The majority of public schools in the United States continue to report achievement gaps that affect students from minority groups disproportionately. On the other hand, students from ethnic minority groups are overrepresented in special education. The principal concern is that the current instructional strategies do not account for the unique and diverse needs of the CLD students. As such, it is essential to identify feasible strategies that will either prevent or reduce the overrepresentation of students from minority populations in special education. This proposal has identified the provision of culturally and linguistically sensitive instruction as one of the viable solutions to this problem. The Culturally Relevant Pedagogy (CRP) is an educational model that supports the proposed strategy. CRP involves the identification of effective pedagogical approaches in teaching students from a diverse cultural and linguistic background. School administrators and educators should employ this method to prevent the inappropriate transfer of CLD students to special education programs.
Keywords: Overrepresentation, cultural and linguistic diversity, culturally relevant pedagogy, culturally and linguistically diverse students, special education
The Target Audience
The target audience for this proposal includes school administrators and teachers. On the one hand, the school administrators play a significant role in influencing policy changes. Thus, their input is essential to facilitate the implementation of the proposed solution. On the other hand, the educators will be critical to review the special education programs in their school for signs of overrepresentation.
The introduction of the special education programs was essential to provide free and appropriate public education to students with disabilities. The primary concern is that the majority of culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) students do not require special education (Ford, 2008). Blanchett (2009) has asserted that the percentage of students from minority groups is disproportionately higher in the special education program. Card and Rothstein (2007) have defined overrepresentation as the disproportionate composition of CLD students in special education when compared to the educational system. This unjustifiable population variance has remained a cause for considerable concern.
The inappropriate placement of CLD students in special education programs has adverse effects on educational performance and outcomes (Ansalone, 2010). First, the affected individuals miss a crucial component of the core curriculum when they are transferred to the special education programs (Anderson & Larson, 2009). The point of contention is that special education services offer instruction that is both quantitatively and qualitatively different from that received in the general classroom (Skiba et al., 2011). Secondly, Ford (2008) has noted that this action reproduces discrimination in the public school system based on ethnicity, race, language, and culture (Anderson & Larson, 2009).
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) has provided clear guidelines to federal, state, and local educational agencies (Skiba et al., 2011). Ansalone (2010) has argued that these initiatives do not focus on capacity development and academic excellence. By contrast, they emphasize the management of learning disabilities, as well as behavioral and emotional limitations (Blanchett, 2009). The isolation of students in restrictive settings causes stigma retards academic achievement, and limits access to critical services (Card & Rothstein, 2007). As such, it is imperative to develop and implement strategies that will prevent overrepresentation.
The preceding discussions have identified the overrepresentation of CLD students in special education programs as a critical concern. This proposal recognizes the scope of this problem and the need to formulate remedial measures. The proposed program will entail the provision of culturally and linguistically sensitive education in the mainstream classroom. Ford (2008) has asserted that schools often inappropriately label or misclassify students from ethnic minority groups as having limited learning skills and competencies. On the contrary, instructional programs in public schools use a curriculum that is insensitive to the unique and diverse needs of this population (Brown-Jeffy & Cooper, 2011).
The combination of the aspects identified above has exacerbated the current achievement gaps in public schools. The introduction of “colorblind” education reform policies aimed at addressing race-based inequality in the public school system (Irvine, 2010). These policies have failed to realize their intended goals since the problem persists (Ansalone, 2010). The composition of teachers (predominantly white) and teaching techniques in the U.S public schools has remained unchanged despite the demographic shift. Thus, culturally and linguistically relevant instruction will be essential to meet the diverse needs of these students. This approach supports the development of teaching plans and methodologies that are sensitive to the students’ backgrounds, experiences, and knowledge (Archinstein & Ogawa, 2012).
The type and composition of instruction has a direct bearing on the students’ academic achievement. The students who receive instructional programs that are not commensurate with their competencies or skills record low academic achievement than those who do not (Skiba et al., 2011). According to Irvine (2010), students from minority populations require culturally and linguistically appropriate education whether they have learning disabilities or not. In essence, the instructional techniques should take into account the students’ unique skills and abilities to enhance their educational performance (Archinstein & Ogawa, 2012).
The composition of students with and without disabilities exemplifies the linguistic and cultural diversity in the wider society. These demographic changes present unique challenges for administrators and educators, particularly in the areas of instruction, assessment, and instruction (Irvine, 2010). The principal issue is that the majority of public schools are still using standardized techniques to teach and evaluate students. The educational programs designed exclusively for white and English-speaking students do not benefit those from minority populations (Card & Rothstein, 2007). The proposed solution will mandate the teachers to consider the differences in language or culture when selecting instructional strategies or administering and interpreting assessment scores.
The mismatch between the home and school environment is one of the factors that are contributing to poor performance among CLD students (Anderson & Larson, 2009). Parents from the minority communities and teachers share different values and practices (Blanchett, 2009). Achinstein and Ogawa (2012) have noted that parents from diverse cultures conceptualize academic achievement and performance differently than the teachers do. Thus, the educators should allow the parents of CLD students to assume a central role in decision-making processes regarding their children. The parent-teacher relationship is essential to identify and meet the special needs of CLD students (Skiba et al., 2011).
The Best Practice Model
The proposed solution entails the introduction of culturally and linguistically sensitive instruction and assessment. The Culturally Relevant Pedagogy (CRP) is an educational model that will support the implementation of this intervention. Gloria Ladson-Billings (1995) used this term to describe “a pedagogy that empowers students intellectually, socially, emotionally, and politically by using cultural referents to impart knowledge, skills, and attitudes” (p. 17). CRP involves the identification of effective pedagogical approaches in teaching students from a diverse cultural and linguistic background.
The rationale for selecting this model is that it supports the delivery of culturally and linguistically sensitive instruction (Brown-Jeffy & Cooper, 2011). According to Irvine (2010), CRP bridges the gap between students’ school and home lives while meeting curricular requirements simultaneously. This approach will facilitate the formulation of appropriate teaching and assessment techniques to meet the unique needs of CLD students. For instance, schools across the country are now hiring teachers from diverse cultures based on the recommendations of the CPR (Achinstein & Ogawa, 2012).
Objectives of the Proposal
The elemental purpose of this proposal is to present a strategy that will prevent and reduce the overrepresentation of students from the African-American community in special education. The realization of this goal will entail meeting the following objectives:
- To examine how the provision of culturally and linguistically relevant education can prevent the overrepresentation of African-American students in special education
- To provide an overview of overrepresentation of CLD students in special education programs, including the causes and effects
- To identify the best practice model that can assist school administrators and educators to incorporate culturally and linguistically sensitive practices into the education system
The contemporary society continues to experience a demographic shift in terms of cultural and linguistic diversities. The composition of students in most schools also reflects this phenomenon. Public schools in the U.S continue to report a significant rise in the number of students from ethnic and racial minority groups. On the other hand, culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) students perform poorly compared to those from the white community. The achievement gaps in the U.S public schools have also highlighted the overrepresentation of CLD students in special education programs. Nonetheless, the linguistic and cultural differences portrayed by students from minority groups do not constitute a disability.
The principal concern is that the learning environment inherent in special education lacks academic rigor, in addition to exacerbating discrimination and disparities. As such, it is imperative to develop feasible strategies that will prevent or reduce the recurrence of this problem. This proposal has identified the need to introduce a culturally and linguistically sensitive education to the CLD students. The objective of this strategy is to meet the unique needs of this population. The Culturally Relevant Pedagogy (CRP) is an educational model that supports the development of teaching strategies and techniques for CLD students. This proposal will enable school administrators and educators to address this problem adequately.
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