Educational paradigms for meeting the needs of students considered at-risk: General education, pre-referral intervention and special education systems in an urban school district

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Teaching and Leadership


Joseph B. Shedd


General education, Intervention, Special education, Prereferral intervention, Urban education, At risk

Subject Categories

Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research | Special Education Administration | Urban Education


This study focused on the School-Based Intervention System (SBIT), a pre-referral intervention program designed and implemented in a large city school district in New York State. Like all pre-referral intervention models, SBIT provides consultation and supports to the teachers of students who are considered "at-risk" in general education. Data were collected via a review of archival information, interviews and reference to district and state documents. Students referred to SBIT and/or the Committee on Special Education (CSE) were used as case studies to illustrate the workings of SBIT and the CSE evaluation system. As the study progressed, the focus shifted to the examination of the interrelationships among the general education, special education and SBIT pre referral systems, and the assumptions underlying each of these systems.

SBIT has not met its objective to provide services which prevent students considered at-risk from being referred to the CSE, nor did SBIT help students become successful in general education if they remain unclassified. An advantage of the SBIT system compared to the CSE system was observed in the domain of self-monitoring. SBIT permits the short-term monitoring of the effectiveness of the interventions it has planned. Hence, SBIT has the potential to become self-correcting. Implications for the continued use of norm referenced and criterion referenced assessment were discussed in the context of whether or not SBIT represents a paradigm shift in education from a system based upon the exclusion of students from general education settings to a system based on the inclusion of students in general education. SBIT, the pre-referral intervention, and instructional planning do not represent a paradigm shift because the separation of students into different educational sub-systems based upon disability is still deemed as legitimate. The implications of SBIT as a sub-system within the larger bureaucracy are discussed, and provide a basis for recommendations for future research.


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