DIAGNOSISING "DIFFERENCES" AS "DEFICITS" : SEGREGATION WITHIN THE EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM

Is there equality for children from diverse cultures in the United States to receive the best quality of education? Despitethe Brown versus Board of Education (1954) decision that outlawed segregation, but it appears segregation is still manifested within the school system unjustly deciding who can receive quality education (Blanchett; 2009; Gardner & Miranda, 2001). Culturally diverse students have been overrepresented in special education classrooms (Blanchett, 2009). There has been a persistent problem for Black males being misplaced into special education classrooms. Culturally diverse students, especially Black male students, are under-represented in academic advanced placement classes designed for the gifted and talented. Osher et. al (2004) explains how special education classes leaves no room for students to advance academically, and refuse to provide them with options to return to the general school populations. Rather, special education classes have been utilized to retard academic achievement, stigmatizes students, and limits access to academic enhancement opportunities (Brown, 2010).  Therefore, segregation exists but manifested differently within the educational system.

Teachers’ expectations influence students’ motivation and academic standards in the classroom. If teachers have low expectations, children are often held to lower standards. It is important for teachers in special education classes to challenge and develop student’s critical thinking skills. In many instances, teachers’ low expectations led to poor quality education (Moore, 2002). Teachers’ perception/biases have led to misdiagnosis and misplacement among minority students (Moore, 2002).  Some teachers have perceived cultural “differences” as “deficits.” There have been many occurrences that educators have made special educational referrals because the student appeared a threat and presented unmanageable behavior in class. Many educators have perceived the dominant culture the classroom standard. If culturally diverse students do not identify and/or meet that standard; they are subject to special education placement. Culturally diverse educators in the classroom were least likely to refer students to special education based off the dominant culture standards. The education workforce must be diversified. There is a need for more Black male educators that can establish gender and cultural consonance with Black male students. Research has indicated Black male educators are in a positive position to utilize effective intervention involving Black male students (Brown, 2009; Brown & Butty, 1999; Frazier, 2009; Jackson, 2005; Mabokela & Madsen, 2007; Miller, 1993; Sullivan, 2010).  Culturally diverse educators embrace teaching diversity, develops respectful relationships, affirms cultural identities and displays genuine concern (Sullivan, 2010).  Therefore, educators’ influences and interactions play a key role in the students’ motivation and quality of education.

Many culturally diverse students have been misdiagnosed with learning disabilities due to inappropriate placement into special education classes. Special education placements have many influences that account negative implications toward the students, such as, (1) teachers’ biases, (2) segregation from the general school populations and (3) negative impact on students’ self-concepts and self-efficacy (Ford & Webb, 1994). Affleck et. al (1990) explained how culturally diverse students are vulnerable to higher rates of dropout and arrests, lower status employment and wages, and lower rates of independent living. Restrictive school settings, such as, some special education classrooms have been utilized as a warehouse for Black male students and has become a pipeline to prison (Brown, 2010). Misplacement into special education has been responsible for denying Black students equal educational opportunities (Brown, 2010). It can consist of cultural biased referral, testing and placement processes. Inadequate tools, such as, tests and measures to assess culturally diverse students (Sullivan, 2010). Standardize tests should not be given a great amount of weight as a predictor of academic success. Many of these measurements have mislabeled these students. Special education assessments must be critically examined for culturally biases (Brown, 2010). These byproducts of misplacement have supported the ideology of Blacks being inferiority and negatively affects culturally diverse students’ self-efficacy and self-concept (Brown, 2010).  Many culturally diverse students are victims to misdiagnosis and misplacement due to general educational classes are inadequately equipped to meet the needs of culturally diverse students. The lack of cultural sensitivity in educational curriculum in the classroom will affect students’ performance (Sullivan, 2010). The educational system must implement culturally sensitive curriculums to increase cultural diverse students’ chances to achieve academic excellence and increase awareness of their cultural identity which reduces acculturative stress.

It is our responsibility to cultivate high scholastics with our culturally diverse students. We need to focus on promoting cultural identity within the educational system. We need to be responsible for our youth. We cannot allow our youth to fall victim to racial discrimination and prejudices in the classroom. They need us in the community and they need us in the schools. We need to be more involved in their education. Their cultural background should not measure their quality of education. What are we going to do to make sure our youth are receiving the best quality of education?

References:

Affleck, J.Q., Edgar, E., Levine, P. & Kortering, L. (1990). Post-school status of students classified as mildly mentally retarded, learning disabled or non-handicapped: Does it get better with time? Education and Training in Mental Retardation, 25(4), 315-324.

Blanchett, W. (2009). A retrospective examination of urban education: From brown to the resegregation of African Americans in special education—It is time to ‘go for broke.’ Urban Education, 44(4), 370-388.

Brown, J. & Butty, J. (1999). Factors that influence African American male teachers’ educational and career aspirations: Implications for school district recruitment and retention. Journal of Negro Education, 68(3), 280-292. Doi:10.2307/2668101

Brown, A.L. (2009). ‘Brothers gonna work it out:’ Understanding the pedagogic performance of African American male teachers working with African American male students. The Urban Review, 41(5), 416-435.

Brown, K.S. (2010). Practitioner perceptions related to disproportionality in the most restrictive educational environment. (ProQuest Information & Learning). Dissertation Abstracts International Section A: Humanities and Social Sciences, 70(9-). (2010-99051-002).

Ford, D.Y. & Webb, K.S. (1994). Desegregation of gifted educational programs: The impact of brown on underachieving children of color. Journal of Negro Education, 63(3), 358-375. Doi:10.2307/2967187

Frazier, G.B. (2009). Voices of success: African American male school leaders. Dissertation Abstracts International Section A, 70, Retrieved from EBSCOhost..

Jackson, D. (2005). An exploration of the relationship between teacher efficacy and classroom management styles in urban middle schools. Dissertation Abstracts International Section A, 66, Retrieved from EBSCOhost..

Mabokela, R. & Madsen, J. A. (2007). African American teachers in suburban desegregated schools: Intergroup differences and the impact of performance pressures. Teachers College Record, 34(3), 141-152.

Miller, C. T. (1993, January). A study of the degree of self-concept of African American males, in grades two through four, in all-male classes taught by male teachers and African American males in traditional classes taught by female teachers. Dissertation Abstracts International, 53, Retrieved from EBSCOhost..

Moore, A. L. (2002). African-American early childhood teachers’ decisions to refer African-American students. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 15(6), 631-652. Doi:10.1080/0951839022000014358

Osher, D., Cartledge, G., Oswald, D., Sutherland, K.S., Artiles, A.J. & Coutinho, M. (2004). Cultural and linguistic competency and disproportionate representation. In S.R. Mathur (Ed.)., Handbook of research in emotional and behavioral disorders. (pp. 54-77) New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Sullivan, A. L. (2010). Patterns and predictors of English language teachers representation in special education. (ProQuest Information & Learning). Dissertation Abstracts International Section A: Humanities and Social Sciences, 70(7-). (2010-99010-377).

Sullivan, J. A. (2010). Making a difference: A study of the perceptions, classroom management, and instructional practices of teachers who use culturally responsive strategies to teach African American adolescent male students. Dissertation Abstracts International Section A, 71, Retrieved from EBSCOhost..

 

Cicely Johnson