Understanding The Process: An Ethnographic Case Study Of School Psychologists' Experiences In The Referral Of African Americans To Special Education
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Type of WorkText
DepartmentAdvanced Studies, Leadership, and Policy
ProgramDoctor of Education
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A qualitative method of research was chosen for this study. This ethnographic case study examined school psychologists' and the referral process for special education services. The participants included school psychologists in a specific county in the state of Maryland. School psychologists are considered crucial members of an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) team, which determines whether a student referred for special education should be evaluated for services. The referral process is considered the most critical component of the special education process and was examined through the experiences of school psychologists. More than 15 years ago, the United States Department of Education identified the disproportionate representation of minorities in special education as a significant problem (Skiba, et al, 2008). IDEA was reauthorized in 1997 and 2004 with additional amendments to regulate and provide more specific components to the special education process (e.g., referral, evaluation, and eligibility), which were intended to create fair and additional protection for African American students (Skiba, et al., 2008). The added protection was meant to guard against special education placements based on cultural, linguistic, or economic status. However, the salient aspects of disproportionality (e.g., racial, cultural, linguistic, or economic status) were difficult to regulate in the school environment. The study examined various concepts that have an impact on the referral of African American students to special education services. A detailed review of the literature suggested that the race, culture, and socio-economic status of a student heavily influences the perceptions of some individuals. The research suggested that biased perceptions of students from culturally diverse backgrounds (Blanchett, 2006; Harry & Klingner, 2006; Coutinho & Oswald, 2000; Hilliard, 1994) and the effects of poverty (Donovan & Cross, 2002; MacMillan & Reschly, 1998) are major contributions to the disproportionality of African Americans in special education.