Disproportionate Representation of African American Students in Special Education
March 1, 2011
In 2011 there is still disproportionate representation of African American Students in special education classes. This can be defined as conflict in the education environment because, government legislation mandates that No child be left behind, yet African American students, males in particular, are disproportionately being just that, left behind. The purpose of this study is to discuss disproportionate representation. What it means and who it affects most will be identified. Contributing factors such as socioeconomic status and race and ethnicity will also be discussed. Possible solutions in the form of equity and early intervention will be discussed as well. Lastly with these factors identified, it is the hope that feasible and probable solutions can be reached or at least recommended.
Review of Literature
For more than 40 years the topic of Disproportionate representation has been addressed by scholars. The data collected has been qualitative and quantitative. According to Bollmer, Bethel, Garrison-Morgen, and Brauen “The issue of disproportionate identification and placement of racial/ethnic minorities in special education has been investigated extensively (Bollmer, Bethel, Garrison-Mogren, & Brauen, 2007).” They go on to share that the risk ratio, which is used to compare one racial/ethnic groups likelihood of receiving special education and related services to all other students is one of the most useful tools in this research (Bollmer, Bethel, Garrison-Mogren, & Brauen, 2007). Sometimes referred to as disproportionality, disproportionate representation covers both over and underrepresentation. Overrepresentation happens when the percentage of students from one group is larger than expected based on their numbers in the general population. Underrepresentation is occurring when a specific group of students are involved at a lower rate than their numbers in the general population. According to Beratan “The disproportionate representation of minority students in special education is as clear of a racist outcome as one can find. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA) formally recognizes such disproportionate representation as a problem in special education (Beratan, 2008).” He goes on to share the following thoughts and statistics: A) Greater efforts are needed to prevent the intensification of problems connected with mislabeling and high dropout rates among minority children with disabilities. B) More minority children continue to be served in special education than would be expected from the percentage of minority students in the general school population. C) African-American children are identified as having mental retardation and emotional disturbance at rates greater than their White counterparts. D) In the 1998-1999 school year, African-American children represented just 14.8 percent of the population aged 6 through 21, but comprised 20.2 percent of all children with disabilities. E) Studies have found that schools with predominately White students and teachers have placed disproportionately high numbers of their minority students into special education (Beratan, 2008). Disproportionate representation not only speaks to the overrepresentation of African-American students labeled as learning disabled, but also to the gross lack of African-American students being labeled gifted. Bonner and Jennings share “According to the literature, African American males have been disproportionately place in special education classrooms and underrepresented in gifted and talented programs (Fred A. Bonner I. M., 2007).” Bonner and Jennings go on...