Poverty is an underlying condition for many students with disabilities. For example, mild mental retardation is consistently reported to be associated with low socioeconomic status, and race is highly correlated with socioeconomic status (Broman et al.; Drillien et al.; Stein & Susser; Lewis; Birch et al.; Kuschlick & Blunden; Kiely; Bayley; Munro as cited in Yeargin-Allsopp et al., 1995). A recent study (Yeargin-Allsopp et al., 1995) suggests that socioeconomic status is related to the prevalence of mild mental retardation and may account for some of the disproportionate representation of African American children in that category. The disproportionate representation of African American children in the mild mental retardation category was reduced by nearly half after controlling for sex, maternal age at delivery, birth order, maternal education, and economic status. The researchers suggest that the remaining disparity might be reduced further if other confounding factors, such as maternal intelligence and housing density, were controlled. The researchers cite previous studies demonstrating that less advantaged African American children who receive early, structured, and intensive social, medical, and educational interventions score higher, on average, on tests of cognitive ability than African American children from similar backgrounds who have not received these interventions (Wasik et al.; Martin et al.; Zigler et al.; Weikart et al. as cited in Yeargin-Allsopp, 1995).
This section describes factors associated with providing special education services in inner-city districts. First, it examines factors related to identification and assessment. Second, it describes services for students with disabilities in urban areas (including placing students in the least restrictive environment, recruiting and retaining personnel, and maintaining parent involvement) and compares them with services for students in suburban and rural areas.
In practice, lower parent education levels in inner-city areas have specific implications for special education, because a mother's education level is a significant predictor of a child's age at the time special education needs are identified. Children with mothers who have completed college are identified as needing special education two years earlier on average than comparable children whose mothers only completed eighth grade (Palfrey et al., 1987). A study by Peng (1992) suggests that parent education levels are generally lower in the inner city, where 22 percent of parents have not graduated from high school, compared to 8 percent in other urban areas.
Factors Affecting Identification and Assessment of Racial and Ethnic Minorities
Despite efforts to ensure objective assessment of student abilities and disabilities, disproportionate representation of minorities in special education continues. At the center of concern over the disproportionate representation of minority students in special education is the role of intelligence tests in identifying students with disabilities. Those who are critical of using IQ tests for this purpose argue that IQ tests are culturally loaded (Cummins, 1984), reflect a stylistic mismatch between students and schools (Hilliard, 1992), are standardized on a sample of American students that does not sufficiently represent minority students and what they know (Kaufman, 1975), and do not inform teaching and learning (Hilliard, 1987). Those defending the use of IQ tests for identifying students with disabilities agree that while they may not measure the learning potential of minority students, they may accurately predict the academic performance of students in a mainstream setting, and consequently have predictive validity (Jenson; Mercer as cited in Hamayan & Damico, 1991).
IQ tests were originally designed to predict school performance (Binet as cited in Cummins, 1984) and continue to carry out this function fairly well (Clarizio as cited in Cummins, 1984). The premise of the IQ test is that previous learning of academically-related knowledge and skills is a good predictor of future learning. Intelligence tests attempt to sample from the range of what is assumed to be academically relevant knowledge and skills to which children have generally been exposed.
Because learning takes place within a cultural context, some researchers consider intelligence tests to be culturally loaded (Kaufman as cited in Cummins, 1984). The extent of this cultural loading will tend to vary among different minority groups. This variation depends on the extent to which the socialization and learning experiences of the minority groups differ from the majority's, and the degree of emphasis placed on acculturation to the mainstream majority within different minority groups (Cummins, 1984).
When cultural groups differ with respect to behavioral style, the misunderstanding of cultural behavioral style can lead to errors in estimating a student's (or group's) intellectual potential, abilities, or achievement (Hilliard, 1992). Hilliard describes the situation as a stylistic mismatch between students and schools. The stylistic mismatch is viewed in terms of student deficiency, when perhaps it is the schools that ought to change. Hilliard finds that what in some cases may appear to be deficient functions are merely alternative styles of processing information which have value in certain settings. Hilliard also argues that the IQ test does not provide sufficient information to inform teaching and learning, and suggests other methods and techniques that might be used to assess students (Hilliard, 1987).
Some educators argue that IQ tests cannot assess the intelligence of minority students because standardization of IQ tests is based on a representative sample of American students. IQ tests, therefore, measure only those skills and knowledge that are regarded as indicators of intelligence in the majority culture. Any of the skills and knowledge that minority children learn that are specific to their culture will not be tested. In other words, for minority children, the IQ test as a measure of previous learning has no construct validity (Kaufman, 1975) because the children's previous learning experiences have not been adequately tested by the instrument (Cummins, 1984).
However, other educators argue that although intelligence tests may not measure the learning potential of minority students, they may accurately predict the academic performance of students in a mainstream environment and therefore have predictive validity (Jenson; Mercer as cited in Hamayan & Damico,1991). Several studies have shown that the WISC-R scores for Hispanic students are acceptable predictors of ITBS and CAT scores. Those studies did not address the influence of English language proficiency on test reliability and validity (Dean; Oakland as cited in Hamayan & Damico, 1991). The predictive validity concept is further discounted by Travers (in Harry, 1994), who argues that to justify the use of IQ tests because they have predictive value is to assume that the prediction about a child's future performance is a valid reason for removing the child from the mainstream. This clearly conflicts with the IDEA requirement that no single procedure be used as the sole criterion for determining an appropriate educational program for a child.
Critics of intelligence testing and those concerned with disproportionate representation of minorities in special education have argued that multiple criteria should be used to assess students with mild mental retardation, with particular emphasis on assessing adaptive behavior. IDEA defines mental retardation as:
Significantly subaverage general intellectual functioning existing concurrently with deficits in adaptive behavior and manifested during the developmental period, which adversely affects a child's educational performance [CFR §300.5(4)].
Educators who advocate using adaptive behavior as part of the assessment process suggest doing so in four or five key dimensions, including independent functioning, social functioning, functional cognitive skills, vocational/occupational skills, and motor/mobility/travel skills (McGrew & Bruininks; Reschly as cited in Reschly & Ward, 1991).
Controversy over the relative weights awarded to intellectual functioning and adaptive behavior during the assessment process continues. Recent research suggests that IQ continues to be emphasized more than adaptive behavior when students are assessed. Zeigler et al. (as cited in Reschly & Ward, 1991) suggest abandoning adaptive behavior measures because they are poorly conceptualized and psychometrically inadequate. Others have suggested that classification for educational purposes should be based entirely on adaptive behavior and achievement (Reschly as cited in Reschly & Ward, 1991).
Factors Affecting Identification and Assessment of Limited English Proficient Students
Many of the same factors that affect identification and assessment of minority students for special education affect limited English proficient students. Current research suggests it is very difficult to distinguish between the effect of a disability on a student's achievement and that student's failure to understand the majority language and culture. This difficulty is a serious impediment to accurately assessing the student's disability. Teachers unfamiliar with the effect of language development on student achievement may refer students for special education assessment (Cegelka et al., 1986). Behaviors children normally exhibit while learning a second language--poor comprehension, limited vocabulary, or grammatical errors--may be erroneously interpreted as symptomatic of a learning disability or other disability.
Further complicating the assessment process is the fact that young students rapidly learn the social language of English, but not the academic language of English used in classrooms and on assessments. Therefore, students may appear proficient in English because of their ability to function in social situations when, in fact, they have not developed the language skills necessary for academic success. Typically, among children learning a second language, social language is developed in about 3 years, and school language in about 5 to 7 years (interview with Baca, 1988). Special education assessment personnel must understand the second language acquisition process in order to consider the effects of language on student behavior and learning.
Because language skills can have such a profound effect on assessment results, IDEA requires that "Such materials [tests] or procedures shall be provided and administered in the child's native language...unless it is clearly not feasible to do so..." (Sec. 612 (5) (c)). However, data show that testing of limited English proficient students is still performed primarily in English (Figueroa; Ortiz; Reuda, Figueroa, Mercado, & Cardoza as cited in Figueroa, 1989).
Efforts to make assessments more functional for limited English proficient students can take several forms: (1) translating psychometric tests into the student's primary language; (2) using an interpreter during assessment; (3) using norm-referenced tests developed in the student's primary language; (4) using a bilingual psychologist (Figueroa, 1989); and (5) using nonverbal intelligence tests. These approaches also have their shortcomings. Some researchers stress the importance of using multiple criteria, as required by IDEA, when assessing limited English proficient students for special education, because any one assessment tool will be inadequate.6
Providing Services in the Least Restrictive Environment
IDEA legislation and regulations require that to the maximum extent appropriate students with disabilities must be educated with their nondisabled peers. However, data from OCR suggest that students with disabilities living in inner cities are more likely to be placed in restrictive learning environments. As shown in table 4.4, in inner cities, 41.3 percent of students with disabilities are enrolled in full-time programs that remove students from regular classes for 50 percent or more of the school day, compared to 23.4 percent in non-inner-city areas.
Inner-City Non-inner-city Disability Part-Time Full-Time Part-Time Full-Time ========== ========= ========= ========= ========= Specific learning disabilities 64.3% 36.4% 81.2% 19.0% Speech or language impairments 86.2 13.8 93.9 6.2 Mental retardation 19.9 81.5 39.0 60.9 Serious emotional disturbance 33.0 67.7 57.9 42.1 Multiple impairments 40.0 60.0 32.9 67.2 Hearing impairments 48.2 51.8 71.5 28.5 Orthopedic impairments 43.2 57.1 66.1 33.9 Other health impairments 66.3 33.7 73.4 26.6 Visual impairments 57.4 42.5 81.0 19.0 Autism 18.1 82.0 25.9 74.2 Deaf-blindness 27.6 72.4 49.5 50.5 Traumatic brain injury 40.7 58.9 58.1 42.1 --------------------------------------------------------------------- All disabilities 58.7% 41.3% 76.6% 23.4%SOURCE: The 1992 Office for Civil Rights Elementary and Secondary School Survey and the 1992 Common Core of Data Public School Universe File.
NLTS data confirm that urban secondary students with disabilities spend less time in regular education classrooms than students living in nonurban areas. The average percentage of time spent in regular education classes was 41 percent for urban students with disabilities, compared to 56 percent for suburban students, and 59 percent for rural students. A higher percentage of urban students with disabilities are also placed in separate special education schools and classes. In urban areas, 11 percent of students with disabilities attend special schools, compared to 8 percent in suburban and 3 percent in rural areas. Of urban students with disabilities, 16 percent attend regular schools but not regular education classes, compared to 8 percent of suburban and 11 percent of rural students.
Services for Students with Disabilities in Urban Schools
Data from the NLTS describe the range of services provided to secondary school-age students with disabilities in urban and nonurban schools. NLTS data indicate that students with disabilities in urban secondary schools spend an average of 57 percent of class time on academic subjects, such as English/language arts, mathematics, science, social science, and foreign language. This is slightly higher than the percentage for students with disabilities in rural or suburban schools (52 and 51 percent respectively). Table 4.5 shows that the percentage of students enrolled in each academic course is slightly higher in urban than in nonurban schools, implying a somewhat greater emphasis on academics for students with disabilities in urban schools compared to suburban and rural schools.
Academic Courses Taken Urban Rural Suburban ====================== ===== ===== ======== Percentage taking English/ 93.3% 90.6% 89.6% language arts classes (1.6) (1.5) (1.7) Percentage taking mathematics classes 78.2 72.2 74.1 (2.6) (2.3) (2.4) Percentage taking science classes 55.8 55.0 54.3 (3.2) (2.6) (2.7) Percentage taking other academic classes 76.1 70.2 69.5 (2.7) (2.4) (2.5) Percentage taking nonacademic classes 84.0 86.1 88.7 (2.3) (1.8) (1.7) Percentage taking non-subject-specific 9.8 8.1 10.3 special education classes (1.9) (1.4) (1.7)Standard errors are in parentheses.
NOTE: Academic courses include English/language arts, mathematics, science, social science, and a foreign language. Other courses are considered nonacademic. Data is for students ages 13-21.
SOURCE: National Longitudinal Transition Study, SRI International.
As shown in table 4.6, students with disabilities in secondary schools receive a variety of special education and related services in order to meet educational needs stemming from a disability. While urban students with disabilities are more likely to receive job training than any other service (50.6 percent), they are less likely to receive job training than students living in other areas. However, urban secondary school students with disabilities are more likely to receive personal counseling or transportation assistance than their peers living in suburban and rural areas.
Services Received Urban Rural Suburban ================= ===== ===== ======== Job training 50.6% 53.5% 61.3% (2.9) (2.6) (2.6) Occupational therapy/life skills 25.1 28.3 27.9 training (2.5) (2.3) (2.4) Speech/language therapy 21.2 17.5 20.3 (2.4) (2.0) (2.1) Personal counseling/therapy 23.1 14.6 14.8 (2.5) (1.8) (1.9) A tutor, reader, or interpreter 17.1 14.1 15.1 (2.2) (1.8) (1.9) Help with transportation because 13.5 7.8 11.2 of disability (2.0) (1.4) (1.7) Physical therapy/mobility training 6.3 6.5 3.5 (1.4) (1.3) (1.0)Standard errors are in parentheses.
NOTE: Data is for students ages 13-21.
SOURCE: National Longitudinal Transition Study, SRI International.
Recruiting and Retaining Qualified Personnel
Recruiting and retaining qualified teachers and related service providers is critical to meeting students' educational needs. Although special education teachers are in short supply in many places, the shortages are particularly severe in inner-city areas. Thirty-eight percent of all public schools had teaching vacancies in special education in 1990-91, ranging from 35 percent in rural communities to 42 percent in inner cities. Public school administrators said that vacancies in special education were among the most difficult to fill, with 26 percent of schools finding them very difficult or impossible to fill. Furthermore, administrators in schools with populations composed of 20 percent or more minority students, which are likely to be urban, were more likely than those in public schools with smaller minority enrollments to find it very difficult or impossible to fill their vacancies (NCES, 1993). In general, inner-city schools seem to have greater difficulty recruiting teachers than schools in other areas.
Schools have also failed to attract a sufficiently diverse workforce. Several authors recommend that schools increase the number of minority teachers they employ (Ornstein & Levine, 1989; Boyer, 1988). Several studies cite a mismatch between the racial composition of the current teaching force, which is predominately white (86 percent) and female (68 percent), and the current school population, which is 29 percent nonwhite (Grant & Secada, 1990). Over the past 20 years, the proportion of African American college graduates entering teaching has declined to a level lower than that of whites. High turnover in urban districts, where many of the older, more experienced African American teachers are concentrated, will necessitate hiring from a pool of new teachers that is increasingly white (Murnane et al., 1991).
The National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE) surveyed special education directors in eight States regarding special education in urban areas (Ahearn, 1995). The directors identified personnel issues such as recruitment, retention, and staff development as their most critical concerns in urban special education. When asked for a single recommendation for improving special education in urban areas, directors recommended enhanced teacher preparation, inservice programs, and mandated staff development. Another NASDSE study examined the issues behind teacher job satisfaction in urban schools. The report highlighted the need for improved communication and exchange of information between administrators and teachers, and increased opportunities for teacher decision making and collaboration (NASDSE, 1995).
Maintaining Active Parent Involvement
Parental involvement in the education of their children improves the well-being of families, enhances parenting skills, and improves educational results for children. As such, IDEA requires parental participation in identification and assessment processes. Parents must be provided with information, to ensure that they understand the special education placement proceedings and decisions. While all parents of children with disabilities may face some barriers to parental involvement, inner-city parents of children with disabilities may face obstacles to involvement in their child's education due to limited English proficiency, cultural factors, or the effects of poverty. For example, many parents of limited English proficient students do not speak English fluently and may not understand technical terms used during special educational assessments and individualized education plan (IEP) meetings. Some parents have feelings of inadequacy when speaking to special education or school personnel, partly due to their inability to speak English (Santos & Santos, 1984).
IDEA requires that local educational agencies (LEAs) provide written prior notice in the parent's native language in matters related to identification, evaluation, and placement of students with disabilities. In addition, an interpreter must be provided at all meetings if the parents cannot communicate in English. Parental consent forms must describe evaluations, tests, records, or other reports used to make educational decisions.
Ortiz and Yates (1983) suggest that lack of parental involvement may occur not because of a lack of interest on the part of parents, but due to conflicting values or limited opportunities for participation. For example, parents with lower socioeconomic status may have priorities that take precedence over their child's education, such as providing adequate housing, nutrition, and health care. While parents may wish to participate in IEP meetings, school conferences, and so forth, work schedules or difficulties with child care or transportation may make such participation difficult (Ortiz & Yates, 1983).
Parents' involvement in education, familiarity with normal child development, and perceptions of disability may affect the rate at which parents report childhood disability or pursue special education services, and complicate attempts to understand the relationships among race/ethnicity, income, and disability. Furthermore, while there are several sources of data available for analyzing these relationships, they do not provide altogether consistent results. In part, this may be attributed to differences in the ages of children and youth targeted by the two sources described here, 1) the Current Population Survey (CPS),7 which includes families of children ages 5 through 17, and 2) the National Household Education Survey (NHES),8 which includes families of children age 3 through grade 2. Differences in the wording of interview questions may also account for conflicting results.
Ficke (1995) analyzed the CPS data by income and race/ethnicity as shown in figure 4.1. The data indicate that 5.6 percent of white parents reported that their children had a disability, compared to 4.6 percent of African American families and 2.7 percent of Hispanic families. Reports of disability diminish as income increases, and rates by race/ethnicity become more similar in the higher income ranges. For families with annual incomes less than $10,000, white and African American families reported similar rates of disability (8.7 and 8.3 percent, respectively), while Hispanic families reported far lower disability rates (3.3 percent). For families with annual incomes from $10,000 to $25,000, 6.7 percent of white families reported that their children had a disability compared to 3.5 percent of African American families and 2.1 percent of Hispanic families. At the $25,000 to $40,000 income level, white families reported disability rates of 5.2 percent, while African American and Hispanic families reported rates of 2.1 and 2.2 percent, respectively. For families with incomes of more than $40,000, reports of disability are more similar: 4.9 percent for whites, 3.4 percent for African Americans, and 3.8 percent for Hispanics.
Ficke (1995) also analyzed NHES data by race/ethnicity and income level. As shown in figure 4.2, overall, white and African American parents reported prevalence rates of 12.4 and 12.1 percent, respectively, while Hispanics reported a prevalence rate of 14.4 percent. When the data are analyzed by income, they show, as did the CPS data, that prevalence rates decrease as the income level increases, and differences by race/ethnicity also diminish as income increases. Compared to the CPS data, the NHES reports relatively higher rates of disability among Hispanic families.
Table 4.7 shows parent reports of disability from the CPS by disability category. When the CPS data are analyzed by disability, they suggest that differences in parent reports of disability prevalence apply not only to so-called judgmental categories, such as learning disability, mental retardation, and emotional disturbance, but also to so-called objective categories, such as hearing impairments, visual impairments, and other health impairments. Data from the NHES confirm this finding (Ficke, 1995).
In working to enhance parental involvement in special education, educators must be sensitive to what may be different perspectives on disability within racial/ethnic groups and income groups. Given the importance of early identification of disabilities and parental involvement in their children's education, it is crucial to inform parents about normal child development, disability, and their role in the education of their children.
|White Non-Hispanic||Black Non-Hispanic||Hispanica/||Other||Total|
|Number||Percent Distribution||Number||Percent Distribution||Number||Percent Distribution||Number||Percent Distribution||Number||Percent Distribution|
|Current Population Survey: Ages 5 to 17|
|Serious emotional disturbance||912,231||2.8||185,312||2.5||61,615||1.2||27,387||1.4||1,186,074||2.5|
|Other hearing impairment||130,082||0.4||34,867||0.5||12,934||0.2||3,117||0.2||180,529||0.4|
|Other visual impairment||87,743||0.3||26,302||0.4||7,376||0.1||157||0.0||121,107||0.3|
|Other health impairment||343,199||1.1||55,886||0.8||37,142||0.7||15,143||0.7||450,899||1.0|
a/ Hispanics can be of any race.
SOURCE: Current Population Survey, 1992 Supplement on School Enrollment.
7 The October supplement of the CPS is a nationally representative survey U.S. households in which parents are asked whether the children in the family ages 5 to 17 ever had a physical, mental, or other health condition that adversely affected their ability to learn. These data are based on parental reports of disability and, consequently, do not necessarily correspond with special education services under State and Federal criteria.
8 The NHES uses an interview technique similar to that of the CPS to collect information from U.S. families on the status of their children age 3 through grade 2. Parents are asked whether their child has any of the following conditions: mental retardation, serious emotional disturbance, learning disability, or vision, orthopedic, or other health impairments.