In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Programs and Services for Students with Emotional or Behavioral Disorders in the United States

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Textbooks
  • Professional Organizations

Education Programs and Services for Students with Emotional or Behavioral Disorders in the United States
Douglas Cheney, Thomas Morris
  • LAST REVIEWED: 27 June 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 June 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756810-0184


Emotional and behavioral disabilities (EBD) of children and youth are identified in about 1 percent of school-age children and youth in the United States. As Mathur and Sprouls suggest in the Oxford Bibliographies article in Education “Emotional and Behavioral Disorders,” sufficient research and practice has occurred during the late 20th and early 21st centuries so that effective services should now be provided to these students in public schools. Internationally, many countries are striving to integrate services into schools and communities. This chapter overviews elements of policies and practices and provides resources for teachers and administrators to develop a productive program in their school. The eight major elements recommended for program development are drawn from supportive literature and research conducted since 1975. Program development based on these eight elements is essential to meet contemporary demands for improved outcomes of students with EBD. The most current national study regarding student outcomes suggested that students with EBD are improving on grades, high school completion, and social interactions. However, far too many students with EBD still receive harsh disciplinary actions such as suspension and expulsion and are unemployed and unengaged as young adults, as noted in Levine, et al. 2004 (see General Overviews). Improvements in the use of evidence-based practices within service provisions of public education shows promise in ameliorating these problems and improving outcomes for children and youth with EBD. This article substantiates the promise for improving the desired outcomes of improved social relationships, school academic and social performance, and school completion. For a complete selection of journals on this topic, please consult the Oxford Bibliographies article in Education “Emotional and Behavioral Disorders.”

General Overviews

Since Grosenick and Huntze’s first national needs assessment conducted in the United States in the early 1980s, a growing body of literature has recommended service provisions for students with EBD. The resources cited in this article identify the critical elements required for delivering effective services for students with EBD. In this review, several themes emerge across the articles. These include identifying a philosophy of practice for the program, the structures and strategies that will be used, the individual planning for each student, and coordination with families and social service agencies. Taken together, the works listed below can serve as a positive starting place to develop a blueprint for essential services for children and youth with EBD.

  • Fecser, F. A. 1993. A model Re-ED classroom for troubled students. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Problems 1.4: 15–20.

    Program model incorporated four programmatic systems including: (a) a philosophical base or values base, (b) enhanced classroom structure, (c) classroom climate and group process, and (d) individual, student-level planning, all of which addressed twelve core values of Re-ED.

  • Grosenick, J. K., M. P. George, and N. L. George. 1990. A conceptual scheme for describing and evaluating programs in behavioral disorders. Behavioral Disorders 16.1: 66–74.

    Examined the components of a well-designed program for students with emotional and behavioral disabilities, including philosophy, student needs and identification, goals, instructional methods and curriculum, community involvement, program design and operation, exit procedures, and evaluation.

  • Grosenick, J. K., and S. L. Huntze. 1983. National needs analysis in behavior disorders: More questions than answers: Review and analysis of programs for behaviorally disordered children and youth. Columbia: Univ. of Missouri-Columbia.

    Report stating that necessary human resources, teacher training programs, service delivery models, and interdisciplinary collaboration were lacking and students were being inadequately or inappropriately served. Developed a conceptual framework for students with EBD based on eight service elements: (a) philosophy; (b) program goals; (c) population definition; (d) program entry; (e) methods, curriculum, and materials; (f) exit procedures; (g) evaluation; and (h) program operations.

  • Jones, V. 1987. Major components in a comprehensive program for seriously emotionally disturbed children. In Severe behavior disorders of children and youth. Edited by R. Rutherford, 15–24. College Hills.

    Recommended that programs for students with EBD incorporate twelve benchmarks: referral prevention, a positive and caring staff, competency based instruction, consistent classroom management techniques, class-wide behavior management, individual behavior management, behavioral counseling, social skills training, continuous feedback, parent training and support, assistance and training to general education teachers, and reintegration procedures.

  • Jones, V. F., E. A. Dohrn, and C. Dunn. 2004. Creating effective programs for students with emotional and behavior disorders: Interdisciplinary approaches for adding meaning and hope to behavior change interventions. Boston: Pearson.

    Provides ten key components for comprehensive and interdisciplinary interventions for students with EBD. Textbook content was influenced by content in the reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Act of 2004 and provides effective approaches for school staff. Key components give an interdisciplinary and systems approach to educating students with EBD and includes a conceptual framework emphasizing relationships, cultural competence, behavioral theory, insight-oriented counseling, and social-cognitive theory.

  • Kauffman, J. M., M. Beirne-Smith, C. G. Eichberg, S. Hart-Hester, L. McCullough, and R. Williams. 1985. Guidelines for describing programs for behaviorally disordered children and youth. B.C. Journal of Special Education 9.1: 11–17.

    Advocated for improvements in the design and evaluation of services for children and youth with EBD. Recommended specific elements for services are: program philosophy; program goals; students served in program; operational resources; entry procedures; exit procedures; program methods for academics, behavior, and transition; and systematic program, student, and curriculum data.

  • Levine, P., C. Marder, and M. Wagner. 2004. Services and supports for secondary school students with disabilities. A special topic report from the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 (NLTS2). Menlo Park, CA: SRI International.

    Referencing the NLTS2 data, this report considers the following for secondary-school-age youth with disabilities: services and supports, family involvement and knowledge, barriers and unmet services, student participation in programming, and differences among students based on primary disability classification and demographics.

  • Neel, R. S., K. K. Cessna, J. Borock, and S. Bechard. 2003. Quality program indicators for children with emotional and behavior disorders. Beyond Behavior 12.3: 3–11.

    Proposed a set of flexible Quality Program Indicators that could be used across schools and districts. Indicators were organized in six major components, including environmental management, behavioral management, affective education, individualization and personalization, academic curriculum, and career life skills and transition.

  • Simpson, R. L., R. L. Peterson, and C. R. Smith. 2011. Critical educational program components for students with emotional and behavioral disorders: Science, policy, and practice. Remedial and Special Education 32.3: 230–242.

    DOI: 10.1177/0741932510361269

    Proposed a framework for effectively meeting the educational needs of students with EBD and noted the organizational structures to guide educators toward more consistent use of research-based methods. These fundamental components were offered as a blueprint for developing more consistent and effective practices.

  • Steinberg, Z., and J. Knitzer. 1992. Classrooms for emotionally and behaviorally disturbed students: Facing the challenge. Behavioral Disorders 17.2: 145–156.

    Noted an overreliance on behavior control and a lack of educationally exciting classroom approaches with individualized learning opportunities. Recommended a major national shift toward a curriculum of responsibility, promoting students to become more socially competent and improved relationships between teachers and students. Advocated for the investment of more time and resources into curriculum development and teacher training.

  • Tsai, S. F., D. Cheney, and B. Walker. 2013. Preliminary psychometrics of the Participatory Evaluation and Expert Review for Classrooms Serving Students with Emotional/Behavioral Disabilities (PEER-EBD). Behavioral Disorders 38.3: 137–153.

    Suggested that educational practices for students with EBD deserved attention and improvement. A panel of thirty-three national experts in the field of EBD helped to validate the content of The Participatory Evaluation and Expert Review for Classrooms Serving Students with EBD (PEER-EBD). The PEER-EBD consists of nineteen major practices that can be used to evaluate schools.

  • Walker, B. A., and F. A. Fecser. 2002. Elements of an effective re-EDucation program for the 21st century. Reclaiming Children and Youth 11.2: 110–115.

    Recommended four critical areas of best practices for students with EBD: (1) program foundation and philosophy, (2) structure and predictability, (3) classroom climate, and (4) individual programming. These critical areas can be used to assess EBD programs to build strong services for students and their families.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.