Inclusion of students with behavior disorders: the relationship between school climate and student academic outcomes
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The percent of students with behavior disorders (BD) served in general education classrooms has risen steadily over the past three decades. However, when compared to their peers, students with BD have lower grade point averages, more negative attitudes about school, and are more likely to experience poorer life outcomes (e.g. unemployment, incarceration). Therefore, there is a need for further research into best practices for meeting the academic, social, emotional, and behavioral needs of students with BD. The purpose of this mixed methods study was to use a single example of a school setting with demonstrated positive academic outcomes to advance the understanding of a school climate that promotes positive academic outcomes for all students, specifically when students with BD are included in general education classrooms. The school participating in the current study is an urban elementary school that integrated students with BD into general education classrooms, where previously they were educated in substantially-separate classrooms. Participants of this study consisted of three general education teachers, three special education teachers, three administrators, and 43 students (five with behavior disorders and 38 without behavior disorders). Teachers and students completed complimentary versions of the school climate subscale of the Delaware School Climate Survey (Bear & Yang, 2011) to examine perceptions of school climate. Teachers and administrators completed interviews, school activities and classes were observed, and school documents were analyzed to describe the characteristics of the school’s climate. Results revealed that (a) teachers and administrators described implementing purposeful techniques and teaching methods to support all students, specifically those with behavior disorders, (b) teachers and students differed in their perceptions of school climate, and (c) student perceptions of school climate were not significantly associated with their academic outcomes, in the entire sample, or as a function of student behavior disorder status. Implications are discussed relative to the relationship between school climate and academic outcomes when students with behavior disorders are included in general education classrooms.