ERIC Identifier: ED436054
Publication Date: 1999-11-00
Author: Quinn, Mary Magee - Rutherford, Robert B., Jr. - Osher, David M.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education Reston VA.
Special Education in Alternative Education Programs. ERIC Digest E585.
With the 1997 Amendments to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (PL 105-17), the mission of alternative programs has expanded from the education of youth who have dropped out, or who were at risk for dropping out, to students with disabilities whose behavior warrants special attention outside the general education setting. These programs now provide alternative programming, including flexible curricula that can address the unique social, behavioral, emotional, cognitive, and vocational needs of the individual student. In contrast to the traditional alternative settings where students were "sent away," many communities are offering alternative programs within the public school setting.
While there are numerous models for serving students with disabilities in alternative programs, there are seven essential elements of effective programs (Quinn & Rutherford, 1998; Rutherford, Nelson, & Wolford, 1985: (1) functional assessments; (2) functional curriculum; (3) effective and efficient instructional techniques; (4) programming for effective and efficient transitions; (5) comprehensive systems; (6) appropriate staff, resources, and procedural protections for students with disabilities (Rutherford & Howell, 1997); and (7) educational climates that are supportive of the student's social/emotional needs (Quinn, Osher, Hoffman, & Hanley, 1998).
Functional assessment is also a continuous process, not static, and results can be used to make systematic adjustments in the student's educational program (Howell, Fox, & Morehead, 1993). Assessment procedures should include curriculum-based evaluation and measurement procedures to monitor overall student performance and improvement. To accomplish this assessment, the academic and social skills curricula for the student must be clarified and implemented.
In addition, the student's IEP team should review and revise the IEP to include goals that directly relate to the behaviors that warranted the placement in the alternative setting. These goals should be based on a functional behavioral assessment and should lead to a positive behavior intervention plan.
EFFECTIVE AND EFFICIENT INSTRUCTION
Effective and efficient instruction can also involve the use of behavior strategies for meaningful intervention in alternative classrooms. Behavioral interventions include a variety of procedures to teach acceptable replacement behaviors, enhance and support appropriate behaviors, and reduce inappropriate behaviors.
The public school, the alternative setting, and other community-based or residential program staff must share the responsibility for transition of students into and out of alternative education programs. Planning for transition as soon as the student enters the alternative setting ensures that the student is taught the necessary skills and is provided with the necessary supports. Further, functional transition plans and meaningful transition objectives should be a part of the student's IEP.
In alternative programs with separate education and treatment functions, it is important that staff develop common goals and objectives for student success. In addition, coordinated and comprehensive linkages must be developed among the public schools, the alternative education program, the student's family, and social service agencies. Unless agencies collaborate, programs often lead to fragmented services for these youth. Educational, social service, juvenile justice, and mental health agencies must be linked by providing a system of "wraparound" programming (Eber, 1997) where coordinated, cooperative, and comprehensive services are implemented to serve students with disabilities. Wraparound programming is a process for developing realistic behavior plans linking the student, the alternative program staff, families, public school personnel, and staff of the different social service agencies (Woodruff et al., 1998).
APPROPRIATE STAFF, RESOURCES, AND PROCEDURAL PROTECTIONS FOR STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES
In addition, special education programs in alternative settings must provide a full continuum of educational services, including instruction in academics, independent living skills, social skills, and work related skills, and assure procedural protections, including parental notification of evaluation and parental involvement in the review and revision of IEPs.
Note: This digest was prepared in collaboration with the Center for Effective Collaboration and Practice as part of its information exchange efforts. For more information on issues related to children and youth with emotional or behavioral problems and their families contact the Center at: 1000 Thomas Jefferson St., NW, Suite 400, Washington, DC 20007 or visit their website at: www.air-dc.org/cecp.
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Howell, K. W., Fox, S. S., & Morehead, M. K., (1993). Curriculum-Based Evaluation (2nd Ed.). Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole.
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Amendments (1997). P.L. 105-17.
Quinn, M. M., & Rutherford, R.B., (1998). Alternative Programs for Students with Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Problems. Reston, VA: Council for Children with Behavioral Disorders.
Quinn, M. M., Osher, D., Hoffman, C. C., & Hanley, T. V., (1998). Safe, drug-free, and effective schools for all students: What works! Washington, DC: American Institutes for Research.
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Woodruff, D. W., Osher, D., Hoffman, C. C., Gruner, A., King, M. A., Snow, S. T., & McIntire, J. C., (1998). The role of education in a system of care: Effectively serving children with emotional or behavioral disorders. Systems of care: Promising practices in children's mental health, 1998 Series, Volume III. Washington, DC: Center for Effective Collaboration and Practice, American Institutes for Research.