The overrepresentation of minority cultures in special education is the result of minority children being referred to special education who do not have a disability but rather a cultural barrier that hinders their learning.
One of the most pressing issues in special education today is the overrepresentation of minorities. Overrepresentation means that there is a higher percentage of a certain group in special education than that of the same group in regular education. This overrepresentation indicates that children from minorities are being placed in special education not due to a disability, but due to a cultural or language barrier.
. . . African American, Latino/a, and Native American students score less well on standardized tests. [Achievement] gaps persist in additional levels of achievement, such as grades and class rank. . . . In addition, African American students are more likely to be placed in special education classes and, once placed, are less likely to be mainstreamed or returned to regular classes (Davis, 96).
Minorities are at a greater risk for being referred to special education. In his article, Hoover discusses risk ratios of minorities being moved to special education. Risk ratios are numbers that show how likely it is that an event will occur. A risk ratio of above one means that one particular event is more likely to happen than the control event, or one that has a risk ratio of less than one. “. . . Hispanic, African American, and American Indian students have risk ratios of 1.1, 1.34, and 1.53, respectively, as compared to the risk ratio of .86 for nonminority students. . .” (Hoover, 40).
Children raised in poverty display behaviors that are sometimes mistaken for emotional and behavioral disorders. Children from poverty tend to act out, are impatient and impulsive, miss social cues, have little empathy for others, and display inappropriate emotional responses (Davis, 99). These behaviors can be interpreted in the wrong way and cause a child to be inappropriately referred to special education. Because there is such a close similarity to children with emotional and behavioral disorders, their socioeconomic status must be considered in the referral process. It must be determined whether the behaviors are caused by their background in poverty or a disorder.
English Language Learners, or ELLs, are often unnecessarily referred to special education because they have difficulty reading, writing, or speaking English and rather than recognizing it as difficulty learning a new language, the child’s teacher sees it as a learning disability. “Comparison of limited English proficient learners’ progress to that of students who are proficient in English may lead problem-solving teams down the path of believing that a disability exists when in fact a language difference is evident” (Hoover, 41). Part of the reason ELLs are referred to special education is that sometimes they have difficulty testing in English. To reduce the occurrence of...