Special Education Integration in U.S. Secondary Schools: Investigating How Teacher Perceptions Relate to Academic Outcomes for Students Without Disabilities
Rose, Kristopher William
Education policy in the United States has been moving toward a more inclusive approach, founded in a belief that every child deserves equal opportunity for a world-class education. This strong preference set forth by policymakers has prompted a series of new education models in American classrooms, characterized by integrating students who receive special education into general education classes.Existing research on the results of this shift in the education system suggests that students with disabilities benefit academically and social from integration with general education students and that students without disabilities are by-and-large unaffected by integration with their peers who receive special education services. Much of this research, however, evaluates the efficacy of different modalities of integration. Fewer studies focus on the extent to which teacher perceptions about integration might influence educational outcomes.This study endeavors to investigate whether teachers are more or less likely to report that they are limited in their teaching by students with disabilities and, subsequently, whether those perceived limitations are related to the educational outcomes for students without disabilities. It does not evaluate whether students who receive special education harm students without disabilities nor does it pass judgment on integration as a policy. Instead, it aims to understand how teacher perceptions may serve as an indicator of strengths or vulnerabilities within an integrative model.This research draws from a United States Department of Education dataset and applies a series of logistical regressions to establish a relationship between, 1) students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) and the extent to which teachers report limitation; and, 2) teachers' perceived limitations and the academic achievement among students without disabilities. The results identify statistically significant relationships within both questions, suggesting that teachers are more likely to report limitations when students with IEPs are in their class and that a portion of students without disabilities are more likely to experience poorer grades when teachers feel limited.The findings in this research are interesting and insightful but do not establish sweeping or definitive conclusions because of the risk of omitted variable bias and other limitations inherent in the data. However, the research provides a baseline for additional research as well as some areas where policies may be refined to better train, support, and resource teachers to enable them to most effectively teach students of all abilities.
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