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Running head: TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 1
Advisor: Dr. Tracy Reilly-Lawson
Assessing Preparedness of General Education Teachers...
All rights reserved
INFORMATION TO ALL USERS
The quality of this reproduction is dependent upon the quality of the copy su...
TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 2
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Acknowledgements
I would like to thank the most influential person in my life, my mom. Without he...
TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 3
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Abstract
The purpose of this action research paper was to assess general education teachers’ feel...
TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 4
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Table of Contents
Acknowledgements………………………………………………………………………………2
Abstract……………………………………………………………...
TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 5
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Introduction………………………………………………………………………......27
Participants………………………………………………………………………….27-28
Ma...
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Appendix B- Survey, Open Ended Questions……………………………………………..50-54
Appendix C- Interview Questions…...
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Chapter 1
Assessing Preparedness of General Education Teachers
Educating Students with Special Ne...
TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 8
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Statement of the Problem
McLeskey and Waldron (2011) reported that “the percentage of students wi...
TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 9
!
McLeskey and Waldron (2011) summarized the research on the effectiveness of inclusive
education p...
TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 10
!
placed most of the time. General education teachers try to provide the best possible services to...
TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 11
!
these two definitions teacher preparedness can be defined as continuous planning, organizing,
an...
TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 12
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Chapter 2
Literature Review
Introduction
The education system has changed drastically in the las...
TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 13
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the laws. The Supreme Court found that African-American children had the right to equal
educatio...
TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 14
!
handicapped children.”
(http://www.wrightslaw.com/law/art/history.spec.ed.law.htm#sthash.3PDoiGj...
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law. (Mills v. Board of Education of District of Columbia, 1972).
(http://www.wrightslaw.com/law...
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To achieve the national goals for access to education for all children with disabilities, a
numb...
TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 17
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activity. Finally, the 1997 Amendments to IDEA specified that transition planning should begin
a...
TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 18
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education program and a portion in a separate special education program (Idol, 1997). Both
inclu...
TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 19
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inclusive practices, evaluated their efficacy, and assisted teachers in implementing evidence
ba...
TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 20
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The Parallel Teaching model is when teachers plan lessons together before splitting
students in ...
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This thought is best captured by Britzman (1991, p.110): “learning to teach is not a mere
matter...
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This is particularly important given the continued limited-resource environments and other
threa...
TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 23
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2016 (2.75 for those graduating before September 1, 2016) in a baccalaureate degree program,
hig...
TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 24
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subject or grade level to be taught is required. Professional Teacher Preparation in Students wi...
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inclusion appeared to be influenced by their previous experiences in inclusive classrooms, and
t...
TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 26
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needs students, all respondents interviewed gave suggestions of ways they could further improve....
TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 27
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Chapter 3
Methodology
Introduction
The topic of this study was to assess the preparedness of gen...
TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 28
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Materials
The first material that the thesis researcher used was a consent form. Anonymity and
c...
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choices. This allowed teachers more room to write down their feelings based upon the nature of
t...
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person from her fellow colleagues. Week five the thesis researcher began to code the data and
st...
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Chapter 4
Analysis of Data
Introduction
The study analyzed data collected through the use of a s...
TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 32
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Table 1
Percentage of General Education Teacher Responses on Preparedness of Educating Students
...
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7. I do not have
enough time to meet
and work with
special education
teachers to aid me
in how t...
TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 34
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In Table 1 above, the thirty-five participants completed a Likert Scale ranging from
Strongly Ag...
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Figure 1. General Education Teacher Preparedness of Educating Students with Special Needs
In the...
TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 36
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discussing challenges with colleagues,” and “I feel the severity of the disability reflects how ...
TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 37
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For the definition of special education question, all three agreed that it was specialized
learn...
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needs yet 57.1% felt they did not have enough training in undergraduate courses. From the open
e...
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A final limitation was the time restriction. The thesis researcher only had a few months to
coll...
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years ago there is still a need for better training however, it does not mean teachers are doing...
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Implementing Data. Collecting data is another important factor. Figuring out how I was
going to ...
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collection teachers felt prepared through classroom experience but felt that training and
profes...
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References
Americans with Disabilities Act, U.S. Congress, Public Law 101-336 (1990)
Archived: 2...
TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 44
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Inclusive Education: A Review of the Literature. International Journal Of Inclusive
Education, 1...
TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 45
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Preparation Quality among Special Education Intern Teachers. Teacher Education
Quarterly, 38(2),...
TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 46
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State of New Jersey. (n.d.). Retrieved February 10, 2015, from
http://www.state.nj.us/education/...
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Appendix A
Consent and Information
Title: How prepared do general education teachers feel about ...
TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 48
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Information related to this research may help to broaden understanding about the
attitudes of ch...
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9) Costs Statement: non foreseeable
10) Final Statement and Signature: This statement has been e...
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Appendix B
To Whom It May Concern,
Hello, my name is Nicole Lazzaro and I am conducting this sur...
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For the following three questions please circle all that apply and the fourth question please fi...
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4. I have enough time to collaborate with special education teachers to prepare me to teach the
...
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8. Professional development workshops have helped me teach students with disabilities in my
clas...
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Open Ended Questions
Please answer the following questions (If need be responses can be written ...
TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 55
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Appendix C
Interview Questions
How many years have you been teaching? :
What grade(s) do you tea...
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Nicole Lazzaro Thesis 2015

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Nicole Lazzaro Thesis 2015

  1. 1. Running head: TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 1 Advisor: Dr. Tracy Reilly-Lawson Assessing Preparedness of General Education Teachers Educating Students with Special Needs Nicole Lazzaro Program of Special Education Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the degree of Masters of Arts in Special Education Caldwell University 2015
  2. 2. All rights reserved INFORMATION TO ALL USERS The quality of this reproduction is dependent upon the quality of the copy submitted. In the unlikely event that the author did not send a complete manuscript and there are missing pages, these will be noted. Also, if material had to be removed, a note will indicate the deletion. Microform Edition © ProQuest LLC. All rights reserved. This work is protected against unauthorized copying under Title 17, United States Code ProQuest LLC. 789 East Eisenhower Parkway P.O. Box 1346 UMI 1588431 Published by ProQuest LLC (2015). Copyright in the Dissertation held by the Aut UMI Number: 1588431
  3. 3. TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 2 ! Acknowledgements I would like to thank the most influential person in my life, my mom. Without her I would not be the person I am today and be furthering my education. I dedicate this thesis paper to you mom, may you rest in peace. I would like to thank my sister and my dad for all of their support, encouragement, and love through out my life. I would like to thank my principal and colleagues who offered their time, encouragement, and resources to this study. I would like to thank Dr. Vivinetto and Dr. Lawson who were instrumental in helping me to complete this work. I would like to thank all my family and friends for all of their love and support through out this academic journey.
  4. 4. TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 3 ! Abstract The purpose of this action research paper was to assess general education teachers’ feelings towards their training in educating students with special needs. The participants were general education teachers in the state of New Jersey in public and parochial schools. An anonymous and confidential survey was used to collect the data and was distributed in sealed envelopes. The survey included a Likert Scale and open ended questions that related to the teachers’ special education training, college education, and experiences teaching students with special needs in the general education classroom. In addition, interviews were conducted to gather further information. The data collected throughout this study suggested that most teachers felt prepared to teach students with special needs although there was some discrepancy in how training affected their preparedness. The data also suggested more college classes about special education, professional development workshops, and time to collaborate with special education teachers and other members of special services could greatly help general education teachers.
  5. 5. TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 4 ! Table of Contents Acknowledgements………………………………………………………………………………2 Abstract…………………………………………………………………………………………...3 Chapter 1………………………………………………………………………………………....7 Introduction………………………………………………………………………………7 Background……………………………………………………………………………....7 Statement of the Problem…………………………………………………………….8-10 Research Questions and Hypothesis………………………………………………...10 Definition of Terms…………………………………………………………………...10 Inclusion………………………………………………………………………10 Teacher Preparedness………………………………………………………10-11 Conclusion…………………………………………………………………………...11 Chapter 2 – Literature Review……………………………………………………………..12 Introduction………………………………………………………………………….12 History of Special Education……………………………………………………….12-18 Models of Inclusion………………………………………………………………….18-20 Teacher Preparedness………………………………………………………………20-24 Related Studies………………………………………………………………………24-26 Conclusion…………………………………………………………………………...26 Chapter 3 – Methodology…………………………………………………………………...27
  6. 6. TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 5 ! Introduction………………………………………………………………………......27 Participants………………………………………………………………………….27-28 Materials…………………………………………………………………………….28-29 Procedure……………………………………………………………………………29-30 Conclusion…………………………………………………………………………...30 Chapter 4 – Analysis of Data……………………………………………………………….31 Introduction…………………………………………………………………………31 Results of Data………………………………………………………………………31-37 Analysis of Data……………………………………………………………………..37-38 Limitations…………………………………………………………………………..38-39 Discussion……………………………………………………………………………39-40 Implications for Teaching…………………………………………………………..40 Understanding Research……………………………………………………40 Implementing Data………………………………………………………….41 Analyzing and Interpreting Data…………………………………………..41 Implementing Results……………………………………………………….41-42 Conclusion…………………………………………………………………………...42 References…………………………………………………………………………………...43-46 Appendix A- Consent and Information……………………………………………………47-49
  7. 7. TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 6 ! Appendix B- Survey, Open Ended Questions……………………………………………..50-54 Appendix C- Interview Questions…………………………………………………………55
  8. 8. TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 7 ! Chapter 1 Assessing Preparedness of General Education Teachers Educating Students with Special Needs Introduction In the Education world today, a teacher has to be prepared with more than just the proverbial bag of tricks. A teacher has to have sufficient training and be prepared for whatever may come his or her way intertwined with years of experience. The purpose of this study was to assess the preparedness of general education teachers to educate students with special needs. Through the use of surveys, the thesis researcher collected data to help assess teacher preparedness, which included the dependent variable being the general education teachers’ preparedness. The subtopics in this study included preparedness, inclusion, and models of inclusion. Background The collection of data was taken from elementary school teachers in both parochial and public schools. In total, teachers from nine schools, six public and three parochial were surveyed. The parochial schools offered students with special needs compensatory education and had aides from the local county commissions come in to the classrooms to provide extra support. In the public schools more extensive special services were offered which included inclusion classes, one to one aides, and resource rooms. The locations of the schools were in suburban areas in the state of New Jersey. The general social economic status of the teachers and students in the schools ranged from middle to upper middle class. Some teachers held master’s degrees or bachelor’s degrees, and some were working towards their teacher of students with disabilities certification.
  9. 9. TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 8 ! Statement of the Problem McLeskey and Waldron (2011) reported that “the percentage of students with Learning Disabilities (LD) being educated in the general education classroom for at least 80 percent of their school day went from 22 percent during the 1989-1990 school year to 62 percent during the 2007-2008 school year. Therefore it was paramount that teachers, specifically elementary school teachers, have more training in special education to better serve these students.” (McLeskey &Waldron, 2011) This study may improve classrooms because it will bring more awareness to special education. There is more push in rather than pull out methodology implemented in schools, meaning that students have one to one aides or co-teaching models to keep special education students in the classroom rather than having to leave to receive special services and be separated from their peers. It is contingent on what is best for the child to have them in the least restrictive environment which according to IDEA is defined as “To the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities, including children in public or private institutions or other care facilities, are educated with children who are not disabled, and special classes, separate schooling, or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular educational environment occurs only when the nature or severity of the disability of a child is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.” (www.idea.gov) Teachers that are certified general educators need to be better trained in helping and educating students with special needs. The results may also be used to inform administrators of the professional development needed to prepare general education teachers for the inclusion of students with disabilities.
  10. 10. TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 9 ! McLeskey and Waldron (2011) summarized the research on the effectiveness of inclusive education programs for elementary students with learning disabilities (LD). They found that studies have consistently found that some students obtain better achievement results in full inclusion classrooms, but others have fared better when part-time resource support is provided. McLeskey and Waldron (2011) also found that most studies concluded that variability between student outcomes in the two settings was due to the unevenness in the quality of instruction. They concluded that the research suggested that both inclusive classrooms and pullout programs could improve academic outcomes of elementary students with LD. The key, they argue, is the presence of high-quality instruction, which can be – or cannot be – provided in either setting. However, McLeskey and Waldron (2011) highlighted further research showing that many students with LD make significant gains when provided with high-quality pullout instruction, and that often gains are significantly greater compared to their peers educated in inclusive classrooms. They argue that the intensive instruction provided in a small group pullout setting allows students with LD to receive the individualized instruction they need on specific concepts and skills. This type of instruction rarely occurs in general education classrooms. Unfortunately, the research on high-quality instruction in resource and pullout programs does not find a great deal of support for utilizing high-quality instruction as well (McLeskey & Waldron, 2011). Further, research suggests differences for how effective inclusive practices are in elementary schools compared to high schools. The purpose of this study was to determine how prepared general education teachers feel about educating students with special needs. The study assessed general education teachers’ feelings towards their training in educating students with special needs. General education teachers’ feelings are important because the general education classroom is where the student is
  11. 11. TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 10 ! placed most of the time. General education teachers try to provide the best possible services to not only better the students’ academic success. General education teachers’ confidence builds up the teachers’ skill set to help future students with special needs. By having more self-confidence and appropriate training, the gap between general education and special education teachers can be shortened to provide the best possible services for the student with special needs. Research Questions and Hypothesis There were several research questions that were posed in this study which included: how prepared do general education teachers feel educating students with special needs, and do general education teachers feel they have knowledge about special education to help students? The hypothesis was that general education teachers did not feel prepared to educate students with special needs in their classroom. Definition of Terms Inclusion. Inclusion refers to “the process of educating children with disabilities in the regular education classrooms of their neighborhood schools – the schools they would attend if they did not have a disability – and providing them with the necessary services and support” (De Boer, Pijl, & Minnaert 2011, p. 266). Teacher Preparedness. Teacher Preparedness is not specifically defined. A teacher according to Merriam Webster (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/teacher) is defined as “one that teaches; especially: one whose occupation is to instruct.” Preparedness is defined by DHS/FEMA (http://www.dhs.gov/topic/plan-and-prepare-disasters) as “a continuous cycle of planning, organizing, training, equipping, exercising, evaluating, and taking corrective action in an effort to ensure effective coordination during incident response.” Taking these elements of
  12. 12. TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 11 ! these two definitions teacher preparedness can be defined as continuous planning, organizing, and training of one whose occupation is to instruct or teach. Conclusion The topic of this study is to assess the general education teachers’ preparedness for educating students with special needs. Through the use of teacher completed surveys, a better understanding of how prepared general education teachers feel educating students with special needs was evaluated. This study needed to be implemented because many classrooms are becoming more inclusive of students with special needs. Therefore, it was paramount to determine if teachers, specifically elementary school teachers, need to have more training in special education to better serve these students with special needs.
  13. 13. TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 12 ! Chapter 2 Literature Review Introduction The education system has changed drastically in the last few decades, as educating students with disabilities in schools has become an important goal. This development to keep students with disabilities in general education settings instead of referring them to special schools is best described with the term ‘inclusion’. According to Rafferty, Boettcher, and Griffin (2001), inclusion refers to ‘the process of educating children with disabilities in the regular education classrooms of their neighborhood schools. The schools they would attend if they did not have a disability and providing them with the necessary services and support’ (De Boer, Pijl, & Minnaert 2011, 266). Previous research has investigated the attitudes of both serving teachers and teachers in training towards children with special educational needs (SEN) and concepts such as inclusion and integration. In a meta-analysis of twenty-eight survey reports conducted from 1958 through 1995, Scruggs and Mastropieri (1996) found that although two thirds of the approximately 10,000 serving teachers surveyed agreed with the concept of integrating children with SEN, significant numbers of teachers felt unable or unwilling to meet the needs of children with more significant disabilities. Such inability stemmed from a perceived lack of expertise, resources or additional adult support. (Mintz, 2007). History of Special Education In 1954, the U. S. Supreme Court issued a landmark civil rights decision in Brown v. Board of Education. In Brown v. Board of Education, school children from four states argued that segregated public schools were inherently unequal and deprived them of equal protection of
  14. 14. TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 13 ! the laws. The Supreme Court found that African-American children had the right to equal educational opportunities and that segregated schools “have no place in the field of public education” (Brown v. Board of Education 1954). It was written that “Today, education is perhaps the most important function of state and local governments. Compulsory school attendance laws and the great expenditures for education both demonstrate our recognition of the importance of education to our democratic society. It is required in the performance of our most basic public responsibilities, even service in the armed forces. It is the very foundation of good citizenship. Today, it is a principal instrument in awakening the child to cultural values, in preparing him for later professional training, and in helping him to adjust normally to his environment. In these days, it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education. Such an opportunity, where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right that must be made available to all on equal terms.” (http://www.wrightslaw.com/law/art/history.spec.ed.law.htm#sthash.3PDoiGje.dpuf) After the decision in Brown, parents of children with disabilities began to bring lawsuits against their school districts for excluding and segregating children with disabilities. The parents argued that, by excluding these children, schools were discriminating against the children because of their disabilities. (http://www.wrightslaw.com/law/art/history.spec.ed.law.htm#sthash.3PDoiGje.dpuf) Congress enacted the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) in 1965 to address the inequality of educational opportunity for underprivileged children. This landmark legislation provided resources to help ensure that disadvantaged students had access to quality education. In 1966, Congress amended the ESEA to establish a grant program to help states in the “initiation, expansion, and improvement of programs and projects . . . for the education of
  15. 15. TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 14 ! handicapped children.” (http://www.wrightslaw.com/law/art/history.spec.ed.law.htm#sthash.3PDoiGje.dpuf) In 1970, Congress enacted the Education of the Handicapped Act (P.L. 91-230) in an effort to encourage states to develop educational programs for individuals with disabilities. “That, like its predecessor, established a grant program aimed at stimulating the States to develop educational programs and resources for individuals with disabilities. Neither program included any specific mandates on the use of the funds provided by the grants; nor could either program be shown to have significantly improved the education of children with disabilities.” (http://www.wrightslaw.com/law/art/history.spec.ed.law.htm#sthash.3PDoiGje.dpuf) During the early 1970s, two cases were catalysts for change: Pennsylvania Assn. for Retarded Children (PARC) v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania 334 F. Supp. 1257 (E.D. Pa 1971) and 343 F. Supp. 279 (E. D. Pa. 1972) and Mills v. Board of Education of District of Columbia, 348 F. Supp. 866 (D. DC 1972). PARC dealt with the exclusion of children with mental retardation from public schools. In the subsequent settlement, it was agreed that educational placement decisions must include a process of parental participation and a means to resolve disputes. Mills involved the practice of suspending, expelling and excluding children with disabilities from the District of Columbia public schools. The school district’s primary defense in Mills was the high cost of educating children with disabilities. (http://www.wrightslaw.com/law/art/history.spec.ed.law.htm#sthash.3PDoiGje.dpuf) The genesis of this case found (1) in the failure of the District of Columbia to provide publicly supported education and training to plaintiffs and other “exceptional” children, members of their class, and (2) the excluding, suspending, expelling, reassigning and transferring of “exceptional” children from regular public school classes without affording them due process of
  16. 16. TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 15 ! law. (Mills v. Board of Education of District of Columbia, 1972). (http://www.wrightslaw.com/law/art/history.spec.ed.law.htm#sthash.3PDoiGje.dpuf) After PARC and Mills, Congress launched an investigation into the status of children with disabilities and found that millions of children were not receiving an appropriate education. In May, 1972, legislation was introduced in Congress after the Bureau of Education for the Handicapped estimated that of the more than eight million children with handicapping conditions requiring special education and related services, only 3.9 million such children were receiving an appropriate education (U.S.C.C.A.N. at 1430 in the legislative history). In fact, 1.75 million handicapped children were receiving no educational services at all, and 2.5 million handicapped children were receiving an inappropriate education (U.S.C.C.A.N. at 1432 in the legislative history). (http://www.wrightslaw.com/law/art/history.spec.ed.law.htm#sthash.3PDoiGje.dpuf) On November 19, 1975, Congress enacted Public Law 94-142, also known as The Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975. Congress intended that all children with disabilities would “have a right to education, and to establish a process by which State and local educational agencies may be held accountable for providing educational services for all handicapped children.” (http://www.wrightslaw.com/law/art/history.spec.ed.law.htm#sthash.3PDoiGje.dpuf) Initially, the law focused on ensuring that children with disabilities had access to an education and due process of law. Congress included an elaborate system of legal checks and balances called “procedural safeguards” that were designed to protect the rights of children and their parents. (http://www.wrightslaw.com/law/art/history.spec.ed.law.htm#sthash.3PDoiGje.dpuf)
  17. 17. TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 16 ! To achieve the national goals for access to education for all children with disabilities, a number of special issues and special populations required Federal attention. These national concerns were reflected in a number of key amendments to the Education for the Handicapped Act (EHA) and IDEA between 1975 and 1997. The 1980s saw a national concern for young children with disabilities and their families. While Public Law 94-142 mandated programs and services for children three to 21 years that were consistent with state law, the 1986 Amendments (PL 99-457) to EHA mandated that states provide programs and services from birth. Through such sustained Federal leadership, the United States is the world leader in early intervention and preschool programs for infants, toddlers, and preschool children with disabilities. These programs prepare young children with disabilities to meet the academic and social challenges that lie ahead of them, both while in school and in later life. (http://www2.ed.gov/policy/speced/leg/idea/history.html) At the other end of the childhood age continuum, IDEA has supported the preparation of students for vocational success through new and improved transition programs. The 1983 Amendments to EHA (PL 98-199), the 1990 Amendments to EHA (PL 101-476), which changed the name to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and the IDEA Amendments of 1997 (PL 105-17) supported initiatives for transition services from high school to adult living. Because of these mandates, each student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) must include transition plans or procedures for identifying appropriate employment and other post school adult living objectives for the student; referring the student to appropriate community agencies; and linking the student to available community resources, including job placement and other follow- up services. The IEP must also specifically designate who is responsible for each transition
  18. 18. TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 17 ! activity. Finally, the 1997 Amendments to IDEA specified that transition planning should begin at age 14. (http://www2.ed.gov/policy/speced/leg/idea/history.html) Congress has amended and renamed the special education law several times since 1975. On December 3, 2004, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act was amended again. The reauthorized statute was the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 and is known as IDEA 2004. The statute is in Volume 20 of the United States Code (U. S. C.), beginning at Section 1400. The special education regulations are published in Volume 34 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) beginning at Section 300. (http://www.wrightslaw.com/law/art/history.spec.ed.law.htm#sthash.3PDoiGje.dpuf) In reauthorizing the IDEA, Congress increased the focus on accountability and improved outcomes by emphasizing reading, early intervention, and research-based instruction by requiring that special education teachers be highly qualified. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 had two primary purposes. The first purpose was to provide an education that meets a child’s unique needs and prepares the child for further education, employment, and independent living. The second purpose was to protect the rights of both children with disabilities and their parents. (http://www.wrightslaw.com/law/art/history.spec.ed.law.htm#sthash.3PDoiGje.dpuf) School provided for students with disabilities to be educated in the least restrictive environment, as mandated in the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 and further clarified through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), passed in 1990 and renewed in 1997 and 2004. Inclusion is when students with disabilities receive their entire academic curriculum in the general education program. This is different from mainstreaming, which is when students with disabilities spend a portion of their school day in the general
  19. 19. TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 18 ! education program and a portion in a separate special education program (Idol, 1997). Both inclusion and main-streaming are ways to educate students with disabilities in the least restrictive environment (LRE). (Idol, L. 2006) Models of Inclusion Inclusion, by extension, has been inferred to include educational service provision in the least restrictive environment, contingent upon students’ strengths and needs, encompassing a substantial continuum of possible supports (Murwaski & Swanson, 2001). Bringing services and support to the student in the general education classroom, as opposed to removing students from learning experiences with same age peers, is largely viewed as the hallmark of inclusion. However, agreement regarding the nature of inclusive practices may be more elusive, as competing theories regarding what constitutes inclusion, as well as the realities of implementation, have yielded a wide variety of inclusive models documented in the literature (Ryndak, Jackson, & Billingsley, 2000); (Kilanowski-Press, Foote, & Rinaldo, 2010) Despite federal mandates propelling the inclusion movement in the United States, relatively little has been done to explore the current state of inclusive practice in terms of service models most often employed and other relevant classroom characteristics including number of students with disabilities, training experiences of educators, and other available educational support persons. Based on extant literature (e.g., Ryndak, Jackson, & Billingsley, 2000; Walther- Thomas, 1997), it was not clear what teachers would have recognized as sufficient to enhance inclusive practice or even what the norms were for a general education classroom to be considered inclusion. In an era in which investigations of teacher perceptions of inclusion were replete, teachers could no longer be asked why they think inclusion is or isn’t working or why they did or did not value it. Instead, it is necessary to have identified commonly employed
  20. 20. TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 19 ! inclusive practices, evaluated their efficacy, and assisted teachers in implementing evidence based, effective approaches. (Kilanowski-Press, Foote, & Rinaldo, 2010) Frequently referred to as the premier format for inclusive instruction, co-teaching could be defined as two or more professionals delivering substantive instruction to a diverse, or blended, group of students in a single physical space (Cook & Friend, 1995, p. 1). According to Cook and Friend, each educator is engaged and involved in the instruction of students, both general and special education, within the same classroom in the co-teaching model. Within such instructional situations, general and special educators may engage in parallel teaching, station teaching, alternative teaching, and team teaching, or may opt to rotate primary teaching responsibilities throughout the day, with the other teacher serving in a support capacity (1995). Through such modes of instruction, each teacher is indeed jointly responsible for the instruction of students with and without special needs, allowing for greater differentiation of instruction and employment of intervention techniques designed to benefit both general and special education students (Kilanowski-Press, Foote, & Rinaldo, 2010). The One Teach, One Assist model is when one teacher instructs all students while a second provides additional support for those who need it. Students with and without disabilities can receive assistance on challenging material. (Vaughn, Schumm, and Arguelles 1997) The Station Teaching model is when students are divided into three separate groups with two groups working with one of the two teachers and the third working independently. Students with and without disabilities benefit from receiving small group instruction. (Vaughn, Schumm, and Arguelles 1997)
  21. 21. TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 20 ! The Parallel Teaching model is when teachers plan lessons together before splitting students in two groups, and then teach the same lesson to these small groups. Students with and without disabilities benefit from working in small groups, teachers also benefit by learning from each other’s expertise. (Vaughn, Schumm, and Arguelles 1997) The Alternative Teaching model is when one teacher is responsible for teaching and the other is responsible for pre-teaching and re-teaching concepts to students who need additional support. Students with disabilities, and other students struggling with challenging material, can receive additional direct instruction. (Vaughn, Schumm, and Arguelles 1997) The Team Teaching model provides instruction together in the same classroom and may take turns leading instruction or modeling student behavior. Students with disabilities especially learn well from having behavior modeled, and students without disabilities likely benefit as well. (Vaughn, Schumm, and Arguelles 1997) Teacher Preparedness Teacher Preparedness is not specifically defined. A teacher according to Merriam Webster (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/teacher) is defined as “one that teaches; especially: one whose occupation is to instruct.” Preparedness is defined by DHS/FEMA (http://www.dhs.gov/topic/plan-and-prepare-disasters) as “a continuous cycle of planning, organizing, training, equipping, exercising, evaluating, and taking corrective action in an effort to ensure effective coordination during incident response.” Taking these elements of these two definitions teacher preparedness can be defined as continuous planning, organizing, and training of one whose occupation is to instruct or teach.
  22. 22. TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 21 ! This thought is best captured by Britzman (1991, p.110): “learning to teach is not a mere matter of applying decontextualized skills or of mirroring predetermined images: it is a time when one’s past, present, and future are set in dynamic tension. Learning to teach- like teaching itself- is always the process of becoming: a time of formation and transformation, of scrutiny into what one is doing and who one can become…Learning to teach is a social process of negotiation rather than an individual problem of behavior.” Colleges and universities are expected to produce a diverse and flexible workforce, instill pedagogically sound and relevant practices, and provide high quality fieldwork experiences for their candidates. Teacher preparation programs are further expected to recruit and aid in teacher retention, particularly in high needs areas such as mathematics, science, and special education (Hawk & Schmidt, 2005). To meet these challenges, some states and institutions of higher education offer alternative credentialing programs that allow those already possessing baccalaureate degrees to be employed by school districts while completing credential requirements (Hawk & Schmidt, 2005). Meeting these challenges often rests on the preparation quality candidate teachers receive and their ability to put it into practice. (Lee, Patterson, & Vega, 2011). Whether pathways to credentialing are traditional or alternative, teacher preparation programs must examine a variety of outcome variables associated with effective teacher performance. These can include objective indicators on teaching programs, practices, and policies, and more subjective indicators such as teacher’s self-efficacy or perceptions of control (Bandura,1977,1997). Because a lack of teacher self-efficacy can undermine even the best of teacher education, it is imperative that we assess the types of perils that can arise in its absence.
  23. 23. TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 22 ! This is particularly important given the continued limited-resource environments and other threats to an already over-taxed education infrastructure. (Lee, Patterson, & Vega, 2011). Preparing prospective teachers for the realities of today’s classrooms is a complex and challenging undertaking for teacher educators. This complexity and challenge is a result of the changing nature of the classroom. Schools today face an increasing number of language learners, the mainstreaming of special population students, and, working with a standards driven curriculum, all of which present new challenges for the teacher as they attempt to meet their students educational needs. (Hughes, 2006) As a result of this “new classroom environment” and the educational needs they present teacher educators must now seek different approaches to prepare prospective teachers to meet these needs because the traditional (e.g. coursework independent of fieldwork) approaches to teacher preparation are no longer effective in equipping teachers to address these issues. (Hughes, 2006) In the state of New Jersey, there are specific qualifications in order to become an elementary general education teacher. “For certification as an elementary school teacher, completion of a major in the liberal arts, sciences, or a minimum of 60 liberal arts credits is required. The final determination as to which courses will be counted towards the subject matter is based on professional and content standards found in the NJ Licensing Code. All credits must appear on a regionally accredited 2 OR 4 year college/university transcript. Praxis II Test Requirement.”(http://www.state.nj.us/education/educators/license/endorsements/1001CEAS.pdf) New Jersey requires that candidates for certification “achieve a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0 when a GPA of 4.00 equals an A grade for students graduating on or after September 1,
  24. 24. TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 23 ! 2016 (2.75 for those graduating before September 1, 2016) in a baccalaureate degree program, higher degree program or a State-approved postbaccalaureate certification program with a minimum of 13 semester-hour credits. Please note that a high praxis test score may offset a GPA that is lower than 3.0 but higher than 2.75.” (http://www.nj.gov/education/educators/license/gpa.htm) Since 2013, there have been changes to the elementary certification. “Effective July 2013, the K-5 certificate was revised to authorize instruction in grades K-6. This endorsement authorizes the holder to: i. Serve as an elementary school teacher in grades kindergarten through six in all public schools; ii. Teach language arts literacy, mathematics, science and social studies full-time in grades kindergarten through six; iii. Teach world languages full-time in grades kindergarten through six pursuant to N.J.A.C. 6A:9B-11.10; iv. Teach all remaining subjects no more than one-half of the daily instructional assignment; and v. Teach reading, writing, arithmetic, and spelling, for basic skills purposes only, in grades six through 12.” (http://www.nj.gov/education/educators/license/usaccred.htm) For special education teachers, their endorsement “authorizes the holder to teach students classified with disabilities to one of the designated populations as per the teachers’ content and/or grade level endorsements authorize. They may also provide consultative services and supportive resource programs including modification and adaptation of curriculum and instruction to students with disabilities in general education programs in grades preschool through 12.” (http://www.state.nj.us/education/educators/license/endorsements/2475CEAS.pdf) “In order to be eligible for the Certificate of Eligibility with Advanced Standing (CEAS), you will need to meet the following: Instructional Certification • Possession or eligibility for a standard or provisional NJ instructional certificate with an endorsement appropriate to the
  25. 25. TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 24 ! subject or grade level to be taught is required. Professional Teacher Preparation in Students with Disabilities • Current regulations for certification require that applicants complete a coherent sequence of study in professional education which may be completed in a provisional teacher program or an approved teacher preparation program. This is to advise that courses presented by the applicant in professional education must be a coherent sequence of courses that culminates in supervised student teaching.” (http://www.state.nj.us/education/educators/license/endorsements/2475CEAS.pdf) Related Studies Idol (2006) examined staff perceptions of special education services by conducting personal interviews with a large majority of the classroom teachers, special education teachers, instructional assistants, and principals in several schools. Overall, educators were positive about educating students with disabilities in general education settings. They were conservative about how to best do this, with many of them preferring to have the included students accompanied by a special education teacher or instructional assistant or continuing to have resource room services. Nearly everyone favored using instructional assistants to help all students, not just the students with disabilities. Most educators reported feeling positive about working collaboratively and felt they had administrative support to offer inclusive education programs. (Idol, 2006). Another study conducted by Leatherman & Niemeyer (2005) examined pre-service and in-service teachers’ attitudes toward inclusive practices as reflected in the teachers’ behaviors. This qualitative study utilized open ended initial interviews, observations with follow-up interviews, and observer field notes that were analyzed using content analysis with emergent themes from the different data sources. The results suggested that teachers’ attitudes toward
  26. 26. TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 25 ! inclusion appeared to be influenced by their previous experiences in inclusive classrooms, and that the teachers implemented inclusive practices by involving all children in classroom activities, including those with disabilities. While the teachers did implement inclusive practices, they indicated that appropriate pre-service training, support from administrators, and support from resource personnel were important to provide a successful inclusive environment. Implications were discussed for teacher education programs in training pre-service professionals to work with children with disabilities and providing appropriate practical experiences in inclusive environments. (Leatherman & Niemeyer 2005). The aim of a study by De Boer, Pijl, & Minnaert, (2011) was to examine what attitudes teachers hold towards inclusive education, which variables are related to their attitudes and if these effect the social participation of pupils with special needs in regular schools. A review of 26 studies revealed that the majority of teachers hold neutral or negative attitudes towards the inclusion of pupils with special needs in regular primary education. None of the studies reported clear positive results. Several variables are found which relate to teachers’ attitudes, such as training, experience with inclusive education and pupils’ type of disability. No conclusion could be drawn regarding the effects of teachers’ attitudes on the social participation of pupils with special needs. (De Boer, Pijl, & Minnaert, 2011). Another study conducted by Boccardi (2011) measured general education teacher self- perception of the ability to effectively instruct students with special needs in an inclusive setting. There were 27 participants in this study. Surveys, open ended questionnaires, and interviews were used to ensure that the results of this study were reliable. Most teachers did not believe that undergraduate education classes prepared them to teach special needs students. Interviews revealed that while most general education teachers do feel somewhat prepared to teach special
  27. 27. TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 26 ! needs students, all respondents interviewed gave suggestions of ways they could further improve. Most teachers felt they were doing a good job with their special needs students, but felt they could be more effective with professional development. The data suggested that most teachers do feel prepared to teach special needs students although they still felt they could be further prepared. The data also showed that there are things that would help general education teachers such as more college classes about special education while they are pre-service teachers, and as in-service teachers more administrative support, more professional development workshops, and more time to collaborate with support staff and special education teachers (Boccardi 2011). Conclusion The attitudes and perceptions of general education teachers toward inclusion have been evaluated using survey techniques for the past 50 years (Scruggs & Matropieri, 1996). In these research reports, teachers generally indicated that they did not receive adequate training for work with students with special needs either in their teacher preparation programs or as part of their in- service professional development. (Boccardi, 2011) They also reported a need for more personnel assistance in the classroom to support their teaching. Other common concerns leading to less than positive perceptions toward mainstreaming students with disabilities include the size of the class, severity of disability, teaching experience, and grade level (Kilanowski-Press, Foote, & Rinaldo, 2010; Weddell, 2005).
  28. 28. TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 27 ! Chapter 3 Methodology Introduction The topic of this study was to assess the preparedness of general education teachers educating students with special needs. Through the use of surveys, data was collected to assess teacher preparedness. The dependent variable of the study was the general education teachers’ preparedness to educate students with disabilities in their general education classrooms. Participants The participants were thirty-five teachers from parochial and public schools. Thirty participants were female while five participants were male. The experience of the teachers varied from one year to about thirty years of teaching experience. All thirty-five participants held a bachelor’s degree, two received their certification through an alternate route and post baccalaureate program, ten also held a master’s degree, and one participant also held a doctorate degree. Ten out of the thirty-five teachers also had experience with working with students with special needs and of those ten, four also held a special education certification. The thesis researcher herself was also a participant. She had been a substitute teacher for grades pre-school to high school, which included special education classroom settings, and an aide for two years in a parochial school setting. She was a first year teacher at the time this study was conducted. She taught fifth and sixth grade language arts, reading, and science in a departmentalized setting in a parochial school. She was certified kindergarten to fifth grade, special education, and was working towards her master’s in special education at the time this study was conducted. This action research project was conducted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Caldwell University graduate program.
  29. 29. TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 28 ! Materials The first material that the thesis researcher used was a consent form. Anonymity and confidentiality were crucial to this study. The consent form included detailed information on the purpose of the study and participants’ rights and confidentiality. Participants were given access to the consent forms with the survey and understood that by completing the survey, they agreed to be part of this study. The thesis researcher did not ask teachers for their real names or real names of their schools they worked in. The surveys were sealed in envelopes without names as well as the open ended questions. Any references to teachers were listed as Teacher N, Teacher K, and Teacher G to keep anonymity. The consent forms can be viewed in Appendices A and B. The materials that were used in this study included a survey, open ended questions, and interviews. The survey that was used was loosely based off of another survey created by a Caldwell University (formerly Caldwell College) graduate paper (Boccardi, 2011). All questions were based on teacher preparedness which included topics ranging from overall teacher preparedness, having enough time to work with the schools’ special services person, having taken appropriate undergraduate course to help students with special needs, and professional development and workshops that have helped in preparation to educate students with special needs. The survey consisted of ten questions based on a four point Likert Scale ranging from Strongly Agree to Strongly Disagree. Participants had to circle one of the four options (SA = Strongly Agree, A=Agree, SD=Strongly Disagree, and D=Disgaree) and the survey itself had a mixture of five positive and five negative statements which helped to obtain the most accurate information so participants had to clearly read statements and gave comparisons. There were three open ended questions. Each question related to more specific topics from the survey, which had teachers elaborate rather than just reading and circling appropriate
  30. 30. TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 29 ! choices. This allowed teachers more room to write down their feelings based upon the nature of the question. Open ended questions were included to give more accurate feedback and gave teachers a chance to expand upon answers using personal experience rather than just answering a simple question. The thesis researcher also selected the interview questions. Five questions in total were orally asked to the participants by the thesis researcher. The interviews were recorded and then transcribed by the thesis researcher. Interview questions can be found in Appendix C. Triangulation also played a key factor in this study. The use of the survey, open ended questions, and interviews added depth to this study. (Hendricks, 2013. p. 73) Triangulation increases reliability and validity of the study. The thesis researcher was able to use both qualitative and quantitative data collection. (Hendricks, 2013) Procedure The type of study that the thesis researcher used was a descriptive study. The aim of this type of study was to observe and describe. The thesis researcher was able to observe the teacher interactions based off the open ended questions and describe the findings from the surveys, open ended questions, and interviews. The thesis researcher collected the data over a span of five weeks. In week one, the thesis researcher recruited participants in her school by discussing her thesis paper at a faculty meeting and contacting colleagues at various schools via school e-mail. Week two the thesis researcher distributed the surveys and open ended questions in sealed envelopes labeled survey to the participants in person. The thesis researcher gave clear instructions to carefully read through the survey and upon completion seal and put survey in the marked envelope to ensure anonymity. During weeks three and four, the thesis researcher collected the sealed envelopes in
  31. 31. TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 30 ! person from her fellow colleagues. Week five the thesis researcher began to code the data and started the follow-up interviews from her three colleagues whom at the bottom of the survey, the teachers that wanted to be interviewed had e-mailed the thesis researcher this way their names will not be attached to the survey at all. The thesis researcher held interviews in person at the thesis researcher’s school. Each interview lasted between five to seven minutes. After interviews were completed the thesis researcher transcribed the interviews. After the answers were transcribed, the qualitative research was coded and themes were discussed. Conclusion Triangulation played a key role in this study. Through the use of the three instruments of the survey, open ended questions, and interviews it added depth to this study. The thesis researcher was able to use both qualitative and quantitative data collection. Rather than having one type of data collection, using both types added more specific feedback from teachers in order to aid in answering the research question.
  32. 32. TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 31 ! Chapter 4 Analysis of Data Introduction The study analyzed data collected through the use of a survey, open ended questions, and interviews. The information recorded was coded to find the commonalities and outliers that would prove or disprove the hypothesis that general education teachers do not feel prepared to educate students with special needs. The data analysis was so important to this study because it provided the necessary information to back up the hypothesis. Results of Data The surveys used in this study had questions that were based on teacher preparedness which included topics ranging from overall teacher preparedness, having enough time to work with the schools’ special services person, having taken appropriate undergraduate course to help students with special needs, and professional development and workshops that have helped in preparation to educate students with special needs. The survey consisted of ten questions based on a four point Likert Scale ranging from Strongly Agree to Strongly Disagree. Participants had to circle one of the four options (SA = Strongly Agree, A=Agree, SD=Strongly Disagree, and D=Disgaree) and the survey itself had a mixture of five positive and five negative statements which helped to obtain the most accurate information so participants had to clearly read statements and gave comparisons. The survey was distributed to about eighty teachers in both public and parochial schools. Of the eighty participants, thirty-five teachers responded to the survey. Thirty participants were female while five participants were male. The experience of the teachers varied from one year to about thirty years of teaching experience. The Table below is the data collected from the surveys taken by the thirty-five teachers.
  33. 33. TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 32 ! Table 1 Percentage of General Education Teacher Responses on Preparedness of Educating Students with Special Needs Question Strongly Agree Agree Disagree Strongly Disagree 1. I am prepared to teach students with disabilities in my classroom. 17.1% 48.6% 31.4% 2.9% 3. I am not prepared to teach students with disabilities in my classroom. 5.7% 31.4% 34.3% 28.6% 2. General education certification college classes prepared me to teach included special education children. 11.4% 22.9% 57.1% 8.6% 5. I did not take appropriate college level classes to include children with IEP's. 5.7% 57.1% 22.9% 14.3% 4. I have enough time to collaborate with special education teachers. 2.9% 22.9% 40% 34.3%
  34. 34. TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 33 ! 7. I do not have enough time to meet and work with special education teachers to aid me in how to help students with special needs in my classroom. 14.3% 45.7% 34.3% 5.7% 8. Professional development workshops have helped me teach students with disabilities in my classroom. 2.9% 34.3% 62.9% 0% 10. I have not attended enough professional development workshops to prepare me to effectively teach students with disabilities in my classroom. 8.6% 40% 45.7% 5.7% 6. I have the support of the special services person in my school to successfully teach my classroom. 14.3% 40% 31.4% 14.3% 9. The special services person in my school is not as available to help me with students with special needs to be successful in my classroom. 17.1% 28.6% 45.7% 8.6%
  35. 35. TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 34 ! In Table 1 above, the thirty-five participants completed a Likert Scale ranging from Strongly Agree to Strongly Disagree on the ten questions stated above. Sixty five point seven percent, this number was taken from the agree and strongly agree percentage of question 1, of the participants felt that they were prepared to educate students with special needs. However, 57.1 % felt that they did not take enough undergraduate courses to help prepare them educate students with special needs. There was some discrepancy about meeting with special education teachers to help general education teachers, 45.7% felt that special educators had time to help them where 40% did not. Another discrepancy was the effectiveness of workshops relating to educating students with special needs 62.9% felt they did not attend enough workshops whereas 45.7% felt that they did. Therefore, a majority of teachers felt they are not receiving enough or the right kinds of professional development. Forty five point seven percent of the participants felt that they had the support of special services co-workers in their district/school.
  36. 36. TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 35 ! Figure 1. General Education Teacher Preparedness of Educating Students with Special Needs In the Figure 1 above, the graph measures the percentage of teachers who felt prepared to educate students with special needs. Of the thirty-five general education teachers that were surveyed, 34.3% felt unprepared to educate students with special needs whereas 65.7% felt prepared to educate students with special needs. The survey contained open ended questions. There were three open ended questions which included how prepared a teacher felt in teaching students with special needs, what could help general education teachers do to be more prepared to help students with special needs, and if college courses and professional development aided in preparation to teach students with special needs. From the data collected for the what could help general education teachers do to be more prepared to help students with special needs questions teacher responses included; “Experience in the classroom has helped through the years,” “I do no feel prepared what helps me is
  37. 37. TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 36 ! discussing challenges with colleagues,” and “I feel the severity of the disability reflects how I can help those students, since I do not have specific special education training.” From the data collected the question regarding what could help general education teachers to be more prepared to help students with special needs, teacher responses included; “I feel that taking more graduate courses in special education would be more helpful,” “Training and having more time to spend with the special education department would be great,” and “A support staff such as an aide would be beneficial.” From the data collected from the question regarding how college courses and professional development aided in preparation to teach students with special needs, teacher responses included; “Yes, the foundation laid in my education had gotten me started and working with students is where I learned the most,” “I felt unprepared in being able to properly reach my special education students. As a result, I decided to return to school to be able to meet their needs better,” and “My undergraduate courses did not initially help me but going back to school and having taken graduate courses has made it easier to identify a special needs students and provided me with a better foundation and resources.” The final component that the thesis researcher used as part of data collection was an interview. Three interviews were conducted with a pre-school teacher, a third grade teacher, and a sixth grade teacher. There were five questions in total which included: teacher definition of special education, how prepared the teacher felt teaching special needs children, if there was a particular strategy that was helpful, did training and other resources prepare to teach students with special needs, and what could be more helpful to you to educate students with special needs.
  38. 38. TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 37 ! For the definition of special education question, all three agreed that it was specialized learning where a child has a disability. The slight differences stated was one teacher felt students needed extra time for work and another teacher felt that there needed to be more adult assistance. For the how prepared the teacher felt teaching special needs children question all three felt prepared. One teacher felt extremely prepared from her classes, one teacher felt semi- prepared because this teacher felt her college courses were not as helpful as they could have been, the last teacher felt more prepared through her classroom experiences rather than just college courses. For the question related to strategy, two of the three teachers felt that accommodations, individualized instruction, and behavior management were key. One teacher felt that being a caring and nurturing teacher was the best strategy. With regards to how training and other resources prepare general educators to teach students with special needs question, training did help as long as the school had the resources for proper support from not only special educators but other general educators as well. They also all agreed that workshops were very helpful. For the last question on what could be more helpful to educate students with special needs, all three teachers agreed that workshops and classes were helpful. One teacher suggested having a seminar within the school to really be effective and another teacher suggested more literature for teachers to have to discuss and share. Analysis of Data Triangulation was an important element to help with the validity and reliability of this study. The results of this study show that general education teachers do feel prepared to educate students with special needs. From the survey, 65.7% prepared to educate students with special
  39. 39. TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 38 ! needs yet 57.1% felt they did not have enough training in undergraduate courses. From the open ended questions, more teachers felt that classroom experience and getting training from other resources and professional development was more effective. From the interviews, the three selected teachers felt prepared more through experience of working with students with special needs and having support rather than relying upon college courses. Two participants had received alternate route training and had no special education training but looked to professional development and workshops to help them. It seems as if general educations do to a certain degree feel prepared but want to have more specialized training to help students with special needs. In addition, the multiple data sources demonstrate that teachers’ preparedness is largely based on their previous experiences, more so than higher education or professional development. Limitations There were some limitations in this study. One limitation was the validity and reliability of the study itself. The thesis researcher recruited participants through faculty meetings and via school e-mail of friends and family members. The participants were parts of a convenience sample. Future research should expand the population sampling to not only elementary schools teachers in a section of New Jersey but the entire state or even through the United States. Future research should also include an increase in the number of participants to increase the ability to generalize the results. Another limitation would be location of the sampling. Rather than just focusing on the state of New Jersey, the study could expand to other states and compare how special education training, college courses, and professional development are implemented in each state.
  40. 40. TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 39 ! A final limitation was the time restriction. The thesis researcher only had a few months to collect the necessary data. If there was more time, more participants could have been gathered to get data that could be generalized to a larger population. Discussion What is interesting is that is that even though the teachers did not receive enough or any formal training, they were still prepared. This may be due to previous experiences as a teacher or possibly that no teacher wants to admit that they are not prepared to do the job they are getting paid to do, especially to a fellow teacher. This study might influence the participants to go to the administration and ask to have more specialized training from special services, find workshops that are truly effective with special education strategies, or might cause participants to reconsider going back to school to take graduate courses in special education. It might also inform administrators as to how to support their teachers. The next step for this study is to have a comparison. Half of the participants could attend a specific training or graduate course where they learn new strategies or techniques. Then there could be a comparison of the teachers that did not receive such training and compare how each group of teachers felt. There could even be a comparison of student results through taking the same assessments being distributed and seeing how special needs students did with one teacher versus the other. Some of my findings were similar to my related studies. The main one that was most similar was the Boccardi (2011) study that was also a Caldwell graduate. Even though the study was done in 2011, similar data was collected in that teachers were looking for better quality training and workshops to help aid students with special needs. Granted this study was done four
  41. 41. TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 40 ! years ago there is still a need for better training however, it does not mean teachers are doing a poor job but is taking time in order to receive the training to better their classrooms. Implications for Teaching Understanding Research. Research is a key factor in this study. In order to make comparisons and see the development of teachers’ skill set to educate students with special needs I felt prior research was necessary. It was interesting to see how difficult it was to find specific articles relating toward teachers’ attitudes towards teaching students with special needs. This is where my personal experience and development of my thesis topic came into being. Having my B.A. in Elementary Education and having recently started my teaching career, Special Education always seemed daunting. How do I go about helping those students with special needs? As an undergraduate I had taken one or two courses, which were very helpful, but I wish there had been more. Being a general education teacher, it is so vital to develop the proverbial teacher bag of tricks, which comes with experience. Being a new teacher I have felt the struggles of balancing classroom management, pedagogy, and reaching the few students in my classroom that have IEPs. I had made the decision to go to graduate school and focus on Special Education. I realized from talking to other co-workers that they had felt similarly to myself in regards to educating students with special needs and the topic of my thesis stemmed from that conversation. Through my research, especially looking at another thesis paper from another Caldwell graduate from 2011, that teachers felt similarly to the data I collected. Teachers felt prepared however; they felt more training would be more beneficial. I would definitely continue researching information of this topic and continue sharing ideas with co-workers to better equip my “teacher bag of tricks.”
  42. 42. TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 41 ! Implementing Data. Collecting data is another important factor. Figuring out how I was going to go about collecting my data was almost as important as the data itself. I felt that using a survey, open ended questions, and interviews were the best way to collect my data. Each factored into the other and added more to my study. The survey was an overview of information, the open ended questions gave teachers the opportunity to share their opinions beyond a Likert Scale, and the interviews gave me one on one time for teachers to express how that felt about educating students with special needs. The raw data was a bit overwhelming but breaking it down was extremely helpful and getting teacher feedback in these three different ways opened up my eyes to see how truly prepared general education teachers felt. Measuring preparedness is very difficult which is why factoring in training and professional development was key. This study can hopefully be used to its full potential and see there is still a need to have better special education training. Analyzing and Interpreting Data. Graphing the data itself was a bit cumbersome. As I stated in the limitations above, having the short amount of time and limited sampling made it slightly difficult to initially get data. However, once the data was collected, it was remarkable to see all of the responses and teacher feedback. I initially thought that general education teachers would not feel prepared to educate students with special needs. However, through the data collection, general education teachers did feel prepared over time through classroom due to experience more than anything else yet, most felt that more training in the special education field would be most beneficial to helping students with special needs in their classroom. Implementing Results. The final collected data and graphs were extremely helpful in order to compare the hypothesis of my study to the final results. I had hypothesized that teachers would not feel prepared to educate students with special needs. However, through the data
  43. 43. TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 42 ! collection teachers felt prepared through classroom experience but felt that training and professional development would be more helpful to reach those students with special needs. Through the results I would suggest that teachers push for more training and professional workshops. It may be difficult to find credible and worthwhile workshops but in order to better the classroom overall, teachers need to invest the time and effort. Administrators could also use this study in the future to take into account having their teachers gain that necessary knowledge and experience and push that in their school/district. Conclusion The thesis researcher’s hypothesis was disproved. General education teachers do feel prepared to educate students with special needs. However, general education teachers felt more prepared though their classroom experiences and having the support of special services co- workers. They also felt that although to a certain degree their college training helped, it was not sufficient and more specific training would help general education teachers fair well with having students with special needs in their classrooms.
  44. 44. TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 43 ! References Americans with Disabilities Act, U.S. Congress, Public Law 101-336 (1990) Archived: 25 Year History of the IDEA. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www2.ed.gov/policy/speced/leg/idea/history.html Bandura, A. (1977). Self-efficacy: Toward a unifying theory of behavioral change. Psycho- logical Review, 84, 191-215. Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York: W. H. Freeman & Company. Britzman, D. (1991). Practice makes practice. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press. Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954) Boccardi 2011, The Self- Perception of General Education Teachers’ Abilities to Effectively Instruct Students with Special Needs in an Inclusive Setting , 3-31 Certification & Induction - GPA/Praxis Test Score Flexibility Rules. (n.d.). Retrieved February 10, 2015, from http://www.nj.gov/education/educators/license/gpa.htm Certification & Induction - How Do I Verify Regional Accreditation of a College or University? (n.d.). Retrieved February 10, 2015, from http://www.nj.gov/education/educators/license/usaccred.htm Cook, L. & Friend, M. (1995). Co-teaching: Guidelines for creating effective practices. Focus on Exceptional Children, 28(3), 1-16. De Boer, A., Pijl, S., & Minnaert, A. (2011). Regular Primary Schoolteachers' Attitudes towards
  45. 45. TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 44 ! Inclusive Education: A Review of the Literature. International Journal Of Inclusive Education, 15(3), 331-353. The Elementary Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended, 20 U.S.C. § 241 (1974) Education of the Handicapped Act, U.S. Congress, P.L. 91-230. (1970) Education for All Handicapped Children Act, U.S. Congress, Public Law 94-142. (1975) Hawk, P., & Schmidt, M. (2005). Teacher preparation: A comparison of traditional and alternative programs. Journal of Teacher Education, 40(5): 53-58. Hendricks, C. (2013). Improving schools through action research: A reflective practice approach. Upper Saddle River, N.J: Pearson. The History of Special Education Law - Wrightslaw. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.wrightslaw.com/law/art/history.spec.ed.law.htm#sthash.3PDoiGje.dpuf Hughes, Jacqueline A. Bridging the Theory-practice Divide: A Creative Approach to Effective Teacher Preparation Journal of Scholarship and Teaching, Vol. 6, No. 1, August 2006, pp 110 - 117. IDEA. (n.d.). Retrieved from www.idea.gov Idol, L. (2006). Toward Inclusion of Special Education Students in General Education. Remedial & Special Education, 27(2), 77-94. Kilanowski-Press, L., Foote, C. J., & Rinaldo, V. J. (2010). Inclusion Classrooms and Teachers: A Survey of Current Practices. International Journal Of Special Education, 25(3), 43-56. Leatherman, J. M., & Niemeyer, J. A. (2005). Teachers' Attitudes toward Inclusion: Factors Influencing Classroom Practice. Journal Of Early Childhood Teacher Education, 26(1), 23-36. Lee, Y., Patterson, P. P., & Vega, L. A. (2011). Perils to Self-Efficacy Perceptions and Teacher-
  46. 46. TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 45 ! Preparation Quality among Special Education Intern Teachers. Teacher Education Quarterly, 38(2), 61-76. McLeskey, J. & Waldron, N. L. (2011). Educational programs for elementary students with learning disabilities: Can they be both effective and inclusive? Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 26, 48-57. Mills v. Board of Education, DC. 348 F.Supp. 866 (D. DC 1972). Mintz, J. (2007). Attitudes of primary initial teacher training students to special educational needs and inclusion. Support For Learning, 22(1), 3-8. doi:10.1111/j.1467 9604.2007.00438.x Murwaski, W.W. & Swanson, H.L. (2001). A meta-analysis of co-teaching research: Where are the data? Remedial and Special Education, 22(5), 258-267. National Council on Teacher, Q. (2007). State Teacher Policy Yearbook: Progress on Teacher Quality, 2007. New Jersey State Summary. National Council On Teacher Quality, 1-134. PARC v. Commonwealth. 343 F. Supp. 279; 1972 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 13874. Plan and Prepare for Disasters | Homeland Security. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.dhs.gov/topic/plan-and-prepare-disasters Rafferty, Y., C. Boettcher, and K.W. Griffin. 2001. Benefits and risks of reverse inclusion for preschoolers with and without disabilities: Parents’ perspectives. Journal of Early Intervention 24: 266–86. Ryndak, D., Jackson, L., & Billingsley, F. (2000). Defining school inclusion for students with moderate to severe disabilities: What do experts say? Exceptionality, 8(2), 101-116. Scruggs T. & Mastropieri, M. (1996). Teacher perceptions of mainstreaming/inclusion, 1958- 1995: A research synthesis. Exceptional Children, 63(1), 59-74.
  47. 47. TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 46 ! State of New Jersey. (n.d.). Retrieved February 10, 2015, from http://www.state.nj.us/education/educators/license/endorsements/1001CEAS.pdf State of New Jersey. (n.d.). Retrieved February 10, 2015, from http://www.state.nj.us/education/educators/license/endorsements/2475CEAS.pdf Teacher | Definition of teacher by Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.merriam- webster.com/dictionary/teacher United States Code Congressional and Administrative News 1975 (U.S.C.C.A.N. 1975) Vaughn, S., Schumm, J. S., & Arguelles, M. E. (1997). The ABCDE’s of co-teaching. Teaching Exceptional Children, 24, 67-74. Weddell,K.(2005).Dilemmas in the quest for inclusion.British Journal of Special Education,32(1), 3-11
  48. 48. TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 47 ! Appendix A Consent and Information Title: How prepared do general education teachers feel about educating students with special needs? Participant name: Principle Investigator: Nicole Lazzaro Co-Investigator(s): 1) Purpose of the study- The purpose of this action research paper is to assess general education teachers’ feelings towards their training in educating students with special needs. The participants will be general education teachers in the state of New Jersey in public and parochial schools. A survey will be used to collect the data and will be distributed in person and will be handed back to me in a sealed envelope simply labeled survey. 2) Description of the Project a. Selection of Subjects – General Education Teachers in New Jersey in public and parochial schools. I will recruit participants from my school, graduate classmates, and other teachers that I know that work in public schools. b. General procedures- General Education Teachers will be interviewed and fill out surveys. 3) Description of Foreseeable Risks: The risk of participating in this study is the same as a teacher would encounter participating in any survey. 4) Benefits: You, the teacher, may benefit from this study through increased understanding of the beliefs, attitudes, and opinions toward people with disabilities.
  49. 49. TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 48 ! Information related to this research may help to broaden understanding about the attitudes of children toward people with disabilities. 5) Confidentiality Statement: All documents and information pertaining to this research study will be kept confidential in accordance with all applicable federal, state, and local laws and regulations. Data sheets will be coded so as to protect the confidentiality of the participants. All materials related to this research project will be locked in the office of either the principle investigator or the co-investigators. No one else will have access to these records. I understand that Caldwell College’s Institutional Review Board, The Office of the Vice President and Dean of Academic Affairs, and the Office for Human Subjects Protections (OHRP), may review records and data generated by the study to assure proper conduct of the study and compliance with federal guidelines. Appropriate HIPAA Authorization forms will also need to be completed I understand that the results of this study may be published. If any data are published, I will not be identified by name. 6) Disclaimer / Withdrawal: Participation in this study is voluntary. You may choose not to participate. If you do decide to participate, you can change your mind at any time and withdraw your from the study without negative consequences. No classroom grade, credit, privilege, or penalty will result from agreeing or declining to participate in the surveys or interviews. 7) Institutional Contact: a. Rights as a Research Subject: If I have any questions about my rights as a research subject, I may contact Ken Reeves Chair of the Institutional Review Board, (973) 618-3639 b. Research related injuries: non foreseeable 8) Injury / Complications: non foreseeable
  50. 50. TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 49 ! 9) Costs Statement: non foreseeable 10) Final Statement and Signature: This statement has been explained to me, I have read the consent form and I agree to participate. I have been given a copy of this consent form. I understand that if I wish further information regarding my rights as a research subject, I may contact the Chair of the Institutional Review Board of Caldwell College by phoning (973) 618-3639. _______________________________________________________________ Participant’s Signature Printed Name Date / Time _______________________________________________________________ Legal Guardian Signature Printed Name Date / Time _______________________________________________________________ Investigator’s Signature Printed Name Date / Time _______________________________________________________________ Faculty Sponsor’s Signature Printed Name Date / Time (If applicable)
  51. 51. TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 50 ! Appendix B To Whom It May Concern, Hello, my name is Nicole Lazzaro and I am conducting this survey of general education teachers as a portion of my Action Research project for my Master’s Degree from Caldwell University. The project itself it to examine how prepared general education teachers feel educating students with special needs in their classroom. All responses will be anonymous. In order to keep anonymity, any participant who wishes to participate in a follow up interview can e-mail me with the e-mail address provided at the end of the survey. Any participant has the right to request to be removed from the study at any time for any reason and also a participant has the right to access the information that was used and collected in this study. By completing this survey you are agreeing to participate in this research action study. If any additional information is needed I will provide a more extensive consent form upon request. Thank you for your time and cooperation. Sincerely, Nicole Lazzaro
  52. 52. TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 51 ! For the following three questions please circle all that apply and the fourth question please fill in: 1. Your Highest Level of Education: Bachelor’s, Master’s, or Doctorate 2. Your Certification (s): Pre-K-3, K-5, 6-8, or K-12 3. Grade (s) you currently teach: Pre-K, K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6. 4. Years you have been teaching:__________________ Please circle one choice of the appropriate letters underneath the question that reflects how you feel about each statement. (SA= Strongly Agree, A= Agree, D= Disagree, SD= Strongly Disagree) 1. I am prepared to teach students with disabilities in my classroom. SA A D SD 2. General education certification college classes prepared me to teach included special education children. SA A D SD 3. I am not prepared to teach students with disabilities in my classroom. SA A D SD
  53. 53. TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 52 ! 4. I have enough time to collaborate with special education teachers to prepare me to teach the students with special needs in my classroom. SA A D SD 5. I did not take appropriate college level classes to include children with IEPs. SA A D SD 6. I have the support of the special services person in my school to successfully teach my classroom. SA A D SD 7. I do not have enough time to meet and work with special education teachers to aid me in how to help students with special needs in my classroom. SA A D SD
  54. 54. TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 53 ! 8. Professional development workshops have helped me teach students with disabilities in my classroom. SA A D SD 9. The special services person in my school is not as available to help me with students with special needs to be successful in my classroom. SA A D SD 10. I have not attended enough professional development workshops to prepare me to effectively teach students with disabilities in my classroom. SA A D SD
  55. 55. TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 54 ! Open Ended Questions Please answer the following questions (If need be responses can be written on the back of this page): 1) Do you feel prepared to teach special education students in your general education classroom? What helped you the most and why? 2) What would help you feel more prepared to teach special education students in your general education classroom? (I.E. training or professional development) 3) Do you believe between your undergraduate education college classes and professional development on topics related to children with special needs that you are prepared to teach students with special needs? Why or why not? If you would consent to an interview please e-mail the thesis researcher at NLazzaro@caldwell.edu
  56. 56. TEACHER PREPAREDNESS 55 ! Appendix C Interview Questions How many years have you been teaching? : What grade(s) do you teach? : 1) How would you define special education? 2) How prepared do you feel in educating students with special needs in your general education class? 3) Was there a technique/strategy that you feel has been the most helpful in helping students with special needs in your classroom? 4) Do you feel that from your training and any other resources you are prepared to teach students with special needs? Why or why not? 5) What do you think could help you feel more prepared to teach special education students in your general education classroom? !

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