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Exploring the Professional Responsibilities of Educators in Special Day Schools Serving Secondary Students with Emotional Disabilities
Clark, Susan Zivkovich
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The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA, 2004) requires a free appropriate public education (FAPE) for students with disabilities in the least restrictive environment (LRE) with access to the general curriculum. The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) emphasizes academic achievement for all students in public schools, and the use of challenging assessments to improve the quality of instruction. Because students with emotional disabilities (ED) are more likely to attend special day schools outside of the public school setting, and less likely to be instructed in general education classrooms (U.S. Department of Education, 2006), the professional responsibilities of teachers within special day schools must be addressed. The researcher examined the professional responsibilities and professional needs of teachers in special day schools, and how their administrators support them. Data were collected through a qualitative design using focus group methodology. Major findings that emerged regarding professional responsibilities were categorized as (a) knowing content, (b) designing instruction, (c) assessing student learning, (d) monitoring student behavior, (e) communicating with parents and agencies, and (f) remaining current through professional practices. Findings regarding the professional needs of teachers included improved professional development practices, and administrative support. Data revealed that teachers believed their administrators support them when they provide performance appraisal and offer opportunities for collegial support and collaboration. The findings suggest that (a) most of these special day school teachers were non-traditionally prepared special educators; (b) these teachers were challenged in achieving and maintaining instructional focus; (c) despite multiple challenges they were highly motivated; and (d) were provided insufficient instructional support. Considering the current national trend regarding the improvement of academic performance for all students, high stakes assessment, and accountability, more attention should be paid to preparing teachers in private day school for academic programs while still addressing the behavioral, social, and emotional needs of students. Joint participation in professional development activities would be beneficial and welcomed by these private day school teachers.
- Doctoral Dissertations