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Initiative To Address High Number Of Blacks In Special Education


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African-American children are traditionally overrepresented in special education. Now, one group is poised to do something about it.

The National Association for the Education of African American Children with Learning Disabilities is teaming up with federal education officials to train parents across the country to effectively advocate for kids. The goal, they say, is to ensure that students are labeled appropriately by their school districts and receive the services they need.

Statistics show that African-American children account for about 16.6 percent of students enrolled in the nation’s public schools. But they represent 31 percent of students identified as having intellectual disability and 28 percent of those with emotional disturbance, the association found.

The initiative will include a partnership with the U.S. Department of Education’s parent training centers and other groups to help disseminate information specifically to assist parents of African-American children. Those behind the effort say they expect to train 20 master teachers who will then reach 900 parent leaders through in-person trainings and another 240 through online sessions.

“This project will start a movement of parents that are not solely dependent upon the school system for their children’s success but will allow them to discover how to work with schools in order to achieve academic success based on learning style,” said Nancy Tidwell, president of the National Association for the Education of African American Children with Learning Disabilities.

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Comments (5 Responses)

  1. Helen Robinson says:

    This may sound great BUT…regardless of a student’s background, race, ethnicity…public schools do/will not teach to a student’s learning style. When a student doesn’t get something, they get promoted regardless & their parents are are given advice on what they should be doing. I’ve never heard a school official or teacher tell a parent that their kid should not be promoted or that they have not mastered what they need to, to now expect to be successful in a subsequent year. Later on, when the kids are older, they may get shoved into special ed* or the student &/or their parents are blamed for them being behind. *If/when a child qualifies under the IDEA, then it really gets fun because if they don’t progress, the labels tend to change from SLD, SLI, OHI, AUT…whatever to ID (what was MR) & in some cases ED. These lucky students get reclassified in the hopeless columns (because…come on, you can’t expect much if a kid has intellectual disabilities or is emotionally disturbed!
    Wasn’t RTI – Response to Intervention supposed to help with this (to help keep kids out of SpED by giving them intervention services early?) Sorry, it hasn’t because most school district’s don’t understand what this is (how RTI models are supposed to be data driven – they may get the data but they do NOT know how to use it, to appropriately adjust instruction.)
    Can’t we PLEASE just acknowledge that our current public school system is broken & beyond repair and move forward? I’m really tired of hearing the rhetoric (some of the terms / program labels may change but it’s STILL the same old story…we need to spend / waste / MORE money and we need to better prepare our teachers.
    Since education is (should be) a shared responsibility, how about giving parents and students a CHOICE? The money should follow the child (& no, that doesn’t necessarily mean funding should go to private institutions either – how about making ALL school, including the public ones compete for students?)

  2. DoRightAtWork says:

    As an African American School Psychologist practicing for over 15 years in the Public School Districts of Los Angeles, I can say: There are far too few African American School Psychologists and the two main reasons are that we are discriminated against before we even start to work by being discouraged at the University level from even pursuing the discipline; and, once we start work, we are forced out very soon after by superiors who simply harass, bully, and scrutinize or micro manage unlike the treatment of our peers who are not African American.

    One only has to look at the statistics at any School District in Southern California and you will see for yourself. Look also at the number of students in school psychology programs. Currently, in the Los Angeles County Office of Education, due to a recent reduction in force the lowest represented ethnic group had the highest percentage of hits in terms of terminations.

    Until there are more African American School Psychologists practicing these numbers will not change. There needs to be a serious look at the discriminatory practices in Special Ed.Programs, Directors, Coordinators, Principals. When complaints are made which is seldom due to fear of retaliation, the complaints are handled internally which means HR and that translates into friends of those who are discriminating.
    There have been numerous studies done by Curtis on the embarrassing numbers of AfricanAmerican School Psychologists in the field. In the US this is still an area of great consternation but a topic whose prognosis is at the moment quite dim, will still that way or worsen if we who KNOW do Nothing!

  3. bettepage says:

    1. Elementary school: read to your children, don’t stick them in front of the TV.
    2. Middle School: make your children do their homeowrk, don’t let them play their xbox all night.
    3. High School: make them read books instead of tv one night a week.

    The first two will keep them from falling behind and being identified as remdial.

  4. annie says:

    There is also a disproportionate ratio of native american children labeled as have learning disabilities. There are some who think that could be because the tests, schools, and curriculum currently being used do not recognize social and cultural differences and how they impact learning or testing styles. I think differences of learning style are being mislabeled as disabilities when children don’t fit int the basic curriculum methods, and fall behind as a result over the long term. I think schools could also bare to receive more behavioral support training for staff now that ADHD and other developmental disabilities are so prevalent so that they can support learning in busy kids.

  5. Deon Edwards says:

    I appreciate both comments. I’m an African American speech-language pathologist who has experience some of the same issues as described by the psychologist. Currently, I’m 1 of 40 SLPs in a district that is mainly made up of mainstream English speakers. I am amazed at the push back that I have received from teachers when I question other supports that can be provided in the classroom; at times I’m down right attacked verbally. Until we become more flexible in our teaching styles, this will never change and administration has a lot to do with this.

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