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Current Cultural Climate in Special Education

CurrentCultural Climate in Special Education

Culturalclimateof specialeducation

Learninginstitutionsin the United States are becomingmoreandmorediverse.Manyeducatorsfindthattheir classrooms are occupiedby giftedstudents,Students with a disability,English learnersandlearnerswhoare diverse.Approximately42% of allthestudentsin United States publicschoolare studentsof color,an estimated20% are studentswhospeaka languageotherthan English at home,andabout14% of studentshavean identifieddisability.Disproportionatein specialeducationoccurswhena specificsegmentof thepopulationis under oroverrepresented in specialschoolsas comparedto their group’spresencein theentirestudentpopulation(Coutinho et al, 2004).

Theissuesof culturalandlinguisticoverrepresentation datebackto 1968 whentheOffice of theCivil Rights, an agency in Department Educationin theU S undertookasurveyonrepresentationin elementaryandhighschools(Donovan &amp Cross, 2002). Thekeyspotlightof thedata andinformationgatheredin thesesurveyswasplacementin specialprograms,based on thefeaturesof differentstudents.Characteristicin thiscasemeantthesalientdifferencesin languageproficiency,ethnicity, sex,linguisticandculturaldiversity.Over theyears,thepatternof overrepresentation among theminoritygroupshas remainedfairlystable(Rathvon, 2008).

Studentsfrom diverseculturalandethnic backgroundhavebeensubjectedto inequality educationalopportunitiesformanyyears.Thoughthefederalgovernmenthas madedeliberateeffortsto alleviatethesituationby eliminatingthebarriersandfactorsthat increaseinequality,there remainsa hugedisparityin educationopportunityforstudentsin specialschools.The1954 Board of Education v Brown casein thesupremecourtsoutlaweddiscriminationin publicschools,studentsfrom ethnic andculturalminoritygroupslike African Americans andHispanic studentshaveremainedin segregatedandunequaleducationalenvironments(John, 2010).

JudicialActions Relating to Inequality in Special Schools

IDEAGuidelines statethatstudentsshould not beclassifiedas disableddueto poorperformance,becauseof racial,ethnic orculturaldifferencesorenvironmental disadvantage.Nonetheless,as aforementioned someculturally andlinguisticdiversegroupscontinueto be overrepresented as disabled.Thepatternof overrepresentation varies from stateto statewith themostformof representationbeingchildrenidentifiedas emotionally perturbedandbenignformof mentalretardation.In 2004 educationdepartmentinitiatedprogramsto addresstheissueof disproportionaterepresentationof learnersfrom linguistically andculturally diversebackgroundsin specialeducation(John,2010).Thiswould beachievedthrough theIndividuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act in that wasformulatedin 2004.TheOffice of Special Education ProgramscallsforState Education Agency to establishdisproportionaterepresentedbased on ethnicity andraceoccurringin localdistrictschools.Oncethisformof disproportionaterepresentationisidentifiedtheSEA is supposedto notifytheaffectedschoolsdistrictsandsupportthem in formulatingmeasuresto alleviatethesituation.EachFederal State Education Agency is supposedto implementactivitiesas statedin theIDEAAct. Whenoverrepresentation of culturally andlinguistically occurswhenstudentsfrom ethnic groupssuchas Black, nativeAmericans, Hispanic andAsian are at a substantiallyhigherriskof beingclassifiedas eligibleforspecialeducationandotherrelatedspecialservices,than otherethnic groupsenrolled in districtschoolsorstate.In manyof thecourtcasesagainst overrepresentation of minoritygroups,thecourtraisedconcernsthatreducingoverrepresentation would not remedythesituationby guaranteeingequaleducationalopportunitiesforallchildren.In Riles v Larry in 1984 and1986 in thestateof California, thecourtbanneduseof IQ testson Africa American childrenandorderedeliminationof overrepresentation of thesamegroupin Educable Mental Retardation program.In the1980s and1990s educationalpolicymakersidentifiedoverrepresentation as a formof segregationandthrough theOffice of thecivilrights,culturalandlinguisticoverrepresentation in specialeducationwould be monitoredafter everytwo years.Ifitwereascertainedthatthere wasoverrepresentation,theOffice of Civil Rights would initiateprogramsto correctthedeviationandremedythesituation(John,2010).

Disproportionalityin Special Education

Consequently,a growingconcernabout theeducationalopportunitiesforlinguistically andculturaldiversestudents,especiallythosein specialeducation,drovethefederalgovernmentto makeimportantchangeson theIDEAin 1991(John,2010).Thebodyhashighlighteda grippingneedto attaingreatersuccessin theeducationof linguistically andculturally diversestudentswith disabilities.Morerecentamendmentsof theIDEAdocumenthavecitedthatmorestudentsfrom linguistically andculturally diversegroupscontinueto be servedin specialeducationthan theratethat would be expectedof thissegmentof thepopulation(NationalEducation Association. 2007). MostnotablyAmerican of Africa originhas beenidentifiedas themostaffectedsegmentof minoritygroupsin thecountry.ThoughAfrican Americans constituteonly16% of thetotalstudent’spopulationin elementaryandhighschool,theyhavethehighestpercentageof studentsin specialeducation,21%. Additionally African American livingin povertyhas a higherprobabilityof beingenrolled in specialeducationprogramthan whites’ students,becauseof mentalretardation(John,2010)..The1997 IDEAamendmentwaspromptedby therealizationby Congress thatthenumberof culturally diversestudentswassteadilyincreasing.In realityby theendof 2000 one in everythree childrenenrollin publicschoolwasfrom aminoritygroup(Asia, India, African Hispanic orandothersmallerethnic groups.By2010 morethan 755 of thestudentsenrolled in largecitypublicschoolswerechildrenof color(National Education Association. 2007).

Culturalandlinguisticfactorshavebeenusedas thebasisof identifyingstudentsthat are enrolled to specialprograms.To eliminatethisbias,thegovernmentneedsto provideallstudents,regardlessof theethnic orculturalbackground,with an equalopportunityto pursueeducationin a conduciveenvironment,andprovisionof servicesthat are consideredas effectivedepending on thespecificneedof thestudents.Specialeducationservicesarenot regardedas effectiveorpositivesince theprocessof identifyingcandidatesto theseprogramsis biasedandunfair.TheDepartment of Education has indicatedthatoverrepresentation must beconsideredas a formof discriminationsince itleadsto inappropriateplacementof studentsto specialschools.Consequently, attentionshould be focusedon thepractices,policyandproceduresthat leadto unfairtreatmentof childrenfrom diverselinguisticandculturalbackground.Ifemphasiswereplacedon improvingteachingandexpandingopportunitiesforallstudentson an equitablebasisandbased on fairplacementandeligibilityforspecialeducation,theissueof overrepresentation would be eliminated.

References

Donovan,M. S., &amp Cross, C. T. (Eds.). (2002). Minoritystudents in special and gifted education.Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

JohnL.(2010).FloridaState UniversityResponse to Intervention and the Disproportionate Representation ofCulturally and Linguistically Diverse Students in Special Educationhttp://www.rtinetwork.org/learn/diversity/disproportionaterepresentation

Coutinho,J.M &amp Donald P. O (2004) National Center for CulturallyResponsive Educational Systems http://www.ldonline.org/article/5603/

NationalEducation Association. (2007). Truthin labeling: Disproportionality in special education.Washington, DC: Author.

Rathvon,N. (2008). Effectiveschool interventions: Evidence-based strategies for improving studentoutcomes.New York: Guilford Press.