Preventing Disproportionality in Special Education With Culturally-Responsive Teacher Preparation

Preventing Disproportionality in Special Education With Culturally-Responsive Teacher Preparation

Alpana Bhattacharya (Queens College and Graduate Center, CUNY, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-7630-4.ch002
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Abstract

Disproportionality in special education is an ongoing concern in the United States. Often a mismatch between the cultural values and expectations of teachers and students places culturally diverse students at risk for special education. Such disproportionate placement then adversely affects academic achievement of culturally diverse students. This chapter describes pedagogical approaches for promoting cultural responsiveness of preservice teachers with regards to disproportionality in special education. First, differences across culturally diverse groups and interactions between environmental factors are reviewed. Thereafter, pedagogical approaches for advancing preservice teachers' cultural responsiveness are described. Next, risk factors related to culturally diverse students' disproportionate placement in special education are pinpointed, and instructional approaches for addressing disproportionality in special education are explained. Finally, recommendations and future research directions for addressing disproportionality in special education are highlighted.
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Introduction

Ethnic disproportionality in special education has prevailed in the United States for decades (Ford & Russo, 2016). Disproportionality, an unequal proportion of culturally diverse students in special education (Waitoller et al., 2010), manifests in the form of over-representation and under-representation of culturally diverse students in special education. According to Zhang et al. (2014), disproportionality is “the proportion of minority groups served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to the proportion with which the particular group is represented in the overall population of school-age students” (p. 118). Although disproportionality may not inherently be a problem, particularly if it provides access to adequate educational services based on appropriate identification of a disability, misidentification and resultant ineffective special education services are key contributors toward disparate educational experiences and outcomes of culturally diverse students (Sullivan & Proctor, 2016).

Given the ongoing disproportionate placement of culturally diverse students in special education, Griner and Stewart (2012) are of the position that, “Teachers and schools that are armed with the tools to enact a culturally responsive pedagogy are capable of effectively addressing the achievement gap and disproportionate representation of racially, culturally, ethnically, linguistically diverse students in special education programs” (p. 603). Furthermore, Villegas (2012) suggests that educators adopt a culturally responsive teaching framework which uses students’ cultural experiences as a bridge to learning thereby treating cultural differences as strengths to build on and empower students from minority groups. This then requires that teacher education programs prepare preservice teachers for cultural responsiveness and develop their expertise to differentiate between student behaviors that are reflective of cultural practices on one hand and disabilities on the other (Jonak, 2013).

This chapter describes pedagogical approaches for promoting cultural responsiveness amongst preservice teachers in relation to disproportionality in special education. First, differences across culturally diverse groups and interactions between sociocultural environments are reviewed. Thereafter, pedagogical approaches for advancing preservice teachers’ cultural responsiveness are described. Next, risk factors related to culturally diverse students’ disproportionate placement in special education are pinpointed, and instructional approaches for addressing disproportionality in special education are explained. Finally, recommendations and future research directions for addressing disproportionality in special education are highlighted.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Teacher Dispositions: Teacher beliefs, values, and attitudes about students from diverse ethnic and language backgrounds.

Multicultural Education: Teaching methods, materials, and assignments incorporating cultural values, customs, beliefs, and traditions of students from different ethnicity and linguistic groups.

Evidence-Based Instruction: Instructional methods, strategies, and programs supported by results from empirical studies.

Preservice Teachers: College students being prepared to teach P-12 grade students as a part of their undergraduate teacher education program.

Culturally Diverse Students: Ethnic and language minority students in the United States.

Culturally Responsive Pedagogy: Teaching approach for promoting academic learning of students from different ethnic, language, socioeconomic, and disability backgrounds.

Disproportional Representation: Inconsistent placement of students in special education based on ethnic, socioeconomic, and linguistics attributes.

Differentiated Instruction: Pedagogical methods, materials, and assessments customized for educating students from different ethnic, language, socioeconomic, and disability backgrounds.

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