This March Ph.D. candidate Jacob Kirksey from UC Santa Barbara’s Gevirtz School presented the paper “Does the presence of a classmate with emotional/behavioral disabilities link to other students’ absences in kindergarten?” at the 2016 conference of the Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness (SREE) in Washington D.C. Kirksey co-wrote the paper with his advisor, Dr. Michael Gottfried and Dr. Anna Egalite, from North Carolina State University.
In recent decades, there has been a policy push for including students with disabilities in general education classrooms. Little is known, however, on the effects that this classroom compositional change may have on other students. Kirksey, Gottfried, and Egalite’s paper focused on the increased presence of classmates with emotional/behavioral disabilities (EBDs), because these students are the most likely of the disability classifications to cause classroom disruptions. Given that classroom disruptions are associated with decreased school engagement and decreased school engagement often manifests into missing school, this study tested for an association between the presence of classmates with EBDs and other students’ absences. Using a national dataset, the researchers found that annual student absences increased when students had a classmate with an EBD.
Importantly, they examined what malleable factors might support inclusion for more successful classroom environments. They found an array of teacher and classroom characteristics that could create more supportive classrooms for all children. For example, students with teachers who had special education certifications and/or master’s degrees were not affected. They also found that students of teachers with more years of experience in the classroom were not affected. Given the recent policy push for inclusion, the underlying motivation for this paper was to explore possibilities for appropriate support of all students in an inclusive classroom environment. This ensures that all students, those with and without disabilities, are receiving the highest quality of education possible.
Jacob Kirksey is a doctoral student with research interests in the economics of education. His advisor is Dr. Michael Gottfried in the Policy, Leadership and Research Methods focus in the Education Department. Jacob received his B.A. in economics and education from Colorado College. Professionally, Jacob has worked for two nonprofit organizations, taught K-12 theater in schools, and designed his own after school programs. Through these positions, he has designed several workshops for teachers, parents and students, focusing on issues related to school engagement. He also currently teaches a drama class at a nonprofit organization in Santa Barbara. Currently, Jacob is working on research projects related to absenteeism, suspension rates, and special education policy. His interests also include teacher education and preparation in STEM fields and teacher agency in the policy landscape.
The Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness (SREE) was formed to provide an organizational infrastructure that supports and promotes research focused on cause-and-effect relations important for education. SREE established itself as a specialist research organization within the field of education, an organization that is most centrally concerned with the investigation of questions of cause-and-effect critical for effective educational practice.