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Is AIDS a biasing factor in teacher judgment?

ABSTRACT: This study, examined the effect that knowledge of a student having AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) would have on regular-education teacher judgment regarding special education placement. Regular-education, third-grade, teachers in Indiana were sent one of two psychological reports. The reports were identical except that one report stated that the student had AIDS and the other stated that the student had rheumatic fever. AIDS was not found to be a biasing factor in teachers' judgments regarding special education services.

Previous research has found several factors to bias teacher judgment. This research suggests that teachers may be unaware of biases they have about their students. Teacher bias has been shown to effect student performance and teacher expectations. In addition, decisions as to which students are placed in special education classes are affected by these biases.

Socioeconomic status has been shown to be a biasing factor in teachers' decisions regarding special education placement. Children from higher socioeconomic status were rated more favorably to succeed than were children from lower socioeconomic families. The lower status students were recommended for special education classes more frequently than were higher socioeconomic students with identical psychological profiles (Bergen & Smith, 1966; Kehle, 1973).

Salvia, Clark, and Ysseldyke (1973) and Foster (1976) examined the effect of labeling on teachers' stereotypes and expectations of students. These authors found that teachers held negative expectations toward children who were labeled with a deviancy label, even though the student exhibited normal behavior. The labels themselves were found to be the biasing factor in the way the teachers viewed the behavior of these children. Those teachers who thought they were viewing a gifted, retarded, or normal child tended to rate the behavior of that child according to the label assigned to him or her rather than the behavior that was being exhibited.

Recently there has been considerable attention in the press regarding educating children with Acquired immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) (Liss, 1987; Price, 1987; Reed, 1986). Three cases have attracted national attention: Ryan White of indiana and Ryan Thomas and Channon Phipps of California. These children have contracted the AIDS antibodies through blood transfusions and have been denied readmission to school (Liss, 1987). Legal and ethical issues ensued. As a precedent, federal and appellate courts stated that the New York City Board of Education could not exclude carriers of the Hepatitis B virus, an infection similar to AIDS in mode of transmission (Black, 1986). The court's decision was based on a student's right to a least restrictive environment, as stated in Public Law 94-142. Due to this case and others, school systems are now preparing for the possibility that children with AIDS may be attending their schools.

Parents of healthy children are becoming increasingly concerned that their children will be exposed to a child who has AIDS and might then contract the disease. Parents mistakenly believe that their child may get AIDS by sharing the same toys, touching the AIDS child, or drinking from the same glass (Liss, 1987). These beliefs have persisted despite research to the contrary.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has issued guidelines for school systems when enrolling children with AIDS. Simply put, the CDC has recommended that children with AIDS remain in regular education classes until they develop neurological deficits or excretory problems. At present, no cases have been presented to the courts to establish provisions for when the student with AIDS should be removed to special education.

The purpose of this study was to determine the effects that attaching a communicable-disease label, such as AIDS, has on teachers' willingness to recommend special-class or regular-class placement for students. SUBJECT SELECTION A random sample of 130 third-grade teachers was selected from teachers listed on the March 1986 Indiana State School Superintendents Staffing Reports. Teachers were randomly assigned to one of two experimental conditions (65 teachers in each group) according to whether the teacher was mailed a psychological report containing medical information indicating that a hypothetical male student had AIDS or that the student had rheumatic fever. Teachers were assigned an identification number stamped on the response forms to protect their anonymity. The teachers returned the response forms to an unidentified post office box. The researchers received 91 response forms back from the teachers, for a response rate of 70%. The response rate indicated that the sample was representative. This sample size also met the minimal sample size needed for the proposed statistical analyses (Stevens, 1986). MATERIALS The 130 teachers in the study were sent the following materials: (a) an explanatory cover letter, (b) a psychological report containing medical information, and (c) a response sheet.

The cover letter explained that the purpose of the study was "to determine the nature of teacher judgments regarding educational placement and related academic and sociometric factors" and that the study hoped to gain a "better understanding of how teachers viewed information contained in psychological reports. " Teachers were asked to read the psychological report attached to the cover letter and respond to the items on the response sheet.

Each teacher in the study was sent a fictitious psychological report describing a third-grade child. Two separate forms of the psychological report were used. The two forms were similar in that each form presented evidence of below-average academic functioning first-grade school achievement on the Wide Range Achievement Test-Revised), low intellectual functioning (Wechsler Intelligence Scale for ChildrenRevised Full Scale IQ, 73-5-Performance IQ, 74 +- 3 and Verbal IQ of 72 +- 4; and a Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-Revised IQ, 75 +- 8; both IQs were reported in the form of a 68% confidence interval). The reports also indicated that the child had immature visual motor development (Bender Visual-Motor Gestalt Test), developmental age of 7.3 years, with no evidence of significant behavior problems.

The two psychological report forms differed only in medical information. The medical-information section of the psychological reports indicated either that the student had rheumatic fever as a 4-year-old, or had been diagnosed as having AIDS.

The response sheets sent to the teachers consisted of five statements. The first four statements required teachers to respond on a 10-point Likert-type scale with I indicating no agreement to 10 indicating complete agreement with the statement. The fifth statement asked teachers to estimate the percentage (0-100% on a 10-point scale) of the school day that the child should be mainstreamed. The following statements constituted the 5-item response sheet: 1. Future academic difficulty can be expected for

this child. 2. This child will experience future difficulties in

peer relationships. 3. Further psychological evaluation of this child

would probably reveal a lower level of functioning

than was indicated in the report. 4. Placement in a special education class would be

appropriate for this child. 5. The percentage of this child's school day that

could probably be successfully integrated into

regular fourth-grade classes next September is: The five rating scales were counterbalanced (i.e., 1 to 10, 10 to 1, etc.) and the statement order randomly blocked to make three forms of the response sheet. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION Means, standard deviations (SDs), and the number of teachers in each of the respondent groups for each of the four dependent variables are presented in Table 1. A one-way multivariate analysis of variance was used to analyze the data from the 91 respondents. The Omnibus multivariate F for the vector of dependent variables was found to be nonsignificant, F = 72(5, 85), p > .05. Because the omnibus multivariate p was nonsignificant further analysis was not conducted. The results of the multivariate analysis of variance and univariate F values are reported in Tables 2 and 3 respectively.

The results of this study indicated that those teachers participating in the study were not biased toward students with AIDS. AIDS was not found to be a biasing factor in teachers' attitudes regarding special education placement, expectations regarding academic functioning, and peer relationships. This finding was very unexpected. The generalization of the findings of this study to teachers in other states may be limited. The observed attitudes of the sample teachers may be a result of the public awareness and public scrutiny, related to the Ryan White case, that Indiana educators had received at the time of this study. However, this study may indicate that public school regular education teachers are sensitive to the needs and rights of students with AIDS. These results may also indicate that regular education teachers may have a more enlightened attitude about AIDS than has the general public.
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Title Annotation:effect of the knowledge of AIDS diagnosis on special education placement
Author:Walker, David W.; Hulecki, Mary B.
Publication:Exceptional Children
Date:Jan 1, 1989
Words:1401
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