The Impact of Standards-Based Reform on Inclusive Education in Urban High Schools

The emerging standards-based reform (SBR) movement has been documented to greatly impact special education systems within urban school environments (Voltz & Fore, 2006). This study uses qualitative data collected through interviews with administrators, educators, and parents from three public urban high schools. The findings describe how entrance requirements, testing mandates, and diploma options impact the inclusion of students with disabilities within the schools. 1. Understand the evolving federal laws that mandate the participation of students with disabilities within standards-based reform. Use research results to show how individuals at local and school levels have understood and implemented policy mandates. Explain how the interpretation of such legal mandates impact the inclusion and exclusion of students with disabilities. Inclusion here is understood at the school level and also the between-school level as the application process for students in New York City schools often results in disproportional numbers attending particular public schools. 2. Understand the research base describing how these reforms impact students with disabilities. This will include current research and past research. 3. Understand the disability studies theoretical foundation that was used as a basis for both developing qualitative methodology and for analyzing data throughout this study. I will briefly explain the theoretical foundations that drive this study, which includes disability studies literature related to how systems of special education and reform construct ability and disability (Brantlinger, Biklen & Kliewer, Smith, Foucault). 5. Describe the major results of this study which include how administrators, teachers, and parents explain how standards-based reforms have impacted the decisions about special education including which students are admitted to the schools, how in-school instructional decisions and placement decisions are based on test requirements and results, how pressures of being labeled as “failing” schools impact decisions, and how the stringent diploma options tied to success on examinations in New York State impact the ability of student with disabilities to receive general education diplomas. This study also reports on how student demographic characteristics (which intersect with disability status) such as ELL, race, and poverty impact the educational decisions made by high schools with regard to educational policy mandates.

Jessica Bacon