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Teacher perceptions of the regular education initiative.

Considerable interest and professional controversy has recently centered around the practice of labeling and providing special education services to students with mild disabilities. The call for reform of extant special education service delivery systems has been referred to as the regular education initiative (REI). Advocates of REI have suggested that instructional services for children with disabilities be delivered within the regular classroom environment. The lack of data supporting the efficacy of special education "pullout" programs (e.g., Semmel, Gottlieb, & Robinson, 1979) and the inferred superior instructional delivery techniques emanating from the study of effective schools has been offered as a rationale by reformers. These proponents have argued that there is insufficient evidence to support the need to implement special techniques for children with disabilities. Many have contended that effective instruction as practiced by teachers in regular classes can be appropriately implemented for all children and can accommodate the individual differences among pupils characterized by special educators as students with disabilities (Gartner & Lipsky, 1987; Lilly, 1988; Lipsky & Gartner, 1987; Pugach, 1987, 1988; Reschly, 1988a, 1988b; Reynolds & Wang, 1983; Reynolds, Wang, & Walberg, 1987; Stainback, & Stainback, 1985, 1987, 1988, 1989; Stainback, & Stainback, 1984; Taylor, 1988; Wang & Birch, 1984; Wang, 1988; Wang, Reynolds, & Walberg, 1986, 1988; Will, 1986a).

The former Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education outlined specific problems with the current special education delivery system and proposed solutions within the regular education setting (Will, 1986b). This publication presented a framework for reevaluating the delivery of services to children with disabilities. Will cited fragmented educational approaches and problems with a "dual system" as negative features of current programs. Students with mild disabilities in pullout programs are described as not typically receiving consistent and continuous instruction in curriculum areas. To REI proponents, the dual system separates special education and, therefore, minimizes communication between special and regular classroom teachers. REI proponents also have perceived a harmful disjunction between ongoing regular classroom instruction and remedial programs (Biklen & Zollers, 1986; Gartner & Lipsky, 1987, 1989; Lilly, 1987, 1988; Reynolds et al., 1987; Stainback, & Stainback, 1984; Walker, 1987).

The advocates of REI have further contended hat lebeling students with mild disabilities and segregating them from regular classrooms results in stigmatization. Students exhibiting learning or behavior characteristics that do not meet the expectations of the regular education system are typically referred for assessment and labeled "deviant," "special," or "exceptional." These children are said to harbor feelings of inferiority resulting from this process (Biklen & Zollers, 1986; Hobbs, 1975; Stainback, & Stainback, 1984; Wang & Birch, 1984). Implementation of the REI is viewed as a means for reducing the need for assessment of students with lower levels of functioning, thereby eliminating harmful labeling practices. Rather than categorizing students, regular education classes would be adapted to meet the needs of all individual learners. All children would be considered different in intellectual, physical, and psychological characteristics, but capable of learning in most environments (Gartner & Lipsky, 1987).

Kauffman, Gerber, and Semmel (1988) pointed out that students are frequently misunderstood and stigmatized because they fail to meet acceptable performance standards set by teachers and peers. This outcome is purported to be independent of whether or not they are labeled or served by special education. Further, the general demand for more effective schools has resulted in increased pressures for improved aggregated achievement test scores and a consequent press for accelerated classroom academic instruction. In such academic environments, it remains unclear how students will overcome feelings of stigmatization when their academic performance remains significantly below the mean of their classroom and school peers (Gerber & Semmel, 1984; Semmel, 1986; Zigmond, Semmel, & Lloyd, in press).

REI advocates have supported the adoption of a consultant model for providing special education services within the regular classroom environment. Idol (1986) described the consultant teaching model as a process in which special and regular education teachers, parents, and other school staff collaborate to plan, implement, and evaluate instruction conducted in regular classrooms. The intent is to reduce the need for pullout special education programs by enabling the regular education teacher to successfully instruct children with special needs (Huefner, 1988). Implementation of the consulting teacher model requires extensive retraining of both general and special educators. Problem solving in the regular classroom demands skills in personal communication and team teaching as well as familiarity with large-group instruction and curriculum frameworks. However, Huefner pointed out, "Turf conflicts may arise, in which it is not clear who is responsible for the performance of a given student" (p. 404).

Debate surrounding reform initiatives also has focused on the potential impact on the academic achievement of all students under proposed service delivery models. Supporters of REI reforms have contended that students with mild disabilities have failed to evidence significantly increased achievement levels under special education pullout models (e.g., resource room). However, others have argued that the placement of such children in regular classrooms demands specific teaching skills in individualizing instruction for students who require more time to achieve classroom goals (Humphreys & Hall, 1980), who may respond passively to challenging learning tasks (Torgesen & Houck, 1980), and who may fail to generate task-appropriate learning strategies (Ryan, Short, & Weed, 1986). Hense, some REI opponents have contended that if students with mild disabilities are placed in regular classes on a full-time basis, the additional variance in student learning styles and achievement levels and the concomitant demand for increased instructional attention and teaching skill could result in adverse effects on the achievement levels of students with and without mild disabilities.

It is apparent from our brief overview of the issues surrounding the REI that the proposal policy changes have potentially far-reaching effects for both regular and special education service providers and their students. However, beyond the rhetoric of academicians, little empirically oriented attention has been focused on the views of these educators. Kauffman et al. (1988) specifically expressed concern for the lack of input from regular teachers:

Strangely absent from the models of teaching that are implicitly assumed by most REI propornents is a realistic model of the cognitive operations of persons who actually teach. Our concern therefore, is that enough respect be shown for regular classroom teachers, to ask them what they perceive, based on teaching practice, is feasible, desirable, and in the best interest of students. (p. 9)

Singer (1988), Kauffman (1989), and others have also observed that "key constituencies" have not been adequately considered by REI enthusiasts. However, Coates (1989) recently reported some preliminary data on regular class teachers' perceptions of issues surrounding REI. Findings, drawn from mail surveys of a sample of teachers from Iowa, suggested that regular teachers did not express negative assessments of current resource pullout programs and were not particularly supportive of REI.

Kauffman (1989) and others have observed that very little comment, research or "initiative" related to issues concerning REI has emanated from the regular education community. However, the work of Margaret Wang and her associates (Wang, 1980; Wang & Birch, 1984; Wang, Peverly, & Randolph, 1984; Wang & Walberg, 1983a, 1983b) has been a welcome exception. This program of research has stimulated considerable critical analyses by special educators who have challenged the internal and external validity of evidence supporting hypothesized intervention effects of Wang's delivery system (Bryan, J. H. & Bryan, 1989; Carnine & Kameenui, 1989; Fuchs & Fuchs, 1987, 1988a, 1988b; Singer 1988).

Wang's methodology has perhaps been held to a higher standard by critics when compared with those generally applied in analyses of special education research. This may be understandable in the context of the current policy environment, which apparently seeks to prematurely extrapolate and generalize findings from this line of research to support implementation efforts. It is reasonable to expect that when research applications have potentially serious consequences for service providers and pupils, then empirical evidence supporting reform will be carefully scrutinized. However, it is equally evident that the general call for objective research related to issues concerning the REI is justified by the lack of available emperical data and the plethora of emotional and professional rhetoric dominating the field.

Our observations suggest that the REI debate is a phenomenon primarily restricted within a special education policy and academic context. There is too little evidence of regular and special educator's views of the issues reflected in the current debate (see Anderegg, 1989; Remedial and Special Education, 1990; Semmel & Gerber, 1990). Regardless of the hypothetical and academic positions related to REI, it is evident that the "street level bureaucrats," the school-based service deliverers, will ultimately determine the success or failure of a hierarchically driven REI policy (Semmel, 1986; Weatherly & Lipsky, 1977). Therefore, our purpose in this study was to assess the professional opinions, attitudes, and perceptions of teachers relative to critical components of the REI. Such data should provide important inferences about the operational dimensions of proposed reforms.

METHOD

Samples

Six schools sites in central and southern California and 16 school sites in northern Illinois were selected for this study. The school personnel sampled were considered to be representative of the geographical areas from which they were drawn. The entire staff at each school was surveyed, with administrative consent, at a regularly scheduled staff meeting. Educators from the 22 public schools were surveyed, yielding a total sample size of 430. The sample consisted of 310 regular classroom teachers, 71 special educators, 11 administrators, and 38 ancillary personnel (e.g., speech correctionists, Chapter 1 personnel, bilingual educators, counselors). A total of 331 participants responded from Illinois and 99 from California schools. This article reports results from only the regular and special education teachers in the sample (N = 381). Table 1 represents the demographic characteristics of the subsamples drawn from the two states.

Construction and Validation of REI Teacher

Survey (REITS)

A consensual qualitatie analysis of the major propositions included in the Will (1986b) policy paper was constructed. The resulting categories constituted a preliminary taxonomy of REI issues. The taxonomy was augmented by by an exhaustive review of REI literature, which revealed supplementary categories that permitted the construction of a finalized conceptual model. Items for the final REITS instrument were generated from the conceptualized REI model. Hence, we sought to construct an instrument that subsumed all issues identified by the conceptual model and to subsequently demonstrate the factor validity of the instrument.

[TDO]

The REITS. The REITS consisted of 66 items that assessed teachers' attitudes, beliefs, and perceptions regarding current practices used in the education of children with mild disabilities served in special education pullout programs (e.g., resource room programs), as well as teachers' attitudes toward REI reforms. Students with mild disabilities were defined in the REITS as those who are certified as having a learning handicap, a learning disability, or behavior disorder; and those who may be served in general education settings, special education classes, special education pullout programs, and itinerant programs. The REITS also contained introductory orienting material outlining the central tenets of the proposed REI.

To avoid biasing the instrument, both negatively and positively phrased items were constructed. The order of the items was randomly determined. A binary forced-choice (i.e., agree-disagree) response mode was selected. We reasoned that this procedure would yield more valid responses from school personnel than the conventional Likert scaling technique, which might have increased tendencies toward socially acceptable or noncommittal midscale responses. Finally, respondents were encouraged to include their respective qualitative comments related to any of the items or issues in the questionnaire.

Procedure. REITS instruments were administered at routine staff meetings so that all school personnel present had the opportunity to respond. Standardized instructions were printed on each questionnaire and were verbally read at each meeting by one of the investigators or by assigned on-site school secretaries. A standardized 20 minute time period was allocated for completing and returning the surveys. Unanswered items from incomplete surveys were judged to be "missing data" for the subsequent analyses. The return rate at each school was based on the number of the school staff surveyed divided by the number of staff members at each school. For all school sampled, an excess of 90% of school staff attended the meetings. The mean return rate across schools was 85.6% (SD = 14.33).

Data Reduction Procedures

Responses at the item level were coded: Disagree = 0 or Agree = 1. The data were recoded to account for the negatively phrased questions. Missing data constituted less than three-quarters of 1% of the data base. Five items were judged to be inappropriate or of questionable interpretability and were dropped from the instrument before data analysis. Item reliability for the remaining 61 items yielded a Cronbach Coefficient Alpha .874 (range: .861 to .881).

Factor Analysis. Principle components analysis was used to both reduce the raw data set and confirm that the REITS generated valid data consistent with the conceptual model extracted from Will (1986b) and our literature review. Three factor structures were generated, yielding 8, 10, and 14 factors, respectively. Based on the varimax component loadings and eigen values greater than 1.0, the 14-factor solution produced a structure most consistent with the a priori conceptual model developed. The varimax component loadings ranged from .394 to .900. Only seven items with component loadings less than .500 were included in the factors, based on both their mathematical and conceptual fit with the the other items loading on respective factors. A sample of high-loading items on the respective factors and the percentage of variance accounted for by each factor appears in Table 2. The instrument yielded 14 composite scores consisting of the sum of unit-weighted item loadings on respective factors. The Cronback Coefficient Alpha for the combined factors was .825.

REITS Factors. The following factors describe the validated latent structure of the REITS.

* Factor 1: Special Education Teacher's Role. This factor consists of six items related to the role of the special education teacher within the regular education classroom. Agreement on this factor indicates that the respondent believes that special education teachers should assist with all children experiencing learning difficulties in the regular classroom. The regular class teacher should supervise the special education teacher, who should generally assist in offering support through instructional materials and teaching. A high score on the factor also indicates that the respondent would not find it disruptive if the special educator visited the classroom daily.

* Factor 2: Feelings of Students with Mild Disabilities. A relatively high score on this six-item factor represents a respondent's perception that most students with mild disabilities have a sense of belonging in the regular classroom and would be socially accepted if placed full time in the regular classroom. In addition, self-esteem of these pupils would improve in the regular classroom.

* Factor 3: Adapting to Instructional Needs of Students with Mild Disabilities. Agreement on this five-item factor represents respondents' perceptions that the academic needs of students with mild disabilities can be met in the regular classroom. Included in this factor is the perception that regular classroom teachers have the ability to provide both one-to-one and small-group instruction for these students. In addition, agreement indicates respondents' perceptions that these students would not experience more academic difficulty if placed full time in the regular classroom. Consequently, effective special education services are judged to be deliverable solely within the regular classroom.

* Factor 4: Teacher Preparedness. This factor consists of five items that assess the respondent's perception of teachers' training and preparedness for instructing students with mild disabilities in regular classrooms. A high score on this factor indicates a belief that he or she is professionally prepared to work with these pupils within the constraints of larger class sizes and available resources.

* Factor 5: Shared Responsibility. A high score on this three-item factor indicates that respondents perceive regular class teachers as primarily responsible for the education and achievement of all students, including students with mild disabilities. High scores on this factor would suggest a perception of being part of a single, rather than dual, system. Furthermore, a high level of agreement assumes regular class teachers currently take the responsibility for frequently discussing, with special education personnel, the instructional programs of students with mild disabilities. High-scoring respondents do not agree that the resource room program is more effective [TABULAR DATA OMITTED] in meeting the needs of such students when compared with regular class programs.

* Factor 6: Collaborative Teaching in Regular Classroom. The four-item factor evaluates teacher acceptance of special education services in the regular classroom. Agreement indicates teachers' beliefs that delivering special education services in the regular classroom will not contribute to serious difficulties in determining who is in authority. It also reflects teachers' feeling comfortable in team-teaching situations. Respondents prefer that special education teachers not deliver services through pullout programs.

* Factor 7: Redistribution of Resources. This factor subsumes three items related to the protection and redistribution of resources for students with mild disabilities. A high score is indicative of teachers' beliefs that currently mandated resources for the instruction of these students must be protected. Furthermore, special education resources redistributed into regular education programs would decrease the instructional load of regular classroom teachers and lead to cooperative educational interventions that would benefit pupils with mild disabilities.

* Factor 8: Stigmatization of Students with Mild Disabilities. This three-item factor reflects teachers' perceptions regarding the positive impact of mainstreaming on all students. Agreement represents teachers' perceptions that mainstreaming would have positive social benefits for students with mild disabilities. These students would also be motivated and actively engaged. However, the academic content of the regular achieving students is perceived not to be affected by the presence of students with mild disabilities.

* Factor 9: Generic Instructional/Collaboration Skills. A high score on this four-item factor represents teachers' perceptions that regular class teachers have the instructional expertise to teach students both with and without disabilities. In addition, agreement on this factor indicates that regular class teachers possess the ability to create an environment accepting of individual differences.

* Factor 10: Psychological Assessment. This factor consisted of two items. Agreement indicates educators' belief in the utility of psychological assessment and its usefulness as a tool for helping regular class teachers tailor their instruction to meet individual student needs, thereby resulting in student benefits.

* Factor 11: Individualized Education Program (IEP)/Least Restrictive Environment Perspective. A high score on this three-item factor indicates that educators believe that students with mild disabilities have the basic right to receive all of their education in regular class settings. A higher mean also indicates that regular class teachers recognize the instruction of these students as their responsibility and believe in personalizing instrucction to meet the learning needs of all students.

* Factor 12: Instructional Time. This three-item factor addresses temporal and administrative variables in the classroom environment that would make implementation of a full-time mainstreaming program difficult. A high score indicates teachers' percepptions that students with mild disabilities would not take too much time and effort away from regular pupils, particularly due to the need to cope with behavior management problems.

* Factor 13: Achievement Outcomes. This factor is composed of two items that assess the achievement expectations for all students under a full-time mainstreaming model. A high score reflects teacher expectations that the achievement levels of students both with and without mild disabilities would increase if they were placed full time in the regular class-room.

* Factor 14: Effectiveness of Consultant Services Model. A high score on this single-item factor indicates teachers' perceptions that the regular classroom with special education consultant services (the REI model) is the most effective environment in which to educate students with mild disabilities.

The final factor structure accounted for 50 of the original 66 items. Five items were droppped before the factor analysis. For of the 10 items in F1 were dropped because they were determined to be replicates of other items in that factor. Based on their low principal-component loadings, 7 items did not factor into the final structure.

RESULTS

Unit-Weighted Factor Score Analysis

Factor scores were determined for each of the 14 factors by summing each individual score across the unit weighted items comprising each factor. For example, if a factor subsumed three items, then the individual score ranged from 0 to 3. Hence, for any factor the lowest possibile score is zero, with the highest possible score equivalent to the number of items in the factor. A factor score falling high in the range indicates agreement on the factor and the items comprising that factor. Individual composite scores were summed across all respondents and divided by the total number of respondents to determine the mean score for each factor (see Table 3).

Professional Identify and Geographic Differences. The range of missing data across factors was 1.57%-5.25%. A conservative multivate analysis of variance (MANOVA) and pairwise analysis of variance (ANOV) on each factor was performed on complete data subsets (N = 296). In a second analysis, the mean for each group on a specific factor was inserted for missing data. These tests with higher degrees of freedom (N = 381) yielded the same results. Therefore, the relatively small percentage of missing data points was deemed inconsequential. The MANOVA revealed an overall statistically significant difference between the special and regular educators' responses across the factors of the REITS, F (14, 281) = 3.19, p < .01. Individual F tests revealed a significant difference on 2 of the 14 factors. Factor 4 was significant, F (1,281) = 19.79, p < .01 with a M = 1.48 (SD = 1.43) for regular education personnel compared to a M = 2.33 (SD = 1.19) for special education personnel. Factor 12 was also significant, F (1,281) = 7.67, p < .01, with a M = 1.13 (SD = 1.00) for regular educators compared to a M = 1.52 (SD = .99) for special educators. No overall statistically significant difference was found between Illinois and California teachers. Because of the disproportionate number of subjects in each group, these results were verified using the nonparametric Mann-Whitney U Test compared to a chi-square distribution with one degree of freedom. Results verified a statistically significant difference between regular and special education teachers on Factors 4 and 12, p < .01. Consequently, data were aggregated on all but the statistically significant [TABULAR DATA OMITTED]

factors and are summarized in Table 3. The means for the respective unit-weighted aggregated factor scores indicate generally low agreement across all REIT factors except Factor 10, which reveals a M = 1.62 (SD = .64, maximum agreement score = 2.0).

Percent-Agree Responses By Factor

The mean and the standard deviation of percent-agree responses for each factor were calculated. Item-level agreement was determined by dividing the number of "agree" responses by the total number of responses for the item. The percent of "agree" responses for each item was then grouped into the appropriate factor based on the results of the factor analysis. For example, the summed percentages of the individual items for Factor 1 totaled 335.76. This sum was divided by six, the number of items in the factor; thus the mean percent of agree responses for Factor 1 was 55.96% (SD = 21.31%).

Relatively low levels of agreement were found among items on Factors 3, 4, 8, and 12-14 (range 16.44%-40.00%). The teachers' agreement scores were generally low on factors related to the ability of regular class teachers to effectively teach students with mild disabilities placed in regular classes, given their teacher training competencies and class sizes (Factor 4) and the demands on their instructional time (Factor 12). The mean percentage "agree" for regular class teachers on Factor 4 was 28.96% (SD = 8.31), compared to a mean percentage "agree" score for the special education teachers of 47.14% (SD = 20.02). The regular class teachers' mean percent agreement score was 37.63% (SD = 5.19) on items indicating that the placement of students with mild disabilities in regular classrooms represents an additional demand on teachers' time (Factor 12). The special education teachers' mean agreement score was 50.47% (SD = 12.80) on the same factor.

Relatively high mean percentage agreement scores were found on Factors 5, 7, and 10 (range 58.24%-79.47%). The highest mean agreement score in the sample was found on Factor 10--indicating that psychological assessments were rated by the teachers as useful tools that result in students benefits.

Within-Factor Variance. The standard deviations for mean percent agree scores for Factors 1, 3, 7, and 11 reflect the largest within-factor variance (SD range = 17.49%-33.42%). That is, the wide variability suggests that there are specific items within the factors that teachers responded to differentially. Review of the items subsumed by Factor 1 revealed that 79.73% of the respondents agreed that regular education teachers would be comfortable if special education personnel offered them supplementary materials; similarly 60% would be comfortable if special education personnel offered teaching suggestions. In addition, 80% of respondents also agreed that special education personnel should assist in the instruction of all students. However, three items in this factor had low levels of agreement, contributing to the large standard deviation. Only 35.78% of the sample agreed that situations in which special education personnel were working in the regular classroom would not be disruptive. With regard to consulting situations, 37.36% of the respondents agreed that the regular classroom teacher should assume a supervisory role over the special educator. Finally, 37.36% agreed that special education personnel should help personalize instruction for all students.

A review of the items in Factor 3 revealed that 75.53% of the educators samples agreed that students with mild disabilities would not experience more academic failure if they were placed full time in the regular classroom. Furthermore, 58.42% of the respondents believed that regular class teachers could adapt instruction to match a wide range of student needs. However, within this same factor, only 17.89% agreed that if students with mild disabilities were placed full time in regular classes, effective special education could be delivered solely within regular classes. Low levels of agreement were found on the assertion that regular class teachers have the ability to provide one-to-one instruction (7.10%) and small-group instruction (30.79%) for students with mild disabilities who are placed full-time in regular classes.

Analysis of items subsumed by Factor 7 indicated that 89.47% of the respondents agreed that currently mandated special education resources for students with mild disabilities must be protected. But only 32.95% agreed that the redistributions of special education resources into the regular classroom would decrease the instructional load of the regular classroom teacher.

Within Factor 11, a majority of respondents (61.84%) agreed that students with mild disabilities have a basic right to receive their education in the regular classroom. Although not achieving statistical significance, it is of particular interest that 75.71% of the special educators, compared to 58.71% of the regular educators, supported this basic right. The sample also revealed significant agreement (74.74%) that regular class teachers should teach only regular class students. Regarding individualized or personalized learning plans, 36.58% of the educators surveyed agreed that regular education teachers would feel comfortable implementing these plans. However, fewer than half (42.89%) of the respondents agreed that regular class teachers will accept responsibility for the students with mild disabilities who are placed in their classroom.

DISCUSSION

The results of this study begin to identify the attitudes and beliefs of regular and special education teachers concerning the salient issues outlined by Will (1986a, 1986b) and others concerning the reform of special education in the schools. Our data clearly indicate that both regular and special education teachers are not generally dissatisfied with the current special education delivery system. Since the respondents in this investigation tended to indicate a preference for pullout special education services, and did not particularly favor the consultant model, we infer that they perceive extant practices as preferable to those proffered by REI supporters. These findings are consistent with those recently reported by Coates (1989).

School psychologists have been anticipating significant changes in their role as a function of proposed REI policies (Reschly, 1988a, 1988b; Will, 1988). However, the service providers sampled in this investigation apparently did not support the proposition that psychologists should assume proactive roles that differ from the traditional responsibilities of providing diagnostic and assessment services to teachers. It is difficult to determine why these educators strongly viewed assessment as an important educational and instructional tool. We speculate that formal psychometric assessment is perceived by teachers as validating their conclusions regarding specific student problems and placement needs (Gerber & Semmel, 1984). It is unclear, however, whether teachers would perceive psychological assessment as beneficial if placement in pullout programs were not available as a viable alternative for meeting the needs of difficult-to-teach students in classrooms.

Our sample of teachers apparently also believed that currently mandated resources for the instruction of students with mild disabilities need to be protected. A majority of the sample concurrently asserted that the redistribution of special education resources to regular classrooms would help decrease their instructional load. It appears that whereas teachers view additional resources as a vehicle for providing better instructional services to all students, they do not believe that such needs should be met through siphoning off resources allocated to students with disabilities. The findings of this study indicate that teachers believe that resources currently earmarked for specific special education services are appropriate and in need of protection.

The moderate level of agreement on Factor 5, Shared Responsibility, disclosed that teachers are more likely to view themselves as participants in a single, not a dual, educational system. Within this single education system, regular classroom teachers apparently do assume the primary responsibility for students with mild disabilities who are placed in their classes. Issues surrounding the purported dual system and fragmented approaches may not be as troublesome in actual school settings as REI proponents infer. Therefore, we conclude that the results of this study do not support an overall perception described in the literature of special and regular education programs as "dual systems." The results tend to confirm previously reported work documenting cooperation between regular and special education personnel in what we have termed reverse mainstreaming efforts within extant special/regular education contexts (McCann, Semmel, & Nevin, 1985). We also note that the lack of significant differences between regular and special education personnel on 12 of the 14 factors assessed in this investigation does not support the contention of REI enthusiasts that the two group are members of dual systems within the education establishment (Gartner & Lipsky, 1987).

Many educators surveyed did not foresee improvement in the achievement levels for special or regular education students as a result of REI reforms. Those advocating general school reform by increasing academic press in instruction and academic excellence among pupils are likely to be at odds with proponents of integrating students with mild disabilities into regular classrooms on a full-time basis. The proposed REI, full-integration model places expectations on teachers that are in direct opposition to the press for academic excellence characterizing the general school reform movement (Kauffman, 1989; Zigmond, et al., in press). The emphasis on higher achievement scores brought on by the effective schools movement may dampen the enthusiasm of service providers for implementing a full-time mainstreaming model.

A relatively high percentage of respondents believed that full-time placement of students with mild disabilities in the regular classroom could negatively effect the distribution of instructional classroom time. Teachers felt that the rate at which district curriculum objectives are met may be decreased as a function of full-time placement of these students in regular classrooms. Though both of the teacher samples reflected concerns on this factor, regular educators were significantly more pessimistic. This interaction is understandable because regular classroom teachers are those called on to implement prescribed district curriculum coverage and class achievement goals.

The perceptions of service deliverers regarding regular classroom teachers' ability to adapt classroom programs to meet the instructional needs of students with mild disabilities are clearly questioned by the results of this study. Research indicates that these students need individual or small-group instruction to meet their specific learning needs (Humphreys & Hall, 1980; Ryan, Short, & Weed, 1986; Torgesen & Houck, 1980). Our results indicate that regular classroom teachers do not perceive themselves as having the skills for adapting instruction. It is of particular note that REI proponents contend that effective instructional practices are appropriate for all students and that there is insufficient evidence to warrant the use of special instructional techniques for students with disabilities (e.g., Gartner & Lipsky, 1987; Reynolds et al., 1987; Stainback, & Stainback, 1985; Stainback, & Stainback, 1984). The teachers in our survey generally disagree with this view and contend that the regular class program is inadequate for addressing the instructional needs of such students. Hence, where students with mild disabilities require extensive adaptation in regular classroom-based instruction, it is unlikely that the positive instructional effects expected by REI proponents will be realized in current school practice.

Teachers also reflected the belief that full-time placement of students with mild disabilities will not have positive social benefits for these students. The issue remains whether stigmatization originates from the categorical label and placement or stems from the experience of repeated academic failure (Kauffman et al., 1988). Unless the devastating impact of consistent academic failure is alleviated, it is unlikely that simply removing categorical labels will, in and of itself, effect the desired change predicted by Lipsky and Gartner (1987), Stainback and Stainback (1984), Will (1986a, 1986b, 1988), and other REI enthusiasts.

We note from the within-factor variance on Factor 1, Special Education Teacher's Role, that the proposed consultant model is perceived as having both positive and negative features. As might be expected from a knowledge of the realities present in the schools and the pressures on service providers, our sample tended to be positive about all elements of the consultant model that represent increased resources. However, teachers were less supportive of innovations that suggest impact on their present job definitions, their classroom practices, and instructional time allocations.

It is enlightening that both regular and special education teachers generally believe that students with mild disabilities have a basic right to an educational in the regular classroom. These service providers also demonstrated the expectation that regular class teachers will accept responsibility for these students. However, contrary to Will's (1986b) position related to implementing "personalized learning plans" for all students, teachers surveyed did not indicate the belief that these plans could be constructed and used effectively within regular classrooms. Hence, it would appear that though teachers support the rights of students with mild disabilities and agree to the appropriateness of individual learning plans for such children, they are apparently not comfortable with extending the Individualized Education Program provisions of Publi Law 94-142 to students without disabilities.

Less than one-third of our respondents agreed that the regular classroom with special education consultant services is the most effective environment in which to educate students with mild disabilities. We do not know the extent of experience that these educators have had with the consultant model, but these results suggest that service providers may be questioning the model's superiority. Hence, we call attention to Coates' (1989) warning that simply shifting the responsibility from pullout program to itinerant consultants without the support of those called on to implement the changes could be counterproductive. On the other hand, our results could be alternatively interpreted to mean that service providers generally tend to resist change when roles and functions are altered, and that it is the lack of their positive experience with REI models that perpetuates barriers to diffusion and adoption of such models. Carefully planned intervention studies designed to validate these interpretations might be particularly promising for directing future policy initiatives.

It is an empirically supported fact that teacher expectations exert an important influence on student achievement, behavior, and self-esteem (Algozzine & Curran, 1978; Brophy & Good, 1974; Bryan, 1974; Bryan & Wheeler, 1972; Hersh & Walker, 1983; Kornblau & Keogh, 1980; Maddox-McGinty, 1979). Placing students with mild disabilities in the regular classroom on a full-time basis may not result in the expected objectives for such students if teacher perceptions and expectancies of these students' abilities and behaviors are negative. Teachers will not actively pursue solutions to pupil problems if they do not assume "ownership" of them (Gerber & Semmel, 1984). If teachers perceive the additional time that students with disabilities spend in the regular class as a burden on available resources, then a full-time mainstreaming approach may have overwhelmingly negative effects. On the other hand, if regular education personnel are currently ready to implement the provisions of the REI, then a necessary, albeit not sufficient, condition will be met for ensuring success. It is apparent that there can be no regular education initiative without the concurrence and readiness of regular and special educators. If we fail to meet such a condition, then REI will be little more than a set of remote and unsupported policy slogans.

A final caution: The policy analysis phase of the REI has apparently been disregarded and should have preceded the policy advocacy now occurring (Gallagher, 1981). The perceived problems, outlined by Will (1986a, 1986b, 1988) and other REI advocates, may not be paramount in the perceptions of school service providers. Of particular concern is the reasonably high probability that the problems in current special education practices, as perceived by distal academicians and policymakers, may be radically different from the perceptions of the educators called on to implement policy. Currently, local school districts across the United States are appropriately seeking to implement needed reforms and to pilot new special education delivery systems. Such initiatives must be directly guided by the perceptions and attitudes of the service providers responsible for ensuring successful implementation of innovations. Clearly, responses of service providers to the provisions of such models may well be mediated by the amount and intensity of positive experience with them. If this is the case, then efforts toward developing strong skills for working within "wide ability variance" contexts is a pontentially effective policy direction for pragmatically enhancing the integration of pupils with disabilities.

Fifteen years ago, Reynolds (1975) cautioned us in a similar policy context, not to react to pressures to mainstream pupils with disabilities from special classes before developing needed skills and conditions among service providers to ensure success. We might heed these words now in our present parallel REI policy circumstance:

Another example, closer to home for some of us, would be situations in which special educators are pressured to implement "mainstreaming" programs. Unable to follow the longer and more difficult course of change by developing new skills and procedures which may not be in their repertoires, the special educators are led simply to "dump" special class students back into regular classes, with predictable disaster as the result. (p.62)

Although the schools in this study were not randomly selected and therefore, generalizations of our results to U.S. schools other than those sampled may not be appropriate, our findings, in conjunction with those reported by Coates (1989), begin to describe the views of "key constituencies," thus filling the void mentioned by Kauffman et al. (1988). The results of this survey support the need for further systematic study of the status and needed modifications in the perceptions and skills of service providers before any substantive reform of current practices is mandated. It is our goal that this preliminary descriptive report stimulates such work among both regular and special education personnel as one manifestation of the shared responsibility for the education of children and youth with disabilities.

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MELVYN I. SEMMEL (CEC Chapter #169) is a Professor and Director; and TAMMY V. ABERNATHY, GRETCHEN BUTERA (CEC Chapter #502), and SHARON LESAR (CEC Chapter #181) are doctoral candidates at the Special Education Research Laboratory of the Graduate School of Education, University of California, Santa Barbara.

The authors acknowledge, with warm appreciation, the assistance of the following people who contributed significantly to various facets of this investigation: Virginia L. Digman, John P. Hayes, Frank Thomsom, Claudia Bishop, Ruth Fesmire, Eve Kelemen-Lohnas, and Deborah Levine-Donnerstein.

Address inquiries to Melvyn I. Semmel, Special Education Research Laboratory, Education Department, Graduate School of Education, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93106
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Title Annotation:perceptions and opinions surrounding the practice of labeling and providing special education services to students with mild disabilities
Author:Semmel, Melvyn I.; Abernathy, Tammy V.; Butera, Gretchen; Lesar, Sharon
Publication:Exceptional Children
Date:Sep 1, 1991
Words:8314
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