Countering the disproportionate number of African American students placed in special education: The pre-referral process

Martin L Dickerson, University of Pennsylvania

Abstract

The field of special education in America's schools has faced many challenges throughout the years. One major challenge is the problem of disproportionate referral of students of color into special education curricula (Artiles, 1994; Ford, 1995), which for about forty years has led to the overrepresentation of students of color, primarily black and male, in the two special education categories of mild mental retardation and emotional/behavioral disabilities. Overrepresentation occurs when a particular ethnic group's membership in special education is larger than the percentage of that group in the educational system or within a specific disability segment. The literature on overrepresentation is "growing," yet, very few studies apply a theoretical framework that explains the history and contextual influences on this problem and how it continues to exist. Critical race theory suggests that overrepresentation cannot be solved without researching how the racism experiences of African Americans drive the process. I conducted interviews with school personnel, students and parents from two elementary schools in New Jersey using survey instruments, focus group processes, and reviewed archival data from teacher reports, student test scores, and report cards. The findings revealed reasons for disproportionate referrals and provided implications for future administration and provision of special education services.

Subject Area

Special education|Black studies|African American Studies

Recommended Citation

Dickerson, Martin L, "Countering the disproportionate number of African American students placed in special education: The pre-referral process" (2006). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3227709.
https://repository.upenn.edu/dissertations/AAI3227709

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