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Research on Full-Service Schools and Students with Disabilities
The ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education (ERIC EC)
ERIC/OSEP Digest #E616
Author: Cynthia Warger
Full-service schools have been described as one-stop centers in which the educational, physical, psychological, and social requirements of students and their families are addressed in a coordinated, collaborative manner using school and community services and supports (Dryfoos, 1994).
In the full-service school model, schools house a variety of health care, mental health, and related services for children and their families. Offering services on school grounds alleviates many of the problems that interfere with families obtaining services for their children (e.g., no transportation, lack of understanding of public health and social service systems, inability to take time away from work, and lack of health insurance). The services offered by full-service schools vary and are delivered through collaboration among the school, agencies, and the families. Examples follow:
The potential of full-service school programs for students with disabilities is only beginning to become apparent. For the most part, full-service school programs have been designed for at-risk children. The emerging literature base ties the concept of full-service schools to the following areas of need:
During the last decade, the US Department of Education's Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) has funded several projects to investigate the status of full-service schools in serving students with disabilities. The following project descriptions represent an emerging knowledge base on the state of practice.
Participation of Students with Disabilities in California's Statewide Initiative
California's Healthy Start program, a state program designed to integrate services near or at school settings, provided the context for researchers at SRI International to evaluate system issues, service issues, and family outcomes related to providing school-linked services. Researchers concluded that special education teachers had contact with the school-linked services programs.
Researchers also interviewed families of children with disabilities regarding their involvement and satisfaction levels with the school-linked programs. The majority of those families who had received services, found them to be easily accessible and of high quality. Researchers offered the following recommendations for practice (Blackorby, Newman, & Finnegan, 1997; Blackorby, Newman, & Finnegan, 1998):
University of Maryland researchers replicated and evaluated the Linkages to Learning Model for the delivery of school-based mental health, health care, and social services (Fox, Leone, Rubin, Oppenheim, Miller, & Friedman, 1999). The model was designed to provide prevention and early intervention services to children at risk for developing emotional and behavior disorders.
The school and the community were involved in initial and ongoing needs assessments to determine student needs. Mental health, social service, educational support, and physical health services were offered as part of the full-service model.
Researchers found that in the full-service model:
Researchers Marjorie Montague and Anne Hocutt at the University of Miami studied two full-service schools in urban districts in Florida. The schools were selected because they had a large proportion of children who were poor and likely to be eligible for Medicaid. Both schools had state-funded clinic buildings on school grounds that housed the service providers.
Overall, locating the services on school grounds resulted in greater access and utilization. An important focus of the study was a qualitative investigation of the facilitators and barriers to service access and utilization with the full-service school approach for children at risk for emotional disturbance. Characteristics that facilitated access to services included:
Implications for Policy and Practice
The concept of full-service schools fits with the trend in special education to form interagency and family collaborations and to integrate comprehensive services into the student's educational program. Full-service schools hold promise for addressing the needs of children in special education in the following ways:
Blackorby, J., Newman, L., & Finnegan, K. (July 1998). Integrated services, high need communities, and special education: Lessons and paradoxes. Menlo Park, CA: SRI International.
Blackorby, J., Newman, L., & Finnegan, K. (April 1997). School-linked services for students with disabilities and their families: A case study of 20 families. Menlo Park, CA: SRI International.
Dryfoos, J. (1994). Full-service schools: A Revolution in Health and Social Services for Children, Youth, and Families. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
Fox, N., Leone, P., Rubin, K., Oppenheim, J., Miller, M., & Friedman, K. (1999). Final report on the Linkages to Learning program and evaluation at Broad Acres Elementary School. College Park: University of Maryland, Department of Special Education.
Hocutt, A., Montague, M., & McKinney, J. (in press). The impact of managed care on efforts to prevent development of serious emotional disturbances in young children. Journal of Disability Policy Studies.
ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education