The project, SACRED: Socially and Culturally Responsive Education for Students with EBD, or emotional behavioral disorders, will prepare three doctoral graduates over five years with expertise across research, personnel preparation, service and content areas related to EBD. EBD refers to a disability classification used in educational settings that allows educational institutions to provide special education and related services to students who require significant academic, behavioral and social supports.
According to the researchers, there is an urgent need for special education experts who can prepare teachers in specific areas of need, develop and carry out a relevant line of research and serve the field by developing policy and advocating for individuals with disabilities.
“The project uses a comprehensive approach for students that need emotional/behavioral supports — not just students acting out in classrooms, also those who have internalizing issues such as depression and anxiety,” Lee said.
In their grant proposal, Lee and Taylor cited research in the Handbook of Research on Emotional and Behavioral Disorder indicating that nearly one in five children have an EBD, but only about half of these children are provided with intervention supports. They also referenced a study in the Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders that estimated that 12% of students have an EBD and approximately 30% of students experience an EBD at some point during their school career.
“Thus, a typical classroom in a mid-to-low-income school will have three to five students who should be receiving services,” the researchers wrote in their proposal. “This number increases to six to eight when examining students who had/do/will likely have an EBD at some point during their school career.”
Unfortunately, Lee said, an increasingly shrinking teacher pool in the U.S., and particularly in Pennsylvania, is a significant barrier in addressing the needs of students with EBD. According to a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, the number of initial special education teacher certificates issued in Pennsylvania dropped from around 3,700 in 2012-13 to less than 1,500 in 2017-18.
A unique aspect of Penn State’s special education program, Lee said, is that it is built on the Criteria Of the Next Environment (CONE) model. In this model, faculty carefully examine the next environment to determine needed skills and dispositions for the doctoral program.
“SACRED focuses the CONE model by preparing doctoral-level scholars for a very specific area within special education,” Lee said. “The result is expanding preparation beyond teaching, research and service to cover key areas that include behavioral, academic and social-emotional learning supports, culturally responsive and competent practices, trauma informed intervention and mental health supports.”