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MS in Literacy Education




Overrepresentation of minorities in special education is a growing problem in schools today. Research indicates that factors such as test bias, poverty, poor general education instruction, and insufficient professional development for working with diverse students can cause this overrepresentation. The purpose of my study was to determine if cultural barriers between teachers and students is the main cause of overrepresentation of minorities in special education. Electronic surveys were taken by 11 teachers in an urban school in upstate New York as well as ten teachers in a suburban school in upstate New York. Seven 7th grade students from the urban school also completed a paper survey. After analyzing the data, it was found that cultural barriers between the students and teachers in both the suburban school and the urban school were in fact present. Select responses demonstrated a lack of respect, acknowledgement of, and understanding of African American English. If schools are not culturally responsive, they will view behaviors and academic work from minority students as different from the “norm.” Since the behaviors and “errors” in the students’ academics and speech derives from their culture, they will continue to display these which may lead the teachers to view these as a deficit in the child, and refer them special education. It is crucial for schools and teachers to understand the aspects of different languages and behaviors from each culture in order for their students to be successful.

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