Assessing the Impact of Academic Placement on Academic Achievement Among 5th Graders with Disabilities: A Causal-Comparative Inquiry




Rivera, Roana Kasandra


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Since the mid ‘70s, school districts have been trying to place students with disabilities in the least restricted environment. As governments strive to create a more inclusive society, an inclusive academic setting for students with disabilities has become a priority. The purpose of the study was to examine the impact of academic setting on academic achievement in reading, science, and mathematics among 5th grade students with disabilities. The hypotheses were that 5th graders with disabilities receiving academic instruction in a segregated setting perform differently in reading, science, and mathematics than do those receiving instruction in an inclusive setting.
The study utilized an ex post facto, casual-comparative research design. The independent variable was the educational placement with two levels. The segregated level was identified by only the students with disabilities. The comparison level consisted of students with disabilities in the general education setting. The outcome measures were academic achievement in reading, science, and mathematics. The characteristic-present group consisted of a non-probability sample of 20 5th grade students with an instructional arrangement code of 42; indicating 21% to less than 50% of the academic school day is spent in a special education setting, receiving direct instruction from a special education teacher. The comparison group consisted of 50 5th grade students with an instructional arrangement code of 40; indicating 0% of the academic school day is spent in a special education setting. Due to the non-experimental nature of the study, no causal inferences were drawn. Due to the non-probability nature of the sampling technique, external validity was limited to the study’s participants. After adjusting the data on the basis of gender, which was a confounding variables, it was concluded that academic achievement in reading and mathematics was not impacted by academic setting. Academic achievement in science was impacted by the intervention and favored the inclusive setting. All effect sizes were meaningful and favored the inclusive setting. A series of power analysis showed that the small sample of the subjects in the characteristic-present group could have contributed to the lack of statistical significance in the findings. It was also concluded that gender must be taken into consideration in designing instructional settings for children with disabilities. Students with disabilities, who are receiving special education services, are not only held accountable for the same academic standards within the academic setting, but are also held accountable for meeting state standards on the STAAR assessments. The results of the study may provide an understanding of what adjustments need to be made to be sure students with disabilities are receiving the best education possible.


A dissertation Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of DOCTOR OF EDUCATION in EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIP from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi in Corpus Christi, Texas.


disabilities, elementary, inclusive, segregated, special education, staar



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