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IES Grant

Title: Factors Contributing to Academic, Social/Communication, and Behavioral Outcomes for Elementary Students with the Most Significant Cognitive Disabilities
Center: NCSER Year: 2018
Principal Investigator: Kurth, Jennifer Awardee: University of Kansas
Program: Systems, Policy, and Finance      [Program Details]
Award Period: 3 years (07/01/2018–06/30/2021) Award Amount: $1,399,809
Type: Exploration Award Number: R324A180024

Co-Principal Investigators: Shogren, Karrie; Wehmeyer, Michael; Morningstar, Mary; Agran, Martin; Jackson, Lewis; Jameson, J. Matt; Ryndak, Diane; Zagona, Alison; Little, Todd

Purpose: The purpose of this study is to examine how educational placement affects academic, social/communication, and behavioral outcomes for elementary students with significant cognitive disabilities (SCD). The study will also explore student-, classroom-, and school/district-level factors as potential mediators or moderators of associations between placement and student outcomes. Although researchers have argued that educational placement makes a difference in the type of instruction students with SCD receive, there is limited empirical evidence on the association between educational placement and outcomes for these students. Given that these students experience some of the poorest outcomes after high school, there is a critical need for research that will inform interventions to improve outcomes for students with SCD. This study will examine relationships between educational placement and outcomes, and factors that mediate or moderate that relationship, with the aim of using the results to inform system-level interventions to improve education placement decisions.

Project Activities: The research team will collect data to investigate relations between educational placement and outcomes for students with SCD. In Year 1, schools and students with SCD will be recruited from across the nation. In Year 2, data on moderators, mediators, and outcomes from school records, surveys, and observational measures will be collected at two time points, in the fall and spring. In Year 3, researchers will analyze the data and disseminate the findings.

Products: The products of the project will include preliminary evidence of an association between educational placement and social/communication, behavioral, and academic outcomes for students with SCD as well as factors that mediate or moderate the association. Products will also include peer-reviewed publications and presentations.

Structured Abstract

Setting: Data will be collected in approximately 76 elementary schools across the nation.

Sample: Approximately 150 elementary school students with SCD will participate in this research. Eligible students will be those who: (1) are ages 5–12; (2) have an Individualized Education Program (IEP); (3) are identified as having an intellectual disability, autism spectrum disorder, or multiple disabilities; (4) participate in their state's alternate assessment; and (5) demonstrate consistent school attendance.  

Malleable Factors: The malleable factor under investigation is educational placement or the setting in which specially designed instruction is delivered. Specifically, the research team will examine four types of educational placements for students with SCD defined by the degree to which these students are represented in the school and the percent of time they spend in the general education class.

Research Design and Methods: During Year 1, the research team will recruit schools and students to participate in data collection. Approximately equal numbers of schools will represent each of the following four educational placement conditions: (1) schools in which students with SCD make up approximately 1% of total school population and who spend 80% or more of the day in the general education class; (2) schools in which students with SCD represent 2% or more of the population and who spend 40–79% of the day in the general education class; (3) schools in which students with SCD represent 2% or more of the population and who spend 40% or less of the day in the general education class; and (4) schools in which students with SCD are educated in self-contained classrooms in separate schools and who spend no time in the general education class. Approximately two students will be recruited within each participating school. In Year 2, most of the data on students, classrooms, and school/districts will be collected during the fall and spring semesters. Data related to goal attainment will be collected in collaboration with teachers on an ongoing basis over the course of the year. During Year 3, the research team will analyze the data and disseminate the results.

Control Condition: Due to the nature of the research design, there is no control condition.

Key Measures: The malleable factor, educational placement, will be coded at the school level using school records. Student outcomes will include academic achievement as measured by scores on the alternate assessment and Goal Attainment Scaling (using academic goals in the IEP) as well as social skills and problem behaviors as measured by the Social Skills Improvement System. Potential moderators and mediators will be assessed at the student, classroom, and school/district levels. Student-level factors include demographics (e.g., age, gender, race/ethnicity, disability classification), support needs (as measured by the Supports Intensity Scale — Children's Version), and quality of IEP goals (as measured by the IEP Evaluation Instrument). Classroom-level factors include classroom characteristics (e.g., class size, teaching arrangements) as well as instructional content and intensity as assessed through a researcher-developed survey and the observational measure, Access CISSAR (an add-on module to the MainStream Version of the Code for Instructional Structure and Student Academic Response; MS-CISSAR). School/district-level factors include demographics (e.g., size, percent of students receiving free and reduced lunch, implementation of tiered systems of support), quality of educational practices and implementation of research-based practices in schools, characteristics of district/school programming and organization as measured by the observational Quality Measurement Tool, and organizational climate as measured by the Organizational Climate Description for Elementary Schools.

Data Analytic Strategy: Multilevel modeling and structural equation modeling will be used to assess associations between malleable factors and student education outcomes and explore mediators and moderators of these relationships.