Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Shelly Arneson



This study investigated the low literacy and math achievement of 4th grade students with emotional disturbances (ED) in an urban school district in Pennsylvania. Researchers have speculated that teachers possess limited knowledge of the behavioral health needs of students with ED needed to support their behavior and achievement. Therefore, this study was conducted to assess the effect of behavioral health professional development (BHPD) on the Pennsylvania School System of Assessment (PSSA) achievement of 4th grade students with ED. The theoretical framework of this study was Dewey's educational philosophy, which focused on educating the whole child. This study used a quantitative, comparative, between-groups design. Two research questions were used to determine if there were statistically significant differences in students with ED's PSSA literacy and math change scores from 3rd to 4th grade taught by 3 teachers who participated in the district's 1-year BHPD class and students taught by 3 teachers who did not participate. The study sample included 83 students. The Mann-Whitney test showed that there were no statistically significant differences in PSSA change scores between groups, with medium effect sizes. These findings indicated a need to search beyond BHPD to address the problem of low literacy and math PSSA achievement of 4th grade students with ED. A white paper for educators was written in which a School-Wide Positive Behavior Interventions and Support model was discussed that could improve the low PSSA achievement of students with ED. The positive social change is that teachers could better address and monitor students' behavior and academic progress to ensure positive outcomes on the PSSA.