Selected teachers' perceptions of special education laws

Roy Onida Brookshire

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to determine the difference in knowledge between regular education teachers and special education teachers in selected components of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA). The hypotheses were designed to test teacher knowledge in the following components: related services, appropriate evaluations, least restrictive learning environments, zero tolerances, procedural safeguards, parental participation, and individual education plans. For this study, a 31-item questionnaire was developed. Two questions measured teachers' perceptions for their level of knowledge in special education law. Twenty-one questions measured teacher knowledge in the seven selected IDEA components. A total of 355 teachers were surveyed between October and November 2001. The statistical technique of multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) was used to test the hypotheses. The findings show that both regular education teachers and special education teachers do not possess a thorough level of understanding of special education law necessary to ensure compliance and prevent due process litigation. The results of this study did indicate a difference among the means of the regular education and special education teachers for the seven IDEA components. Further, a difference was found between the component areas among the special education teachers and the regular education teachers. There was no statistical difference between teachers who work in elementary, junior high, middle, or high schools. Further, teaching experience does not affect teacher knowledge and there was no difference between teachers who were parents of special education children and teachers who were not parents. Years of teaching experience did not affect teacher knowledge of special education law. The research found that 94.2% of the special education teachers surveyed either agreed or strongly agreed that they had sufficient knowledge of special education law. The data did not support their perception. Conversely, most regular education teachers indicated that they did not have sufficient knowledge of special education law. The data validated their need for training in special education law. Nearly 80% of the special education teachers surveyed either agreed or strongly agreed that they had received sufficient preservice training in special education law. This perception was not evident in the data.