Minority Children in Special and
Gifted Education
Issues in Identification and Referral
Impressions and Recommendations
Overview
Introduction.
Disproportionate numbers of minority
children in special education programs.
•
•
•
•
Statistical trends in identification.
Important litigation.
Causes of disproportionate identification.
Recommendations for change.
Gifted and talented underrepresentation.
•
•
•
What is giftedness?
Causes of limited identification for gifted
education.
Recommendations for improved identification.
Introduction
Over-identification, misidentification, and underidentification of minority children for special education
intervention or gifted education leads to minority
children being both underserved and mis-served.
Percentages of minority students assessed as eligible
for supports in both categories are disproportionate in
comparison to total enrollment figures and non-minority
student populations.
Identification issues for minority students can lead to
inappropriate educational placement and educational
failure.
Representation of Minority
Children in Special Education
Disproportionate Identification
Special Education by the Numbers:
 Approximately 5.4 million
school-aged (6-21) children
identified with disabilities
(under IDEA).
 2,030,685 (38%) are
minority children.
(Source: IDEA/OSERS)
 1.5 million of these are
minority children labeled
MMR, ED or SLD.
 876,000 of those--either
Native American or African
American.
(Source: Executive Summary, 2002)
OVER-identification of Minority
Children for Special Education



Primarily “soft” disabilities:
 MMR, ED, SLD.
English language learners:
 Speech and language,
LD.
Usually NOT in medically
diagnosed categories:
 deafness
 blindness,
 Down’s Syndrome, etc.
Percentages of Minority Groups that
make up Special Education Totals




20%
14.5%
2%
1.5%
(15%)
(17.5%)
(4%)
(1%)
African Americans
Hispanic/Latino
Asian/Pacific Islanders
Native Americans
38% of special education population:
minority students.
37.5% of total school population:
minority students.
(Source: IDEA/OSERS, 2001)
Enrollment Comparisons
80
70
60
50
40
30
20
10
0
Total Enrollment
Identified Mentally
Retarded
Identified Gifted
African
American
Hispanic
White
Native
American
(Source: Office for Civil Rights in Losen & Orfield, 2002)
Trends in Ethnic
Demographics
Asian Americans:

Generally underidentified for special education; overidentified
for gifted ed.
African American students:



3 times more likely--labeled mentally retarded.
2 times more likely--emotionally disturbed.
Boys labeled MR 4 times more than non-minorities.
Ethnic Trends, con’t
Native American students:


2 times more likely to be labeled ED or learning disabled.
Initially, 4 times more likely--speech or language impaired.
Hispanic students:


More likely identified when attending schools with high numbers
of ELL students.
Less likely eligible for services if attending schools with lower
numbers of ELL students.
According to Losen &Orfield (2002),
“each minority group is at greater
risk of being labeled mentally
retarded as their percentage of the
population increases.”
Examples of Geographic
Trends
 District of Columbia:
67% of African Americans make up school
population; 91% identified eligible.
 South Carolina, Mississippi:
African Americans 4 times more likely to be
identified mentally retarded.
 Alaska:
Native Americans: 21% of school population;
over 40% of students with MR.
 Hawaii:
Asian/Pacific Islanders identified with
speech,language impairments 3 times
more.
(Sources: Losen & Orfield, 2002; IDEA Data/OSERS, 2001)
In Arizona:
45
40
35
Population
30
All Disabilties
25
20
MR
15
SLD
10
5
ED
N
at
fr
i
A
A
si
a
n
ca
n
A
A
m
er
ic
an
s
m
er
ic
an
iv
e
s
A
m
er
ic
an
s
H
is
pa
ni
cs
0
(Source: IDEA Data/OSERS, 2001)
Deaf-Blind
Flagstaff Unified
Schools:
 1875 students identified for special education (17%** of
total population).
 867 are minority students (46% of special ed students).
 Total population of minority students in the district:
42%.
(**Based on data received from FUSD 2/10/03; total school population:
10,860. 100-day count cited in Arizona Daily Sun, 2/12/03: 11,487.)
What Does the Data Tell Us?
 Identification varies by:




disability.
geographic location.
ethnicity.
gender.
 Nationally:
 extreme disparities between
Hispanic and African
American identification rates.
 National trends:
 do not always mirror local
trends in identification.
 CRUCIAL:
 to look at what’s happening in
special education locally.
Problems with Statistical
Information:
 Data collection, reporting procedures inconsistent (state to
state, district to district, no federal oversight).
 Discrepancies exist, state by state, between enrollment data
and disability identification.
 About 400,000 children identified as disabled not identified
with any ethnic group.
 Numbers, percentage totals must be considered
approximations.
 Numerical discrepancies exist between data collection
sources.
 Difficult to collect concise information in rural areas.
 IDEA ’97 mandated data collection but no standardization.
Important Litigation: Minority
Rights in Special Education

Hobson vs. Hanson (1967)


Diana vs. CA State Board Of Education (1970)


Non-discriminatory testing provision (i.e., testing done in
native language).
Guadalupe vs. Tempe (1972)


Ability tracking denied equal education for minorities.
Upheld non-discriminatory testing.
Larry P. vs. Riles (1972, 1979, 1984)

Barred use of IQ scores as sole determiner of student
placement.
Important Litigation, con’t.

Lau vs. Nichols (1974)


PASE vs. Hannon (1980)



Non-discriminatory testing; San Francisco LEP students.
Upheld the use of IQ test scores BUT
other assessment measures used, too.
Lee vs. Macon (1967, Alabama)


One of the longest active cases on record.
2000 decision, mandated “mechanisms to correct:”
 African American overrepresentation in MR, ED.
 Underrepresentation in areas of LD, gifted.
(Source: Paolino, 2002)
Litigation Has Led Directly To:

Protective legislation:





Public Law 93-112.
Public Law 94-142 (EHA) which became-IDEA and its reauthorizations.
Generally occurs only after parent-initiated litigation.
Establishment of “Protection in Evaluation Procedures”
requirements:




Comprehensive, individualized evaluations.
Use of nondiscriminatory practices.
Use of multiple assessments.
Establishment of team process for referral, evaluation,
placement.
Purpose: Protection of students whose learning differences may be
related to cultural and ethnic differences from being misidentified
as disabled.
Factors in Identification
Disparities of Minority Students
o
30+ years of research
and documentation have
found the following
leading causes:
Test bias.
Teacher bias.
Poverty/environmental
effects.
Cultural and linguistic
differences.
Current Research Focus:
o Latest research:
Continued test bias, teacher bias,
poverty/environmental effects,
cultural/linguistic differences.
Teacher/classroom characteristics.
Parental involvement.
Issues of subjectivity.
Funding.
Emerging responses to “high-stakes” testing.
Continued “wait-to-fail” model prevalent in
the United States (or, “wait-to-succeed”).
.
Test Bias/High Stakes Testing
Test bias in general:
Echoes experiences of
middle class children.
Based on author’s cultural,
linguistic, experiential
background.
Normative sample problems.
Usually given by nonminority professionals.
Often, still not written
and/or administered in
student’s native language.
Continued reliance on IQ
scores.
High-stakes tests:
Contain many of the same
built-in biases, problems.
Can validity be
established?
Teacher pay, school
performance tied to
student achievement—may
result in increased special
ed referrals.
Increased pressure on
minority student
performance—result:
increased failure.
Teacher Bias and Characteristics
Lowered behavioral, academic
expectations.
Expectations of failure.
Teacher experience, training.
Instructional quality.
Classroom management (quiet vs.
social??)
Unconscious racial bias, lowered or
stereotypical expectations.
Quality of reciprocal relationships,
interactions.
Teacher ethnicity.
Poverty and the Environment
Considered to be related
to racial bias.
Insufficient nutrition,
medical and/or prenatal
care
Poor living conditions.
Toxins and pollutants.
(e.g., lead exposure, etc.)
Poor community supports.
Geographic location.
Cultural and Linguistic Differences
Child’s life experiences, activities, etc., shaped by his/her
culture.
Cultural experiences influence a child’s strengths, needs.
“A student’s cultural background may help determine
which neurodevelopmental strengths get stronger and
which ones don’t,” (Levine, 2001).
Cultural influences can affect learning
modalities.
Historical cultural experiences,
views may differ.
Vocabulary differences may
hamper learning.
Parental Involvement
Lack of support, involvement in child’s educational
experience.
Lack of knowledge of special ed rights, services,
procedures, language, etc.
Uncomfortable advocating “against” professionals.
Acceptance, without question, of educators’
conclusions.
Subjectivity, Funding Concerns
o
Subjectivity.
Permeates decision-making on every level--referral,
assessment, placement despite best intentions, team
process, increased awareness.
o
Funding.
Parrish (Losen &
Orfield) believes some
overidentification
occurs so that poor
schools can qualify for
state, federal funding.
Recommendations for Better
Identification
In the classroom:






High quality instruction for all
students (i.e., much improved
teacher training).
General education classes geared
toward success for all students.
Improve early identification,
intervention programs.
Target monitoring, improving
reading skills.
Recruit educators from diverse
background, provide culturally
diverse instruction.
Use pre-referral process before
special ed assessment referral.
More Recommendations
For support staff:


Provide consistent
monitoring of all students
through primary grades.
Ensure appropriate special
education services provided.
For parents:



Educators—encourage
parental involvement.
Be encouraged to seek legal
help, mediation, assistance.
Be provided with
information, supports to
better advocate.
Recommendations, con’t
For districts, state and federal governments, others:





Improve data collection, student population monitoring.
Require school districts to report disparities in special ed
identification, placement (Losen, Orfield, 2002).
Improve federal and state oversight and enforcement.
Guarantee that schools receive adequate funding.
Increase referral, evaluation accuracy– use multiple assessments,
teams w/cultural diversity, parental input.
“The concern with the overrepresentation of
minorities {in special education placements}
would be mitigated if the evidence suggested
that minority children reaped the same
benefit from more frequent identification and
isolation. But as government officials
acknowledge and as data demonstrate, this
does not appear to be the case.”
(Losen & Orfield, 2002)
Gifted & Talented Minority
Students:
Underrepresented and
Underserved
The Need For Change


By 2040, 40% of the
nation’s students will
be students of color.
By 2050, the
numbers of Hispanic
students will
increase to more
than 18 million--27%
of all school-aged
children.
What is Giftedness?
The definition of
giftedness has not been
universally decided:


Districts, states, and
some schools decide how
to identify gifted
students.
Gardner says there are
multiple intelligences:








Knowledge
Language
Leadership
Memory
Reading
Art
Music
Creativity
More about Giftedness


Giftedness is usually
defined as success in
academics.
U.S. Department of
Education shows 3
groups consistently
underrepresented:



Native Americans
Hispanics
African Americans
Why are these groups so
underrepresented?



Teacher
expectations/
perceptions.
Test bias.
Lack of universal
definition of
giftedness.



Just what is
giftedness?
Parent awareness.
Administrative issues.
“Underrepresentation of
minority groups in
gifted programs is
related to a breakdown
in the referral process,
the assessment process,
or both.” (Masten & Plata, 2000)
Teacher
Expectations/Perceptions
Teachers’ perceptions are
based on:

Gender


Hispanic females nominated
fewer times than any other
group.
Social class

Do not realize the
limitations of a low
socioeconomic environment
to stimulate and support the
development of higher
intellectual capacities.
(Source: Plata & Masten, 1997)

Language proficiency.
Teacher Perceptions, con’t

Race




Perceive Hispanic students behavior as less favorable
than Anglo students.
Perceive Hispanic students as having lower academic
potential.
Interact less affirmatively with Hispanic students
than with Anglo students.
Anglo students nominated more than any others.
Teacher Perceptions, con’t

Teachers identify
giftedness based on
academic performance
only.

Expectations of the
mainstream culture have
biased the process of
identification of gifted
children.

There exists a persistent
attitude that giftedness
simply cannot be found in
some groups.
Teacher Perceptions
Teacher perceptions affect nominations of Hispanic
and Anglo students for gifted programs:
90
Anglos Yes
80
70
Hispanics Yes
60
Anglos No
50
40
Hispanics No
30
20
10
0
Intelligence
Leadership
Academic
Achievement
Creativity
(Source: Plata, Marsten
& Trusty, 1999.)
Test Bias

Historically, gifted and talented programs
are filled by White, middle and upper
middle class students.

Test makers are of the same class, so they
tend to favor students from same
background.

Test are not given in the native tongue of
ELL students.
Test Bias, con’t

Intelligence tests: strongly biased against
culturally disadvantaged students
because they emphasize:
–
–
–
Rapid response.
Verbal comprehension.
Answers that are acquired in the dominant
middle class culture.
Test Bias, con’t

Objective tests items:
–
Biased because they are
based on:
o Differences in values:
Urban ghetto
experience compared
to surburban and other
life
patterns.
o Differences in racial
and cultural
experiences.
o Differences in language
usage common to the
cultural group.
What is Giftedness?????








Academic performance
Creativity
Language
Leadership
Memory
Reading
Art
Music skills
What??? con’t

No universal definition of
giftedness.

Most definitions are defined
by academic achievement.

Different cultural
perceptions of giftedness:

Anglo Culture





Focus on high
standardized test scores.
Competitive.
Superior academic skills.
Standing out in a group.
Assertive.
What???? con’t

Navajo Culture





Quietness.
Noncompetitive.
Non assertive.
Does not show leadership qualities
in public.
Hispanic Culture






Follows orders.
Does not lead.
Obeys, cooperates, submissive.
Doesn’t meddle in adult affairs.
Doesn’t judge or criticize others.
Opposing cultural values will put
student at odds with significant
others (family, culture, etc...).
Parent Awareness

Study by Bracey



Hispanic parents are less
aware of their children’s
giftedness.
Parents are not involved
in nomination process.
Parents not aware of
nomination processes or
existence of gifted
programs.
Awareness, con’t



Hispanic parents are
more reserved and
less likely to
nominate their
children.
Parents are not
aware of what
definition of
giftedness is.
Parents not included
in assessment
process.
Administrative Issues

Administrators do not train teachers to recognize
characteristics of gifted ELL learners.

Psychologists not always aware of limitations of
teacher rating scales.

Parents generally not included on evaluation
committee.

Administrators do not usually inform community of
gifted characteristics or assessment process.
“. . . {Y}outh are the most important
natural resource of a great nation. Gifted
programs can help prepare youth of all
cultures and languages to become
productive citizens and critical thinkers,
ensuring that the future of the country is
in good hands.”
Recommendations

Gifted & Special
Education

Use of ethnographic
assessment procedures:


Use of dynamic
assessment:



Student is observed in
multiple contexts over
time.
Student is given
opportunity to
transfer newly
acquired skills to
novel situations.
Portfolio assessment.
Use of tests written in
native language of ELL
students.
Recommendations, con’t

Use of test scores from
several instruments:





Include people from
diverse cultural
backgrounds in the
assessment process.
Progressive Matrices, Standard.
SOI Screening Form for Gifted.
System of Multicultural
Pluralistic Assessment.
Culture Fair Intelligence Test,
Scale 1.
Recommendations, con’t

Education of teachers
on gifted characteristics
of different cultures.

Explicit information such
as:



The experiences and
abilities of Hispanic
children.
How those experiences
enhance skills, talents,
traits and/or values
attached to giftedness.
Knowledge of how
acculturation
influences teacher’s
ratings.
Recommendations, con’t.




Training of assessment
personel as to bias in
behavior rating scales.
Encourage parents to be
a part of the process of
evaluation.
Recruitment of teachers
of color.
Parent education about
the process and
characteristics of gifted
children.
What Educators Must Do
Interact with ALL students as consistently,
compassionately, and culturally informed as possible.
Make intelligent, individualized (not stereotypical)
assessments of student strengths and needs.
Continue professional growth and development in
cultural diversity, special education, and differing
learning modalities.
Remember that a quality educator can be the single
most positive influence on any child’s educational
experience. Quality = success.
“Education is not a product….it is a
process….a never-ending one.”
Bel Kaufman, 1967
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Minority Children in Special and Gifted Education