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What New Research Says About Race, Special Education

The Racial Issue Behind Special Education; What New Research Says

A recent article in The New York Times takes a look at how race factors into special education across the country and discusses research that challenges the commonly held belief that minorities are over-represented in special education classes.

Certainly, research released earlier this week from a UC Irvine professor found that minorities were, in fact, under-represented "in special education classes in large part because many come from poorer homes without access to health care that would flag the students for special attention," UC Irvine professor George Farkas said according to The study looked at national data from from 20,000 students when kindergarten to eighth grade. 

This information is especially important because many legislators and educators are under the impression that special education is racially biased- and the Department of Education is even discussing setting a standard for what is "an allowable amount of overrepresentation of minority children," the professors said to The Times.

According to Farkas and his co-author Paul L. Morgan, the real issue is that though minorities—particularly blacks—are more likely to be exposed to risk factors that will result in learning disabilities, they are the ones who often go undiagnosed and treated.

In the recently published study, it finds "that the under-diagnosis of black children occurs across five disability conditions for which special services are commonly provided—learning disabilities, speech or language impairments, intellectual disabilities, health impairments and emotional disturbances."

Rather than just looking at school or district data, the professors took into account various factors such as family income, differences in academic achievement, birth weight and more.

They hope that their new research will help reverse the notion that blacks should be deterred from special education for the benefit of minorities across the country. They also hope it will open eyes for parents and prompt them to spend more time educating and tutoring special needs children at home, as they say special education is frequently only modest help without parental support.

"The last thing we need is to compound these widespread disparities in disability diagnosis and treatment by making school officials reluctant to refer black children for special-education eligibility evaluations out of fear of being labeled racially biased," they said.

Read the full article here and comment below.

Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor


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