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Why Are We Surprised?

Some students with disabilities achieve poor learning outcomes and exhibit troubling behavior in schools, reflecting the lack of supports that many students and their teachers receive - particularly when they are served in regular school environments.

The Congressionally mandated National Longitudinal Transition Study of Special Education Students (P.L. 98-199) documented the lack of support these students and their teachers receive (Hebbeler, 1993):

  • Only 19 percent of regular school teachers received any in-service training on the special needs of their students with disabilities;
  • Only 25 percent of teachers of regular academic classes received support in identifying or implementing special procedures to use with students with disabilities;
  • Only 25 percent of students with disabilities were receiving assistance with study skills;
  • Only 34 percent of 9th grade students with serious emotional disturbance received personal counseling or therapy support from their schools; and
  • Only 10 percent of students classified as having serious emotional disturbance had behavior management programs in their regular academic classes.
Given the following facts, why should we be surprised that some students with disabilities failed in regular education courses (Hebbeler, 1993)?
  • Three-fourths of students with learning disabilities were not receiving assistance with study skills,
  • More than one-third of students with mental retardation were in academic classes without monitoring from a special education teacher, and
  • Nine out of 10 students with serious emotional disturbances had no behavior-management programs in their academic classes.

Such poor results are not inevitable. Statewide efforts in Vermont have enhanced the capacity of schools and teachers to address the diverse learning and behavioral needs of students with disabilities, and evaluations of these efforts have demonstrated that they have, indeed, improved student learning and behavior.

Vermont's BEST (Building Effective Supports for Teaching Students with Behavioral Challenges) initiative is designed to help all schools develop effective strategies and interventions to anticipate, prevent, and respond to the challenging behaviors of students, thus benefiting the entire school community. The initiative focuses on:

  • increasing educational opportunities and options,
  • improving the school environment,
  • home-community-school collaborations, and
  • teacher and student support.

BEST has developed a variety of materials, and has offered training in Crisis Prevention and Management (CPM). The number of requests for learning physical intervention skills has declined significantly since teachers have been provided with CPM training. In short, the BEST Program demonstrates how schools can be effective in educating children with challenging behavior.


Hebbeler, K. (1993). Traversing the mainstream: Regular education and students with disabilities in secondary school. A special topic report from the National Longitudinal Transitional Study of Special Education Students. SRI International. Washington, DC: US Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs.


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