Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

A critical race theory analysis of the disproportionate representation of Blacks and males participating in Florida's special education programs
by Allen, Anthony G., Ph.D., Florida Atlantic University, 2010, 211; 3438342
Abstract (Summary)

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 1975 has made a profound impact on millions of children with disabilities who now enjoy their right to a free appropriate public education (FAPE). It is the goal of national policy, endorsed by Congress, to ensure equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for individuals with disabilities. With the enactment of IDEA, it ensures that all children, who participate in special education programs, have equal access to education.

However, since IDEA's inception, a disproportionate number of African Americans children have been placed, or rather, misplaced in special education programs. African American students are three times more likely than Whites to be placed into categories as needing services in special education programs, making them subject to less demanding schoolwork, to more restrictive classrooms, and to isolation from their peers.

For the purpose of this study, the goals were (a) to determine if there is disproportional representation of Black students and male students in the three categories of Educable Mentally Handicapped, Emotionally Handicapped, and Specific Learning Disabled and (b) to address whether the factors school districts’ socioeconomic status, minority rate, and racial composition of instructional and administrative staff predict the representation of Black students and male students who participate in special education programs.

A quantitative method, including the three disproportionality calculation methods of Composition Index (CI), Risk Index (RI), and Odds Ratio (OR), was employed to respond to the six research questions and test six corresponding null hypotheses. Sixty-seven school districts in the State of Florida were identified for data collection and analysis. The enrollment data for the calculations covered AY 2005- 2009. Critical Race Theory (CRT) served as the lens through which to analyze the findings and to discuss the implications therein.

It is clear that the problem of disproportionate representation is complex and the resolution to the problem is not an easy one. This study found that there was a relationship between the representation of Black students and male students in special education programs and the predictor variables. Statistical analyses revealed that socioeconomic status of the school district, minority rate, and racial composition of instructional and administrative staff predicted the disproportional representation.

Critical Race Theory, which served as a methodological framework was employed to help in examining and challenging the manner in which race and racism clearly impacts practices and procedures in the special education referral process. CRT utilized the social construction of race and the role it plays in the education policies that affect minorities. As with any intellectual movement, CRT builds its scholarship upon certain theoretical pillars. The basic tenets of CRT include ordinariness, interest convergence, social construction, differential racialization, and legal story telling. For the purpose of this research, only the tenets of ordinariness, interest convergence, social construction, and differential racialization were examined in the context of disproportionate representation of black students and male students in special education.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Sughrue, Jennifer
School: Florida Atlantic University
School Location: United States -- Florida
Source: DAI-A 72/02, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: African American Studies, Black studies, Educational leadership, Special education
Keywords: Black males, Boys, Critical race theory, Disproportionality, Florida, Special education
Publication Number: 3438342
ISBN: 978-1-124-40948-1
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