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The question of how to best meet the social and emotional needs of PreK students in Maine has been a legislative focus in recent years, including two attempts to convene legislative task forces to restructure the provision of special education services for children aged 3 to 5. This Maine Education Policy Research Institute (MEPRI) study sought to address the research gap on PreK special education inclusion. Specifically, this study sought to learn more about current practices and views regarding the inclusion of special education students in public PreK programs, what challenges schools and teachers face in serving these children, and what additional resources such as training, equipment or personnel are needed to serve these students effectively. Research questions guiding this study included: (1) What are the school's current practices regarding PreK special education inclusion; (2) What challenges are there in identifying and serving students with challenging behaviors or special needs within the PreK program; (3) What additional resources do schools need to identify and serve the needs of students with special needs in their PreK programs; and (4) What impacts do schools perceive from their participation in Maine's Public Preschool Inclusion Cohort Training and Technical Assistance program? This small exploratory study used qualitative research methods including interviews with district and school administrators and PreK teachers and coordinators from four schools and three districts participating in the MDOE's Public Preschool Inclusion Project. A total of eight interviews were conducted involving 12 individuals in fall 2018. Interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed. Data analysis included case summaries of each school around the research questions, and identification of themes and patterns across the four participating schools. Findings are described in this report related to the broad research questions framing this inquiry While this study may not have identified the full range of PreK education practices nor all challenges schools face, the authors feel confident that the findings are fairly representative of experiences and concerns shared by other schools in the state. Interview questions for the study are appended.
Fairman, Janet C. and Johnson, Amy F., "PreK Special Education Inclusion Practices in Maine: An Exploratory Study of Three Districts" (2019). Maine Education Policy Research Institute. 55.
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