day treatment or residential
schools are also at high risk for incarceration as
adults (Davis & Cooper, 1998). Day treatment
and residential schools may provide a valuable
and necessary service to these students and their
families.
The survey results indicate that many stu-
dents with E/BD in day treatment and residential
schools are exposed to a curriculum that has little
link with the general education curriculum. This
finding supports previous research conducted by
Sands, Adams, and Stout (1995) and Steinberg
and Knitzer (1992). Increased emphasis on pro-
viding access to a rigorous curriculum and partici-
pation in assessment and accountability will
create incentives to improve the curriculum pro-
vided to students in day treatment and residential
schools. Additionally, participation in district and
state assessment, as well as reporting and use of
assessment results are crucial to assuring that
youth in these schools are not forgotten within
the school improvement process.
Day treatment and residential schools must
not be separated from the general education cur-
riculum policies and district and state assess-
ments. Also, these schools must be accountable
for their students' academic outcomes. Local dis-
tricts and state departments of education must
share responsibility for including day treatment
and residential schools in their school improve-
ment efforts, holding them accountable for im-
proving student learning, and providing the
necessary training and support to assure students
in these settings receive a quality education.


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ABOUT THE AUTHORS

JOSEPH CALVIN GAGNON (CEC #246), As-
sistant Professor, Graduate School of Education,
George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia.
MARGARET J. MCLAUGHLIN (CEC #246),
Professor, Department of Special Education, Uni-
versity of Maryland, College Park, Maryland.


Please address all correspondence to Joseph
Gagnon, George Mason University, Graduate
School of Education, 4400 University Avenue,
MS 4B3, Fairfax, VA 22030. (703) 993-2045; E-
mail: jgagnon@gmu.edu
This research is supported by: Grant #522739,
U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special
Education Programs; and Educational Policy Re-
form Research Institute (EPRRI) Grant
#H324P000004, U.S. Department of Education,
Office of Special Education. The views expressed
herein do not necessarily represent those of the
funding agencies.
Manuscript received January 2003; accepted April
2003.


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