This book addresses the constellation of factors that have contributed to the misidentification of minority/culturally and linguistically diverse children as needing special education services. It also provides suggestions for improving the special education referral process.

Source URL: View this book on the Teacher’s College Press website

Summary: This book addresses the many issues regarding the inappropriate placement of minority students (culturally or linguistically diverse, CLD) into special education programs, such as inadequate evaluation procedures and a failure to consider all of the factors that cause students not to meet the academic expectations of the American public school system. The authors studied 12 schools in one school district over 4 years to analyze the problem of overrepresentation of minorities in special education programs at both the school and state policy levels. They conducted parent and school personnel interviews, observed classrooms, and became part of the Individualized Education Program (IEP) teams. They found that misidentification of CLD children and their subsequent overrepresentation in special education programs were caused by teacher and clinician biases, inappropriate statewide policies (such as using scores from standardized tests to diagnose language impairment), and the wrongful viewing of CLD children as having disorders by society at large.

Importance: In order to provide more appropriate services to CLD children, clinicians should take into account a variety of reasons why the child may be struggling academically or seeming to lag with respect to cognitive or linguistic development. The common view of children in special education as having an intrinsic disorder has not proven beneficial to most students. Children have been misidentified as learning disabled or language impaired and placed in special education classrooms due to low scores on state exams and/or standardized tests. These measures have been demonstrated to be invalid for children from diverse backgrounds, yet continue to be at the heart of many disability evaluations. These children would receive greater benefits from intensive general education, rather than from the less rigorous curriculum often provided by special education. In addition, the authors recommended that special education services be provided to children who need them, but without the “disability label.” They also recommended that eligibility criteria to qualify for services (i.e., the IQ discrepancy formula) be reconsidered. It is required by law that clinicians working with CLD children use appropriate, unbiased, valid, and reliable procedures whenever a child is being evaluated for special education and related services.

Harry, B., & Klingner, J. (2006). Why are so many minority students in special education? Understanding race and disability in schools. New York: Teachers College Press.