African American students and other students of color in special education

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

12 Scopus citations


We find ourselves in a very sad education dilemma where many African American and other students of color still are being denied the promise of Brown. Although we no longer have “Jim Crow Laws” and White Only signs legally and visibly posted that prevent African American and other students of color from attending schools attended by their White peers, make no mistake about it-we still have unexplained educational disparities on the basis of race, social class, and perceived ability and segregated schools in 21st-century America. In many respects, today’s American public schools are remarkably different in terms of the student demographics from Jim Crow and court-ordered desegregation era schools, but yet they still bear some undeniable similarities in terms of equity and access. For example, in stark contrast to historic public school data trends, in 2010 White students constituted 50% or less of the public school enrollment in 12 states along with District of Columbia (Aud et al., 2012). Also, in 2010, African American students were the majority student populations in both the District of Columbia and the state of Mississippi (Aud et al., 2012). Similarly, Hispanic students were the majority student population in Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas. Across all states and territories, the District of Columbia boasted the highest percentage of African American students at 77% and New Mexico the highest percentage of Hispanics at 59% (Aud et al., 2012). During the 2009-2010 school year, English Language Learners (ELL) accounted for an average of 14% of the U.S. public school population. In our larger urban cities, ELL students constitute up to 18% of the student population (p. 30). Despite enrollment of students of color at an all-time high, the teaching force is still overwhelmingly White and female; and more important, the American educational system seems to lack the will and courage to appropriately educate these diverse students. Failure to design and deliver instruction that meets the educational needs of students of color in general education is directly related to the problem of disproportionate representation of students of color in special education. Research has shown that when students do not perform well academically, do not behave according to teachers’ cultural expectations, when teachers do not know what to do with students due to cultural mismatch, and if they are African American students, teachers are more likely to refer them for special education (Williams, 2008).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationHandbook of Urban Education
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9781136206016
ISBN (Print)9780415634762
StatePublished - Jan 1 2013
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences(all)


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