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MINORITY DISPROPORTIONALITY IN SPECIAL EDUCATION: A PROBLEM OVER 50 YEARS IN THE MAKING EXPLANATIONS AND SOLUTIONS PowerPoint Presentation
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MINORITY DISPROPORTIONALITY IN SPECIAL EDUCATION: A PROBLEM OVER 50 YEARS IN THE MAKING EXPLANATIONS AND SOLUTIONS. Clayton R. Cook, PhD University of Washington.

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slide1

MINORITY DISPROPORTIONALITY IN SPECIAL EDUCATION: A PROBLEM OVER 50 YEARS IN THE MAKINGEXPLANATIONS AND SOLUTIONS

Clayton R. Cook, PhD

University of Washington

slide2

“With personal identities, long-held beliefs, and futures at stake, it is not surprising that Americans find it difficult, and even painful, to engage in open andhonest conversation about education and race, and their role in this problem” (Ingersoll, 2003, p. 13)

agenda for today
Agenda for Today
  • Background of the problem
  • The extent of the problem
  • Explanations for why the problem exists
  • Proposed solutions for the problem
  • Questions
imagine
Imagine……
  • Members of the cultural group to which you belong is more likely than other cultural groups to:
    • Get less pay for the same job
    • Occupy less prominent positions in government and in business despite being equally qualified
    • Get more severe punishment for the same offense
    • Get placed in programs or settings that are a known risk factor for experiencing poor outcomes later on
what is disproportionality
What is disproportionality?
  • Disproportionality: inequality between a subgroup’s representation in a particular category and that subgroup’s representation in the general population
    • Misleading
  • Overrepresentation: group comprises a higher percentage in a category than in the population
  • Underrepresentation: subgroup comprises a lower percentage in a category than in the population
what disproportionality looks like
What Disproportionality Looks Like

Overrepresentation

Representation of subgroup in general population

Representation of subgroup in category associated with poor outcomes

what disproportionality looks like1
What Disproportionality Looks Like

Underrepresentation

Representation of subgroup in category associated with positive outcomes

Representation of subgroup in general population

intersectionality
Intersectionality
  • Examining the intersection of multiple cultural characteristics
    • Low SES +African American + female = MOST DISADVANTAGED
  • Intersectionality and disproportionality in education
    • African American + male + low ses = MOST AT-RISK
identifying disproportionality
Identifying Disproportionality
  • Composition Index
    • The percentage of students in a particular category from a specific subgroup
      • e.g., African Americans represent 50 out of 100 (50%) ED students
      • 50% of ED students compared to 15% of all students
  • Risk index
    • The percentage of a subgroup placed in a particular category
      • 20 out 1000 (2%) African Americans in the school district are ED
examples of composition and risk indexes
Examples of Composition and Risk Indexes
  • Consider Women and Teaching:
    • Composition: 75% of all teachers are women
    • Risk: 2% of women are teachers
  • Consider Men and Senate Positions:
    • Composition: 91.9% of all senators are men
    • Risk: <0.1% of men are senators
  • Consider African Americans and Suspension:
    • Composition: 37.5% of all suspended students are AA
    • Risk: 15% of AA students have been suspended
    • Composition: 30.75% of suspended students are White
    • Risk: 5% of White students have been suspended
identifying disproportionality1
Identifying Disproportionality
  • Odds Ratio
    • Comparison of the odds of placement for one group to the odds of placement for another group
      • African Americans: 20 out 980 ED vs. Other: 150 out 9850 ED
        • 0.02/0.015 = 1.33
        • African Americans are 1.33 times more likely to be identified as ED than other students
  • Relative Risk
    • Same as the odds ratio but relative to a specific group (e.g., Whites)
examples of odds ratio
Examples of Odds Ratio
  • Consider Gender and Sexual Assaults
    • Males are 15 times more likely than females to commit a sexual assault crime
  • Consider Sleep and Accidents at Work
    • People who get less than 6 hours of sleep are 7 times more likely to have a serious accident at work than people who get more than 6 hours
  • Consider Ethnicity and Office Referral
    • African Americans are 4.5 times more likely to be referred to the office for a behavior problem than other students
historical context
Historical Context
  • Rich history:
    • Brown v Board of Education (1954)
    • Education for All Handicapped Children Act (1975)
    • IDEA (1990)
    • IDEA (1997)
    • IDEiA (2004)
  • Three National Academy of Sciences panels have been convened (Heller, Holtzman, & Messick, 1982; Morrison, White, & Feuer, 1996; National Research Council, 2002)
  • 100s of published articles on the topic
  • Yet it still exists!
is all overrepresentation bad
Is all overrepresentation bad?
  • Head Start
  • Upward Bound
  • Title I
  • Afterschool programs
extent of the problem
Extent of the Problem
  • Problem that cuts across many systems
    • School system
    • Legal system
    • Private & Public vocational systems
    • Prison system
wrong assumption
Wrong Assumption
  • African Americans are biologically and genetically susceptible to specific learning disability, emotional disturbance, and mild mental disability
  • Socioeconomic status explains all there is to know about minority overrepresentation
for which categories does it exist
For which categories does it exist?
  • Exists in soft categories
    • Ones that require professional judgment or base decisions on subjective impressions
      • Emotional disturbance, specific learning disability, and mental disability-mildly impaired
  • Nonexistent in hard categories
    • Ones that have objective methods of determining presence of disability
      • Traumatic brain injury, visual impairment, deaf/hard of hearing, orthopedic handicap
problem categories mild mental disability
Problem Categories: Mild Mental Disability
  • Composition: 35% of Students in MR are African American vs. 17% of the overall student population is African-American
  • Risk: 2.6% of African Americans are in MR vs. 1.1% of white students;
  • Odds Ratio: Af-Am are 2.4 times more likely than other students
  • No other groups are overrepresented in MR
problem categories ed
Problem Categories: ED
  • Composition: 27.4% of Students with ED are African American vs. 17% Af Am in general student population
  • Risk: 1.6% of African-American Students are in ED vs. 1.0% of White Students
  • ODDS Ratio: Af-Am 1.8 times more likely than other students
  • No other group overrepresented in ED

Adapted from Reschly (2004)

extent of the problem1
Extent of the Problem
  • Recent data (Data Accountability Center, 2009)
    • African Americans: 15.07% off all students in U.S. in 2007
    • 20.5% of all special education students
    • 28.92% of emotionally disturbed (ED) students
  • Disproportionately treatment
    • Exposed to punitive discipline (referral, suspension, and expulsion)
    • Placed in restrictive environments away from peers (Skiba et al., 2002)
  • Negative outcomes associated with ED diagnosis (Wagner et al., 2005, Wagner et al., 2006)
    • 1.4 GPA
    • Miss roughly 18 days of school per year
    • 50% arrested within one year of school ending
    • 58% dropout
    • 68% unable to obtain or maintain employment within five years of school ending
    • Cost society over 1 trillion dollars when they become adults
debunking myths
Debunking Myths
  • MYTH: All minorities are overrepresented in sp ed
  • FACT: Compared to white students, black and American Indian students are overrepresented, Hispanic and Asian/Pacific Islander students are underrepresented
  • MYTH: Hispanic students are overrepresented
  • FACT: Hispanic students are slightly underrepresented
  • MYTH: IQ tests cause overrepresentation
  • FACT: Good reasons exist to eliminate IQ tests, but they have little overall effect on overrepresentation
possible explanations
Possible Explanations
  • Inadequate teacher training (Gardner & Miranda, 2001)
  • Biased assessment procedures (Gravois & Rosenfield, 2006)
  • Cultural mismatch (Gardner & Miranda, 2001)
  • Socioeconomic factors (Coutinho, Oswald & Best, 2002)
    • Contributes to the problem, but does not explain the entire problem
    • Low SES is associated with:
      • poor school readiness
      • minor behavior problems
slide25

People are limited to interpreting behavior through their own cultural lens

    • Things that “fit” expectations are considered good
    • Things that “don’t fit” expectations are considered bad
  • Tendency to misinterpret the intent behind another’s behavior when one is ignorant about that person’s culture
recent incident
Recent Incident
  • Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates arrested by the Cambridge, Mass., police officer
  • Does not fit the prism of 1960s race-relations — racist white cop intentionally targets black male
  • The white cop, James Crowley, lacks the traditional racist profile:
    • Attempted resuscitation of an African-American person
    • Teaches a course where cadets learn how to avoid racial profiling
    • President Barack Obama acknowledges that Crowley is an “outstanding police officer.”
recent incident1
Recent Incident
  • All evidence indicates that Crowley is a good cop, one sensitive to racial issues
  • Yet he still arrested a middle-aged African-American man who uses a cane to get around at his home
  • How could that be?
    • Perhaps Crowley was not intentionally being racist but was still unconsciously discriminating
  • What we now know is that both conscious and unconscious processes impact an individual’s decision-making and behavior
    • racial bias can be automatic, unconscious and definitely unintentional.
explanations for problems
Explanations for Problems

Bad, drunk driver OR

cow in the road

Victim OR

Stupid kid

fundamental attribution error
Fundamental Attribution Error
  • The Fundamental Attribution Error: False Perception

The fundamental attribution error is the tendency to overestimate the extent to which a person’s behavior is due to internal, dispositional factors and to underestimate the role of situational factors.

implicit racial stereotypes
Implicit Racial Stereotypes
  • African Americans as lazy, aggressive, unintelligent
  • Unconscious racial stereotypes are:
    • “unintentional because they are not planned responses; involuntary, because they occur automatically in the presence of an environmental cue; and effortless, in that they do not require a lot of effort to process information” (Graham & Lowery, 2004)
  • Concerns that engrained racial and cultural biases affect referral and placement of African American students into special education (Coutinho, Oswald, & Best, 2002; Artiles & Trent, 1994; Harry & Anderson, 1994)
examples of unconscious stereotypes
Examples of Unconscious Stereotypes
  • Women as nurturing and emotional
    • Assign women service related duties
    • Question their ability to be logical in times of stress
  • Adolescents as risky, moody, and rebellious
    • Withhold privilege to drive a car
    • Interpret behavior as just “being moody” rather a real issue
  • Overweight people as lazy and unmotivated
previous research
Previous Research
  • Priming therapists and juvenile probation officers about African Americans leads to harsher punishment and recidivism ratings (Abreu, 1999; Graham & Lowery, 2004)
  • Elevator and alley studies
  • Teachers more likely to refer African American student than Caucasian student (Bahr et al., 1991)
  • Controlling for the nature of the problem behavior, race of the child predicts punitive discipline (Skiba et al., 1999; 2001)
  • Controlling for the influence of SES, race of the child predicts punitive discipline, special ed placement, and placement in restrictive setting (Skiba et al., 1999; 2001)
disproportionality prevention
Disproportionality Prevention
  • Donovan, M. S., & Cross, C. T. (2002). Minority students in special and gifted education. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
  • “ There is substantial evidence with regard to both behavior and achievement that early identification and intervention is more effective than later identification and intervention.” Executive Summary, p. 5

Reschly

rti as a solution
RtI as a Solution…..
  • Proactive, prevention-focused service delivery model
    • Not wait-to-fail
  • Consists of exposing students to a sequence of intensifying interventions prior to special education consideration
  • Interventions are evidence-based
  • Objective, valid, and fair data are used to identify students who are at-risk for learning or behavior difficulties
    • Rather than a teacher’s opinion, perception, frustration, or best guess
  • Develop a system for monitoring disproportionality
    • No single snapshot—Examine trends over time
      • Fluctuations in representation rates and outcomes
rti assessment practices
RTI Assessment Practices

Progress Monitoring

Progress Monitoring

Progress Monitoring

Special Education

Universal screening

Comprehensive Evaluation

solutions awareness training
Solutions: Awareness Training
  • If people are aware of their tendency to have skewed perceptions due to unconscious stereotypes, then they can question whether they are making an accurate and fair decision
  • Educate school personnel about false perceptions due to unconscious stereotypes
    • How this can impact decision-making and behaviors
  • Challenge: Road rage
solutions multicultural sensitivity
Solutions: Multicultural Sensitivity
  • Awareness and acceptance of cultural differences is paramount to sensitive and accurate perceptions of student behavior
  • Specific trainings devoted to:
    • building understanding among racial and cultural groups and appreciation of different cultures
      • Understand behaviors that are culturally accepted
        • Having a swagger to one’s gait
        • Physical movements
    • defusing intergroup tensions and conflicts
take home message
Take Home Message
  • Minority Disproportionality is vague term
    • It’s more specific – African American male overrep
  • It still exists, despite years of monitoring
  • Referring, suspending, identifying students as eligible for special education, and placing them in restrictive environments is a known risk factor for poor outcomes
  • We can engage in efforts to overcome this problem!
thank you
Thank You!
  • Any questions?