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African American teachers' perceptions of special education referral

University of Florida Institutional Repository

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AFRI CAN AMERI CAN TEACHERS PERCEP TI ONS OF SPECI AL EDUCATI ON REFE RRAL By TARCHA F. RENTZ A DI SSER TATI ON PRESENTED TO THE G RADUATE SCHOOL OF T HE UNI VERSI TY OF FL ORI DA I N PARTI AL FUL FI L L MENT OF T HE REQUI REMENTS FOR THE DE GREE OF DOCTOR OF PHI L OSOPHY UNI VERSI TY OF FL ORI DA 2006

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Copy rig ht 2006 by Ta rc ha F ols ton Re ntz

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iii ACKNOWL EDGMENTS I g ive thanks to my L ord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who has g rante d me unmerited favor I am indebted to the c aring teac hers in our public sc hools for my own educ ation and the e x istence of this study My sincere appre ciation and r espec t go to the f ive Afr ican Americ an tea cher s who dare d to be a pa rt of this study Their time and c ommitm ent wer e valuable. I am thankful for my committee cha ir, Dr. James McL eskey and coc hair, Dr Eliz abeth B ondy who provided e x cellent e x amples for balanc ing w ork and f amily To my other c ommitt ee me mbers, Dr Holly L ane, D r. B renda Townsend, a nd Dr. Mirka Koro-L unjungbe rg I extend my g ratitude for without their expertise this dis sertation would not have be en possible. I am thankful for my husband, I shmael, and my son, I an. The ir love, support, and patience motivated me, enc ourag ed me, a nd propelled me to the next l evel of excellence I love them both. I se nd tha nk s to my da d a nd mom a nd I tha nk the m f or be lie vin g in m y a bil ity to fi n i s h as we l l as fo r b ab y s i t t i n g. I tha nk Mo the r A lic e fo r h e r m a ny pr a y e rs I thank Daddy Saul and Mother De loris for enc ourag ing me to strive for excellence I dedica te this dissertation to the many Afric an Amer ican tea cher s and educ ators who wish other tea cher s knew wha t they know about maximi zing the potentials of

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iv Afric an Amer ican c hildren and the ir communities; my husband, I shmael, and son, I an; my g o d c h il d r e n ( N a y s h ma a n d St e v e Jr ) ; m y s ib li n g s ( Z e r ia h I r a [M o n iq u e ], A lo n o zo [Tabrica], Nakoto [Keisha], Priscill a [Doug las]), nephews ( J alen, Ne hemiah, and N oah); my dad (Er nest) a U F a lumni for being my example, my mom (Dorothy ), and g randmother s (Ruthie and Victoria ), who ne ver a ttended colleg e, but enc ourag ed me to; Dr Ce c il M e rc e r, wh o b e lie ve d I sh ou ld p ur su e a PhD ; Re g ina B ra dle y Jan ive a L e wi s, L ashaw n Wil liams, and the late Tw anna Ma rkham, who stopped e very thing a t the office to pick me up or drop me off on c ampus whene ver I called; a nd the many Pastors and friends ( Sandra F olston, Frede rica J ohnson, Tony a F oster, Elois Waters, Dr. Pam Wil liamson, Dr. Kar en Kuhe l, Dr. B arr y Bog an, Ty ran Wrig ht, and Ang ela Oa ts) who pray ed with me throug h this process, my battle with brea st canc er, a nd the birth of our first born. The L ord is Good and His Mer cy Endures F oreve r.

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v TAB L E OF CONTENTS P age A C K N O W L E D G M E N T S ................................................ iii L I S T O F T A B L E S ..................................................... vii L I S T O F F I G U R E S .................................................... vii i A B S T R A C T ........................................................... ix CHAPTER 1 I N T R O D U C T I O N .................................................... 1 B a c k g r o u n d ......................................................... 1 P u r p o s e o f t h e S t u d y .................................................. 6 2 R E V I E W O F L I T E R A T U R E ........................................... 9 O v e r v i e w o f t h e S t u d y ................................................. 9 I n t r o d u c t i o n ........................................................ 10 Over repr esenta tion of Afric an Amer icans in Specia l Education . . . . . . . . 10 T e a c h e r B e l i e f s : A n I n t r o d u c t i o n ........................................ 18 Tea cher s Perc eptions about Special Educ ation Refer ral . . . . . . . . . . 24 C o n c l u s i o n ......................................................... 39 3 R E S E A R C H M E T H O D S ............................................. 42 I n t r o d u c t i o n t o P h e n o m e n o l o g y ......................................... 42 S u b j e c t i v i t y S t a t e m e n t ................................................ 46 M e t h o d s ........................................................... 49 4 F I N D I N G S ......................................................... 59 D a v i d ............................................................. 60 R e b e c c a ........................................................... 71 Com po sit e Te xtur a l D e sc ri pti on (A ll Pa rt ic ipa nts ) . . . . . . . . . . . . . 90 Com po sit e Str uc tur a l D e sc ri pti on (A ll Pa rt ic ipa nts ) . . . . . . . . . . . . 97 E s s e n c e ........................................................... 102

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vi 5 D I S C U S S I O N ..................................................... 108 I n t r o d u c t i o n ....................................................... 108 K e y F i n d i n g s ...................................................... 108 C o n n e c t i o n s t o t h e E x i s t i n g L i t e r a t u r e................................... 112 L i m i t a t i o n s ........................................................ 115 I m p l i c a t i o n s f o r R e s e a r c h ............................................ 117 I m p l i c a t i o n s f o r P r a c t i c e ............................................. 119 A P P E N D IX A AFRI CAN AMERI CANS AGES 6-21 SERVED UNDER I DEA 2001-2002 . . 122 B R E C R U I T M E N T L E T T E R ........................................... 123 C D E M O G R A P H I C S U R V E Y .......................................... 125 D R E C R U I T M E N T F L Y E R ............................................ 127 E I N T E R V I E W P R O T O C O L ........................................... 130 F TH AN K Y OU L ET TE R TO CO RES EA RCH ERS . . . . . . . . . . . . 132 R E F E R E N C E S ....................................................... 133 B I O G R A P H I C A L S K E T C H ............................................. 143

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vii L I ST OF TAB L ES T ab l e p age 3 1 P a r t i c i p a n t d e m o g r a p h i c s ............................................ 52 A-1 Perce ntag e of students ser ved by disability and ethnicity in the United States . 122 A-2 Perce ntag e of students ser ved by disability and ethnicity in the State of Florida during the 2001-2002 school y ear . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 122

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vii i L I ST OF F I GURES Fi gu re p age D-1 F ront and ba ck cove r of the recruitment brochure for African American teacher p a r t i c i p a n t s ...................................................... 128 D2 I ns ide of the recruitment brochure for African American teacher participants .. 129

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ix AB STR AC T Abstrac t of Dissertation Prese nted to the Gra duate School of the Unive rsity of F lorida in Partial Fulf illment of the Requirements for the Deg ree of Doc tor of Philosophy AFRI CAN AMERI CAN TEACHERS PERCEP TI ONS OF SPECI AL EDUCATI ON REFE RRAL By Ta rc ha F Re ntz Aug ust 2006 Chair: J ames McL eskey Cochair: Elizabeth Bondy Major De partment: Specia l Education Th is q ua lit a tiv e stu dy e xami ne s A fr ic a n A me ri c a n e le me nta ry te a c he rs perc eptions of spec ial educa tion refe rra l and par ticularly the re fer ral of A frica n Americ an students. This investigation desc ribes tea cher s experienc es with ref err al for subje ctive disabiliti es (i.e., me ntal reta rdation, emotional disturbanc es, lea rning disabiliti es) a nd not g ifted and ta lented prog rams. Using phenomenolog ical re sear ch methods, 15 interview s we re c on du c te d w ith 5 A fr ic a n A me ri c a n e le me nta ry te a c he rs wh o ta ug ht a t sc ho ols wher e 25% to 50% of the student population was Af rica n Americ an. The study participa nts were male and f emale te ache rs who had ta ug ht at least 3 y ear s and had be en a pa rt of a Sc ho ol S tud y Te a m a nd /or ini tia te d s pe c ia l e du c a tio n r e fe rr a l. T he tw o ma in questions that guide d this study wer e (a ) how do Af rica n Americ an tea cher s perc eive specia l educa tion refe rra l and (b) how do Afric an Amer ican tea cher s experience the r e f e r r a l o f A f r i c a n A m e r i c a n s t u d e n t s ?

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x Finding s sugg est that the tea cher s experience d simil ar positive and ne g ative fe e lin g s a bo ut r e fe rr a l. Wa nti ng sp e c ia l e du c a tio n r e fe rr a l to be he lpf ul f or stu de nts teac hers que stioned whether teac hers we re r efe rring students for an a ctual disability or beca use of a cultural diff ere nce. T eac hers pr efe rre d the re fer ral proc ess to be one of maintaining stude nts in ge nera l educa tion by identify ing the ir streng ths and wea knesses and deve loping a ppropriate interventions and stra teg ies to enhanc e and motivate stude nts. They contende d that the re fer ral proc ess is detrimental to Afr ican Ame rica n students who often re ceive pull-out service s in special educ ation resour ce r ooms. Teac hers pr oposed that Afric an Amer ican students ca n be maintained in g ener al educ ation with proper supports in place.

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1 CH APT ER 1 I NTRODUCTI ON Bac kgr ound Despite the a cade mic and socia l ga ins of Afric an Amer icans ove r the pa st 40 y e a rs A fr ic a n A me ri c a n c hil dr e n c on tin ue to l a g a c a de mic a lly be hin d th e ir Whit e counter parts (A rtiles, Har ry Reschly & Chinn, 2002; Hoff man, L lag as & Sy nder, 2003) F or e xamp le a lth ou g h A fr ic a n A me ri c a n s tud e nts ma de re a din g g a ins sin c e the 19 70 s, their re ading perf ormanc e in 1999 re mained lower than their White counterpa rts. More specific ally Afric an Amer ican students a vera g e scor es among y ear -olds wer e 16% below Whites score s (a g ap of 35 points), a mong 13 y ear -olds they wer e 11% be low Whit es sc ores ( a g ap of 29 points) a nd among 17 y ear -olds they wer e 10% be low Whit es sc ores ( a g ap of 31 points) (Hoff man et al., 2003, p. 48) Simi lar diff ere nces we re fo un d w he n c omp a ri ng ma th p e rf or ma nc e fo r A fr ic a n A me ri c a n a nd Whit e stu de nts (Hoff man et al., 2003) Ac a de mic dif fe re nc e s b e tw e e n Wh ite stu de nts a nd Af ri c a n A me ri c a n s tud e nts continue throug hout their school y ear s. For e x ample, hig h school students who seek e ntry into United States colleg es and unive rsities take the A merica n College Test (ACT) a nd/or Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) Students whose composite score s are below 19 on the ACT are likely to need r emedial c ourses be fore taking course s for c olleg e cr edit. I n 2001, Af ri ca n Am er i ca n s t u d en t s a v er age co m p o s i t e s co re (1 6 9 ) w as l o we r t h an av er age composite score s of other r acia l/ethnic g roups (Hof fman e t al., 2003). I n the same y ear

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2 Afric an Amer ican students scor ed lower than any other e thnic/rac ial g roup on the SAT. On ave rag e, Af rica n Americ an students sc ored 96 points lower than White students on the ver bal sec tion . and they score d 105 points lower than White students on the mathematics sec tion of the SAT (H offman e t al., 2003, p. 62). Afric an Amer ican students have highe r g rade rete ntion (Hoffma n et al., 2003), hig he r s us pe ns ion /e xpuls ion ra te s ( To wn se nd 2 00 0) lo we r s ta nd a rd ize d te st s c or e s in rea ding a nd math, and hig her dr opout rates than the ir Whit e counte rpar ts (Hoffma n et al., 2003). I n 1998, 71% of kinder g arte ners f rom Afr ican Ame rica n families wer e more likely to have one or more risk fac tors than their Whit e counte rpar ts (Hoffma n et al., 2003). I n the following y ear compar ed to 9% of Whites, 18% of A frica n Americ an students had re peate d at least one g rade (Hoff man et al., 2003) Thirty -five pe rce nt of Af ri c a n A me ri c a n s tud e nts in g ra de s 7 to 1 2 h a d b e e n e xpe lle d o r s us pe nd e d in the ir sc ho ol c a re e rs c omp a re d to 15 % o f Wh ite stu de nts (H of fm a n e t a l., 20 03 ). Com pa re d to 7% of Whites, 13% of Af rica n Americ ans ag es 16 to 24 had not ea rned a diploma or Gene ral Educ ational Deve lopment (GED) cre dential (Hof fman e t al., 2003). Added to Af rica n Americ an students a cade mic issues, they are often taug ht by teac hers who misunder stand them. I n classrooms whe re the educa tors are often White, fema le, and middle cla ss, they experience cultural dissonanc e betwe en home a nd school (Villeg as, 1988); tea cher s expectations are unfamiliar to them (H arr y & A nderson, 1994). Cultural mismatching a nd incong ruenc e betwe en tea cher s and Afr ican Ame rica n students can limit or enhanc e the a cade mic succe ss of students depending on how the teac her pe rce ives diffe renc es (Ross, Kamman, & Coady in press). Ross and he r colleag ues fur ther e x plained that students a ctions can be implicitl y perc eived a s abnorma l when they differ in significa nt way s from the tea cher s culture Har ry and

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3 An de rs on (1 99 4) pu rp or te d th a t in ste a d o f b uil din g on stu de nts c ult ur a l r e pe rt oir e s, tea cher s ty pically aim to ext inguish a nd repla ce the se beha viors with conduct more acc eptable to them a nd to move quickly to find the defic it in thos e childre n who prove less malleable to c onformity (pp. 610611). Te a c he rs k no wl e dg e a nd a c c e pta nc e of c ult ur a l di ff e re nc e inf lue nc e the ir perc eptions and expectations of Af rica n Americ an students (Ross et al., in pre ss). Puga ch a nd Se idl (1 99 8) su g g e ste d th a t te a c he rs a re mor e lik e ly to m isi nte rp re t st ud e nts behavior and deve lopment and label it neg atively when they do not share a common set of experienc es or c ommon langua g e with their students. Hoff man et al. ( 2003) disclosed that lower pe rce ntag es of tea cher s repor ted Afr ican Ame rica n kinderg artne rs wer e on task, ea g er to lea rn, and pa y ing a ttention often or ve ry often as compa red to White or As ia n f ir st t ime kin de rg a rt e ne rs Si mil a rl y in a stu dy of pr os pe c tiv e te a c he rs perspe ctives on the tea chability of students from va rious ethnic g roups, Tetteg ah (1997) noted that teac hers c onsistently rate d Whit e and A sian Americ an students hig her tha n Hispanic a nd Afric an Amer ican students on cog nitive and motivational measure s. The a cade mic challeng es of Af rica n Americ an students as we ll as g ener al e du c a tio n te a c he rs p e rc e pti on s a nd be lie fs re g a rd ing the se stu de nts a re re fl e c te d in specia l educa tion identification rates. A frica n Americ an students ar e ofte n labeled d i s a b l e d a n d / o r a t r i s k a n d a r e o v e r r e p r e s e n t e d i n s p e c i a l e d u c a t i o n ( A r t i l l e s H a r r y, Reschly & Chinn, 2002; Coutinho, Oswald, & B est, 2002; Offic e of Spec ial Educa tion Prog rams [OSEP] 2005; Hoffman e t al., 2003). To illustrate, in the 2001-2002 sc hool y e a r, the pr op or tio n o f A fr ic a n A me ri c a n s tud e nts se rv e d b y the I nd ivi du a ls w ith Di sa bil iti e s E du c a tio n ( I DE A) Ac t w a s h ig he r t ha n th e pr op or tio ns of Whit e s, Hi sp a nic s, and Asian/Pac ific I slander ( OSEP, 2005). Nationally Bla ck childre n repr esente d 15% of

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4 the re sident population ag es 6 to 21, y et they wer e over repr esente d in specific le arning disabiliti es (18% ), mental re tarda tion (34%), a nd emotional disturbance (28%) cate g ories (OSEP, 2005). I n the same sc hool y ear Bla cks we re 21% of F loridas school population a nd ov e rr e pr e se nte d in the sa me c a te g or ie s 2 4% 4 9% a nd 39 %, re sp e c tiv e ly (O SEP, 2005). When teache rs ar e unce rtain about how to mee t the needs of students, they often se e k h e lp t hr ou g h s pe c ia l e du c a tio n r e fe rr a l. R e ly ing on loc a l a nd c la ssr oo m no rm s, teac hers make decisions conc erning whether a students be havior is ca use for alar m (B ocian, B eebe MacMillian, & Gre sham, 1999). Z igmond ( 1993) explained, The ref err al is a sig nal that the tea cher has re ache d the limits of his or her toleranc e of ind ivi du a l di ff e re nc e s, is n o lo ng e r o pti mis tic a bo ut h is o r h e r c a pa c ity to d e a l e ff e c tiv e ly with a par ticular student in the conte x t of the larg er g roup, and no long er pe rce ives that the student is teacha ble by him or herse lf (pp. 262263). He or she initiates the re fer ral proce ss believing that he or she has exhausted all of his or he r re source s (L og an, Ha nsen, Ni e mne n, & Wri g ht, 20 01 ). Th ro ug h th e re fe rr a l pr oc e ss, the re fe rr ing te a c he r h op e s to rec eive c onfirmation of a proble m and/or insig ht into the childs streng ths and wea knesses (D onovan & Cross, 2002). Var ious ex aminations of re fer ral a nd the over repr esenta tion of Afric an Amer ican stu de nts ha ve re su lte d in the ba nn ing of I Q t e sts a nd dis c ri min a tor y pr a c tic e s, y e t li ttl e chang e has oc curr ed (H osp & Resc hly 2003). Missing f rom the re fer ral a nd overr epre sentation rese arc h are the voices of Afric an Amer ican tea cher s. Scholars c on te nd tha t A fr ic a n A me ri c a n te a c he rs c a n a ssi st t he ir c oll e a g ue s in ma kin g a pp ro pr ia te jud g me nts c on c e rn ing the a c a de mic pla c e me nts of Af ri c a n A me ri c a n s tud e nts (D e lpi t, 1995; Foster, 1990, 1993; I rvine, 1989; King 1993; L adson-B illings, 1994; Patton, 1998;

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5 Sex ton, L obman, Constans, Sy nder & Ernest, 1997). H aving Afric an Amer ican tea cher s is n ot t he c ur e -a ll, or a g ua ra nte e th a t a ll A fr ic a n A me ri c a n s tud e nts wi ll b e su c c e ssf ul, but these tea cher s have a dee per r eser voir of skills and abilities on which to draw as they have mor e commonalities with their students e x perie nces ( L adson-B illings, 2001, p. 81). I n addition to being r ole models for students, Ewing (1995) sug g ested that Af ri c a n A me ri c a n te a c he rs imp a c t sc ho ols in s e ve ra l po sit ive wa y s in c lud ing the ir a bil ity to Foster improved cr oss-cultural unde rstanding and diver se cultura l toleranc e. U n d e r s t a n d c u l t u r a l d i v e r s i t y s o a s n o t t o l a b e l a d i s a b i l i t y i n a p p r o p r i a t e l y. Pr ov ide no nAf ri c a n A me ri c a n te a c he rs wi th r e le va nt o nsit e c oll a bo ra tio n th a t w ill pr omo te mor e su c c e ssf ul l e a rn ing e nv ir on me nts Provide a positive school climate tha t meets the ac ademic, soc ial, and emotional ne e ds of min or ity stu de nts Provide on-site conve rsations about cultura lly rele vant cur riculum matters (e .g ., text book adoptions, rea l life experience s, community involvement, policy and prog ram issues). Studies sugg est that there is a corr elation betwe en the pe rce ntag e of A frica n Americ an tea cher s and Afr ican Ame rica n students ac ademic a nd social per formanc e and place ment. I n their investig ation of 174 United States school districts with a minimum enrollment of 15,000 students of w hich 1% we re bla ck, Meie r, Stewar t, and Eng land (1989) e x amined equa l educa tional opportunities. Meier et a l. (1989) stated, I n ever y case blacks a re ove rre prese nted in ever y cate g ory with a neg ative connota tion and underr epre sented in eve ry cate g ory with a positive connotation (Me ier e t al., 1989, p. 107). Meier and his collea g ues (1989) noted the more Afric an Amer ican tea cher s in a school district, the lower the ratio of Af rica n Americ an students suspended, e x pelled,

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6 serve d in special e ducation cla sses, and dropping out of school. On the other hand, the more Af rica n Americ an tea cher s in a school district, the hig her the ratio of Af rica n Americ an students who we re se rved in honors a nd g ifted prog rams and w ho g radua ted from hig h school with diplomas. I n a sim ila r v e in, Se rw a tka a nd De e ri ng (1 99 5) stu die d 6 7 F lor ida sc ho ol d ist ri c ts a nd fo un d th a t 58 of 67 F lor ida sc ho ol d ist ri c ts h a d A fr ic a n A me ri c a n s tud e nts ov e rr e pr e se nte d in e mot ion a lly ha nd ic a pp e d ( EH ) c la sse s. No tin g se ve ra l c or re la tio ns they found that as the pe rce ntag e of A frica n Americ an tea cher s increa sed at the e le me nta ry a nd se c on da ry le ve ls, the ov e rr e pr e se nta tio n o f A fr ic a n A me ri c a n s tud e nts in EH prog rams dec rea sed. The r esea rche rs disclosed, School districts that had hig her disproportionate re prese ntation of Afr ican Ame rica n students in specific lea rning dis a bil ity c la sse s te nd e d to ha ve hig he r o ve rr e pr e se nta tio n o f A fr ic a n A me ri c a n s tud e nts in E H c la sse s (S e rw a tka & De e ri ng 1 99 5, p. 49 9) T he y fo un d a sim ila r c or re la tio n in school districts with gr eate r under repr esenta tion in gifted a nd talented pr og rams; such districts also had hig her ove rre prese ntation of Afr ican Ame rica ns in EH classes. The curr ent study seeks to shed some lig ht on why such cor rela tions ex ist. P ur pos e of t he St udy Re se a rc h li te ra tur e de sc ri bin g the sp e c ia l e du c a tio n r e fe rr a l pr oc e ss i s overw helmingly prese nted from a Whit e middle class pe rspec tive. The lac k of literatur e descr ibing Af rica n Americ an tea cher s per ceptions and e x perie nces w ith special e du c a tio n r e fe rr a l, a nd pa rt ic ula rl y the re fe rr a l of Af ri c a n A me ri c a n s tud e nts le d to my interest in Afr ican Ame rica n elementa ry teac hers perc eptions of spec ial educa tion ref err al. I rvine (2002) stated,

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7 Resear cher s often ig nore or devalue the cultura lly specific pedag og y and tea ching beliefs of Afric an Amer ican tea cher s; that is the culturally specific way s in which Af ri c a n A me ri c a n te a c he rs se e the mse lve s . a s p a rt of the so lut ion T his oversig ht in the resea rch is a se rious issue beca use it leave s the perspe ctives and vo ic e s o f A fr ic a n A me ri c a n te a c he rs a nd the Af ri c a n A me ri c a n c omm un ity silenced, ma rg inalized, and invisibl e. (p. 140) To meet the a cade mic and socia l needs of A frica n Americ an students, the voice s of Afr ican Ame rica n teac hers must be he ard. A s L adson-B illings and Ta te (1995) sta ted, Without authentic voices of pe ople of c olor it is doubtful we can sa y or know a ny thing useful about e ducation in their c ommuniti es ( p. 8). I n a similar vein, Patton (1998) stated, A sy stem is needed in spe cial educ ation that nurtures, de velops, and a llows for the voices of Afric an Amer ican knowle dg e produc ers to be he ard, c onfirmed, a nd aff irmed. Their voices will more c losely repr esent those who a re studied, teste d, ide nti fi e d, la be le d, a nd pla c e d in sp e c ia l e du c a tio n p ro g ra ms of te n a t le ve ls w e ll bey ond acc epted r ates (p. 30). The purpose of this study is to add authentic voice s of Afr ican Ame rica n teac hers to the teac her discour se and r esea rch litera ture re g arding specia l educa tion refe rra l. More specific ally this study investiga tes Afr ican Ame rica n teac hers perc eptions and e xpe ri e nc e s r e g a rd ing sp e c ia l e du c a tio n r e fe rr a l of Af ri c a n A me ri c a n s tud e nts T his study cente rs on two questions: (a) How do Af rica n Americ an ele mentary teac hers perc eive spe cial educ ation ref err al? and ( b) H ow do Afr ican Ame rica n teac hers e xpe ri e nc e the re fe rr a l of Af ri c a n A me ri c a n s tud e nts to s pe c ia l e du c a tio n c la sse s? Th e se questions are meant to explore Afr ican Ame rica n teac hers experience s and per ceptions of Afr ican Ame rica n students with and without disabili ties, as well as the ir experience s wi th t he sp e c ia l e du c a tio n r e fe rr a l pr oc e ss. Th is s tud y fo c us e s o n r e fe rr a l of stu de nts to d i s a b i l i t y c a t e g o r i e s a n d n o t t h e r e f e r r a l o f s t u d e n t s t o g i f t e d a n d t a l e n t e d p r o g r a m s In

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8 a n e ff or t to un de rs ta nd sp e c ia l e du c a tio n r e fe rr a l f ro m a div e rs e pe rs pe c tiv e th is investiga tion seeks to evoke the voices of A frica n Americ an tea cher s. Chapter 2 de scribes how specia l educa tion refe rra l and the re fer ral of A frica n Americ an students have been a ddresse d in the profe ssional literature, f ocusing on the history of Afr ican Ame rica n students in United States public schools, teache r belief s and eff icac y and the spe cial educ ation ref err al proc ess. Chapter 3 inc ludes a brie f introduction to phenomenolog y defining char acte ristics of phenomenolog y a subjectivity statement, as we ll as the methods used in this study Chapter 4 pr esents the fi nd ing s o r d e sc ri pti on s o f s pe c ia l e du c a tio n r e fe rr a l f ro m A fr ic a n A me ri c a n te a c he rs pe rs pe c tiv e s. Th e te xtur a l a nd str uc tur a l de sc ri pti on s o f t wo ke y inf or ma nts (i .e ., Da vid a nd Re be c c a ), a nd the g ro up s te xtur a l a nd str uc tur a l de sc ri pti on s a re pr e se nte d. Th is c h a p t e r c o n c l u d e s w i t h a d i s c u s s i o n o f t h e e s s e n c e o f s p e c i a l e d u c a t i o n r e f e r r a l F i n a l l y, Chapter 5 pr esents a disc ussion of the key finding s, connec tions and differ ence s betwee n the finding s and the prof essional literature in this area, implications for prac tice and future r esea rch, a nd a pre sentation of the limitations of this st udy

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9 CH APT ER 2 REV I EW O F L I TE RA TU RE Th e c la ssr oo m te a c he r h a s a po we rf ul i nf lue nc e on the re fe rr a l pr oc e ss. Ul tim a te ly it i s th e c la ssr oo m te a c he r w ho ma ke s th e c omp a ri so n [be tw e e n w ha t is acc eptable a nd unacc eptable] and de cides whe ther re fer ral is appr opriate (Donova n & Cross, 2002, p. 227). Only students who are re fer red are g iven full and individual e va lua tio n ma nd a te d b y la w. Af te r c on sid e ri ng a ll o f t he da ta (e .g ., te a c he r o bs e rv a tio ns prer efe rra l interventions, psy choeduc ational assessment r esults) place d befor e them, the multidi sciplinary team dete rmines if the student is elig ible or inelig ible for spe cial e du c a tio n s e rv ic e s. Ty pic a lly mu lti dis c ipl ina ry te a ms c on sis t of a re g ula r ( g e ne ra l) educa tion teache r, spec ial educa tors, pare nts, guida nce c ounselor, and a school administrator. The multidisciplinary team (e .g ., School Study Tea m [ SST] Student St udy Tea m [ SST] ) dec ides whethe r the student will rec eive spe cial educ ation service s, where the student will rece ive spec ial educa tion services a nd for how long Ysseldy ke, Va nd e rw oo d, a nd Shr ine r ( 19 97 ) r e ve a le d th a t ov e r 7 0% of tho se stu de nts re fe rr e d to specia l educa tion are pla ced. Clea rly an important pre dictor of spe cial educ ation elig ibilit y is the classroom tea cher s re fer ral of the student for a ssessment or interve ntion (Artiles & Trent, 1994; Hosp & Reschly 2003; Ysseldy ke & Alg ozz ine, 1983). Ove r vie w of th e St udy The purpose of this study was to add the voices a nd experience s of Afr ican Am e ri c a n te a c he rs to t he re se a rc h li te ra tur e by e xami nin g Af ri c a n A me ri c a n te a c he rs

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10 perc eptions of spec ial educa tion refe rra l. Another purpose of this study was to discover ho w A fr ic a n A me ri c a n te a c he rs e xpe ri e nc e the re fe rr a l of Af ri c a n A me ri c a n s tud e nts to specia l educa tion prog rams. The study addre ssed the following questions: (a) How do Afric an Amer ican e lementar y teac hers pe rce ive spec ial educa tion refe rra l? and, (b) How do Af rica n Americ an tea cher s experience the re fer ral of A frica n Americ an students to special educ ation classes? B y interviewing teac hers using open-e nded questions (about their pa st, present, a nd future e x perie nce w ith special educ ation re fe rr a l) th e stu dy a tte mpt e d to dis c los e the pe rc e pti on of Af ri c a n A me ri c a n te a c he rs Introduction This chapter provides a r eview of literature rela ted to the over repr esenta tion of Af ri c a n A me ri c a n s tud e nts in S pe c ia l E du c a tio n a nd the inf lue nc e of te a c he rs perc eptions on the ref err al proc ess. The r eview c onsists of (a) a n overvie w of the overr epre sentation of Af rica n Americ ans in Special Educ ation, (b) a n overvie w of the literature on teac her be liefs, and ( c) a revie w of the litera ture re g arding influence of teac hers perc eptions on the ref err al proc ess. Overr eprese ntation of African Am eric ans in Special Ed ucation I n th e 19 54 B ro wn v. B oa rd of Ed uc a tio n d e c isi on th e Un ite d St a te s Su pr e me Cou rt de c la re d th e c la im o f s e pa ra te bu t e qu a l sc ho ols to b e un c on sti tut ion a l. Wi th t his ruling came the dese g reg ation of public schools. B lack tea cher s and students from pr e vio us ly se g re g a te d s c ho ols fa c e d n e w c ha lle ng e s. Whe n s c ho ols in t he Sou th eventua lly deseg reg ated, the A frica n Americ an community quickly rec og nized a dismantling of many all-B lack schools (Ether idge 1979; Foster, 1997; Siddle-Walker, 19 96 ). Ra the r t ha n h a ve Whit e stu de nts int e g ra te ne wl y bu ilt a llB la c k s c ho ols mo st a llBla ck schools we re f orce d to close and B lack students we re a ssigne d to exi sting Whit e

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11 schools (F oster, 1997). I n addition, Blac k administrators and B lack tea cher s were re mov e d f ro m th e ir po sit ion s a t a llB la c k s c ho ols a nd a ssi g ne d to pr e vio us ly a llWhit e schools in low numbers (Ether idge 1979; Foster, 1997) Bla ck tea cher s often had mor e a c a de mic tr a ini ng a nd y e a rs of te a c hin g se rv ic e tha n th e ir Whit e c ou nte rp a rt s, y e t Whi te teac hers ha d more e mploy ment opportunities (Foster 1997). I n addition to staff and fac ulty chang es, B lack tea cher s and students wer e cha lleng ed to adjust their beha viors and belief s to the expectations and culture of White schools (Foster 1997; I rvine, 1990; Watkins, L ewis, & Chou, 2001). As a r es u l t o f d es egr ega t i o n W h i t e t ea ch er s h ad t h e r es p o n s i b i l i t y o f t ea ch i n g, interac ting with, and motivating Bla ck students. The pr evious inequities of seg reg ation and the unwilling ness and unpr epar edness of Whit e tea cher s to acc ept and tea ch blac k stu de nts le d to oth e r f or ms o f s e g re g a tio n w ith in i nte g ra te d s c ho ols (A rt ile s & Tr e nt, 1994). A tea cher from F osters ( 1997) study stated, The tea cher s made it clea r that B lacks we re not we lcome. I n the classr oom, the Whit e te a c he rs wo uld pu t th e B la c k k ids on on e sid e of the ro om a nd the Whit e kids on the other side. This is so that they wouldnt touch or ming le. (p. xx x iv) No tic ing a c a de mic a nd so c ia l di ff e re nc e s b e tw e e n Wh ite stu de nts a nd B la c k s tud e nts teac hers intentionally and unintentionally contr ibuted to the establishment of spec ial e du c a tio n c la ssr oo ms t ha t w ou ld e nr oll dis pr op or tio na te nu mbe rs of B la c k s tud e nts (Artiles & Trent, 1994, p. 417) L ater L loy d Dunn (1968) w as the fir st to address the ove rre prese ntation of children of color with mental re tarda tion in special educ ation classrooms. I n compar ison to the student population found in ge nera l educa tion classrooms, Dunn (1968) note d that 60% to 80% of the students taug ht by specia l educa tors wer e childre n of color ( Dunn, 19 68 ). Sin c e Du nn ma ny re se a rc he rs ha ve e xami ne d th e ov e rr e pr e se nta tio n o f m ino ri ty

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12 students in special educ ation. Over repr esenta tion in special educ ation occur s when a g ro up s (e .g ., Af ri c a n A me ri c a n) me mbe rs hip in t he pr og ra m or a g ive n d isa bil ity cate g ory is proportionately larg er tha n its resident population (National Allianc e of B lack School Educators [NAB SE] & I L I AD Projec t, 2002). For example, previous re sear cher s and studies often f ocused on statistics indicating that the per centa g e of A frica n Americ an students enrolled in spec ial educa tion was signif icantly highe r than the pe rce ntag e of Afric an Amer ican students in the over all, school ag e population (Ar tiles et al., 2002; Artiles & Trent, 1994; Chinn & H ug hes, 1987; Har ry & A nderson, 1994, Hosp & Re sc hle y 2 00 2, 20 03 ; O sw a ld, Cou tin ho B e st & Sin g h, 19 99 ; Z ha ng & Ka tsi y a nn is, 20 02 ). Ev ide nc e ha s sh ow n th a t th e ov e rr e pr e se nta tio n o f A fr ic a n A me ri c a n s tud e nts in specia l educa tion remains pre valent today (OSEP, 2005; Appendix F) Du ri ng the 20 01 -2 00 2 s c ho ol y e a r t he pr op or tio n o f A fr ic a n A me ri c a n s tud e nts se rv e d b y I DE A w a s h ig he r t ha n th e pr op or tio n o f Wh ite s, Hi sp a nic s, a nd As ia n/P a c if ic I slander ( OSEP, 2005). Nationally repr esenting 15% of the r esident population, Bla ck children a g es 6 to 21 wer e over repr esente d in specific le arning disabiliti es (18% ), mental reta rdation (34% ), and e motional dist urbanc e (28% ) ca teg ories (O SEP, 2005). I n the same school y ear repr esenting 21% of F loridas school population, B lack c hildren we re overr epre sented in the same cate g ories 24%, 49% and 39%, r espec tively (OSEP, 2005). The c urre nt resea rch litera ture re veals seve ral c ontributing fa ctors to the overr epre sentation of Af rica n Americ an students in specia l educa tion. These fa ctors include Th e e du c a tio na l sy ste m s in a bil ity to e du c a te Af ri c a n A me ri c a n s tud e nts Di sc re pa nc ie s in the re fe rr a l a nd pla c e me nt p ro c e ss. Ov e rr e lia nc e on int e lli g e nc e te sts L ack of acc ess to appropr iate for ms of instruction in ge nera l educa tion. I na de qu a te re so ur c e s a nd un de rq ua lif ie d te a c he rs ( NA B SE & I L I AD Pr oje c t, 2002)

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13 All these fa ctors influenc e whe ther students ar e re fer red f or spec ial educa tion services a n d l a b e l e d w i t h a d i s a b i l i t y. Historically the seg reg ation and integ ration of r acia l and ethnic g roups has be en instrumental in the development of public schools in the United States. Be tween 1875 a nd 19 14 pu bli c sc ho ols we re tr a ns fo rm e d f ro m a min or so c ia l in sti tut ion tha t la rg e ly c a te re d to the mid dle c la ss, to o ne tha t w a s a va ila ble to a ll l e ve ls o f s oc ie ty le g a lly compelling all children to a ttend (H offman, 1975, p 416) Soon after the serious e nf or c e me nt o f c omp uls or y sc ho ol a tte nd a nc e e du c a tor s w e re sp e a kin g of se pa ra te schools and sepa rate classes to a ccommodate students they define d as unma nag eable or mentally defic ient (H offman, p. 416) Special educ ation and g ifted and ta lented prog rams in public schools wer e esta blished, corr esponding to the ideolog y that educa tion was the solution to social and ec onomic prog ress (Cohe n, 1970). During the 1920s many schools place d I talian, Polish, and southern Bla ck childre n in special c lasses for the pur pose of social adjustment ( Thomas, 1986, p. 10). To ha ndle the g rea ter cultural diver sity these pupils broug ht into schools, social adjustment classes we re use d to help them assimilate into the dominant culture (Thoma s, 1986). At a cr itical time (e.g ., Civil Rights movement, War on Poverty initiative, and the Coleman Report), Dunn ( 1968) publicly voiced his conc ern w ith the effe ctiveness of selfcontained spe cial educ ation classes f or childre n with mild m ental re tarda tion, and a nee d for e ducational a lternatives in g ener al and spe cial educ ation classrooms. He asser ted that 60% to 80% of the students placed in c lasses for the mildly reta rded w ere from low status backg rounds ( Dunn, 1968, p. 6). Dunn be lieved that a be tter solution was nee ded t o p ro v i d e b et t er o u t co m es fo r t h es e s t u d en t s He s u gges t ed t h at h o m o gen o u s gro u p i n gs of students with mild l ear ning pr oblems was har mful, and that these stude nts could learn

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14 more fr om being in the g ener al educ ation classroom with supports from spe cial educa tors. Dunn (1968) pointed out that r emoval of slow lea rning students from g ener al educa tion was done to re move pre ssure fr om ge nera l educa tion teache rs at the e x pense of the students. I n concluding his article, Dunn sta ted, T h e c o n s ci en ce o f s p ec i al ed u ca t o rs n ee d s t o ru b u p aga i n s t m o ra l i t y I n l ar ge measure we ha ve bee n at the mer cy of the g ener al educ ation establishment in that w e a c c e p t p r o b l e m p u p i l s w h o h a v e b e e n r e f e r r e d o u t o f t h e r e g u l a r g r a d e s In this way we c ontribute to the delinquenc y of the g ener al educ ations since we remove the pupils that are pr oblems for them a nd thus reduce their nee d to deal with individual differe nces. The e nte nte of mutual delusion betwee n g ener al and specia l educa tion that special cla ss placeme nt will be advantag eous to slow lear ning c hildren of poor pare nts can no long er be tolerate d. We must face the re al i t y we ar e a s k ed t o t ak e c h i l d re n o t h er s ca n n o t t ea ch an d a l ar ge p er ce n t age of the se a re fr om e thn ic a lly a nd /or e c on omi c a lly dis a dv a nta g e d b a c kg ro un ds Thus much of spec ial educa tion will continue to be a sham of dr eams unless we imm e rs e ou rs e lve s in to t he tot a l e nv ir on me nt o f o ur c hil dr e n f ro m in a de qu a te homes and ba ckg rounds and insist on a compre hensive e colog ical pushwith a quality educa tional prog ram a s part of it. This is hardly compatible with out pr e va le nt p ra c tic e of e xpe die nc y in w hic h w e e mpl oy ma ny un tr a ine d a nd le ss tha n ma ste r t e a c he rs to i nc re a se the nu mbe r o f s pe c ia l da y c la sse s in re sp on se to the pr e ssu re s o f w a iti ng lis ts. B e c a us e of the se pr e ssu re s f ro m th e sc ho ol s y ste m, we ha ve bee n g uilty of foster ing qua ntity with litt le re g ard f or quality of spec ial e du c a tio n in str uc tio n. Ou r f ir st r e sp on sib ili ty is t o h a ve a n a bid ing c omm itm e nt t o the le ss f or tun a te c hil dr e n w e a im t o s e rv e O ur ho no r, int e g ri ty a nd ho ne sty should no longe r be subve rted a nd rationalized by what we hope and ma y believe we a re do ing fo r t he se c hil dr e n ho pe s a nd be lie fs wh ic h h a ve lit tle ba sis in rea lity (p. 20) Also in the 1960s, educa tors adopted the the ory that the culture of Afr ican Am e ri c a n s tud e nts wa s in he re ntl y inf e ri or a nd the re fo re th e stu de nts ne e de d e xpos ur e to g ood (e .g ., Euro-A merica n) culture (B olima, 2004). Cultural deficit (a lso known as depriva tion) theorists sugg ested that Af rica n Americ an students wer e not born infe rior bu t po sse sse d a c ult ur e tha t c a us e d th e m to be so c ia lly e mot ion a lly a nd c og nit ive ly delay ed (B olima, 2004). Eng elmann and B ere iter (1966) (as c ited in Bolima, 2004) stated, U ntil dealt with, these cultural diff ere nces, w ould make it impossible for

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15 culturally deprive d students to prog ress in ac ademic a rea s ( para 4). Schools opera ting un de r t he c ult ur a l de pr iva tio n th e or y be lie ve d s pe c ia l c la sse s a nd un g ra de d c la sse s w ou ld assist teache rs in coping with students ex hibiting ac ademic de ficits and beha viors differ ent from the nor m. L a t e r c u l t u r a l d e p r i v a t i o n t h e o r y w a s d i s c o u n t e d b y c u l t u r a l d i s c o n t i n u i t y t h e o r y, wh ic h a rg ue d th a t di ff e re nc e s b e tw e e n th e ho me c ult ur e of Af ri c a n A me ri c a n s tud e nts and the sc hool culture e x plained their a cade mic and socia l challeng es (I rvine, 1990; L a ds on -B ill ing s, 19 94 ). Ac c or din g to c ult ur a l di sc on tin uit y the or y w he n th e re is a cultural mismatch betwe en tea cher s and students, beha viors are often misinterpre ted be c a us e the te a c he r a nd the stu de nt a re no t a wa re tha t th e y a re us ing e qu a lly imp or ta nt, but differ ent code s (I rvine; L adson-B illings). Eig ht y ear s after Dunns ar ticle, PL 94-142, also known a s The E ducation for All Handica pped Children Ac t, was pa ssed in 1975. This act wa s passed into law for the fo llo wi ng re a so ns : To ensure that all children w ith disabili ties have f ree appropr iate public spec ial e du c a tio n a nd re la te d s e rv ic e s d e sig ne d to sp e c if ic a lly me e t th e ir un iqu e ne e ds To pr ote c t th e ri g hts of stu de nts wi th d isa bil iti e s a nd the ir pa re nts To a ssi st s ta te s a nd loc a lit ie s in pr ov idi ng a fr e e a nd a pp ro pr ia te pu bli c e du c a tio n to a ll c hil dr e n w ith dis a bil iti e s. To assess a nd assure the ef fec tiveness of the spe cial educ ation and re lated ser vices for a ll children with disabilities. (OSEP, 2005) As a me nd e d in 19 90 PL 94 -1 42 be c a me c omm on ly re fe rr e d to a s th e I nd ivi du a ls w ith Disabilities Education Act (I DEA). Re g ula tio ns g ov e rn ing a sse ssm e nt a nd de c isi on ma kin g fo r c hil dr e n a nd y ou th with disabilit ies wer e put into law by the 1977 Protection in Evaluation Proce dures

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16 Provisions (PEP ). I nfluenc ed by previous conse nt decr ees tha t settled class ac tion court case s, PEP required: ( 1) a c omprehe nsive, individualiz ed eva luation; (2) nondiscr imination reg arding ethnic and c ultural minorities; (3) consider ation of multipl e domains of be havior a nd not just a single mea sure suc h as I Q; and (4) decision ma kin g by a te a m of pr of e ssi on a ls w ith the pa rt ic ipa tio n o f p a re nts (D on ov a n & Cr os s, 2002, p. 214). Unde r PEP reg ulations, all students with pot ential disabilities would be considere d for spe cial educ ation service s, while those students who appe are d to have lear ning a nd/or beha vior diffe renc es due to c ultural diffe renc es we re de termined ineligible f or spec ial educa tion services ( Donovan & Cross, 2002). These reg ulations chang ed in 1999 when the reg ulations for I DEA 1997 we re published a s Procedur es for Evaluation and D eter mination of Eligibility (PEDE) ( Donovan & Cross, 2002). Historically the g oal of I DEA ha d been to pr ovide an e qual opportunity for students with disabili ties to have a public, fre e, and a ppropriate educa tion like that of stu de nts in g e ne ra l e du c a tio n. Th e 19 97 a me nd me nts to t he I DE A p la c e d mo re e mph a sis on curr iculum and objectives to a ddress students e ducational outcome s. The integ ration of PEDE, other I DEA (1997, 1999) reg ulations and I ndividual Educational Prog ram (I EP) re g ula tio ns re qu ir e d th e fo llo wi ng : Participation of someone who ca n interpre t instructional impli cations base d on e va lua tio n r e su lts A statement of the students curr ent educ ational per formanc e leve l and how the dis a bil ity wi ll i mpa c t hi s su c c e ss i n th e g e ne ra l e du c a tio n c ur ri c ulu m. I nclusion of all students in state and district-wide assessment, including modifications and ac commodations that the student may need. Measur able, a nnual and shortterm g oals and objec tives. (Donovan & Cross, 2002) A g ener al educ ation teac her a s a manda tory member of the I EP team. (Specia l Educa tion & Reha bilitative Services, 1999)

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17 The I ndividuals with Disabilit ies Educa tion I mprovement Ac t of 2004, which is the rea uthorization of I DEA 1997, c ontinues to support the mandatory require ment of a reg ular e ducation tea cher in the ref err al and I EP process. Since the dese g reg ation of public schools in the United States, laws ha ve bee n enac ted to ensure that all students rec eive a fre e and a ppropriate public educa tion, y et the seg reg ation of Afr ican Ame rica n students continues. Theor ies (i.e., unpr epar edness of teac hers, low tea cher expectations, and cultura l deficit theory ) influenc ed by beliefs about ra ce a nd culture ha ve attempted to e x plain why Afric an Amer ican students ar e not far ing w ell in schools. Specifica lly these theor ies have resulted in the ove rre prese ntation of Afr ican Ame rica n students in special educ ation prog rams and disa bility cate g ories. I n contra st to these theories, other rese arc hers disclosed tha t Africa n Americ an students are neither g enetica lly inferior or a pa rt of an inf erior c ulture, but they experience cultural discontinuity in schools (I rvine, 1990; L adson-B illings, 1994). The c ult ur a l mi sma tc h b e tw e e n A fr ic a n A me ri c a n s tud e nts a nd Whit e te a c he rs of te n r e su lt i n Afric an Amer ican students and A frica n Americ an culture being misunderstood and larg ely unrec og nized. As members of SSTs, gene ral e ducation tea cher s make judg ments about which Af ri c a n A me ri c a n s tud e nts b e ha vio rs a re a pp ro pr ia te a nd ina pp ro pr ia te I n a dd iti on to a sse ssm e nts te a c he rs j ud g me nts de te rm ine the ty pe s o f h e lp A fr ic a n A me ri c a n s tud e nts rec eive. Know ing the orig in of beliefs ( also known as judg ments or per ceptions), how teac hers beliefs de velop, and the use of tea cher beliefs is per tinent to understanding why some teac hers r efe r Afr ican Ame rica n students.

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18 Teacher Beliefs: An In troduction Tea cher s belief s allow them to make sense of their wor lds by defining the teac hing ta sk and org anizing knowledg e and inf ormation for r etrieva l in the teaching proce ss (Nespor 1987). I n fac t, a teac her s beliefs may have mor e influenc e on wha t g oes on in a c lassroom and be tween a teac her a nd his or her students than te ache r knowledg e and/or training (Ne spor). Ne verthe less, rese arc hers r evea l that there is no c on se ns us on a de fi nit ion fo r t e a c he r b e lie fs (E ise nh a rt Sh ru m, H a rd ing & Cut hb e rt 1988; Kag an, 1992; Pajare s, 1992). Con c e pts of te a c he r b e lie fs ha ve be e n u se d in va ri ou s w a y s, fr om g e ne ra l te rm s to specific ally share d ideas to individualistic perce ptions (Kag an, 1992). K ag an def ined te a c he r b e lie f a s a pa rt ic ula rl y pr ov oc a tiv e fo rm of pe rs on a l kn ow le dg e tha t is g e ne ra lly d ef i n ed as p re o r i n -s er v i ce t ea ch er s i m p l i ci t as s u m p t i o n s ab o u t s t u d en t s l ea rn i n g, classrooms, and the subject matter to be taug ht (pp. 65-66) I n addition to having multipl e def initions the term teac her be liefs is not consistently used in the re sear ch literature (Eisenha rt et al., 1988; F ang 1996; Pajares, 1996) The ter m is int erc hang ed with teache rs priva te views (B uchmann, 1987) theories ( Fa ng 1996), per ceptions (B ahr & F uchs, 1991; Uhlenbe rg & B rown, 2002), pe rsonal epistemolog ies (Gor don, 1990), perspe ctives (Mc L eskey Waldron, & So, 2001) or orientations (Ka g an, 1992). I n h is r e vie w o f t e a c he r b e lie fs Pa ja re s ( 19 92 ) e xpla ine d th a t defining beliefs is at be st a g ame of play er s choice They trave l in disguise and o f t e n u n d e r t h e a l i a s o f : a t t i t u d e s v a l u e s j u d g m e n t s a x i o m s o p i n i o n s i d e o l o g y, pe rc e pti on s, c on c e pti on s, c on c e ptu a l sy ste ms, pr e c on c e pti on s, dis po sit ion s, imp lic it t he or ie s, pe rs on a l th e or ie s, int e rn a l me nta l pr oc e sse s, a c tio n s tr a te g ie s, ru l e o f p ra ct i ce p ra ct i ca l p ri n ci p l es p er s p ec t i v es re p er t o ri es o f u n d er s t an d i n g, and socia l strateg y to name but a f ew that c an be f ound in the literature (p. 309)

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19 Mo st t e a c he rs a re a pp re he ns ive a bo ut p ub lic ly e xpre ssi ng the ir be lie fs be c a us e what tea cher s know and be lieve about tea ching is often implicit and invisi ble (Ka g an, 1992). Ka g an sug g ested that a sking students a bout their teac hing philosophies is often ineffe ctive or c ounterproduc tive. Fur thermore beliefs a re diff icult to chang e, and w hen they do, the cha ng e occ urs over time and as a last alterna tive to ones dee ply rooted values a nd judgme nts (Nespor, 1987; Pajar es, 1992). Resear cher s strug g le with the distinction between know ledg e and be liefs (B uchmann, 1987; F ang 1996; Pajares, 1992) Evidence sug g ests that beliefs a re a form of knowledg e (F ang 1996; Nespor, 1987; Pajar es, 1992). Ka g an (1992) further explained tha t a te a c he r s k no wl e dg e of his or he r p ro fe ssi on is s itu a te d in thr e e imp or ta nt w a y s: in c on te xt (i t is re la te d to sp e c if ic g ro up s o f s tud e nts ), in c on te nt ( it i s r e la te d to particula r ac ademic ma terial taug ht) and in per son (it is embedded within the teac her s unique belief sy stem). (p. 74) Tea cher s may have similar knowle dg e, but their thoug ht proce sses and e x pecta tions of students cause teac hers to pra ctice dif fer ently (Calder head & Robson, 1991; Kag an, 1992; Pajares, 1992; Semmel, Aber nathy Bute ra, & L esar 1991). The na ture of te aching and the tea cher s work is an of ten ill-defined a nd entang led domain wher ein entities are diverse, pa rtially overla pping, a nd connec tions are incomplete or uncle ar ( Nespor, 1987) Be liefs ar e cr eate d throug h the proc ess of c ultural transmission (Pajare s, 1992). Dr a wi ng fr om M e lvi lle He rs ko vit s s Cultural Anthropology (1963) a nd Ma n a nd Hi s W orks (1 95 6) V a n F le e t ( 19 79 ) s ug g e ste d th a t th e c ult ur a l tr a ns mis sio n p ro c e ss c on sis ts of enc ulturation, educa tion, and schooling Enculturation is a lea rning proce ss that occur s throug hout a per sons life, consisting of the tra ining he or she r ece ives from other s and t h e i m p l i ci t as s i m i l at i o n o f e l em en t s fr o m h i s o r h er cu l t u re (V an Fl ee t ). T h ro u gh

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20 ob se rv a tio n, imi ta tio n o f o the rs a nd the tr a ns mis sio n o f e le me nts of c ult ur e in div idu a ls a re imp lic itl y a nd e xplic itl y ta ug ht w ha t is no rm a l a nd a bn or ma l be ha vio r ( Ros s, Kamman & Coady in press). F ormal and infor mal educa tions are use d to bring behavior s in line with specific c ultural requir ements (Va n Flee t, 1979). Van F leet fur ther e x plained tha t sc ho oli ng us e s sp e c if ic le a rn ing a nd te a c hin g pr oc e sse s o uts ide the ho me in s pe c if ic place s, at definite times, and by prepa red pe rsons. F or m al a nd Info r m al T e ac he r Educ at ion Simi lar to the proc ess of c ultural transmission, teaching involves teac her e nc ult ur a tio n, te a c he r e du c a tio n, a nd te a c he r s c ho oli ng (V a n F le e t, 1 97 9) L ike the ir students, teache rs do not enter classrooms or c olleg es of e ducation as bla nk slates upon which to write. Te ache r enc ulturation occur s ear ly for tea cher s. Nimmo and Smi th (1994) sug g est that teac her e nculturation is comprised of teac her soc ialization and teache r development. Te ache rs ar e pre sented with imag es of tea ching throug h both formal and informal knowledg e (Calde rhea d & Robson, 1991; L ortie, 2002). L ike Van F leets (1 97 9) 8y e a rold nie c e pla y ing sc ho ol, te a c he rs ha ve wa tc he d te a c he rs h e a rd oth e rs ta lk of tea cher s, and bee n exposed to teache rs throug hout their lives. Tea cher socialization oc c ur s b e fo re a nd a ft e r e nte ri ng the c la ssr oo m. T e a c he rs d if fe re nt l if e pe rs pe c tiv e s, colleag ues, and w ork culture form their imag es of tea ching (Z eichne r & Gore 1986). Whether positive or neg ative, these imag es for m a teac her. Resear ch sug g ests that student tea cher s have spe nt thousands of hours in an appre nticeship of obser vation (L ortie, 2002) lea ding to the de velopment of a body of values, c ommitm ents, orientations, and pr actice s (Calde rhea d & Robson, 1991, p. 1). Appre nticeship observa tions by prese rvice and inservic e tea cher s help form imag es of g oo d a nd ba d te a c hin g I n a dd iti on th e se ima g e s in fl ue nc e the ir de c isi on s to be c ome

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21 t ea ch er s an d t h e t y p e o f t ea ch er t h ey wi s h t o b ec o m e ( C al d er h ea d & R o b s o n 1 9 9 1 ; Fa n g, 1996; L ortie, 2002). Acc ording to Nimmo and Smi th (1994) tea cher development is a multi-fa cete d pr oc e ss t ha t is of te n n on lin e a r a nd un iqu e T he y su g g e st t ha t it inv olv e s te a c he rs backg rounds intera cting with various dispositions and situations that produce persona l and prof essional deve lopment and g rowth (Nimmo & Smit h, 1994). Throug h formal teac her e ducation, tea cher s beg in to understand the be haviors, thoug hts and fee lings of teac hing ( Van F leet, 1979). Most people ar e aw are of the for mal teac her e ducation that occ urs in colleg es of educa tion and teac her e ducation instituti ons, but few a re a war e of the teac her e ducation tha t oc c ur s in sc ho ols d ur ing c on fe re nc e s, a nd ou tsi de of sc ho ol w he n te a c he rs a dv ise eac h other a t social eve nts (Van F leet, 1979). Cooper ating teac hers f ill the role of tea cher educa tors for pr e-se rvice teac hers dur ing f ield place ments, and in-ser vice tea cher s often have pe er te ache rs to orient them to the spec ifics of school c ulture (I rvine, 1990; I shler, Edens, & Be rry 1996; L adson-B illings, 1994). Te ache rs inform other teac hers r eg arding students beha viors and wha t school policies must be followed. Van F leet (1979) repor ted that teac her e ducation inc ludes direc ted lear ning e xpe ri e nc e s th a t a im t o b ri ng te a c he r b e ha vio r i n li ne wi th s pe c if ic re qu ir e me nts sanctioned by the school culture (p. 283) reve aling school context and educa tional policy as key fac tors in influencing teac her be liefs and a ctions. I n the teac her e ducation proce ss, people who wa nt to teach a re of ten re moved from the public sc hool environment to b e ins tr uc te d in the pr of e ssi on a nd my tho log y in ma kin g pr a c tic a l im ple me nts a nd in proper etiquette and soc ial rela tions among pr ofessionals. Tra inees pa rticipate in wor k se tti ng s a nd moc k b a ttl e s. Whe n f ini sh e d, the y a re c e re mon ia lly c e rt if ie d a nd re tur ne d to

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22 the pu bli c sc ho ol (V a n F le e t, p 2 84 ). Th e se te a c he rs a re e xpe c te d to uti lize the sk ill s and strate g ies from y ear s of schooling to max imiz e the a cade mic and socia l potentials of the ir div e rs e stu de nts F un c t io n o f T e a c he r Be li e fs Nespor ( 1987) conve y ed, B eliefs pe rfor m the function of f raming or def ining the t a s k a t h a n d ( p 3 2 2 ) ; h o w e v e r t e a c h e r s k n o w l e d g e a n d a c t i o n a r e n o t n e c e s s a r i l y a function of their beliefs. Af ter following seven pr eser vice tea cher s during a y ear Calderhe ad and Robson (1991) repor ted that pre service teac hers may possess teac her knowledg e, consisting of for mal knowledg e of the ories, peda g og y and strate g ies, but not uti lize thi s k no wl e dg e in t he ir a c tua l c la ssr oo ms o r i nte ra c tio ns wi th c e rt a in s tud e nts Simi larly in their 4-y ear study of tea cher beliefs a nd conce ptions about reading Duffy and Ande rson (1984) r eporte d that teac hers pr ovided distinct reading theories outside the c la ssr oo m, b ut t he te a c he rs a c tua l in str uc tio na l pr a c tic e wa s g ov e rn e d b y c ha ng e s in g r a d e l e v e l a n d / o r c h a n g e s i n t h e a b i l i t y l e v e l s o f t h e s t u d e n t s b e i n g t a u g h t i n t h e c l a s s In a similar vein, surve y ing 381 r eg ular a nd specia l educa tion teache rs, Semmel and c oll e a g ue s ( 19 91 ) r e ve a le d th a t te a c he rs b e lie fs do no t ne c e ssa ri ly a pp e a r i n th e ir a c tio ns T he y fo un d th a t g e ne ra l e du c a tio n te a c he rs be lie ve d th a t st ud e nts wi th m ild disabiliti es had a basic rig ht to be included in g ener al educ ation classrooms, but they pr e fe rr e d p ull -o ut p ro g ra ms a nd fe lt i nc lus ion wo uld ha ve a ne g a tiv e imp a c t on stu de nts wi th a nd wi tho ut d isa bil iti e s. Rec alled Image s Sh apin g Teacher s Beliefs an d Pr actic es For a tea cher to solve a ce rtain problem, he or she ha s to develop a me ntal model or imag e of the problem, as we ll as possible soluti ons (Calderhe ad & Robson, 1991; Nespor, 1987) The e motions, feeling s, moods, and subjective qua lities that often

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23 envelope beliefs a re important to fa cilitating memor y (Ne spor). Ne spor conve y ed that aff ection ser ves the purpose s of fa cilitating r eca ll, providing c ohesion to the piece s of the memory and construc ting a nd rec onstructing the memory proce sses. Calderhe ad and Rob so n ( 19 91 ) s ta te d be ing a ble to r e c a ll i ma g e s, a nd to a da pt a nd ma nip ula te the se imag es in ref lecting about ac tion in a particular context is possibly an important task of teac hing (p. 3). Stu die s h a ve re ve a le d th e inf lue nc e of te a c he rs r e c a lle d im a g e s o f t he ir cooper ating teac hers a nd/or mentor tea cher s on their per ceptions of g ood or bad te aching (Calder head & Robson, 1991; L ee, 2002; Mc Cray Sindelar, Kilg ore, & Nea l, 2002; Mitchell, 1998; W alker 2001). I n McCray and her colleag ues ( 2002) study of Afr ican Americ an tea cher s dec ision to become tea cher s, participants imag es of e ffe ctive teac hers we re r efle ctive of the impact of a rec alled imag e of a teac her f rom a book: [Marva Collinss] expectations and methods wer e ver y inspirational beca use she ha d s tud e nts in h e r c la ssr oo m th a t w e re la be le d me nta lly re ta rd e d. She wa s to ld that they wer e not able to lea rn. B ut she didnt let that stigmatize the wa y she ta ug ht t he m, a nd sh e ha d g re a t e xpe c ta tio ns fo r t he m. I n th e e nd o ne g ir l in particula r ende d up g radua ting f rom colleg e summa cum laude Thats the kind of teac her I want to be. ( p. 282) Simi la rl y A fr ic a n A me ri c a n te a c he r B e ve rl y Cok e rh a m di sc los e d th a t he r f ie ld e xpe ri e nc e a nd c oo pe ra tin g te a c he r h a d th e g re a te st i nf lue nc e on he r e vo lut ion a s a teac her ( L ee, 2002) Calderhe ad and Robson (1991) sug g ested that re calling the imag es of past tea cher s who wer e per ceive d as unsy mpathetic, intolera nt, impatient teache rs who fre quently shouted and we re g ener ally distant from children sha ped tea cher s belief s and prac tice into becoming what they desired a s students and/or their tea cher s lacke d. T ea ch er b el i ef s ca n b e d ef i n ed as t ea ch er s i m p l i ci t as s u m p t i o n s ab o u t t ea ch i n g, stu de nts a nd su bje c t ma tte r. I n r e se a rc h li te ra tur e va ri ou s te rm s ( e .g ., pe rc e pti on s,

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24 judgme nts, assumptions, t heorie s) ar e used f or tea cher beliefs. Te ache r belief s are develope d by formal e ducation and life experience s (bef ore a nd afte r ente ring the t ea ch i n g p ro fe s s i o n ). T h ey i n fo rm t ea ch er s t ea ch i n g p ra ct i ce s an d i m age s o f t ea ch i n g. I n a dd iti on te a c he rs b e lie fs inf or m te a c he rs v isi on s o f w ho the y a re a ble a nd wi lli ng to te a c h. Us ing the ir pe rc e pti on s, te a c he rs de te rm ine wh a t is a c a de mic a lly a nd so c ia lly appropr iate for students. When students do not m atch tea cher s per ceptions of normal, teac hers a re likely to refe r them. Teacher s P erc eptions abou t Special Edu cation Referr al Influe nc e of Te ac he r s P e r c e pt ion s Refer ral re sear ch sug g ests that teac her pe rce ptions are pe rtinent to the ref err al proce ss (Abidin & Robinson, 2002; Giesbre cht & Routh, 1979; Kauffman, Swa n & Wood, 1980; Kelly Bullock, & Dy kes, 1977). I n a study repr esenting three elementa ry sc ho ols A bid in a nd Rob ins on a sk e d 3 0 te a c he rs to i de nti fy thr e e stu de nts fr om t he ir classrooms who they would ref er f or psy choeduc ational assessment. The y found that te a c he rs p e rc e pti on s w e re ba se d o n o bs e rv e d b e ha vio rs of stu de nts a nd no t de mog ra ph ic char acte ristics. Abidin and Robinson found that teache rs judg ments about the pre sence of beha vioral problems a nd students ac ademic c ompetence wer e the be st predictors of specia l educa tion refe rra l. Racial bias, socioe conomic bias, a nd teac hing stre ss were not signific ant in the study I n a similar vein, Gr esham, Mac Millan, and Boc ian (1998) inve stiga ted 60 te a c he rs on Sc ho ol S tud y Te a ms ( SSTs ) a nd re po rt e d d a ta su g g e sti ng tha t classifica tion decisions are being made in public schools base d on the childs perc eived e ducational ne eds by school study team member s rather than score s obtained fr om intelligenc e and a chieve ment tests and the extent these scor es mee t some arbitra ry criter ia for the prese nce of a mild disabilit y (p. 189)

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25 Gre sham and his collea g ues (1998) found low leve ls of ag ree ment with the Offic e of Spe c ia l E du c a tio n Pr og ra ms (O SEP) de fi nit ion s o f m ild dis a bil ity g ro up s. Th e se te a c he rs re lie d o n th e ir ind ivi du a l ju dg me nts a nd did no t g ive g re a t w e ig ht t o psy cholog ical asse ssment. Ge isb re c ht a nd Rou th ( 19 79 ) e xami ne d 1 04 e le me nta ry te a c he rs r e sp on se s to a rt if ic ia lly c on str uc te d c umu la tiv e fo lde rs T he y re po rt e d th a t te a c he rs pe rc e ive d s tud e nts to more likely need spe cial educ ation assistance if cumulative folde rs included ne g ative teac her c omments. Teac hers in the study wer e more likely to sugg est ref err al for B lack children w hose par ents wer e less educ ated. I n cumulative files with more neg ative teac her c omments, students were mor e likely rec ommended for behavior al help than students without comments. I n an examination of the re fer ral a nd place ment proce ss, Arg ulewicz and Sanche z (1983) f ound that if place ments were based only on teac hers perc eptions, the r e p r e s e n ta ti o n o f mi n o r it y s tu d e n ts in s p e c ia l e d u c a ti o n w o u ld b e h ig h e r ( A r g u le w ic z & Sanchez). The rese arc hers c ontended that psy choeduc ational eva luation conducted by sp e c ia l e du c a tio n s e rv ic e s o ft e n s e rv e d a s a mod e ra tor fo r s pe c ia l e du c a tio n p la c e me nt. Ysseldy ke, Alg ozz ine, Ritchey and Gr aden ( 1982) examined 20 videotape d place ment team mee tings. The y observe d that a g ood deal of the information (83% ) pre sented a t the team mee tings wa s irrele vant to final plac ement dec isions made by the placement te a m (p 4 2) A c c or din g to t he re se a rc he rs SST me mbe rs us e d a sse ssm e nt d a ta to c on fi rm or jus tif y pr e vio us ly ma de a ssu mpt ion s a bo ut s tud e nts a nd did no t us e sp e c if ic c ri te ri a in m a kin g the ir de c isi on s. I n a dd iti on th e mor e inf or ma tio n th a t w a s p ro vid e d to the place ment team, the g rea ter the likelihood of the stude nt being identified for specia l e du c a tio n s e rv ic e s. Ys se ldy ke a nd his c oll e a g ue s ( 19 82 ) c on c lud e d th a t e lig ibi lit y

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26 de c isi on s a re ma de ind e pe nd e nt o f t e sts su pp or tin g or c on tr a dic tin g te a c he rs perc eptions. Tea cher s per ceptions ar e instrumental in deter mining wha t children a re appropr iate for specia l educa tion refe rra l. Wi th the exception of kee ping la rg er numbe rs of minority students out of special e ducation, asse ssment appea rs less sig nificant than teac hers perc eptions in the ref err al proc ess. As member s of the SSTs, teache rs influenc e other tea cher s in their judgme nts of which students nee d specia l educa tion services a nd pla c e me nt. No t on ly do te a c he rs c on sid e r o the r t e a c he rs j ud g me nts in r e fe rr a l de c isi on s, but they also ponder how outside resourc es should be utiliz ed. Te ac he r P e r c e pt ion s o f Out side Re so ur c e s Re se a rc h s ug g e sts tha t te a c he rs p e rc e pti on s o f o uts ide re so ur c e s in fl ue nc e the ir decisions to ref er students (Waldron, Mc L eskey Skiba, J anca us, & Schulmey er, 1998; Wil ton, Cooper, & Gly nn, 1987; Wi nfield, 1986). Wilton et al. (1987) investig ated the persona l and profe ssional char acte ristics of g ener al educ ation teac hers who ha d ref err ed or would re fer strug g ling students in their c lassrooms. All of the tea cher s in the study had at least one student who would qualify for spe cial educ ation ref err al. The r esea rche rs conclude d that ref err ing te ache rs more likely had pre vious and better a cce ss to the school psy cholog ists. These teac hers be lieved that school policy encour ag ed re fer rals. Simi larly in a study of 24 hig h and low re fer ring elementa ry teac hers, Waldron and her colleag ues (1998) found that hig h ref err ing te ache rs often use d outside resourc es to confirm or disconf irm their suspicions of a disability Waldron et al. re veale d that low re fe rr ing te a c he rs us e d in fo rm a tio n f ro m pr e vio us te a c he rs a nd c on su lta nts to o bta in additional ideas on how to a ssist st udents and a dapt cur riculum. They conclude d that the g oal of low re fer ring teac hers wa s to exhaust all options (p. 37) Tea cher s who

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27 pe rc e ive d th e y ha d o pti on s a va ila ble to t he m a nd we re a ble to u se the m a pp e a re d le ss likely to refe r. I n th e ir inv e sti g a tio n o f s tud e nt a nd c la ssr oo m f a c tor s th a t pl a c e d s tud e nts a t r isk of re fer ral, Skiba, McL eskey Waldron, Grizz le, and B artley (1993) f ound the classr oom re fe rr a l r a te s to be sig nif ic a ntl y re la te d to the us e of a va ri e ty of ma na g e me nt s tr a te g ie s. L ow re fe rr ing te a c he rs ha d h ig he r r a te s o f i nte rv e nti on a nd us e d a va ri e ty of str a te g ie s to a dd re ss i na pp ro pr ia te c la ssr oo m be ha vio r ( Ski ba e t a l.) A dd e d to thi s, Wal dr on e t a l. (1 99 8) int e rv ie we d 2 4 h ig h a nd low re fe rr ing te a c he rs on the ir pe rc e pti on s o f t he stu de nts they ref err ed, and the criter ia and r esourc es they used to make r efe rra l decisions. The rese arc hers r eporte d that low ref err ing te ache rs implemented 50% more interventions tha n h ig h r e fe rr ing te a c he rs I n c on tr a st, hig h r e fe rr ing te a c he rs pr ov ide d li ttl e de ta il re g a rd ing the int e rv e nti on s p re vio us ly imp le me nte d f or stu de nts T he y fo un d th a t f le xible g ro up ing pa tte rn s w e re uti lize d in the low re fe rr ing te a c he rs c la ssr oo m to a c c omm od a te students diverse needs. H igh r efe rring teac hers we re le ss flexi ble in their cla ssroom g rouping s, placing students having difficulties in alre ady exis ting g roups or looking for out-of-c lass alterna tives (Waldron et al., 1998). I n a study of 24 g ener al educ ation elementa ry teac hers perc eptions of Student Sup po rt Te a ms ( SSTs ) a nd the stu de nts the y br ou g ht t o SST fo r r e fe rr a l, L og a n e t a l. (2001) r eporte d that teac hers be lieved that they and their c olleag ues had done all they c ou ld t o h e lp t he re fe rr e d s tud e nt a nd tha t th e so le pu rp os e of the SST w a s to te st students and place them in special e ducation. Students with whom teache rs had not bee n succe ssful or who re quired too much time to teac h or mana g e we re se nt to the SS T. I n the teac hers minds, special educ ation provided wha t ge nera l educa tion could not. Teac hers

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28 often c ited specia l educa tion as the place for students to re ceive small gr oup instruction and 1:1 teac hing. L og an et a l. (2001) re ported that tea cher s did not want fellow tea cher s to think they had not done their job by not refe rring students. The tea cher s viewed the ref err al proce ss with the SS T as diffic ult, tim e consuming frustra ting a nd threa tening (L og an et a l.) T he y wa nte d th e pr oc e ss t o mo ve qu ic kly c on sid e ri ng tha t th e y do c ume nte d th e ir actions, conta cted the pa rents, and soug ht help from the spe cial educ ation teac her. A dded to their anxiety was the f ear that administrators wer e cove rtly evalua ting tea cher s during the re fer ral proc ess (L og an et a l.). I n a similar vein, Christenson, Ysseldy ke, and A lgozzine (1982) examined 52 Minnesota and F lorida g ener al and spe cial educ ation teac hers list of barrier s to and fac tors fac ilitating the re fer ral proc ess. Seventy -seve n perc ent of the te ache rs noted barr iers to re fer ral. Christenson et a l. found org anizational fac tors, availability of se rv ic e s, a nd ha ssl e (e .g ., pa pe rw or k, me e tin g s, tim e s c he du lin g me e tin g s) a s th e mos t repor ted bar riers to re fer ral. Te ache rs in their study often noted the ir skepticism about the pay off of ref err al. Te a c he rs p e rc e pti on s a ssi st t he m in de te rm ini ng wh ic h r e so ur c e s a re a pp ro pr ia te for students. L ow re fer ring teac hers be lieve they have r esourc es ava ilable to assist them with students who are difficult to teac h. These te ache rs tend to use a varie ty of strate g ies and interve ntions to m aintain students in ge nera l educa tion. They ref er f or the purpose s of de ve lop ing a pp ro pr ia te str a te g ie s a nd g e ne ra l e du c a tio n c la ssr oo m e nv ir on me nts to me e t th e ne e ds of stu de nts I n c on tr a st, hig h r e fe rr ing te a c he rs pe rc e ive tha t a ll o f t he ir resour ces a re e x hausted with the e x ception of spe cial educ ation. These te ache rs have few strateg ies and interve ntions, and are reluc tant about cha ng ing the g ener al educ ation

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29 classroom a nd/or curr iculum to appropriate ly help students. Tea cher s who often r efe r students use the proc ess to remove students from g ener al educ ation. They also have difficulty envisioning suc cess with students who ar e diffic ult to teach. Inf luence of Teachers Self-Ef fi cacy Re se a rc h s ug g e sts tha t de c isi on s to re fe r s tud e nts a re inf lue nc e d b y te a c he rs beliefs in their a biliti es to eff ectively instruct students. Ba ndura ( 1993) stated, Among the mecha nisms or ag ency none is more c entra l or perva sive than people s belief s about the ir c a pa bil iti e s to e xer c ise c on tr ol o ve r t he ir ow n le ve l of fu nc tio nin g a nd ov e r e ve nts that aff ect their lives (p. 118) Tea cher educa tion prog rams attempt to build teaching eff icac y by providing teac hers with diver se tea ching methods and strate g ies as we ll as pr op e r f ie ld e xpe ri e nc e s. Te a c hin g e ff ic a c y is t he be lie f t ha t va ri ou s te a c hin g str a te g ie s, pedag og y and cur riculum are eff ective a nd bring about succ ess for stude nts (Ba ndura, 1993). Resea rche rs re veale d that many teac hers mig ht possess teache r ef fica cy but lack self-e ffica cy Ex amining te ache r ef fica cy and selfeff icac y is critical to under standing why some students are succe ssful in school and others a re not (Jordan, Kirc aali-I ftar, & Diamond, 1993; Podell & Soodak, 1993; Soodak, Podell & L ehman, 1998) The task of cre ating environments conduc ive to lear ning r ests heavily on the talents and se lf-ef fica cy of te a c he rs (B a nd ur a 1 99 3, p. 14 0) T e a c he r s e lf -e ff ic a c y is t he be lie f i n o ne s a bil ity to mot iva te p ro mot e le a rn ing a nd c re a te a n e nv ir on me nt w he re e ve n th e mos t di ff ic ult students excel aca demically and socia lly (B andura ). Ac cording to Ba ndura, Effic acy beliefs influe nce how people f eel, think, motivate themselves a nd behave (p. 118) Tea cher s with high self -ef fica cy visualiz e succ ess sce narios that ser ve as g uides and mot iva tio n f or pe rf or ma nc e (B a nd ur a ). Ha vin g hig h e xpe c ta tio ns of stu de nts th e se

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30 te a c he rs de ma nd be tte r p e rf or ma nc e fr om s tud e nts a nd g ive stu de nts pr a ise I n c on tr a st, teac hers who doubt their self-e ffica cy visualiz e fa ilure and the possibili ty of thing s g oing wrong (B andura ). They are likely to acc ept poor pe rfor mance from students for w hom they have low e x pecta tions and are less likely to praise poor perf orming students when they perf orm well. Tea cher s selfeff icac y influence s their belief s and expectations of lea rner s, and there fore their dec ision to refer (Jordan et al., 1993, 1997). Jordan and he r collea g ues (1997) e x amined nine e lementar y teac hers a nd their third g rade students conve rsational rea ctions during an ac ademic le sson. The re sear cher s cate g orized the teac hers beliefs a s either interventionist (pre ventive) or pathog nomic (r estorative) Tea cher s who po sse sse d p a tho g no mic (r e sto ra tiv e ) b e lie fs a ssu me d th a t pr ob le ms l a rg e ly re sid e d w ith in the child, and the r esponsibility of the tea cher was to have the child assesse d for c on fi rm a tio n. Th e se te a c he rs po sse sse d li ttl e be lie f i n th e ir a bil ity to p ro vid e a c a de mic a nd /or so c ia l su c c e ss f or the stu de nts wh o w e re str ug g lin g a nd /or a tri sk . I n c on tr a st, teac hers with hig h self-e ffica cy possessed interve ntionist (pre ventive) be liefs. They attempted pre ref err al interve ntions and reque sted assessment for the purpose of pinpointing possible strateg ies to chang e the c lassroom environment a s well as instruction. J ordan e t al. (1997) r evea led that teac hers with hig h persona l effic acy e ng a g e d in mor e a c a de mic int e ra c tio ns a nd e xhibi te d g re a te r u se of va ri ou s st ra te g ie s to ex t en d s t u d en t s t h i n k i n g. Us i n g h i gh er l ev el s o f c o gn i t i v e e x t en s i o n t ea ch er s wi t h h i gh se lf -e ff ic a c y int e ra c te d mo re po sit ive ly wi th t y pic a lly a c hie vin g stu de nts s tud e nts wi th disabiliti es and students labe led a t-risk. Resear cher s found that teac hers with low per sonal eff icac y often soug ht no nte a c he r b a se d s olu tio ns fo r p ro ble ms w ith stu de nts a nd bla me d th e ho me s o f s tud e nts

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31 or the students themselves f or the a cade mic and/or socia l problems (Jordan et al., 1993, 19 97 ; So od a k & Pod e ll, 19 94 ). I n th e ir stu dy of 11 0 e le me nta ry te a c he rs d e c isi on s w ith difficult to teac h students, Soodak and Podell (1994) re ported that tea cher s with low persona l effic acy wanted othe r prof essionals to fix their problems with diffic ult to teach students rather than attempting to develop ef fec tive strateg ies. The r esea rche rs contend that teac hers persona l effic acy influence d the ty pe of pe rsonal re sponsibili ty teac hers acc epted f or diffic ult to teach students. Tea cher s with low personal e ffica cy wer e reluc tant to ask for he lp and prone to seek prof essional assessment f or students. They perc eived spe cial educ ation as the log ical plac e for students that were difficult to teac h (Podell & Soodak) I n another study Podell and Soodak (1993) investig ated 192 g ener al and spe cial educa tors judg ments of re fer ral, using case studies describing a student with a lea rning dis a bil ity a nd /or be ha vio r p ro ble m. T he y fo un d th a t g e ne ra l e du c a tio n te a c he rs wi th g rea ter pe rsonal ef fica cy wer e more likely to perc eive g ener al educ ation as more appropr iate for students with a lear ning disa bility and/or be havior proble m. Teac hers with high se lf-ef fica cy pref err ed collabor ation with other prof essionals to develop diverse stra teg ies and skills to provide succe ss for students (Soodak e t al., 1998). I n a similar vein, Soodak and he r collea g ues (1998) survey ed 188 g ener al educa tors re sponses to including students with disabilities in their classrooms. They discovere d that collabora tion with other teac hers a nd development of differ entiated teac hing pr actice s appea red to re duce te ache rs a nx iety and incr ease rec eptivity toward inclusion of students at-r isk and/or with disabilities (Podell & Soodak, 1993; Soodak et al., 1998).

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32 Simi larly in a study of 26 ele mentary g ener al educ ation teac hers, Jordan and he r colleag ues (1993) repor ted that teac hers with hig h persona l effic acy pref err ed cooper ative consults ra ther than pull-out prog rams that re moved students from the g ener al educ ation classroom. Hig h persona l effic acy teac hers we re c onfident in being a ble to c re a te po sit ive stu de nt o utc ome s. Th e re se a rc he rs c on c lud e d th a t te a c he rs wi th re storative be liefs (low pe rsonal ef fica cy ) viewe d proble ms within students, the pare nts and others outside the c lassroom as being more influential on students soc ial and aca demic outcomes. I n a stu dy of te a c he r b e lie fs a bo ut a c a de mic a lly a tri sk stu de nts Win fi e ld (1986) c ateg orized way s that teac hers c onceptua liz ed four teac her be haviors for dealing with students who were strug g ling: (a ) tutors; (b) g ener al contra ctors; (c ) custodians; and (d ) r e fe rr a l a g e nts T he tut or s w e re the te a c he rs wh o in dic a te d it wa s th e ir re sp on sib ili ty to improve all students re ading even the lowest rea ding g roup. Tea cher s who expressed that reme dial instruction was nee ded for students, but the responsibility for instruction should be g iven to another wer e ca teg orized as g ener al contra ctors. Custodians were teac hers who c onvey ed conc ern f or supporting low achie ving stude nts in the ge nera l educa tion classroom, but also expressed that nothing or little could be done f or the strug g ling students. Refe rra l ag ents had a simil ar a ttitude as the custodians; howeve r, ref err al ag ents shifted the re sponsibili ty of maintena nce to other teac hers a nd specia lists. Smart, Wi lton, and Kee ling ( 1980) compa red g ener al educ ation teac hers who ref err ed students to specia l educa tion (SC) and g ener al educ ation teac hers who ha d stu de nts wh o q ua lif ie d f or sp e c ia l e du c a tio n c la sse s, bu t ha d n ot r e fe rr e d th e se stu de nts (N R) N R te a c he rs str on g ly be lie ve d in the be ne fi t of ma ins tr e a m c la sse s f or low a bil ity stu de nts a nd in t he ir pe rs on a l a bil ity to a c c omm od a te stu de nts wi th s pe c ia l ne e ds .

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33 H i g h e r p r o p o r t i o n s o f l o w a c h i e v e r s w e r e r e p o r t e d i n t h e c l a s s r o o m s o f N R t e a c h e r s In contra st, mainstreaming did not seem important to SC teac hers, who w ere older, ha d more tea ching experience but were not as qualified a s the NR teac hers. Whe n te a c he rs c a nn ot v isu a lize su c c e ss s c e na ri os fo r s tud e nts th e y a re lik e ly to ref er those w hom they perc eive c annot be he lped. Tea cher s with high self -ef fica cy vis ua lize su c c e ss w ith stu de nts e ve n th e stu de nts tha t a re c ha lle ng ing T he se te a c he rs us e o u ts id e r e s o u r c e s to h e lp s tu d e n ts r e ma in in th e g e n e r a l e d u c a ti o n c la s s r o o m. T h e y u ti li ze outside resourc es to g ain var ious strateg ies and interve ntions to appropriately chang e the g ener al educ ation classroom e nvironment and c urriculum for students who are strug g ling. I n c on tr a st, te a c he rs wi th l ow se lf -e ff ic a c y a re lik e ly to u se ou tsi de re so ur c e s to confirm their suspicions of a pr oblem. The y believe tha t students problems reside within the student and/or students fa mily These te ache rs see themselves as not ha ving appropr iate re source s or the ability to teach stude nts whose beha viors are differ ent from the no rm the y e nv isi on I n a dd iti on te a c he rs wi th l ow se lf -e ff ic a c y a re c ha lle ng e d w ith identify ing the specific problems they have w ith students. Teacher s P erc eptions of the P roblem Whe n te a c he rs re fe r s tud e nts the y of te n p ro vid e va g ue re a so ns fo r r e fe rr a l. An de rs on Cr on in, a nd Mil le r ( 19 86 ) e xami ne d th e re fe rr a l r e a so ns fo r 2 69 stu de nts wi th lear ning disa biliti es fr om four ele mentary schools. The re sear cher s found that re fer ral statements tended to be g ener al and unc lear about the par ticular c oncer ns. Forty -two perc ent of the r efe rra ls were nonspecific aca demic re fer rals, and 41% perc ent of the ref err als wer e both ac ademic a nd behavior al (Ande rson et al., 1986) Seventee n perc ent of the re fer rals foc used solely on student behavior. I n a similar vein, Pug ach ( 1985)

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34 studied 39 elementa ry and junior hig h classroom tea cher s. She found that what tea cher s said as the r eason f or re fer ral ofte n did not match what they wrote on pa per. Using actua l refe rra ls, Christenson, Ysseldy ke, Wang and Alg ozz ine (1983) investiga ted teac hers specific rea sons for re fer ring students. Teac hers in the study a ttr ibu te d 9 7% of e le me nta ry stu de nts d if fi c ult ie s to no nte a c he r a nd no ns c ho ol c a us e s. Wit hin-student char acte ristics (e.g ., birth deficits, potential; 61.7%) a nd home ca uses (e.g ., family difficulties; 35.6%) w ere most often cited (Christenson e t al., 1983). Hutton (1985) re viewed r efe rra l information on 215 students from five diff ere nt school districts refe rre d to school psy cholog ists. Most of the re fer rals re ported be haviors that wer e desc ribed a s conduct a nd persona lity disorders ( Hutton). Hutton repor ted seve n fr e qu e ntl y sta te d r e a so ns fo r r e fe rr a l: Poor peer rela tionships Fr equent display s of frustra tion Perfor mance below ac ademic e x pecta tions Shy and withdra wn beha vior Disruptive beha vior Fig hting Refusal to work Short attention span. Hutton (1985) found tha t poor pee r re lationships was repor ted as the numbe r one r eason for r efe rra l. Kinderg arte n to third-g rade teac hers most often c ited fig hting a s their re ason for r efe rra l. Re fe rr ing te a c he rs wh o h a ve low se lf -e ff ic a c y str ug g le to i de nti fy stu de nts problems. These teac hers of ten provide unc lear g ener al, and/or nona cade mic rea sons for ref err ing stude nts. They are likely to believe that the r efe rre d students ac ademic a nd/or social issues ar e out of their c ontrol and that the proble ms reside in the student or stu de nts f a mil y T he se te a c he rs a re le ss l ike ly to a pp re c ia te a nd re sp e c t st ud e nts

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35 differ ence s. Gene ral e ducation tea cher s who have few positive ex perie nces w ith Africa n Americ ans ar e more likely to misi nterpre t Africa n Americ an beha vior and the influe nce of Afr ican Ame rica n culture in their c lassrooms. Inf luence of Teachers Vie ws of B ehavioral and Cu ltural Diff ere nces on Referr al Resear ch sug g ests that teac hers acc eptanc e and pe rce ptions of behavior influe nce the ir de c isi on to r e fe r s tud e nts M c I nty re (1 99 0) stu die d 8 8 te a c he rs fr om 1 1 p ub lic schools and found tha t teache rs with strict classroom standa rds wer e more likely to refe r stu de nts wi th l ow a g g re ssi ve be ha vio rs tha n te a c he rs wi th m or e la x cla ssr oo m st a nd a rd s. I n contra st, the students with high ag g ressive be haviors we re le ss likely ref err ed by str ic te r t e a c he rs tha n la x tea c he rs T he stu de nts la be le d le a rn ing dis a ble d w e re ty pic a lly viewed a s having low ag g ressive be haviors in compar ison to students l abele d emotionally disturbed (McI nty re) Ke lly B ull oc k a nd Dy ke s ( 19 77 ) i nv e sti g a te d 2 ,6 64 re g ula r e du c a tio n te a c he rs perc eptions of the beha vior levels of the ir students in 13 Florida sc hool districts. They found that tea cher perc eptions of beha vioral disorder s g radua lly incre ased be tween g rade s K-5. I n addition, for eve ry Whit e student per ceive d to have a behavior al disorder approximately two Bla ck students wer e per ceive d to have a behavior al disorder in gr ades K-7 (K elly et al.). Rese arc hers r evea led that in g ener al, White teache rs per ceive d more Bla ck students as e x hibiting beha vioral disorder s when c ontrasted with the pe rce ptions of Bla ck tea cher s (Ke lly et al., p. 317). Additional resea rch sug g ests that ref err al may be influenc ed by students and teac hers rac ial and cultura l simi larities and diff ere nces. Tomlinson, Acke r, Canter and L indborg (1977) studied the g ender and minority status of 355 students ref err ed for psy cholog ical ser vices in relation to the fr equenc y of re fer ral, ty pe of pr oblem, and

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36 nature of subseque nt psy cholog ical ser vices (p. 456). Noting a sig nificantly highe r perc entag e of the minority population being ref err ed for psy cholog ical ser vices, the rese arc hers f ound no differ ence with respec t to the ty pe (e .g ., aca demic or be havior) of pr ob le m f or wh ic h s tud e nts we re re fe rr e d. To mli ns on e t a l. f ou nd tha t ps y c ho log ist s signific antly more ofte n contac ted majority pare nts and provided them with sug g estions fo r h e lpi ng the ir c hil dr e n. I n c on tr a st, the re se a rc he rs no te d th a t th e pa re nts of min or ity students were less likely contac ted by the psy cholog ists and more often r ecommende d for specia l educa tion resourc e ser vices a nd place ment. I n a 3-y ear ethnog raphic study of Afr ican Ame rica n families in the spec ial educa tion refe rra l proce ss, Harr y Klinge r, and H art (2005) found stark discre pancy b et we en s ch o o l p er s o n n el 's v i ew s o f B l ac k fa m i l i es an d t h e v i ew s d ev el o p ed t h ro u gh rese arc h interviews a nd home visits" (p. 104). I n most cases school pe rsonnel had not visited students' homes a nd had made neg ative assumptions about families base d on un fo un de d e vid e nc e H a rr y a nd he r c oll e a g ue s o bs e rv e d c on fe re nc e s in wh ic h te a c he rs from var ious racia l gr oups including A frica n Americ an, tre ated Af rica n Americ an pare nts and ca reg ivers re spectfully and disrespe ctfully Educa tors in the study by Har ry e t a l. i g no re d p a re nt/ c a re g ive r' s c omm e nts a nd qu e sti on s, te nd e d to re sp on d to pare nts/care g ivers with sarc asm, and ove rused e ducational jar g on during meeting s. I n a study of White and Bla ck par ents, teac hers, psy cholog ists, and educa tional diag nosticians, Kauf man et al. ( 1980) examined the per ceptions of pr oblem behavior s of 194 Whit e and B lack c hildren labe led emotionally disturbed. They found that B lack pare nts often per ceive d their childre n differ ently than the tea cher s. Teac hers perc eptions more ofte n ag ree d with Whi te par ents than B lack pa rents. The rese arc hers did not re cord

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37 the ra ce of the teac hers, but disclosed that be tween 75% to 80% of the tea cher s in the study wer e White and 25% we re B lack ( Kauf man et al.) Mo re po int e dly u sin g c on str uc te d c a se his tor ie s to stu dy 19 9 te a c he rs T ob ia s, Cole, Z ibrin and B odlakova ( 1982) investig ated the inf luence of students ra ce a nd te a c he rs r a c e on sp e c ia l e du c a tio n r e fe rr a l. T he re se a rc he rs pu rp or te d n o d if fe re nc e in ref err al re commendations base d on students ethnic ba ckg round; howeve r, they reve aled tha t te a c he rs we re le ss l ike ly to r e fe r s tud e nts wh os e ba c kg ro un ds we re ide nti c a l to the ir own. Resea rche rs conc luded that teac hers who w ere familiar or had identica l backg rounds to minority students were more a war e of students c ulture and pe rce ived cer tain behavior s as ac cepta ble base d on this knowledg e (Tobia s et al.). I nvestig ating the impact of r ace and socia l behavior on te ache r re commendations fo r r e fe rr a l, P e rn e ll ( 19 84 ) e xami ne d q ue sti on na ir e re sp on se s o f 2 75 se c on da ry te a c he rs He f ound that Bla ck tea cher s identified other r ace s for re fer ral be fore their own. B lack te a c he rs in t he stu dy of te n p re dic te d h ig he r l e ve ls o f s oc ia l a dju stm e nt a nd re a din g fo r a ll students than Whit e students. Simi larly in a study of B lack tea cher s and White teache rs pe rce ptions of po ssi ble c a us e s a nd po te nti a l so lut ion s to the a c hie ve me nt g a p b e tw e e n Wh ite stu de nts and B lack students, Uhlenbe rg and B rown (2002) survey ed 26 B lack, 25 White and 2 multi-racial tea cher s. Resear cher s found that issues that a re ba sed on making rac ial distinctions or that are pe rce ived to aff ect B lack students more than White students tend to p ro du c e pe rc e pti on a l di sp a ri tie s b e tw e e n B la c k te a c he rs a nd Whit e te a c he rs (Uhlenbe rg & B rown, p. 519). B lack tea cher s in the study viewed te ache rs with low expectations for B lack students, tea cher s not meeting the instructional nee ds of B lack students, and teac hers a cting in a ra cist manner ( whether they meant to or not) a s

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38 signific ant fa ctors in the ac hievement g ap (U hlenber g & B rown). T he author s found that Bla ck tea cher s perc eived f actor s such as B lack students misbehaving lacking eff ort and l a c k i n g p o t e n t i a l a s l e s s s i g n i f i c a n t f a c t o r s In c o n t r a s t t o o t h e r t e a c h e r s i n t h e s t u d y, Bla ck tea cher s believed B lack pa rents le vel of e ducation, income, a nd pare nting techniques w ere less signific ant contributing fac tors for the a chieve ment g ap betwe en Bla ck and White students (Uhlenbe rg & B rown). B lack tea cher s in the study perc eived more pare ntal outrea ch and e ducation, more mentoring prog rams, re cruiting more B lack te a c he rs a nd be tte r c la ssr oo m in str uc tio n a s r e la tiv e ly us e fu l a nd e ff e c tiv e so lut ion s to the ac hievement g ap ( Uhlenber g & B rown, p. 516). I n an attempt to re plicate their previous study Tobias, Z ibrin, and Mene ll (1983) studied 320 teac hers response s to an ada pted ca se history that investiga ted the influenc e of student g ender and ethnicity and the g ender ethnicity and tea ching level of the teac her on ref err al. They failed to re plicate the f indings of the ir ea rlier study wher e tea cher s ref err ed fe wer students of their own r ace Tobias et al. ( 1983) found that rec ommendations for re fer ral we re influe nced by teac hers ethnicity and tea ching level rathe r than students g ender or ra ce. Simi larly Washington (1982) using inter views and de scriptive evide nce w ith inservice teac hers, a nd identified six positive and six neg ative student cha rac teristics as imp or ta nt i n th e sc ho ol c on te xt. T e a c he rs we re a sk e d to a ssi g n tw o s tud e nts fr om t he ir classrooms to ea ch of the char acte ristics. She found that B lack tea cher s viewed B lack boy s, Blac k g irls, and White boy s more neg atively than positively Washington re ported that, with the exception of ac ademic c ompetency tea cher s tended to desig nate pupils of their own ra ce to ne g ative cha rac teristics (p. 71) Two possible explanations are provided. One students ac ademic stre ng ths are mor e uniformly evalua ted. Two, tea cher s

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39 are more sensitive to and/or a war e of nor mative traits in their ra ce a nd are there fore better a ble to discriminate betwe en students of their r ace who fa ll below the norm (Washington) I n a sim ila r v e in, B a hr a nd F uc hs (1 99 1) inv e sti g a te d w he the r t e a c he rs perc eptions of difficult to teac h students of 40 classroom tea cher s were rac ially based. They found that both Whit e and B lack g ener al educ ation teac hers r ated B lack students as more a ppropriate for r efe rra l than Whit e students. B oth gr oups of teac hers pe rce ived the classroom be haviors of White and B lack students to be the sa me. The r esea rche rs noted that behavior did not appear to be the basis for more B lack students being ref err ed. Tea cher s in the study appea red to be more c oncer ned about students w ork issues than behavior Ba hr and F uchs conc luded that the tea cher s perc eived B lack students as w eake r students and in need of specia liz ed instruction. Ge ne ra l e du c a tio n te a c he rs a re mor e lik e ly to r e fe r A fr ic a n A me ri c a n s tud e nts to specia l educa tion than Whi te students. These r efe rra ls are g ener ally based on the g ener al e du c a tio n te a c he rs p e rc e pti on s o f a pp ro pr ia te a nd ina pp ro pr ia te be ha vio r. Whit e te a c he rs p e rc e pti on s a re of te n s imi la r t o p e rc e pti on s o f Wh ite pa re nts a nd in c on tr a st t o the per ceptions of Afric an Amer ican pa rents and A frica n Americ an tea cher s. Afric an Americ an par ents and tea cher s are less likely to refe r Afr ican Ame rica n children a nd have the m removed f rom g ener al educ ation. Afric an Amer ican tea cher s are often fa miliar wi t h t h e e x p er i en ce s o f A fr i ca n Am er i ca n s t u d en t s an d ar e m o re l i k el y t o h av e h i gh so c ia l a nd a c a de mic e xpe c ta tio ns fo r t he m. Conclusion L eg islation such as Br own v. the B oard of Educa tion and PL -94-142 ope ned the do or s f or Af ri c a n A me ri c a n s tud e nts to r e c e ive a n e qu a l, f re e a nd a pp ro pr ia te pu bli c

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40 educa tion. W ith the eventual integ ration of public sc hools, W hite educa tors wer e g iven the re sp on sib ili ty of e du c a tin g Af ri c a n A me ri c a n s tud e nts in r a c ia lly a nd a c a de mic a lly mix ed cla ssrooms (Foster 1990, 1997). These educa tors perc eived a cade mic and socia l dif fe re nc e s in Af ri c a n A me ri c a n s tud e nts Re se a rc he rs a sse rt e d th a t e du c a tor s willingness to wor k with and per ceptions of Af rica n Americ ans have led to the overr epre sentation of Af rica n Americ ans in specia l educa tion and disability cate g ories (Artiles & Trent, 1994) Using their individual perc eptions and cultura l experience s, teac hers judg e which students are teac hable a nd norma l in the g ener al educ ation classroom (D onovan & Cross, 2002; Ross et al., in pre ss). Students who do not match teac hers norm are pe rc e ive d to ha ve a de fi c it. Re se a rc he rs su g g e st t ha t g e ne ra l e du c a tio n te a c he rs perc eptions of Afr ican Ame rica n students beha viors influence SSTs m ore tha n psy cholog ical asse ssments (Abidin & Robinson, 2002; Giesbrec ht & Routh, 1979; Gre sham et al., 1998). T eac hers perc eptions are develope d befor e and a fter the y enter the classr oom, and influenc e how they view tea ching and students (F ang 1992; Kag an, 19 92 ; N e sp or 1 98 7; V a n F le e t, 1 97 9) T e a c he rs vis ua lize the ty pe s o f t e a c he rs the y wi sh to become a nd the students they are able a nd willing to teac h (Calder head & Robson, 1991; Nespor, 1987) Tea cher s belief s in their abilities to teach Af rica n Americ an students influenc e whether they ref er students (Jordan et a l., 1993; L og an et a l., 2001; Podell & Soodak, 19 93 ; Sma rt e t a l., 19 80 ; So od a k e t a l., 19 98 ; Win fi e ld, 19 86 ). Te a c he rs wh o b e lie ve in the ir a bil ity to t e a c h A fr ic a n A me ri c a n s tud e nts e ve n th e mos t c ha lle ng ing on e s, a re le ss likely to refe r them (Jordan et al., 1993; Podell & Soodak, 1993; Soodak e t al., 1998). These te ache rs use outside re source s (i.e., spec ial educa tion refe rra l, pare nts, and other

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41 te a c he rs ) t o c ha ng e the g e ne ra l e du c a tio n c la ssr oo m a nd c ur ri c ulu m to a c c omm od a te students who are strug g ling ( Skiba et al., 1993; Waldron et al., 1998). Tea cher s who believe they cannot tea ch Af rica n Americ an students who ar e strug g ling a re likely to refe r them (Jordan et al., 1993; Podell & Soodak, 1993; Soodak e t a l., 19 98 ). Th e y te nd to b e le ss f le xible in t he ir g ro up ing of stu de nts a nd pr ov ide lit tle chang es to their tea ching and cur riculum to acc ommodate students (Waldron et al., 1998). These teac hers use outside resourc es to confir m problems within students and re mov e stu de nts fr om t he g e ne ra l e du c a tio n c la ssr oo m ( Jord a n e t a l., 19 93 ; Po de ll & Soodak, 1993; L og an et a l., 2001; Soodak et al., 1998). Th is i nv e sti g a tio n a dd s th e vo ic e s o f A fr ic a n A me ri c a n te a c he rs wh os e perc eptions are larg ely missing from the spe cial educ ation ref err al re sear ch (I rvine 2002; L adson-B illings & Tate, 1995; Patton, 1998). Past rese arc h has often be en pre sented fr om t he pe rs pe c tiv e of Whit e te a c he rs (G ra ha m, 1 99 2) wh o a re of te n u nf a mil ia r w ith Afric an Amer ican c ulture and its influenc e on ac ademic a nd social intera ctions betwee n the teac her a nd Afric an Amer ican student (I rvine, 1990, 2002). The tea cher s in this s tudy are more likely to have a cultural matc h to Africa n Americ an students. B eca use their life experience s are more similar to Afr ican Ame rica n stu de nts a nd fa mil ie s, the y a re le ss l ike ly to m isi nte rp re t A fr ic a n A me ri c a n s tud e nts behavior s. By examining Afr ican Ame rica n teac hers perc eptions of spec ial educa tion ref err al, we c an come closer to lea rning how Afr ican Ame rica n teac hers make sense of their worlds. Unde rstanding how these te ache rs make se nse of their worlds will add multicultural voices to the special education referral discourse.

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42 CH APT ER 3 RESEARC H METHOD S The purpose of this study is to ex amine the phe nomenon of spec ial educa tion ref err al from the pe rspec tive of Afr ican Ame rica n elementa ry teac hers. The g uiding questions for this study are (a) How do A frica n Americ an ele mentary teac hers pe rce ive specia l educa tion refe rra l, and, e ven more specific ally (b) How do Af rica n Americ an teac hers e x perie nce the ref err al of Af rica n Americ an students to specia l educa tion classes? Using phenomenolog ical methodolog y I want to under stand how Afr ican Americ an ele mentary teac hers make sense of specia l educa tion refe rra l. This chapter beg ins with a brief de scription of the phe nomenolog ical re sear ch appr oach. I will present the de fi nin g c ha ra c te ri sti c s o f a ph e no me no log ic a l st ud y a nd wh a t it of fe rs to t his inv e sti g a tio n. Th e c ha pte r d e sc ri be s my e xpe ri e nc e s r e la te d to sp e c ia l e du c a tio n r e fe rr a l. What follows are a descr iption of participant re cruitment and se lection proc ess, and specific information about ea ch of the participa nts. The cha pter c oncludes with a pr e se nta tio n o f d a ta c oll e c tio n a nd a na ly sis pr oc e du re s. Introduction to P henom enology I n qualitative re sear ch, it is important for the re sear cher to consider a nd ref lect on his or her a ssumptions about knowledg e (Crotty 1998). These assumptions are inher ent in the theore tical per spective a nd methodology that has bee n chosen ( Crotty ). The philosophical stance tha t lies undernea th the chosen me thodology provide s a conte x t for the proc ess and g rounds its logic a nd criter ia ( Crotty p. 7). I nterpre tivism is the

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43 underly ing philosophica l stance in phe nomenolog y The interpr etivist approac h looks for c ulturally derive d and historically situated interpre tations of the social lifeworld (Crotty p. 67). Phenomenolog y is one kind of interpre tive rese arc h. Phe no me no log y is g ro un de d in the e pis te mol og ic a l a ssu mpt ion tha t th e wo rl d is made up of phenomena and experienc es (Crotty 1998; Husserl, 1931; Moustakas, 1994). Miller and Crabtr ee ( 1999) sug g est that phenomenolog y see ks to understand the lived experience of individuals and their intentions within their lifewor ld (p. 28) I n sear ch of e sse nc e s, the re se a rc he r a sk s q ue sti on s su c h a s wh a t is it l ike to h a ve a c e rt a in experience and what is the esse nce of the par ticular e x perie nce (Miller & Crabtre e). This is accomplished by an investig ator bra cketing his or her pr econc eived idea s, and enter ing into the pa rticipants lifew orld and using the self a s an experienc ing inter prete r (Miller & Crabtre e). Perce ived throug h phy sical sense s, experience s are the initial focus of a phenomenolog ical study (Husser l, 1964). The r esea rche r see ks to understand the ph e no me no n b y ob se rv ing ph y sic a l ma nif e sta tio ns a nd e xpe ri e nc e s o f t he ph e no me no n in order to describe a ne w meaning or fuller meaning or re newe d meaning of the experience (Crotty 1998, p. 82). B y ref lecting on all of the possible mea nings of the experience the re sear cher comes to know a nd fully descr ibe all aspe cts of the e x perie nce identify ing e ssential char acte ristics that surpass spec ific incidenc es (Moustaka s, 1994). Ex perie nces of ten influenc e per ceptions and pe rce ptions ex perie nces. Considere d the primary source of knowledg e in phenomenolog y perc eptions are differ ent from e xpe ri e nc e in t ha t pe rc e pti on s a re me nta l pr oc e sse s in vo lvi ng tho ug hts a nd re fl e c tio ns a nd ba se d o n v a ri ou s a ssu mpt ion s a nd /or be lie fs M ou sta ka s ( 19 94 ) n ote d th a t wi th ever y perc eption we e x perie nce the thing pe rce ived as one -sided a dumbration while a t

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44 the same time a pprehe nding a nd experiencing the thing a s a whole obje ct ( p. 53). One or mul tip le pe rc e pti on s e nh a nc e the po ssi bil iti e s o f k no wi ng a nd e xpe ri e nc ing (M ou sta ka s, 1994). Ne w per ceptions make possible the addition of new know ledg e. Ea ch per ception adds to the experienc e. Obse rving eac h ang le of the obje ct allows var ious perce ptions (horizons) to emerg e. The e pistemology of phenome nology is both objective and subjec tive. Phenomenolog y is objective in the sense that phenomenolog ical re sear ch is focuse d on seeing the object f rom a fr esh, unbiased pe rspec tive fre e fr om prior experienc es with the phenomenon ( Husserl, 1964). A fter f ocusing on the experienc es of the phe nomenon from multipl e points of view, the r esea rche r conduc ts a subjective a ctivity of re flec ting on possible meaning s of the experienc e. Phenomenolog y is subjective in that the laborious proce ss of deve loping the e ssence of an e x perie nce oc curs in the mind of the r esea rche r (Moustakas, 1994; van K aam, 1966) Approa ching the phenomena from both objective and subjec tive perspe ctives ena bles the re sear cher to arrive at universa l aspec ts of the experience (Husser l, 1964). I nte nti on a lit y lie s a t th e he a rt of ph e no me no log y (C ro tty 1 99 8) B y int e nti on a lly lay ing a side prec onceive d ideas a nd preva iling under standing s of the phenome na, rese arc hers c an re visit t he experienc e ane w and witness the possibilities of new mea ning or authe nticate a nd enhanc e for mer mea ning ( Crotty 1998). The pr esumption is that there are thing s themselves ( objects) to visit in our experience (Crotty 1998, p. 79). Whe n th e inv e sti g a tor int e nti on a lly fo c us e s o n th e ph e no me no n a nd re fl e c ts o n it s meaning he or she is able to descr ibe the univer sal truths, or essenc es of the phe nomenon (Moustakas, 1994)

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45 L ike ma ny oth e r t he or e tic a l f ra me wo rk s, ph e no me no log y ha s e vo lve d o ve r t ime (Crotty 1998; Schwandt, 2001). Husse rl (1931), va n Kaa m (1966) and Moustaka s (1994) descr ibed Tra nscende ntal Phenomenolog y as the sea rch f or universa l truths of experience s that form a sing le objective r eality that is shared by all people. This univer sal truth is considered obje ctive and the essenc e of the phenomenon ( Husserl, 1931, 1964; Mo us ta ka s, 19 94 ). Mo de rn re se a rc he rs (S e idm a n, 19 91 ; Wor the n & Mc Ne ill 1 99 6) in the Un ite d St a te s a re int e re ste d in vie wi ng ph e no me na thr ou g h th e le ns e s o f o the rs These multiple truths cre ated f rom viewing the phenomenon f rom diffe rent pe rspec tives (Schwa ndt, 2001) form e ssence s. Descr iptions of universal truths of experienc e (objec tive phenomenolog y ) have evolved to cha rac teristics of the e x perie nce a s situated w i t h i n t h e c o n t e x t o f t h e p a r t i c i p a n t s b e i n g s t u d i e d ( s u b j e c t i v i s t p h e n o m e n o l o g y) ( C r o t t y, 1998). Th e e vo lut ion of ph e no me no log y is p e rt ine nt t o th is s tud y I be lie ve tha t th e re is an esse nce of specia l educa tion refe rra l rooted within the context of the individual and g roup of Af rica n Americ an ele mentary teac hers be ing studied. This study would not be a true re prese ntation of the esse nce of specia l educa tion refe rra l that Husserl re fer s to. The c u l t u r e a n d e t h n i c i t y o f t h e p a r t i c i p a n t s a r e r e l e v a n t t o t h i s s t u d y. F r o m t h i s s t u d y, mul tip le tr uth s w ill be c re a te d b y vie wi ng sp e c ia l e du c a tio n r e fe rr a l f ro m di ve rs e perspe ctives. F ollowing the a pproac h of phenome nology this study seeks to desc ribe the phenomenon of specia l educa tion refe rra l from the per spective of teac hers who a re of ten sil e nc e d in the lit e ra tur e B y pr ov idi ng Af ri c a n A me ri c a n te a c he rs the op po rt un ity to descr ibe how they perc eive spe cial educ ation ref err al, a diver se view a nd dialog ue of specia l educa tion refe rra l will be cre ated.

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46 Th e ult ima te g oa l of ph e no me no log ic a l r e se a rc h is to t ho ro ug hly de sc ri be a ll aspec ts of the experienc e in as much de tail as possible (Husser l, 1931, Moustakas, 1994). Us i n g ca re fu l an d i n t en s e s t u d y p h en o m en o l o gy en d ea v o rs t o go b ac k t o t h e t h i n gs themselves ( Crotty 1998, p. 59) to experience phenomenon f rom a fr esh per spective fre e fr om bias and judg ments, from as many perspe ctives as possible (Crotty 1998; Moustakas, 1994). I ntentionally setting a side, as best we can, the preva iling understanding of spec ial educa tion refe rra l and re visiti ng specia l educa tion refe rra l allows opportunities to verify or enha nce f ormer me aning or der ive new me aning for specia l educa tion refe rra l (Crotty 1998). This intentionality is essential to experiencing the object, spe cial educ ation ref err al, from the va ntag e points of the subjec ts, Africa n Am e ri c a n te a c he rs Subj e c ti vit y St at e m e nt Var ious subjectivities make up a re sear cher s autobiog raphy and, to know which su bje c tiv iti e s a re e ng a g e d in the re se a rc h, re se a rc he rs de ve lop su bje c tiv ity sta te me nts (Glesne 1999). The subje ctivity statement ca ndidly discloses the experienc es of the rese arc her. This disclosure reve als who I am in rela tionship t o what I am lear ning f rom the re sear ch and w hat I may be pre venting my self fr om learning (Glesne 1999). As an Afric an Amer ican r esea rche r eng ag ing in a phenomenolog ical study of Afr ican Ame rica n teac hers perc eptions of spec ial educa tion refe rra l, I have ma ny life experienc es that ar e brac keted in orde r to examine the phenomenon f rom an unbiase d and fr esh unadulter ated perspe ctive (Crotty 1998). I am a middle-c lass fema le who has lived in the state wher e the data w as collec ted for most of my life. My interest in Afr ican Ame rica n teac hers perc eptions of spec ial educa tion ref err al orig inates fr om my experience s as an Af rica n Americ an student and a teac her.

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47 After more than 12 hour s of labor, my ear th day s beg an on F riday Fe bruar y 18, 1972. Doctors told my y oung pare nts (ag es 21 and 17) that their first child, a da ug hter, ha d suffe red multiple seizures immediately afte r deliver y and may have de velopmental problems in the future Thankfully my pare nts sought a se cond opinion, finding a doctor who told them that there w as nothing wrong with their first born other than she ha d been allowed to stay inside of her mother too long I enter ed a w orld that was r apidly chang ing for Af rica n Americ ans. The e stablishment of aff irmative ac tion prog rams and soc ial prog rams such a s Hea d Start, public housing, Me dicaid, and othe r prog rams during the la te 19 60 s a nd e a rl y 19 70 s su g g e ste d th a t th e Un ite d St a te s w a s r e a dy to a c kn ow le dg e its wrong s and mistreatment of poor people a nd people of color. My mother, a g radua te of the la st seg reg ated c lass of L incoln Hig h School, and my fathe r, one of the first to integ rate Newbe rry Hig h School, imparted their dr eam of a c a de mic s oc ia l, a nd po lit ic a l e mpo we rm e nt f or the Af ri c a n A me ri c a n c omm un ity to the ir on ly da ug hte r. My e a rl ie st m e mor ie s a re tha t of sc ho ol, c hu rc h, a nd se rv ic e Pu bli c sch oo li ng began w it h He ad S tar t an d el eme nt ary sch oo l i n a s mal l r ural com mu ni ty By my seventh birthday my fathe r ente red the Christian mini stry which provide d me the op po rt un ity to s pe a k c a nd idl y a nd sin g be fo re c on g re g a tio ns on sp e c ia l oc c a sio ns a s w e ll as ser ve those in the c ommunity I n the seve nth gr ade, my family and I moved from one small town to another. Wit h the move ca me a ne w neig hborhood and ne w school. F or the fir st tim e we lived in a neig hborhood whe re w e we re the only per sons of color. I n the midst of our move to the new sc hool, my school rec ords wer e misplace d. Neither my pare nts nor I wer e aw are of the mis ha p o r m y pla c e me nt i n a re me dia l r e a din g c la ss, un til my re po rt c a me ho me wi th a n A a nd the c omm e nts re a din g be low g ra de le ve l. I mme dia te ly my fa the r w e nt t o

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48 the school to inquire about the mistake I t was re veale d that my school rec ords neve r arr ived from the pr evious school, and that I had bee n arbitra rily place d in a classr oom. I was quickly place d in an on-g rade -leve l rea ding c lass. I n eig hth gr ade, I beca me an A student in advanc ed plac ement cour ses. I suppose this placeme nt would be consider ed today s g ifted and ta lented prog rams. Dur ing the next y ear s, it quickly beca me appa rent that I would become one of the first, only and fe w: one of six Afric an Amer icans to be acc epted in the I nterna tional Ba cca laure ate Prog ram a t Eastside Hig h School, and the first fema le in my family to complete a ba chelor s deg ree As an a lumnus of the University of F lorida, my fathe r wa s not too thrill ed about his daug hter a ttending F lorida State Univer sity as an unde rg radua te, but the experienc e wo uld fo re ve r c ha ng e my lif e M y jun ior y e a r, I bli nd ly e nte re d D r. Willi a m Jone s Ra c e Ra c ism a nd I ns tit uti on s c la ss. Dr Jon e s sp ok e of ma rg ina liza tio n, ra c ism ins tit uti on a lize d r a c ism p ow e r, bla min g the vic tim p ra xis, a nd he g e mon y H a vin g c ome from an e merg ing middle c lass, immediately I beca me intrig ued by this man who many be lie ve d to be ra dic a l a nd fa na tic a l. B y the e nd of the se me ste r, I ha d c ha ng e d ma jor s to sociolog y Americ an history and B lack studies. F or the fir st tim e, I beg an to question the many privileg es base d on rac e and c lass that many others and I had take n for g rante d. After g radua tion, I neede d a job and de cided to ente r into teac hing te mporarily Tea ching would fore ver c hang e my life. I taug ht in the Alachua County public school sy stem for 5 y e a rs e nte ri ng the fi e ld o f s pe c ia l e du c a tio n th ro ug h a n a lte rn a tiv e c e rt if ic a tio n in middle gr ades soc ial scienc e. As a n A fr ic a n A me ri c a n mi dd le sc ho ol s pe c ia l e du c a tio n te a c he r a nd a g ra du a te student, I beca me sensitive to the disproportionate numbe rs of my students who wer e Afric an Amer ican. I nitially I believed tha t the overr epre sentation of Af rica n Americ an

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49 students in special educ ation was a n isolated occ urre nce, until later rea ding da ta that explained it as national trend. Dur ing my 5 y ear s of teac hing, my class sizes fluctuated from 8 students to 27 students, often with one or no a ide. Even more troubling to me w as the ina pp ro pr ia te ins tr uc tio n a nd mis la be lin g of stu de nts wh o w e re fa lli ng be hin d th e ir peer s in ge nera l educa tion. I reme mber thinking during I ndividual Education Prog ram (I EP) meeting s, I dont observe the issues y oure having with this st udent, a nd often volunteering my help to the newly mainstreame d students and g ener al educ ation teac hers, while some of my specia l educa tion colleag ues pre dicted automatic f ailure. Rarely was a student mainstreame d without one or more te ache rs ang rily questioning another s ra tionale for w anting to expos e students with disabiliti es to the possibilit ies of a g ener al educ ation curr iculum and environme nt. Fee ling like a trade r, I beg an to question my e xpe c ta tio ns of stu de nts a nd my a bil ity to p ro vid e ind ivi du a lize d in str uc tio n. Di d my colleag ues and I have low e x pecta tions of our Afr ican Ame rica n students? What were we pr ov idi ng stu de nts wi th d isa bil iti e s th a t w a s so sp e c ia l tha t it c ou ld o nly be pr ov ide d in c e r t a i n c l a s s r o o m s o n o n e s i d e o f t h e s c h o o l c l o s e s t t o t h e p a r k i n g l o t ? Du ri ng the we e k o f n int h g ra de re g ist ra tio n, on e of my e ig hth g ra de stu de nts questioned me a bout the benef its of special e ducation. Y ou all never teac h any thing ne w. We l e a rn the sa me thi ng e ve ry y e a r. I t s ju st s wi tc he d a ro un d. Ho w a re we g oin g to be able to work with letters [variable s in alg ebra ] i f y ou all never g ive us a c hance ? she asked. My conscie nce w as pricke d by her w ords. M e th ods The methods sele cted a nd utiliz ed for this study wer e alig ned with the assumptions of transce ndental phenome nology and g uided spec ifically by the work of Mo us ta ka s ( 19 94 ) a nd va n K a a m ( 19 66 ). Th is s e c tio n d e sc ri be s th e str a te g ie s u se d to

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50 re c ru it p a rt ic ipa nts a nd to c oll e c t a nd a na ly ze d a ta T he ra tio na le fo r t he c ho ic e s ma de is also prese nted. P artic ipan ts Se le c ti on c r it e r ia Purposeful and homog enous sampling was used ( Glesne, 1999) and pa rticipants met seve ral c riteria. T hey wer e Af rica n Americ an ele mentary teac hers, with at lea st 3 y ear s of teac hing e x perie nce, w ho had re fer red a child to special educa tion and/or had be en a pa rt of a School Study Tea m. All of the teac hers who participa ted in the study taug ht in elementar y schools during the 2004-2005 school y ear Th e ra c e of the pa rt ic ipa nts is i mpo rt a nt b e c a us e the pu rp os e of the stu dy is t o convey perspe ctives and pr ovide voice to a n underr epre sented g roup in educ ational rese arc h (i.e., Af rica n Americ an tea cher s). The minimum of 3 y ear s of teac hing experience was important, as te ache rs who have taug ht at least 3 y ear s are cer tified, have completed some be g inning tea cher induction, and have been obse rved a nd evalua ted by the ir sc ho ol p ri nc ipa ls. To de ve lop inde pth de sc ri pti on s o f s pe c ia l e du c a tio n r e fe rr a l, i t was ne cessa ry for tea cher participa nts to have experienc ed re fer ring a child to spec ial educa tion or been a part of a School Study Tea m. Elementary teac hers we re se lected beca use most children re fer red to spec ial educa tion are in e lementar y school. To ensure that teac her pa rticipants had e x perie nce te aching diverse le arne rs, teac hers we re se lected from schools that had A frica n Americ an student populations from 25% to 50%. Twenty -one invitations to participate in this st udy wer e sent to Afr ican Ame rica n elementa ry teac hers a t seven schools in a small urba n community Eig ht teache rs returne d signe d informed c onsent forms, but only five tea cher s met the study criter ia. Us ing the fi ve pa rt ic ipa nts p e rs pe c tiv e s o f s pe c ia l e du c a tio n r e fe rr a l, inf ori c h c a se s, in-depth under standing ar e pre sented (G lesne, 1999, p. 29).

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51 Select ion p roce dures. After rec eiving I RB appr oval, I contac ted the School Boa rd to obtain study approva l. My contac t person at the sc hool board sent my study information (Appe ndix A) to ele mentary principals who ha d Afric an Amer ican tea cher s o n s t a f f a n d w h o s e A f r i c a n A m e r i c a n s t u d e n t p o p u l a t i o n m e t t h e c r i t e r i a f o r t h e s t u d y. Se ve n o ut o f 1 4 p ri nc ipa ls g a ve me a pp ro va l to c on ta c t th e ir te a c he rs A ft e r m e e tin g wi th the principa ls or desig nated c ontact per sons at interested sc hools, I took packe ts and/or tr uc kma ile d a stu dy pa c ke t c on sis tin g of c on se nt l e tte r ( Ap pe nd ix B ), de mog ra ph ic survey (Appe ndix D), a nd a study flier ( Appendix A) to the 21 Afric an Amer ican teac hers in the se ven schools. The study flier wa s added to a ddress a low initial response. After sever al phone c alls, e-mails, re minders, visits, and resending packe ts, 5 of 7 teac her re sp on de nts we re se le c te d b a se d u po n s tud y c ri te ri a Se le c te d te a c he rs we re c on ta c te d to schedule an informe d consent mee ting a nd first interview. T hose who did not meet the study criter ia wer e ca lled and thanke d for their interest in the study De m og r aphi c infor m at ion De mog ra ph ic inf or ma tio n is su mma ri zed in Table 31. Participants had 4 to 32 y ear s of teac hing e x perie nce. T he hig hest educ ational level attaine d for these teac hers r ang ed fr om a bac helors deg ree to a doctora te. All had been pa rt of a sc hool study team and, w ith the exception of one tea cher had initiated a re fe rr a l to sp e c ia l e du c a tio n. Th re e te a c he rs ha d r e fe rr e d A fr ic a n A me ri c a n s tud e nts while two had not. Unlike the g ener al teac hing popula tion, the majority of the participa nts were male. Data Collec tion Da ta c oll e c tio n c on sis te d o f p a rt ic ipa nt i nte rv ie ws T he sp e c if ic str a te g ie s f or da ta collection follow.

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52 Table 31. Participant demog raphic s Tea cher Paul David Rebec ca Sarah Michae l Be en apa rt of a sc hool study team? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Nu mbe r o f r e fe rr a ls o f i n th e pa st 5 y ear s. 1 None 5 5 3 Number of ref err als of Af rica n Am e ri c a n s tud e nts in t he pa st 5 y ear s. None None 3 3 2 Number of y ear s teac hing 31 4 32 6 11 Current a nnual household income Above $50,000 $30,000$40,000 Above $50,000 L ess than $30,000 $40,000-50,000 Fa mily household income g rowing up Above $40,000 $20,000-40,000 $10,000-20,000 $20,000-40,000 $10,000-20,000 S ch o o l ex p er i en ce (e l em en t ar y h i gh school, colleg e) All Blac k, his tor ic a lly Bla ck Pr e do min a ntl y B la c k, Whit e mid dle c la ss, historically Bla ck All Blac k, pr e do min a ntl y Whit e Pr e do min a ntl y Whit e, his tor ic a lly Bla ck Equally mix ed, pr e do min a ntl y Whit e

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53 P ar ti c ipa nt int e r vie ws. I n a phenome nologic al study the methods selec ted for data c ollection should focus on the pa rticipants pe rce ptions (Moustakas, 1994; Seidman, 1991). Ty pically in phenomenolog ical re sear ch multiple, semi-structure d, and intera ctive interviews a re use d to ga ther da ta (Moustaka s, 1994, Seidman, 1991). With proper int e rv ie w s tr uc tur ing r e se a rc he rs re du c e re se a rc he r b ia s a s w e ll a s le a din g pa rt ic ipa nts descr iption of the experience (Seidman). Utilizing openended c omments and questions the re sear cher elicits participants de scriptions of the experienc e (Seidman) Using Seidmans interview model, three interviews pe r par ticipant wer e conduc ted in the c u r r e n t s t u d y. I n a dd iti on to t he int e rv ie ws mu lti ple me e tin g s w ith e a c h p a rt ic ipa nt a llo we d me to e sta bli sh ra pp or t a nd tr us t ne c e ssa ry fo r i nde pth de sc ri pti on s ( Se idm a n, 19 91 ). Mo st of the intervie ws wer e sche duled no more tha n 2 wee ks apar t, and none oc curr ed on the same da y (Seidman). I n line with Seidmans 60-minute interview dur ation, the interview duration for eac h interview w as betwe en 30 to 70 minutes. I mportantly busy teac hers wer e g iven re asonable time to talk about their experience s, but not so much that they or the re se a rc he r b e c a me ina tte nti ve or tir e d. Du e to t he te a c he rs s c he du le s a nd my availability the data c ollection proce ss occur red f rom J anuar y throug h May of 2005. Th e pu rp os e of int e rv ie w o ne wa s to e sta bli sh the c on te xt of the pa rt ic ipa nts experience with the phenomenon ( specia l educa tion refe rra l). The f irst interview (A pp e nd ix C) a sk e d th e m to re c on str uc t e a rl y lif e e xpe ri e nc e s w ith fa mil ie s, fr ie nd s, school, the Afr ican Ame rica n community and wor k as ea ch re lated to spec ial educa tion (Siedman, 1991). B eca use I am examining the Af rica n Americ an experienc e of spe cial educa tion refe rra l, participants we re a sked to descr ibe their c ommuniti es and f amily as

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54 they g rew up, as we ll as Afric an Amer ican students in their schools. I wanted to know what spec ial educa tion refe rra l meant to these tea cher s befor e they beca me teac hers. Second intervie ws (Appe ndix C) beg an with a br ief membe r che ck using the words of the participa nt the rese arc her summar ized from interview one Participants wer e then g iven the opportunity to ag ree or disag ree with my sy nopsis of interview one The s e c o n d i n t e r v i e w a s k e d p a r t i c i p a n t s t o d e s c r i b e s p e c i a l e d u c a t i o n r e f e r r a l c u r r e n t l y. Participants wer e aske d what they curr ently do in their classrooms with students they would ref er, a nd to talk about their intera ctions with students, parents, and othe r school staff a s these re late to spec ial educa tion refe rra l. B e g inn ing wi th a no the r m e mbe r c he c k, the thi rd a nd fi na l in te rv ie w ( Ap pe nd ix C) was c enter ed on the mea ning of specia l educa tion refe rra l and, more pointedly the ref err al of Af rica n Americ an students. During this int ervie w, teac hers we re a sked the following questions: How should specia l educa tion refe rra l affe ct y our Afr ican Americ an students? , What cha ng es do y ou expect when they are ref err ed? , I f y ou c o u l d d e s i g n t h e s t e p s f o r s p e c i a l e d u c a t i o n r e f e r r a l w h a t w o u l d t h e y l o o k l i k e ? Reflec tion on the meaning of re fer ral e ncoura g es par ticipants to refle ct on the mea ning their experienc e holds for the m and how their e x perie nces, pa st and prese nt, influence their under standing reg arding what should happe n in the future w ith special educ ation ref err al (Seidman, 1991). To make the interviews c onvenient and c omfortable f or the tea cher s, interviews wer e sche duled ac cording to the teac hers availability and loca tion. The majority of the te a c he rs a sk e d to be int e rv ie we d a ft e r s c ho ol o n th e ir sc ho ol s c a mpu s. I me t te a c he rs in the ir c la ssr oo ms, te a c he r l ou ng e s, c on fe re nc e ro oms a nd of fi c e s. On e te a c he r d e c ide d to

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55 come to my home during the ea rly evening hours. Mee ting a t the end of the school day eliminated distractions fr om students and cowor kers. All interviews we re a udiotape re corde d and tra nscribed ve rbatim by the rese arc her. A fter the transcr iptions were c omplete, the re sear cher took the transcr iptions and listened to the a udio rec ording s to conduct a sideby -side che ck for acc urac y After doing my own che ck for acc urac y eac h participa nt was sent a c opy of his or her tr a ns c ri pts fo r t he pu rp os e of a dd ing c omm e nts or ma kin g c or re c tio ns to e la bo ra te on his or her experience with special e ducation re fer ral (A ppendix E). Defini ng Characte ristics of P henom enology Ep oc he is a pr oc e ss t hr ou g h w hic h th e re se a rc he r a c tiv e ly se ts a sid e or br a c ke ts all assumptions, bias, understanding s, and experienc es re lated to the phenome non being stu die d ( Mo us ta ka s, 19 94 ). Th e re se a rc he r b e g ins his or he r r e se a rc h b y ide nti fy ing a ll assumptions, li fe a nd persona l experience s, and desc ribing them in written form for the pu rpo se o f i gnori ng th em f or t he d urat io n o f t he re sear ch (M ou st akas 1 99 4). By brac keting or setting aside the r esea rche rs' prec onceive d notions, special educ ation ref err al is revisited fr om a fre sh unadultera ted per spective f ree from bias fr om as many v a n t a g e p o i n t s a s p o s s i b l e t o d e s c r i b e t h e p h e n o m e n o n a s f u l l y a s p o s s i b l e ( C r o t t y, 1998). The pa rticipants in this study wer e the dire ct experienc ers of specia l educa tion ref err al and a s a re sult of epoche I am pre sent to it only throug h their desc riptions (Giorg i, 1985). I have pr esente d a subjec tivity statement and br acke ted my assumptions a nd e xpe ri e nc e s to de sc ri be the ph e no me no n, sp e c ia l e du c a tio n r e fe rr a l, t hr ou g h a fr e sh a nd un bia se d le ns D e sp ite my e xpe ri e nc e s a nd no tio ns I re ma ine d f oc us on wh a t is befor e me.

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56 After collecting the data, the rese arc her pr og resse s to the next stag e of ph e no me no log ic a l r e se a rc h, ph e no me no log ic a l r e du c tio n ( Mo us ta ka s, 19 94 ). Du ri ng thi s stag e the tra nscribed inter views ar e examined for the mes. Eac h participa nts transcr ibed interview is examined for a ll aspects of the ir experience that are unique to specia l educa tion refe rra l (phenomenon) Statements that are irrele vant to specia l educa tion ref err al or that a re r epetitive ar e eliminated. Using the par ticipants words, r eleva nt themes ar e identified a nd a re duction of the da ta occ urs. The e x perie nces a re de veloped into releva nt and invaria nt themes from whic h individual tex tural desc riptions are develope d. I nvaria nt themes and mea ning units illustrate lac k of var iance in the data. They are "unique qualities of an e x perie nces, those tha t stand out" (Moustaka s, 1994, p. 12 8) A t th e c or e of the da ta sh a re d id e a s ( e sse nc e ) c a n b e fo un d a mon g st p a rt ic ipa nts The textural descr iptions are desc riptions of the observa ble cha rac teristics of the ph e no me no n ( Mo us ta ka s, 19 94 ). I nd ivi du a l te xtur a l de sc ri pti on s a re c omb ine d to develop a composite text ural de scription of spec ial educa tion refe rra l. After phenomenolog ical re duction is complete, the re sear cher returns to the orig inal data to conduc t imagina tive varia tion. During imag inative var iation, structural descr iptions of the phenomenon ar e deve loped. The struc tures of the experience are the meaning and ca uses of the te x tural desc ription (Moustakas, 1994). The rela tionship of te xtur e a nd str uc tur e is t ha t bo th t he a pp e a ra nc e a nd the hid de n c ome tog e the r t o c re a te full understanding of the e ssence s of a phe nomenon and e x perie nce ( Moustakas, 1994, p. 79). I n this phase, the re sear cher focuse s on meaning and esse nces r ather than empirica l data (Moustaka s, 1994) using a proc edure known as fr ee f antasy varia tion. Fre e fanta sy varia tion is a refle ctive phase in which the re sear cher examines and ref lects on

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57 many possibili ties, g iving f ull and detailed de scription to the sear ch for essenc es ( M o u s t a k a s 1 9 9 4 ) P o s s i b i l i t i e s i m a g i n e d a r e s t r u c t u r e s o f t i m e s p a c e m a t e r i a l i t y, causa lity and re lationship to self and others (Moustakas, 1994, p. 99) Thus, by using the information provide d by the par ticipants, and unbiased ide as that come from fr ee fanta sy varia tion, indivi dual structura l descriptions for e ach pa rticipant ar e for med (H us se rl 1 93 1; M ou sta ka s, 19 94 ). Th e ind ivi du a l st ru c tur a l de sc ri pti on s a re c omb ine d to c re a te a c omp os ite str uc tur a l de sc ri pti on tha t is re pr e se nta tiv e a c ro ss p a rt ic ipa nts Finally the textural and structura l composite descr iptions are combined to c onstruct the essenc e of the phenomenon ( Moustakas, 1994). Da ta Ana lys is I beg an ana ly sis with analy zing first the da ta of two ke y participa nts, David and Rebec ca, f ollowed by the three other pa rticipants. Fir st, I open code d eac h participa nts three interviews. F rom the open c odes, I develope d horizons for the experienc e. Ea ch pa rt ic ipa nt s tr a ns c ri pts we re e xami ne d li ne by lin e fo r w or ds p hr a se s, a nd sta te me nts signific ant to the spec ial educa tion refe rra l experience (invaria nt meaning units), and then place d in themed ca teg ories. Ne x t, the invariant mea ning units and the mes wer e sy nthesized toge ther to for m one textural description (desc riptive summary ) of the experience of spec ial educa tion refe rra l. Actual data from the pa rticipants tra nscriptions wer e used a s examples. After ref lecting on eac h participa nts text ural de scriptions, I develope d structura l descr iptions (interpretative summar ies) for eac h participa nt using fr ee f antasy Fr ee fa nta sy is a wr itt e n e xpa ns ion of the pa rt ic ipa nt s te xtur a l de sc ri pti on thr ou g h my e y e s, while continuing in Epoche. N ext, I combined all of the participa nts text ural descr iptions t o develop a g roup textural description. Fr om the g roups textural

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58 descr iption, the gr oups structura l description was de veloped. Dur ing the final phase of analy sis, I integ rate d the ver batim descriptive summarie s and the interpr etative summaries to form the g roups sy nthesis tex tural-struc tural desc ription of specia l educa tion refe rra l. Trustw orthiness of th e Study Va lid ity in q ua lit a tiv e re se a rc h c a n b e de fi ne d a s v e ri fi c a tio n th a t th e fi nd ing s, bound to a par ticular c ontext are truthful and ac cura te (B orkan, 1999) I chose the term tr us tw or thi ne ss b e c a us e it n ot o nly e mph a size s tr us tf uln e ss o f m y int e rp re ta tio n, bu t a lso aff irmation of the data by my colleag ues and the participa nts being studied (Glesne 1 9 9 9 ). S ev er al s t ep s we re t ak en t o en s u re t h e t ru s t wo rt h i n es s o f t h e f i n d i n gs Us i n g a subjectivity statement, I clar ified my biases. I n addition to the subjectivity statement, I rema ined in epoche by journaling my persona l refle ctions and experienc es during eac h phase of the investig ation. During member c hecking study participa nts were g iven the orig inal transcr ipts for the purpose s of ensuring clar ity and adding any rele vant information. With t he exception of one participa nt, none of the pa rticipants made c ha ng e s o r a dd iti on s to the ir tr a ns c ri pts A s a pa rt of the me mbe r c he c kin g p a rt ic ipa nts w e r e a l s o g i v e n t h e i r t e x t u r a l a n d s t r u c t u r a l d e s c r i p t i o n s t o r e v i e w f o r a c c u r a c y. Ex terna l auditing oc curr ed throug h biweekly meeting s with my profe ssor for the pu rp os e s o f r e fl e c tio n a nd c ri tiq ue of my wr iti ng th e re se a rc h p ro c e ss, a nd da ta a na ly sis Peer r eviewing and debr iefing took place a t the beg inning a nd end of the data c ollection and ana ly sis. I prese nted my work a nd talked with doctora l students about the challeng es of da ta c oll e c tio n, the a na ly sis a nd a rr ivi ng a t f ind ing s.

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59 CH APT ER 4 FI NDI NGS This chapter highlig hts the descr iptions of two key participa nts, David and Rebec ca ( all of the na mes of par ticipants are pseudony ms), followed by the g roups descr iption of special educ ation ref err al. David a nd Rebec ca w ere chosen to be key pa rt ic ipa nts be c a us e of the ir div e rs e e xpe ri e nc e s w ith sp e c ia l e du c a tio n r e fe rr a l, a s w e ll as the ric hness of their spe cial educ ation ref err al desc ription. David, a spec ial educa tion teac her, ha d a childhood fr iend and a cousin who we re r efe rre d and plac ed in spec ial educa tion. He and his childhood fr iend attende d the same sc hools but ex perie nced sc hool differ ently As a spec ial educa tion teache r, Da vid observed his c ousins educa tional de c lin e a nd e ve ntu a l w ith dr a wa l f ro m sc ho ol. Whe n r e fe rr a ls o c c ur in h is s c ho ol, he is g e ne ra lly the te a c he r w ho is g ive n th e pr ima ry re sp on sib ili ty fo r t he re fe rr e d s tud e nts aca demic and soc ial prog ress. Rebe cca a g ener al educ ation teac her, e x perie nced he r daug hter be ing r efe rre d to special e ducation; there fore she has e x perie nced the roles of teac her a nd pare nt of a re fer red student. At the time of the study Rebec ca s daug hter wa s prepa ring to gr aduate from hig h school with honors. I n this chapter the key participa nts text ural a nd structura l descriptions are prese nted. Afte r Da vid and Rebec ca s descr iptions, composit e textural and structura l descr iptions, which include the voice s of all par ticipants, are prese nted. To re spond to the primary rese arc h questions, the chapte r conc ludes with a desc ription of the essenc e of specia l educa tion refe rra l from the per spective of the Afr ican Ame rica n elementa ry teac hers in this study

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60 Da vid Textural Desc ription Early experie nce with referral David re called his e arly experience of spec ial educa tion. He re membere d one of his c hil dh oo d f ri e nd s, a n A fr ic a n A me ri c a n ma le w ho wa s r e g ula rl y pu lle d o ut o f c la ss in e le me nta ry sc ho ol. Da vid did n t r e a lly kn ow wh a t he wa s g e tti ng pu lle d o ut o f c la ss for. Eventually he found out that his frie nd was labe led emotionally handica pped and was on medic ation. He sa id, I can r emember he wa s the only kid that I went to school with that had a labe l. David r eca lled that other B lack students stay ed in class tog ether This friend would g et pulled out of cla ss rig ht before lunch and a couple of additional times a wee k. David and the other students would ask, Why can t we g o to speec h, not rea liz ing tha t it was a par t of a spec ial educa tion prog ram. We just t houg ht he was g etting pr ivilege s that we we ren t ge tting, D avid conc luded. Whe n D a vid a nd his pe e rs tr a ns iti on e d to mid dle sc ho ol, the y re c og nize d th e ir c l a s s m a t e a s d i f f e r e n t w h e n t h e y r a r e l y s a w h i m d u r i n g t h e s c h o o l d a y. E v e n t u a l l y, someone stated tha t Davids fr iend had a skill-pack. David explained, B ack the n, s k i l l -p ac k s wa s an i n d i ca t i o n t h at h e w as b eh i n d D av i d p o i n t ed o u t t h at l at er i n h i gh sc ho ol, his fr ie nd wo uld be pla c e d o n th e wa ng . He re po rt e d, At GH S we ha d th is thi ng we us e d to c a ll wa ng wh e re li ke a ll t he ESE kid s w e nt. Yo u d on t ha ng ou t w ith the m, a nd y ou ne ve r r e a lly se e the m. Da vid s fr ie nd wa s u niq ue in t he e y e s o f h is p e e rs a c e le br ity ty pe a n a thl e te a nd re a l po pu la r a mon g st t he g ir ls s o e ve ry bo dy of c ou rs e wa nte d to be c oo l w ith him . He a nd Da vid ha ve re ma ine d f ri e nd s. Be fore becoming a tea cher David pre sumed the students in special e ducation wer e re tarde d. Thinking the students in special educ ation had a rea l big pr oblem, he

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61 and his pee rs made c omments like, Oh they need to g et a c heck a nd their mental capa city is shot. I n hindsight, Da vid wished he ha d ac commodations like all the e xtra tim e on te sts . He ha s n oti c e d th a t th e stu de nts a t hi s c ur re nt s c ho ol a sk to c ome to his classroom, unawa re of the re fer ral proc ess or that he is the special e ducation tea cher David sug g ested that if c hildren nee d help they should ge t it as early as possible, when it s n ot s o mu c h a tte nti on br ou g ht t o th e sit ua tio n. He pu rp or te d th a t wh e n k ids a re old enoug h to understand, its [being ref err ed] actually depre ssing. I n elementa ry school they are too y oung to understand the r efe rra l proce ss or they re just having too much f un in life to know, but ever y y ear [t hey ] get older things g et a little bit more serious and I think thats when they rea liz e, [they are differ ent]. The bi tt e r swe e t of t he r e fer r al p r oc e ss David desc ribed the r efe rra l proce ss as bitterswe et. Ac cording to him, in an eff ort to achie ve a perf ect c lass, g ener al educ ation teac hers r emove students who a re differ ent or stand out fr om the rest of the class. The g ener al educ ation teac her g e t [s] th e m ou t be c a us e the y r e c a us ing y ou r [h e r] r e a din g g ro up to g o a lit tle bit slower . f or the ESE tea cher s . its bitt er . f or the re g ular e d teac hers that c a n d ump on the ESE te a c he rs it s sw e e t be c a us e the y do n t ha ve to p ut u p w ith it. He pe rc e ive d th a t r e g ula r e du c a tio n te a c he rs ma ke fe w a dju stm e nts in t he ir te a c hin g sty le or lesson plans for students who are strug g ling. David conte nded that re fer ral be comes inevitable for those w ho do not match the norm. He e x plained, onc e y ou g et into the ref err al proc ess, most likely they are g oing to find some kind of, y ou know . disability . He noted, I f 100 students are ref err ed, 60 of the m will qualify for something Once they g et y o u . i n fo r s p ee ch an d l an gu age i f y o u q u al i fy i n s p ee ch an d l an gu age e ve ntu a lly tha t ki d e nd s u p . in f or ma th, sp e lli ng . th e n th e wh ole a c a de mic setting.

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62 David obser ved that at the e nd of the school y ear students are often staf fed f or spee ch and lang uag e, then all of the sudde n when the sc hool y ear starts bac k beca use they didnt score thi s o n th e F CA T o r p la c e me nt t e st . the y r e [g e ne ra l e du c a tio n te a c he rs ] calling for a nother I EP meeting say ing, Oh these kids nee d small gr oup instruction in reading or math or wr iting. Students that were doing well af ter be ing r efe rre d are caug ht by the re fer ral proc ess and remove d from g ener al educ ation. David noted e x perie nces w here a re fe rr a l mi g ht h a ve sta rt e d a y e a r b e fo re a nd thi s k id, y ou kn ow is do ing we ll and they fig ure w ell this kid qualifies for SL D, they place the kid on consult, by tim e the kid g e ts t wo re fe rr a ls o h h e ne e ds to g e t E SE m inu te s. He a tte ste d th a t r e fe rr a l be c ome s a n e a sy wa y ou t f or g e ne ra l e du c a tio n te a c he rs D a vid e xpla ine d, Ho w m uc h e a sie r i s it to t e a c h a c la ss w ith no be ha vio r p ro ble ms, it s g re a t. Youre never having to redire ct the student. I n the end the r efe rra l proce ss often become s more bitter than swe et for the ref err ed student, who is re moved from g ener al e du c a tio n to sp e c ia l e du c a tio n w he re he or sh e re c e ive s in a pp ro pr ia te be ha vio ra l mo de ls and instruction. Ele m e nt s infl ue nc ing th e r e fer r al p r oc e ss Da vid re c og nize d te a c he r t ole ra nc e g uid a nc e c ou ns e lor su pp or t, a nd bo g us interventions as major f actor s influencing the re fer ral proc ess. Acc ording to David, ref err al starts with a tea cher not wanting to deal with inappr opriate be havior. Tea cher s have dif fer ent levels of toler ance and they g ive diffe rent de finitions of a norma l student. Da vid expl ained that the g ener al educ ation teac hers definition of a normal student is as soon as they come in, [they ] do what they are asked to do the first time, y ou dont have to redire ct them, y ou dont have to go slow . ever y thing is done a t normal speed a nd y ou dont have to worry about this kid not un de rs ta nd ing thi s a nd un de rs ta nd ing tha t.

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63 David re veale d that for some te ache rs a pr oblem 2 day s in a row is a c ause f or ref err al. David pur ported, I f y oure not normal for some r eason, y ou know, whiche ver, whateve r normal may mean, y ou know it give s the teac her a n opportunity to ge t y ou re mov e d f ro m th a t c la ss. Te a c he rs c a n b e int ole ra nt o f s tud e nts du e to c ur re nt a c a de mic or social pe rfor mance and due to f amily history David re ported tea cher s many times say ing, Oh, I had his sister or I had his brother and . I m not g oing to put up with that from him. David pre fer red the ref err al proc ess to be a n eff ort to keep a kid out of ESE, but he has obse rved r efe rra l meeting s being used to push students into ES E. He r evea led, The g uidance counselors a nd all play a big part y ou know with these kids g etting . once the y g et re fer red g etting put into ESE. He rec alled sitting in mee tings a nd hear ing par ents be pe rsuade d into signing y ou know, the docume nts, y ou know to g et their kids into ESE. Accor ding to Da vid, guida nce c ounselors informe d the par ents, who ar e ofte n po or o f p os sib le e c on omi c be ne fi ts ( i.e ., a dis a bil ity c he c k) the y c ou ld r e c e ive be c a us e of the c hilds label. Afte r the tea cher and g uidance counselor e x plain the re fer ral, the ref err al proc ess does not sound serious. Da vid observed, ESE g e ts s moo the d o ve r a s, y ou kn ow the y [stu de nts ] g e t e xtra tim e on the ir te sts y ou know, eve n the FCAT, y ou know they [st udents] get que stions read a loud, e ve n o n th e F CA T i f t he y [stu de nts ] ne e d it y ou kn ow th e y [te a c he rs ] ca n w ri te fo r t he m [stu de nts ] on t he F CA T, if the y [stu de nts ] ne e d it To a trusting pare nt, ESE sounds as if their child is just ge tting an e dg e. David re veale d, as a pa rt of the School Study Tea m, members (e .g ., g ener al educa tion teache rs, spec ial educa tion teache r, school administrator, sc hool district re pr e se nta tiv e g uid a nc e c ou ns e lor a nd sc ho ol p sy c ho log ist s) a re fa c e d w ith the dil e mma of using ref err al to maintain students in ge nera l educa tion with supports and resourc es or remove students from the g ener al educ ation classroom. Da vid illus trated,

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64 I f a te ache r is coming to her [guida nce c ounselor] say ing, You know, [David] hes tea ring up my class. I can t have him in there Ok we ll refe r him for EH. Ok, y ou totally ref er him so at the sa me time are y ou g oing to put eve ry thing out on the table with his pare nts and tell them, Well y ou know may be y ou can do this, may be this will work, or a re y ou g oing to se t up some ty pe of bog us int e rv e nti on s to ma ke su re thi s p ro c e ss w or ks ? He pointed out that interve ntions are de veloped solely by the g ener al educ ation teac her or with the help of the g uidance counselor. D avid re ported that he has see n int e rv e nti on s im ple me nte d a s w e ll a s me re ly wr itt e n d ow n o n p a pe r. Ac c or din g to h im, B og us interventions are set up to make the w hole proc ess work. Tea cher s cook up re fe rr a ls b a se d o n ju st a bo ut a ny thi ng . Du ri ng a pr e vio us re fe rr a l me e tin g Da vid rec alled, The re g ular e d teac her ke pt refe rring back to the inter vention that was wr itten . she kept say ing, Well let me see the folde r so I can r emember . You ve only g ot o n e r e f e r r a l i n y o u r c la s s if y o u r e r e a ll y g o in g f o r th w it h th e s e [i n te r v e n ti o n s ], its something y oure g oing to r eca ll easily in y our mind. Plans for interve ntions were w ritten up, but they often we re not implemented. P ar e nt s unde r st andi ng o f the r e fer r al p r oc e ss Da vid pe rc e ive d p a re nts a s la c kin g un de rs ta nd ing of the re fe rr a l pr oc e ss a nd its implications, being nonpa rticipatory and unempowe red, a nd motivated by money during the re fer ral proc ess. Acc ording to David, Par ents are just kind of taking trust in the school . to make sure their kids educ ation is, y ou know, taken in their best interest. Parents do not under stand what re fer ral a nd place ment mean. Da vid admitted, Working in t he sc ho ol s y ste m do e sn t he lp y ou un de rs ta nd it. De pe nd ing on wh o s p utt ing thi s information ac ross to them, they [parents] may develop limited understanding . Una war e of the re fer ral proc ess and its long -term e ffe cts pa rents come in here and dont a sk one question and will tell y ou, Well, just give me e very thing y ou need me to sign.

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65 David dete cted diff ere nces in the r efe rra l experience when r efe rring Afric an Am e ri c a n s tud e nts ve rs us Whit e stu de nts A t th e tw o e le me nta ry sc ho ols in w hic h D a vid has taug ht, the majority of White kids [ wer e] on consult services a nd the B lack kids ar e the ones re ceiving the minutes (in a spec ial educa tion class). D avid desc ribed a ttending meeting s for students he did not know a nd hear ing thing s that made him think, I f it was my brother, or my sister I d say hold on whats g oing on he re, but y ou know, when its another student and not y our re lation and y oure rea lly part of this tea m, y ou know its just not m y role. I n c on tr a st, Whit e pa re nts thi nk of y ou kn ow d if fe re nt w a y s th e y c a n h e lp t he ir kid out. David obser ved that the involved pa rents who voluntee r at school a nd are a par t of PTA ca tch on to the proc ess quickly and ask f or cla rifica tion. A lot of Blac k pare nts do no t un de rs ta nd D a vid su g g e ste d th a t be fo re a c hil d r e c e ive s E SE s e rv ic e s, pa re nts sh ou ld be educ ated a bout the short-term a nd longterm implications of ref err al, e ven if y ou have to g o to the house, the home, or wher ever to have a meeting with them. B efor e pare nts sign any paper s, they should rea liz e that y our [their] ki d may never g et out of this process and the way they re g oing to f eel y ou know in 11 g rade if they dont drop th out. Da vid a lle g e d th a t a lot of stu de nts a re bo rd e rl ine ESE a nd c a n d o w ith ou t E SE service s if their par ents support and push them. Of ten par ents do not show up to the me e tin g s so the n it s lik e a 10 -d a y pr oc e ss, a nd the n w ha te ve r t he c omm itt e e wa nte d to ha pp e n, ha pp e ns a nd the pa re nt h a s n o s a y a bo ut i t a nd do n t e ve n r e a lly . te c hn ic a lly dont eve n know about it. When par ents are not involved in their children s school, they are often una war e of the ir ac ademic a nd social prog ress. Da vid illus trated, if

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66 I sit a t th is t a ble a nd I sa y [D a vid ] he s re a din g a t a sta rt le ve l or 1. 5 a nd he s in the third g rade and he s doing this and he s doing that, the only thing y oure [t he pare nt] thinking is Oh no, he s so behind, I ve g ot to ge t him som e help, never mind y ou know whate ver y ouve trie d. On seve ral oc casions Da vid observed B lack pa rents sitting over the re a nd they a re jus t li ke Ok wh a te ve r y ou c a n d o to he lp a nd a t th e e nd the y [pa re nts ] as k, U h, is the re a ny pa pe r I c a n [si g n to ] . g e t f ina nc ia l be ne fi ts o r s ome thi ng fo r t his ? Da vid g rapple d with who should help pare nts understand their de cision reg arding whether they should support refe rra l. Whos e position is it to expl ain, Ok, if y ou g et this ball rolling downhill, it m ay never stop and it may hit something that totally tear s up y our kids life. How ca n that be explained to a par ent? Da vid questioned. Structural De scription Stud ent perc eptions of refer ral and teacher perce ptions of refer ral Davids c hildhood perce ptions of refe rra l differ ed fr om the perc eptions he develope d as a te ache r. His childhood frie nd was the only person Da vid knew that had a specia l educa tion label. He notice d and did not understand w hy his friend, a n Afric an Americ an male, w as pulled out of their g ener al educ ation classroom. His fr iend see med happy to go w ith the special e ducation tea cher and alwa y s returne d with treats, penc ils, or sti c ke rs D a vid a nd his c la ssm a te s w a nte d to g o w ith him to t he pla c e tha t ma de him so ha pp y a nd g a ve him su c h w on de rf ul t hin g s. Why c a n t w e g o to sp e e c h? D a vid a nd his classmates a sked. They did not know he was in spec ial educa tion. They thought, He wa s g etting spe cial privileg es. When the transition to middl e school oc curr ed, Da vid and his peer s rea liz ed ther e wer e diffe renc es betwe en themselve s and their c lassmate. The y rode w ith him on t he bus e a c h d a y b ut n e ve r s a w h im d ur ing the sc ho ol d a y Whe re did the ir c la ssm a te sp e nd his

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67 day ? they wonder ed. As time passe d, the sec ret wa s exposed when someone sa w the classmate c arr y ing a skill-pack Every one in middle school knew w hat a skill-pac k me a nt. I t me a nt y ou we re slo w, be hin d, or la c kin g so me thi ng T o b e c a ug ht w ith a sk ill pack w as emba rra ssing a nd a sec ret that no one wanted othe rs to know. David s school day separ ation from his childhood frie nd continued into high sc hool, when eve ry one knew this frie nd was on the wang . Most schools have a wa ng , the a rea wher e the portables a nd/or classrooms a re c losest to the parking lot and/or awa y from the g ener al educa tion population. Genera l educa tion students quickly lear n to shun the wa ng , and the students with disabilit ies wer e enc ourag ed to stay in their own a rea . Wit h the exception of his friend a nd befor e bec oming a teac her, D avid thoug ht s t u d e n t s r e f e r r e d t o s p e c i a l e d u c a t i o n m u s t r e a l l y h a v e s o m e t h i n g w r o n g w i t h t h e m In colleg e, Da vid found littl e diffe renc e betwe en himself and stude nts with disabili ties. As an athlete he met tea mmates who had disabilities and be nefitted fr om acc ommodations he wished he had. David conte nded that re fer ral be comes inevitable for those w ho do not match the no rm a nd ty pic a lly re su lts in t he se g re g a tio n o f t ho se stu de nts O nc e the re fe rr a l pr oc e ss is i nit ia te d, the stu de nt i s b ou nd to r e c e ive a la be l. I n D a vid s min d, if a stu de nt i s evalua ted, the cha nces of being labeled a nd eventua lly remove d from g ener al educ ation become high. I n the beg inning, the r efe rra l proce ss appea rs minimal, but the consequenc es become g rea ter with time. For example, David pointed out that students may start out being ref err ed for speec h and lang uag e, but they often c ontinue to be re fer red f or other s u b j ec t ar ea s u n t i l t h ey ar e e v en t u al l y re m o v ed fr o m t h e ge n er al ed u ca t i o n s et t i n g. Students are quickly and ea sily place d into more restric tive settings r ather than supported

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68 in t he g e ne ra l e du c a tio n c la ssr oo m. R e fe rr e d s tud e nts a re a llo we d f e w l a ps e s in a c a de mic s a nd /or be ha vio r. I f a re fe rr e d s tud e nt d oe s w e ll f or a wh ile a nd the n h a s a la ps e in a c a de mic s a nd /or be ha vio r, tha t st ud e nt i s q uic kly mov e d f or mor e of the da y to a sp e c ia l e du c a tio n c la ssr oo m. Te ac he r s use of r e fer r al I n Davids mind, re fer ral is an e asy way out for g ener al educ ation teac hers who do no t w a nt c ha lle ng ing be ha vio rs or str ug g lin g stu de nts in t he ir c la ssr oo ms. Th e se teac hers wa nt classrooms with norma l students who do what is re quested the f irst time, g rasp c oncepts a nd ideas quickly and do not nee d redire ction. Students who do not ma tc h th e no rm qu ic kly pr ov ide re a so n f or re fe rr a l. T he re fe rr a l pr oc e ss o ft e n s ta rt s with a teac her s ref usal to deal with wha t he or she c onsiders inappropr iate beha vior. Not on ly a re te a c he rs int ole ra nt o f s tud e nts i na pp ro pr ia te be ha vio r a nd po or a c a de mic perf ormanc e, but they are also intolerant of f amilies. Teac hers sometimes hold g rudg es or re flec t on encounter s with parents or olde r siblings whe n dealing with a cur rent student. David would like for specia l educa tion refe rra l to be a g enuine e ffor t to keep students out of special e ducation, but he ha s experience d it to be a push to remove students from g ener al educ ation. Once the re fer ral proc ess starts, there appea rs to be no turning back. I n most sit uations, the g ener al educ ation teac her a nd g uidance counselor collabora tively work to have the student remove d from the g ener al educ ation classroom and plac ed else wher e. Whil e in the g ener al educ ation setting, some stude nts rece ive collabor ative c on su lta tio n. Th e se stu de nts a re of te n Wh ite a nd ha ve pa re nt s up po rt a nd inv olv e me nt. Bla ck students ar e more likely to be pulled from g ener al educ ation and provide d incre ased time in the spec ial educa tion classroom.

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69 Du ri ng the me e tin g s f or re fe rr a l, p a re nts a re of te n p e rs ua de d to sig n d oc ume nts fo r r e fe rr a l a nd pla c e me nt. Whe n th e te a c he r a nd /or g uid a nc e c ou ns e lor e xpla ins re fe rr a l, it does not seem serious or ha rmful. Pare nts are told their c hild will receive extra help, mor e tim e a ssi sta nc e on F CA T, a nd /or a ssi g nme nts re a d o r w ri tte n f or the m. P a re nts leave meeting s with the impression that eventually the child will catch up w ith his or her classmates. Par ents who ar e uninforme d or uninvolved ar e ofte n trusting of teac hers a nd sc ho ols T he y re ly on the te a c he r a nd sc ho ol t o d o w ha t is a c a de mic a lly a nd so c ia lly benef icial for the ir child. School Study Tea m members ar e fa ced w ith the dilemma of maintaining ref err ed students in ge nera l educa tion with supports and resourc es, or ha ving stude nts removed from g ener al educ ation. A frustra ted teac her w ho is having daily issues with a student often view s removal f rom her c lass as the only alterna tive. She has spoken with the g uidance counselor a bout her c oncer ns, and the stra teg ies and interve ntions she has tried to no avail, and she conclude s that there is nothing to do but refe r the student. Te a c he rs wh o a re de te rm ine d to ha ve a stu de nt r e mov e d f ro m th e ir c la ssr oo ms can e asily make it happe n. The interve ntions developed by the School Study Tea m become a for mality Often the y are identified with littl e thoug ht give n to the students needs. Simply words on a pa g e, they are g ener ic ra ther than ta ilored to a pa rticular student. David sug g ested that if a teac her w ere serious about he lping a student, the interventions would be diver se, g enuine, a nd applicable to the students nee ds. Ro le of pa r e nt s in t he r e fer r al p r oc e ss Pa rt of Da vid s e xpe ri e nc e of the re fe rr a l pr oc e ss f or Af ri c a n A me ri c a n s tud e nts inv olv e s th e imp or ta nt r ole of pa re nts I n g e ne ra l, p a re nts fa il t o u nd e rs ta nd the pr oc e ss. They trust the school to do what is best and do not ask que stions or know what questions

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70 to a sk D a vid e xpla ine d th a t e ve n p a re nts wh o w or k in the sc ho ol s y ste m f a il t o understand r efe rra l and place ment. Depe nding on w ho is presenting the re fer ral a nd pla c e me nt i nf or ma tio n, pa re nts ma y de ve lop a lim ite d o r n o u nd e rs ta nd ing of its sh or tterm or long -term e ffe cts. When Whi te par ents participa te in ref err al meeting s, teac hers a nd administrators te nd to i de nti fy wi th t he ir c on c e rn s a nd de sir e s. Whit e pa re nts te nd to t hin k o f w a y s to help their c hildren succ eed. T hey are quick to catc h on to the ref err al proc ess, and do not hesitate to ask f or cla rifica tion. These mee ting ty pically result in their childre n rec eiving c oll a bo ra tiv e c on su lta tio n s e rv ic e s. I n contra st, Africa n Americ an par ents tend to be less involved with schools and their childre ns ac ademics. D avid observe d that they are often uninfor med, uninvolved, and unempowe red. The re is ofte n a disconne ct betwe en the sc hool and Afr ican Ame rica n pare nts conce rns and de sires. Afr ican Ame rica n pare nts do not come to the ref err al meeting s with sugg estions for how to help their children suc cee d. Uninformed a bout the ref err al proc ess, Afr ican Ame rica n pare nts tend to be unawa re of the short-ter m and lon g -t e rm imp lic a tio ns Re fe rr a ls f or Af ri c a n A me ri c a n s tud e nts ty pic a lly re su lt i n place ment in a spec ial educa tion class and eve ntually full-time place ment. David stresse d that befor e par ents sign a ny paper s, they should consider that their c hild may never return to g e ne ra l e du c a tio n, a nd ho w t he y wi ll f e e l in hig h s c ho ol w he n th e y re a lize the ir aca demic and soc ial opportunities are limit ed. He rec og nized a nece ssity for a ctive involvement and the e mpowerme nt of pare nts in their childrens a cade mic and socia l futures. D avid alleg ed that many students are borde rline a nd can do w ithout special educa tion services if the y have pa rent involvement a nd support. By not attending ref err al

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71 meeting s, pare nts relea se their powe r and influe nce to sc hools, who decide on the place ment and ty pe of se rvice s their childre n will rece ive. Rebec ca Textural Desc ription Us e of r e fer r al Re be c c a de sc ri be d s pe c ia l e du c a tio n r e fe rr a l a s a c oll a bo ra tiv e e ff or t to he lp students. She reporte d that specia l educa tion refe rra l help[s] us [t eac hers] help the students to ga in the service s they need to support them throug hout their educ ational life. Tea cher s, with the help of par ents, re cog nize the learning level, streng ths, and wea knesses or de ficienc ies of the student as a r esult of the proc ess. L ike a doc tor, the te a c he r n ote s th e a re a s o f c on c e rn in o rd e r t o r e fe r t he stu de nt f or the a pp ro pr ia te service s. The te ache r is there . to watch, to obser ve, to do diffe rent interve ntions, and then to help to write a presc ription for wha t the child needs to he lp them to be succe ssful in a lear ning e nvironment. Re be c c a c on sid e re d s e ve ra l th ing s b e fo re re fe rr ing a n A fr ic a n A me ri c a n s tud e nt t o specia l educa tion. She stated that she tries to make a ref err al for stude nts who she believe s will be helped a s a re sult of the proce ss. I n her de cision-making Rebec ca disc losed that she take s some direc tion from prof essionals that are there to analy ze the students prog ress a nd deter mine what their ne eds may be. H oweve r, B efor e I ref er a student, I would like to see how muc h they are able to do their w ork, to what leve l, how much they can a chieve if g iven the opportunity to strive for hig her standa rds of produc tion and lear ning, a nd achie vement. Re becc a also make s her de cision from ta lking with the pare nts, watching the kid, taking documentation of how their work ha bits and their study habits are . She notes wha t kind of learne r the student is, what stra teg ies work a nd do not

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72 work with the student, how much inf ormation the student re tains and how we ll he or she does on tests. Rebec ca a lso ex amines Afr ican Ame rica n students interac tions with ot her students, and their a cade mic and socia l level in compar ison to where the y should be. As an Af rica n Americ an tea cher she disclosed that she f elt bad about the use of ref err al for A frica n Americ an students to specia l educa tion. I t is very very very very e mba rr a ssi ng fo r m e wi thi n my ow n s e lf se e ing so ma ny Af ri c a n A me ri c a n s tud e nts re fe rr e d f or sp e c ia l e du c a tio n. I kn ow tha t so me of the m [Af ri c a n A me ri c a ns stu de nts ] a re re a lly nic e sw e e t ki ds th e y jus t c ome wi th l ike a lit tle a tti tud e wh ic h le a ds the m to being ref err ed. Rebe cca continued, T o send them down for ref err al bec ause the y didnt do what I said when I said do it and they have a n attitude, I dont think thats something y ou send the kids down to be r efe rre d for. I n case s where an Af rica n Americ an student is being ref err ed to spec ial e du c a tio n, Re be c c a sa id s he wa nte d to le a rn mor e a bo ut t he stu de nt. Re be c c a wa nte d to se e if I c a n e xten d th e le a rn ing a nd se e ho w f a r t he y c a n g o . g ive the m so me e nr ic hin g a c tiv iti e s to se e if the y c a n h a nd le a ny of it . tr y to s e e . w ha t s th e hig he st level I can ta ke them and g et a positive re sponse. He r objec tive was to avoid plac ing Afric an Amer ican students in a n ESE class and ha ve the wor k water ed down a nd do the bare basic minimum and they sit around all day doing nothing . F rom her pe rspec tive, teac hing stude nts basic conc epts is a nec essity but do not g et stuck on the ba sics. Rebec ca w anted Af rica n Americ an students to rema in challeng ed and motivated. G oo d a nd ba d r e fer r al p r oc e ss Rebec ca ha d mix ed fe eling s about the re fer ral proc ess. She experienc ed the proce ss from the role s of teac her initiating ref err al, teac her on School Study Tea m, and pare nt of a c hild being r efe rre d. She expressed that her ref err al experienc es have been

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73 both g ood and bad. H aving the par ents and prof essionals work tog ether to determine the ne e ds a nd a pp ro pr ia te int e rv e nti on s w a s h e lpf ul t o Re be c c a : I felt g ood about the par ents and the pr ofessionals being there and eve ry one putting in their opinion and doc umenting w hat they felt wa s neede d. Finding out what the students me dical or psy cholog ical nee ds were and wha t interventions wer e tried w as bene ficial. Eve ry body seems to have some information that y ou could put toge ther. Howeve r, she noted se vera l issues that have made the experienc e diffic ult. One, Rebec ca r evea led that Sometimes the little goa ls we put down ar e so minimal that its like, thats what we would have done any way so where s the cha lleng e her e to move the m up . Th e g oa l be c ome s k e e pin g the stu de nts ha pp y wi tho ut r e a lly c ha lle ng ing the m. When the student whines, the cha lleng es stop, but y et, y ou know, it [ testing] shows that they have the ability but they do have a lear ning de ficit. Two, she disclosed, the me e tin g s a re so lon g . Ev e ry on e is a llo we d to ta lk w ith ou t g e tti ng dir e c tly to t he po int Mee tings, mee tings in the morning in the am in the pm, ever y ones talking y ou know, long w inded. I n addition to the minim al g oals and long meeting s, Rebecc a re veale d a conc ern about pe ople like par ents try ing to manipulate the sy stem to ge t additional stuff when the kid rea lly doesnt nee d it. I t ge ts to be a powe r strug g le. What I can do or what I can g e t. Wh ic h is g re a t if y ou ne e d it . F ou r, in h e r e xpe ri e nc e Re be c c a fo un d th a t Pa re nts dont a lot of times, know the g aps that we teac hers se e, they dont know whe re most of the class is now in their lea rning proce ss versus whe re y our kid is and they dont know the ra ng e. She c onvey ed that par ents often c ompare their childre n to themselves when the y we re the ir a g e a nd in a pa rt ic ula r g ra de le ve l: Th e y c a n t f a tho m th a t th e fi rs t g rade rs ar e re ading what they call sec ond-g rade materia l now until they come he re a nd actua lly see it and pr ocess it. They rea lly dont quite understa nd the level that kids ar e rea ding a t these day s.

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74 Re be c c a no te d th a t th e re fe rr a l pr oc e ss g e ne ra te d a va ri e ty of fe e lin g s f or he r a s a teac her a nd a par ent of a child who has be en re fer red. The se fe eling s included fe ar, depre ssion, ex pecta tion, inti midation, and confusion. Rebe cca reve aled in her experience a s a te a c he r w ith ba d sp e c ia l e du c a tio n r e fe rr a l, I t g e ts t o b e wh a t a m I g oin g to w ri te on this sheet. Something I know I can c over or something I think he rea lly rea lly needs that would challeng e him. F ear sets in beca use if y ou write more something challeng ing, the n y oure called on the car pet for not ha ving r eac hed a g oal. The rules a nd pr oc e du re s pu t mo re fe a r i n th e pr oc e ss t ha n s up po rt to r e a lly he lp t he kid A ll t s must be crossed, a nd all is dotted in f ear of being sued or losing y our job. As a pa rent, she strug g led with simil ar e motions when her da ug hter wa s ref err ed. I felt bad. I m a tea cher and she s being ref err ed. I was ve ry depre ssed. L ater Rebec ca a g re e d to ha ve he r d a ug hte r t e ste d to fi nd ou t w ha t w a s g oin g on Sh e re po rt e d, B ut i t was a hard que stion to say y es, lets do it [test her]. That was ver y very hard. Once sh e a g re e d to the re fe rr a l pr oc e ss, the tim e fr a me fr om b e ing re fe rr e d to be ing te ste d is a long one and uh, y ou kind of dont know wha t path to take so y oure constantly up and do wn wh a t sh ou ld I do , w ha t do y ou ne e d c a n th e y do it, c a n th e y no t do it, is there a proble m, or no pr oblem at all. Not knowing what to do, Rebec ca que stioned, Sho uld I he lp h e r w ith he r h ome wo rk or sh ou ld I y ou kn ow s ho uld sh e be a ble to d o it on he r o wn We we re c on fu se d. I n h ind sig ht, the re fe rr a l of Re be c c a s da ug hte r b e c a me a g ood experienc e bec ause she beca me awa re of her da ug hters a cade mic streng ths and wea knesses a s well as appr opriate stra teg ies and interve ntions to help her. Re as ons for r e fer r al Reflec ting on he r experienc es with School Study Tea ms and ref err als, Rebec ca noted seve ral re asons for r efe rring students to special educ ation: (a) be havior issues; (b)

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75 a c a de mic pr ob le ms; (c ) l a c k o f p a re nt i nv olv e me nt; a nd (d ) d if fe re nc e in m a nn e ri sms Rebec ca disc losed that if she we re to re fer it would be beca use they re [st udents] definitely lacking some skills and even tho ug h w e v e tr ie d d if fe re nt i nte rv e nti on s, the y sti ll d on t se e m to g ra sp it. Refer ral would not occ ur until I had extinguished va rious ty pes of tea ching str a te g ie s f or the po int in t ime th e stu de nt s a g e fr a me a nd g ra de le ve l. Rebec ca pur ported that Af rica n Americ an students strug g le ac ademica lly beca use they just dont know what to do bec ause the y just didnt li sten or they didnt understand the direc tions, or the direc tions weren t presente d in a manner that they could under stand and then work w ith, independently . I n Rebec ca s experience with School St udy Tea ms and ref err al, student beha vior pla y s a sig nif ic a nt r ole in p la c e me nt. Th e be ha vio r i ssu e s ma y ste m f ro m no t do ing we ll in class. She noted tha t students who are ref err ed for behavior issues do not stop mis be ha vin g e ve n w he n a sk e d to Re be c c a dis c los e d, F or a lot of stu de nts if the y did not have a behavior issue, which could be the sig ns of a lea rning disability they wouldnt be re fer red. F or some of the m, they are just having a behavior problem. She pur ported tha t f or ma ny Af ri c a n A me ri c a n c hil dr e n if the y in a ny wa y sh ow ou t [e xplic itl y misbehave] or have a beha vior problem, and a re la cking just a litt le bit in their school work, that be havior issue is g oing to c atapult them rig ht into the refe rra l list . Re be c c a ob se rv e d p ro ble ms n ot o nly in t he c la ssr oo m, b ut a lso be tw e e n h ome and school. She re veale d, The re a re issues be tween home and school with thing s y ou c a n d o a t sc ho ol, a nd thi ng s y ou do a t ho me . Re be c c a re ve a le d, I se e a lot of stu de nts that are being ref err ed that ar e indee d the ones that bring behavior from home to school. Many of these stude nts have be havior c ards. She pointed out Y ou have a class of 25 a nd 5 walk into the room with these c ards, a nd they are all Bla ck. A t the end of the day the

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76 students with behavior c ards r eport to the be havior re source teac her ( BRT) to a ssess how we ll t he y did fo r t he da y T he se ve re c a se s a re the n w a lke d to the bu se s in a sin g le fi le lin e Whe n th e y wa lk t he m do wn it ma y be 10 or 15 of ou r [A fr ic a n A me ri c a n] st ud e nts in that line . of beha vior kids. Rebec ca c onvey ed, I t just seems to be strang e and it hasn t just happened, its been like tha t for y ear s. Each y ear y ou see the same students and y ou know, Afr ican Americ an students, still i n the B RT office in [ in-]school suspension, in [ out of] school suspension, being suspended, e tc. The sever e beha viors are those involving hitting or tag g ing othe rs just their wa y of say ing hi or whateve r, ta lking ba ck to the tea cher voicing that they are not going to do something a nd not doing it. Rebec ca r emar ked, A lot of them may have sa id something in a r ude wa y They may be used to say ing it that way at home, so why would it be a proble m here . The number of times a student g oes to the B RT is documented, as we ll as who g oes and w hy they g o to the BRT. Rebe cca disclosed that their infor mation goe s on a repor t to the school board and its our [Blac k] ki ds, our kids, our kids. When the student spends time at the B RT office the student ca nnot ge t his homework or schoolwork done and this [school] is the only place [he is] g oing to g et it done. Students then fall into the well lets r efe r them to ESE beca use they haven t done a ny thi ng . Re be c c a no te d, a ro un d th is t ime of the y e a r ( sp ri ng ) t he lin e [to t he bu s] g e ts longe r. R e b e c c a b e l i e v e d t h a t p a r e n t i n v o l v e m e n t i s i m p o r t a n t t o t h e r e f e r r a l p r o c e s s In her mind, without pare nt involvement teache rs inappropr iately addre ss the needs of Afric an Amer ican students. Rebe cca purported tha t for some students, a push a nd additional supports from tea cher s and fa mily may be all they need to move a head

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77 a c a de mic a lly a nd so c ia lly Sh e be lie ve d th a t the re jus t ne e ds to b e so me thi ng e lse in pla c e wi th p a re nts to b e inv olv e d. Te a c he rs a nd pa re nts sh ou ld h a ve the op po rt un ity to work on intensive be havior modifica tion before making ref err als to special e ducation. Some kids need par ental support and he lp ge tting wor k done. Rebec ca a lso believed that pa rents e x pecta tions play a sig nificant role in the pla c e me nt o f s tud e nts Sh e pe rc e ive d th a t pa re nts ini tia lly thi nk re fe rr a l he lps stu de nts but af ter a while they may notice that the student ha s less work to do and that ke eps them sort of pac ified. Par ents who have high e x pecta tions for their child a sk that they not be pulled out [of ge nera l educa tion] and be ke pt in the classroom with the re st of the students so they can be exposed to the same mater ial in the sequenc e that it is broug ht forth in that g rade level. T hese pa rents ar e aw are of how re fer ral influenc es their c hilds aca demic and soc ial futures. A s time passes, students g et to the hig h school level a nd [t hey re ] faced w ith a specia l diploma, no diplom a, re g ular diploma, or univer sity rea dy diploma, it [ ref err al and plac ement] becomes the c oncer n. B y high sc hool the student has be en in that cy cle a nd . its hard to pull them out. I n a dd iti on to p ro ble ms b e tw e e n h ome a nd sc ho ol a nd la c k o f p a re nt i nv olv e me nt, teac hers abilities to understand students influence s whether students are ref err ed. Re be c c a be lie ve d th a t ma ny te a c he rs do no t po sse ss t he sk ill s to re la te to o r h a nd le so me of their students. She pointed to the te ache r lac king the strateg ies, the motivation, or support that cause s students to act out. As a re sult of the students ac ting out, the tea cher s and other s say Well lets ref er the m. Rebe cca further reve aled, Some children a re used to diffe rent manne risms and their tea cher s have some ma nnerisms that they dont seem to re spond to. For example, Some kids are use d to cer tain kinds of words or a c tio ns to l e t y ou kn ow tha t [c e rt a in b e ha vio rs or wo rd s] r e a lly me a ns thi s o r n ot. Som e

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78 of them ar e used to be ing y elled at a nd then when y ou dont, they are like, Oh I g ot [y ou] and the student fee ls empowere d. Added to students diff ere nt mannerisms, Afr ican Ame rica n students bring neig hborhood situations that many teac hers do not under stand. For example, a student may have ha d a fig ht in the neig hborhood, which is ca rried on to the sc hool bus and then into school. Ever y one in the school doe snt understand it, wha ts g oing on. When he a rr ive s a t sc ho ol h e c a rr ie s th e a ng e r a nd fr us tr a tio n in to t he c la ssr oo m se tti ng wh e re his or her educa tion and that of his or her peer s are place d in jeopardy Using his or her jud g me nt t he te a c he r d e te rm ine s w he the r t he stu de nt s b e ha vio r i s c a us e fo r a la rm Co nse que nc e s o f re fer r al o n t e ac he r s a nd A fri c an A m e r ic an s tu de nt s Rebec ca pe rce ives specia l educa tion refe rra l to have helpe d some Afr ican Americ an students, but for many others it has be en a de terment to their e ducational g rowth. She be lieves that re fer red students wor k less than other students in the g ener al e du c a tio n c la ssr oo m, a nd tha t th e stu de nts a re a c a de mic a lly los ing ou t be c a us e wo rk is made e asy for them. As a result the students produc e lower quality work a nd look for the e a sy wa y ou t. T he y wo n t g o o ve r a nd be y on d b e c a us e the y kn ow the y c a n g e t by wi th doing le ss. The kid loses bec ause the y dont try to push hard to strive for excellence . Du ri ng the ir sc ho ol c a re e rs s tud e nts a re e xpe c te d to ha ve sk ill s th a t w ill e na ble them to join the mil itary enroll in colleg e, or obta in a job. Rebec ca pur ported, The kids [refer red students] dont have the m [ skills] beca use they ve ta ken the lea st amount of work a s possible. The ESE classrooms ar e filled with our [Blac k] st udents. Spec ial educa tion is just a cy cle that doe snt help them in the end. Acc ording to Rebecc a, once Afric an Amer ican students ar e re fer red, the y g et ca ug ht in a cy cle of water ed-dow n curr iculum that is detrimental to their prog ress a s they g o throug hout the educa tional

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79 levels. She disclose d that we just have too many students in that cy cle that r eally dont need to be there . Onc e par ents are educa ted on what they can do to he lp students and develop c ollaboration with schools, then the expectations need to be raised, [for A frica n Americ an students] not l ower ed . ac cording to what is expected. Rebec ca be lieved that Af rica n Americ an students must be enc ourag ed to strive for e x cellenc e ea rly I ts hard to just start doing it all of the sudden. She obse rved tha t when students ar e re fer red the y fee l Oh, but I m specia l, I m ESE I can t do that. They use the idea of being in special e ducation as the ir rea son for why they cannot do hig herlevel re ading or hig herlevel math. Rebe cca sug g ests, In actuality they could if they tried, a nd the y ha d th e su pp or t, a nd the y did n t ta ke the I c a n t be c a us e a tti tud e ." Whe n it is de te rm ine d th a t th e stu de nt h a s a le a rn ing dis a bil ity a nd ne e ds he lp l e a rn ing ba sic sk ill s, then the question bec omes Why would y ou want them to do more, or try to do more, wh a t ma ke s y ou thi nk the y c a n d o it ? Th e a c hie ve me nt g a p b e tw e e n s tud e nts wi th disabiliti es and students without disabilities becomes wider and wider Rebec ca disclosed, as a teac her y ou r e wo rk ing on the ir ba sic a dd iti on wi th t he g ro up ins te a d o f m ov ing on to alg ebra ic equa tions. I f y ou dont sometimes tell them, this mi g ht be difficult for y ou and just g ive it to them, sometim es a lot of them will do it and move on. Acc ording to Rebecc a, re fer ral ha s its benefits and ca n initiate positi ve cha ng e. Refer ral of stude nts helps teache rs re alize how they [st udents] learn best. T eac hers a re made a war e of students le arning sty les, streng ths and wea knesses, a nd the tasks and assig nments that are easy and diffic ult for them. Rebec ca sug g ested that fr om the ref err al pr oc e ss t e a c he rs le a rn ho w t o ma ke a dju stm e nts a nd a c c omm od a tio ns to c omp e ns a te fo r, y ou kn ow o the r s kil ls t he y ma y or ma y no t ha ve . Th e te a c he r a nd pa re nts a re a ble to work tog ether to help support the student. Rebec ca pointed out, a s a re sult of the

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80 ref err al proc ess we ve [teac hers] had to do more f aculty profe ssional development on the topic of mana g ement of be havior a nd working with ESE students and understanding what their ne eds may be. I n Rebec ca s mind, refe rra l should im pact Af rica n Americ an students in positive way s. As a re sult of refe rra l, Africa n Americ an students potentials should be maximi zed. Tea cher s should feel they are helping the student and not hindering them by ref err ing the m. Re be c c a be lie ve d th a t st ud e nts sh ou ld m ov e fr om su rf a c e le ve l un de rs ta nd ing to a more in depth understanding of c oncepts. Af rica n Americ an students should be provided with var ious strateg ies and opportunities to enha nce the ir lear ning, not be g ive n w a te re d d ow n c ur ri c ulu m or no c ur ri c ulu m or ha ph a zar d c ur ri c ulu m or if y ou r e in thi rd -g ra de f ir stg ra de c ur ri c ulu m. Th e a c c omm od a tio ns g ive n to stu de nts sh ou ld he lp the m to le a rn a nd to s ta y y ou kn ow in tun e wi th t he c la ssr oo m or the g ra de le ve l so they make a cade mic and socia l prog ress. Ac cording to Rebecc a, re fer ral should help the student stay at or a bove, but not alway s working below the r est of the c lass. When ref err al is done in conjunction with pare nt participation, the proc ess is made e asier; ho we ve r, wh e n it is l e ft so le ly to t he te a c he r w ho ha s o the r s tud e nts wi th s pe c ia l ne e ds the pr oc e ss d oe s n ot w or k w e ll. Ge neral education and special education collaboration to help students Re be c c a be lie ve d th a t fo r t he mos t pa rt it s po ssi ble to k e e p r e fe rr e d s tud e nts wi thi n th e c la ssr oo m [g e ne ra l e du c a tio n] by br ing ing in t he sp e c ia l e du c a tio n te a c he r t o assist the classroom tea cher with acc ommodations. I n her mind, g ener al educ ation and specia l educa tion need to wor k toge ther . a lmost i n the same c lassroom bec ause w hat the ho me ro om [g e ne ra l e du c a tio n] te a c he r i s e xpe c tin g the kid to d o w he n th e y g o to specia l ed doesnt ne cessa rily happen. Gene ral e ducation is expecting specia l educa tion

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81 to take the g ener al educ ation curr iculum and teac h it using ac commodations at a slower pace Rebec ca note d that specia l educa tion may do a couple of cha pters and the teac her [gene ral e ducation] has done 30 and the y [gene ral e ducation] are e x pecting that the kids wer e exposed to all of it and it doesnt happe n. I n Re be c c a s min d, g e ne ra l e du c a tio n a nd sp e c ia l e du c a tio n te a c he rs sh ou ld collabora te throug hout the entire sc hool y ear to appropria tely support eac h others w ork. Re be c c a su g g e ste d th a t g e ne ra l e du c a tio n a nd sp e c ia l e du c a tio n te a c he rs meet we ekly to go ove r wha t chapter s wer e [they re ] going to be working on, what strate g ies we re [they re ] going to use with these students, what do y ou expect them to know, what ar e they expected to know, and le t the pare nts know wher e they are She reve aled that tea cher s do not have time to collabora te during the school day Rebec ca sug g ested that tea cher s be paid to mee t after school. Tea cher s should g et stipends for a n hour whe re the y can ta lk toge ther a nd develop the pla n for the w eek f or the student. She found that whe n teac hers a nd/or pare nts do not meet for wee ks and we eks at a time, ever y body kind of g ets off le vel. Structural De scription P urpose of referral Rebec ca doe s not make re fer rals for students who she thinks will not be helped by be ing re fe rr e d. She be lie ve s th a t a ll s tud e nts c a n b e su c c e ssf ul i f g ive n a pp ro pr ia te su pp or ts. B e fo re re fe rr ing a stu de nt, Re be c c a c los e ly e xami ne s th e wo rk the stu de nt i s a ble to d o a nd pr ov ide s o pp or tun iti e s f or the stu de nt t o ma ximize his or he r p ote nti a l. Rebec ca r evea led that bef ore she ref ers a student, she wants the oppor tunity to observe the stu de nt s st re ng ths a nd c ha lle ng e the stu de nt t o ta ke a dv a nta g e of op po rt un iti e s to enhanc e his or her lear ning a nd achie vement. She believe s that some students only need teac hers a nd families to collabora te to enhanc e their soc ial and ac ademic w ell-being

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82 Rebec ca vie ws specia l educa tion as the place wher e students should be provided the support and oppor tunities to m axim ize their potentials. Their diffe renc es ar e appre ciated a nd seen a s normal. Students are pr ovided the best re source s and per sonnel to meet individual needs, whic h may be emotional, ac ademic, or phy sical. Specia l e du c a tio n r e fe rr a l he lps stu de nts to r e c e ive lif e -l on g su pp or t. I t he lps te a c he rs a nd pa re nts collabora te to deter mine students streng ths and wea knesses. The role of the g roup, sim ila r t o th a t of we lltr a ine d d oc tor s, is t o d ia g no se a nd so lve the stu de nt s p ro ble m. The tea cher play s a major r ole in the examination process, ha ving obse rved the child and used var ious strateg ies that have failed to produc e the de sired re sults. Rebec ca be lieves that some tea cher s lack the stra teg ies to help students who are str ug g lin g in s c ho ol, pa rt ic ula rl y tho se wi th b e ha vio r c ha lle ng e s. Re fe rr ing the se stu de nts appea rs to them to be the only way to ge t help for the stude nt and re lief for the teac her. After dealing with the problem beha vior for a period of time, some te ache rs lack the motivation or support to help the strug g ling student, who, out of f rustration beg ins to act out in class. Having g ather ed support fr om others, the tea cher throws up his or her hands and cr ies out, Refe r him! How t he r e fer r al s ys te m sho uld wor k I n Rebec ca s mind, refe rra l of students should not occur until all resourc es and interventions ar e exhausted. Throug h the re fer ral, the te ache r will become awa re of a possible underly ing pr oblem of which she was una war e. The problem could be within the student or within the teac her a nd/or classroom. As a result of the r efe rra l proce ss, the teac her w ill be provided with insight into how to redire ct or support the c hild. Rebecc a descr ibed two phase s of re fer ral: informa l refe rra l and forma l refe rra l. I nformal r efe rra l occur s befor e for mal ref err al, and be g ins with observations by the teac her. She e x amines

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83 whether the childs cla ssroom perf ormanc e (i.e ., aca demic and/or behavior al) is ca use for a re fer ral. Af ter she ha s decide d that the childs per formanc e is ca use for alar m or too much for he r to succe ssfully addre ss, she speaks w ith the school g uidance counselor. T he teac her a nd the g uidance counselor disc uss the student of conc ern a nd set a time for the g uidance counselor to c ome into the classroom to obser ve the student. After the g uidance counselor obse rves the stude nt, the teac her me ets with the g uidance counselor a g ain and possibly the principa l, pare nts, and other r eleva nt individuals. At thi s point they discuss acc ommodations and interventions to help the s t u d en t ac h i ev e t h e a ca d em i c a n d b eh av i o ra l s u cc es s ex p ec t ed at h i s o r h er gra d e a n d age le ve l. Wi th t he a g re e me nt o f t he int e re ste d p a rt ie s, te a c he rs re tur n to the c la ssr oo m to imp le me nt t he su g g e sti on s a nd pla ns fo r t he stu de nt. I f t he te a c he r c on tin ue s to se e lit tle or no prog ress, the te ache r has the option of me eting with the SST and the pare nts, and decide s whether to make a f ormal re fer ral. Dur ing the formal r efe rra l, testing oc curs. The student is given a battery of tests to confirm suspec ted def iciencie s or under ly ing issues and a de termination is made as to whe ther the c hild should be labeled a nd rec eive spe cial educa tion services. P it fall s o f the r e fer r al p r oc e ss Although she has strong beliefs a bout how the sy stem should work, Rebec ca descr ibes ref err al as both a positive and f rustrating experience A positive aspec t is that teac hers, pa rents, administrators, a nd other prof essionals work tog ether to provide the best lear ning oppor tunity and envir onment for the stude nt. Every one provide s his or her perspe ctive about the c hilds perfor mance in and outside of school. The students medica l and psy cholog ical informa tion, along w ith the failed interve ntions, are discusse d in hopes

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84 o f g e t t i n g h i m o r h e r t h e a p p r o p r i a t e h e l p T e a c h e r s w h o h a d b e e n f r u s t r a t e d b y a problem they wer e not able to pr eviously identify are g iven a na me and labe l. A troubling aspec t of ref err al is that ever y one has a n opinion about the students problem, often r esulting in a leng thy proce ss. Rebecc a re veale d that there are sever al meeting s where ever y one continuously talks without ge tting to the issue at ha nd, How can w e in g ener al educ ation best help this student? When g oals are finally develope d for the student, they are often unc halleng ing, pr oviding no oppor tunity for a cade mic and/or social g rowth. She re ported g oals being implemented to keep stude nts content rathe r than challeng e students to maxi miz e their pote ntials. Throug h the re fer ral proc ess, tests reve al that the student has a disa bility ; however in an attempt to keep him happy g oals are written that do not cha lleng e him. Another diff icult aspec t of ref err al is the power strug g le that ca n arise be tween pare nts and educ ators. Rebe cca disclosed that informed of possible service s and assistance available to students with dis abilities, parents make s reque sts that they do not nece ssarily need. I n addition, pare nts have a difficult time understanding the educ ational g a ps e du c a tor s se e Sh e po int e d o ut t ha t pa re nts a re no t in the c la ssr oo m a nd a re un a ble to compare their childs pe rfor mance with the other students in the cla ss. Uninformed pare nts often compar e themselve s to their children w hen they wer e their a g e and g rade l ev el : W h en I wa s a k i d I co u l d n o t re ad as we l l as M i k e. B u t i t wa s o v er 2 0 y ea rs ago since some pa rents we re in third g rade I t is difficult for par ents to understand the a c a de mic or be ha vio ra l g a ps the ir c hil dr e n ma y be e xpe ri e nc ing in c omp a ri so n to the ir pe e rs I t is no surprise that ref err al elicits fee lings of f ear depre ssion, inti midation, and confusion for teac hers, pa rents, and stude nts. I f a te ache r docume nts that she will cover

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85 three -dig it addition and subtraction with a student, she is expected to mee t the g oal or fac e possible scrutiny from the a dminist ration and pa rents. Rebe cca reve aled that teac hers e x perie nce a tension betwee n writing g oals that are convenie nt for the tea cher or g oals that help and c halleng e students. She purporte d that fea r sets in bec ause y ou do not wa nt t o a pp e a r t o b e a ba d te a c he r. Re be c c a dis c los e d th a t te a c he rs fe a r d e ve lop ing g oa ls that are in-depth and c halleng ing be cause of the possible conse quence s of not meeting g oals. I n her mind, the rule s and proc edure s of the re fer ral proc ess invoke fe ar a nd intimi dation rathe r than he lp for the students. Te ache rs could help students more if the fea r of not re aching g oals and be ing f ired or sue d was not so dominant in the proce ss. Reasons teac hers re fer students Rebec ca pointed to tea ching sty le and a cade mic issues, behaviora l challeng es, and cultural diff ere nces a s rea sons why teac hers r efe r students. She was c oncer ned about the nu mbe rs of Af ri c a n A me ri c a n s tud e nts wh o a re sw if tly sw e pt o ut o f g e ne ra l e du c a tio n to specia l educa tion classrooms when they show signs of a proble m. Rebecc a believe d that if sincer e ef forts we re ma de to include Af rica n Americ an par ents in the educ ational pr oc e ss a nd to p ro vid e Af ri c a n A me ri c a n s tud e nts wi th a dd iti on a l st ra te g ie s, acc ommodations, and modifications, Afric an Amer ican students would excel in g ener al educa tion, rather tha n waste a way in special e ducation. Re be c c a ha d c on c e rn s a bo ut t he ov e rr e pr e se nta tio n o f A fr ic a n A me ri c a ns in specia l educa tion, particularly the number of Afric an Amer ican boy s labeled le arning disabled and/or e motionally handica pped. She did not want to see the majority of the sp e c ia l e du c a tio n c la ssr oo ms f ill e d w ith Af ri c a n A me ri c a n s tud e nts a nd pa rt ic ula rl y Afric an Amer ican boy s. Rebecc a believe d there should be balanc e in the number s of Af ri c a n A me ri c a n s tud e nts se rv e d in sp e c ia l e du c a tio n p ro g ra ms i n c omp a ri so n to the ir

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86 repr esenta tion in the school population. S he wa nted Afr ican Ame rica n students to have the most appropria te educ ational environme nt and questioned, Why are there not more Afric an Amer icans students in g ifted prog rams? Are Afric an Amer ican c hildren more disabled than g ifted? Re be c c a dis c los e d th a t ma ny c hil dr e n a re re fe rr e d b e c a us e of te a c hin g sty le a nd /or a c a de mic c ha lle ng e s. She re po rt e d th a t A fr ic a n A me ri c a n s tud e nts a re le ss l ike ly to respond to the tea cher s teac hing sty le. The student is either inattentive to instruction or does not compr ehend the curr iculum to a level of inde pendenc e. Rebe cca repor ted that wh e n A fr ic a n A me ri c a n s tud e nts le a ve the c la ssr oo m th e y do no t kn ow ho w t o c omp le te the a ssi g nme nts a nd a re le ss l ike ly to h a ve the re so ur c e s a t ho me to a ssi st t he m in the ir understanding She purported tha t teache rs do not prese nt the assig nments in a manner that the Afr ican Ame rica n student can unde rstand and w ork with appropr iately Often these tea cher s strug g le to teac h ethnically and ra cially diverse stude nts. Some students mis behave beca use they are not doing we ll in school. They lack a c a de mic sk ill s a nd a re c ha lle ng e d to c omp le te a ssi g nme nts wi th f e w s up po rt s a t ho me a nd /or in s c ho ol. Ot he r b e ha vio r p ro ble ms s te m f ro m ho me a nd ne ig hb or ho od iss ue s. Re be c c a po int e d o ut t ha t ma ny stu de nts wh o a re re fe rr e d b ri ng ina pp ro pr ia te be ha vio rs from home to school. Students also have family and neig hborhood cha lleng es over which they have no c ontrol. Once students arrive at school, they may have dif ficulty turning off home and ne ighbor hood issues in order to foc us on school responsibilities. Rebec ca r evea led that many students who have not maste red the skill of turning of f t he ho me a nd ne ig hb or ho od iss ue s h a ve be ha vio r c a rd s a nd a re in t he re fe rr a l pr oc e ss. At Rebec ca s school, all of the students with beha vior ca rds ar e Af rica n Americ an. At the end of the school day all of the c hildren with beha vior ca rds re port to the BRT s office

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87 wher e their pe rfor mance is assessed. Rebe cca purported tha t ever y y ear Afric an Am e ri c a n s tud e nts a re c on tin uo us ly c on ta ine d in the B RT o ff ic e I n a dd iti on to t he B RT office Afric an Amer ican students, ar e in [in-] school suspension, in [ out of] school suspension, and being suspended. When the sc hool day is over the students ar e mar ched to their buses in a sing le file line. School y ear afte r school y ear it has been the same, a line of B lack c hildren esc orted to the bus. Rebec ca note d that teac her pe rce ptions of differ ence s were important to the ref err al proc ess and pa rticularly the re fer ral of A frica n Americ an students. She believe d that the teac hers a nd Afric an Amer ican students ar e cultura lly and socia lly disconnec ted. Most teache rs oper ate f rom a White perspe ctive in contra st to their student population that is increa singly ethnically and ra cially diverse. T eac hers strug g le with identify ing with their students lives. Rebec ca e x plained that she is a te ache r who knows the ba c kg ro un ds of Af ri c a n A me ri c a n c hil dr e n, bu t is so me tim e s su rp ri se d b y the ir neig hborhood and f amily situations. S he re veale d that she for g ets that students do not live in ideal home situations where both pare nts work, childre n and par ents respe ct ea ch oth e r, a nd the re a re de sk s, su pp lie s, a nd a c omp ute r t o c omp le te a ssi g nme nts Re c og nizi ng a nd a pp re c ia tin g ind ivi du a l di ff e re nc e s, Re be c c a bu ild s u po n s tud e nts streng ths. Rebec ca c ited that cultural mismatching betwee n the teac hers a nd students often results in teac hers not wa nting to tea ch Af rica n Americ an students. Many teac hers a re not prepa red f or the c ulture Afr ican Ame rica n students bring to the classroom. Rebe cca disclosed that most Africa n Americ an students ar e ac customed to ce rtain manne risms of which their te ache rs ar e unaw are She repor ted that teac hers with a sw eet a nd soft tone of voice ha ve diffic ulties manag ing a nd teac hing A frica n Americ an students, who ofte n respond be tter to authoritative be havior mana g ement. Ac cording to Rebecc a, a pow er

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88 strug g le beg ins when the Af rica n Americ an student does not re spond to his or her te a c he r s me tho d o f b e ha vio r m a na g e me nt. Acc ording to Rebecc a, a te ache rs a bility to tolerate a nd/or manag e beha vior influence s whether a student is ref err ed. The students with sever e be haviors, who a re often Af rica n Americ an, ar e sent to the B RTs office Rebec ca de fined sever e behavior s as hitting or ta g g ing othe rs, talking back to the te ache r, and de fianc e. The teac her ma y perc eive that the stude nt behave d in a rude way but Rebecc a points out that the student may have simply behave d as he or she would at home. She disclose s that when a student is sent to the BRTs off ice, e very visit i s documented a nd repor ted to the sc ho ol b oa rd Wh ile stu de nts a re in t he B RT s o ff ic e th e y mis s in str uc tio n, a ssi g nme nts and examples of positive beha vior, as we ll as possible help from their tea cher After a period of time, students fa ll further be hind their pee rs ac ademica lly Rebec ca pur ported tha t of te n s c ho ol i s th e pla c e wh e re stu de nts ha ve the re so ur c e s a nd su pp or ts a va ila ble to complete their assig nments and homewor k. Removal of students from their g ener al educa tion classroom bec omes detrimental to their a cade mic and socia l gr owth. Sig nific anc e of pa r e nt inv olv e m e nt Rebec ca ide ntified pare nt involvement as the missing link for A frica n Americ an stu de nts a c a de mic a nd so c ia l su c c e ss. I n h e r m ind te a c he rs a nd sc ho ols sh ou ld w ill ing ly inv ite pa re nts to s pe nd tim e in t he ir c hil d s c la ssr oo m. T he se vis its wo uld a llo w p a re nts to o bs e rv e the ir c hil d a nd the te a c he r s in te ra c tio n, a s w e ll a s th e ins tr uc tio n, re so ur c e s, a nd te a c hin g str a te g ie s u se d. Re be c c a su g g e ste d th a t te a c he rs c a n tr a in p a re nts to u se strateg ies and instructional re source s at home. She explained that many pare nts believe that teac hers ha ve the sole r esponsibility of educ ating children. This be lief is detrimental to the aca demic and soc ial succe ss of many Afric an Amer ican students, who a re of ten

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89 a c a de mic a lly be hin d th e a ve ra g e Whit e stu de nt, a nd do no t r e c e ive c on tin ue d a c a de mic revie w and pr actice at home. Ea rly pare nt, student, and teac her c ommunication and training on school and a cade mic expectations would result in fewe r re fer rals to spec ial educa tion. The outcome of re fer ral is strong ly influence d by pare nt expectations. Rebecc a perc eives that pa rents initially think that refe rra l is going to help students. Soon the pare nt may notice that their c hild has less work, which the y may view as positive (e.g ., less stress, more f ree time) or a ne g ative (e .g ., less or no cha lleng e, too much fr ee time) for othe rs. Rebec ca r eporte d that often Af rica n Americ an par ents are unawa re of the schools e x pecta tion of how pare nts will provide aca demic support to their c hildren. Often the y leave the educ ational re sponsibili ties to the teac her. N ot understanding the longterm educ ational and soc ial outcomes of r efe rra l, these par ents are unawa re of the conseque nces of specia l educa tion refe rra l. Other pa rents who a re a war e of the conseque nces r equest for their childre n to remain in the g ener al educ ation classroom wh e re the y a re e xpos e d to the g e ne ra l e du c a tio n c ur ri c ulu m a nd g e ne ra l e du c a tio n p e e rs Re be c c a re ve a le d a s ti me g oe s o n th e c hil d g e ts t o th e hig h s c ho ol l e ve l a nd is f a c e d w ith the de c isi on of pu rs uin g a sp e c ia l di plo ma n o d ipl oma r e g ula r d ipl oma o r u niv e rs ity re a dy dip lom a re fe rr a l a nd pla c e me nt b e c ome s th e c on c e rn I n e le me nta ry a nd mid dle school the re fer ral plac ement appe are d to be a blessing but by high sc hool, when stu de nts ha ve be e n in the c y c le of sp e c ia l e du c a tio n p la c e me nt f or y e a rs it is d if fi c ult to pull them out. A collaborative approach to help students Rebec ca c oncluded that by bring ing the specia l educa tion teache r into the g ener al educa tion classroom it is possi ble to keep stude nts who would be re fer red in the g ener al

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90 educa tion classroom. She sug g ested that the g ener al educ ation and spec ial educa tion teac hers wor k toge ther to provide ne cessa ry supports in the same cla ssroom. As it is now, g e ne ra l e du c a tio n te a c he rs e xpe c t sp e c ia l e du c a tio n te a c he rs to t e a c h th e sa me c ur ri c ulu m a s g e ne ra l e du c a tio n a t a slo we r p a c e ; ho we ve r, thi s d oe s n ot h a pp e n in specia l educa tion because of the va rious levels and ne eds of students. When special e ducation tea cher s and g ener al educ ation teac hers c ollaborate on c ur ri c ulu m a nd str a te g ie s, a ll s tud e nts a s w e ll a s th e te a c he rs be ne fi t. T he y a re a ble to discuss appropr iate strate g ies and c urriculum for students, what is expected of e ach teac her, w hat they expect students to know, and they can c ollaborate to form proa ctive communication with pare nts. Rebecc a sug g ested that g ener al educ ation and spec ial e du c a tio n te a c he rs re c e ive sti pe nd s th a t w ill e nc ou ra g e the m to me e t a nd de ve lop we e kly lesson plans for students. She c autioned that whe n teac hers do not consistently and co l l ab o ra t i v el y m ee t s t u d en t s n ee d s ar e o ft en i n ap p ro p ri at el y ad d re s s ed T h ro u gh c on sis te nt t e a c he r c oll a bo ra tio n, stu de nts ha ve mul tip le te a c he rs a nd re fe rr e d s tud e nts a re pr ov ide d w ith ro le mod e ls o f p os iti ve be ha vio r a nd g ra de le ve l a c a de mic su c c e ss i n the g ener al educ ation classroom. Co m pos it e Te xt ur al D e sc r ipt ion (A ll P ar ti c ipa nt s) All of the tea cher s in this s tudy wanted spe cial educ ation ref err al to be a collabora tive eff ort to help students. Many hoped that the pr ocess would r evea l where the student was per forming aca demically and how be st to help the student. I n deciding wh e the r t o r e fe r, the y c on sid e re d w he the r r e fe rr a l w ou ld be so me thi ng tha t w ill definitely help the child move f orwa rd ( Rebec ca) When describing the re fer ral proc ess, teac hers in the study noted students being re fe rr e d f or the so le be ne fi t of the re fe rr ing te a c he r. Te a c he rs su g g e ste d in a n e ff or t to

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91 achie ve a perf ect c lass, g ener al educ ation teac hers r emove students who a re diff ere nt or stand out from the r est of the c lass. The g ener al educ ation teac her g e ts[s ] the m ou t be c a us e the y r e c a us ing [he r] r e a din g g ro up to g o a lit tle bit slower . f or the ESE tea cher s . its bitt er . f or the re g ular e ducation te a c he rs tha t c a n d ump on the ESE te a c he rs it s sw e e t be c a us e the y do n t ha ve to put up with it. (David) Ge ne ra l e du c a tor s ma ke fe w c ha ng e s in the ir te a c hin g sty le or le sso n p la ns to acc ommodate students who ar e strug g ling. The re is little teache r collabor ation to help the student remain in g ener al educ ation. Participants noted that Af rica n Americ an tea cher s perf ormed the r ole of advoca tes for A frica n Americ an students during the re fer ral proc ess. Michae l reve aled wh e n g oin g int o th e re fe rr a l me e tin g I wa nt t o k no w n ow w ho is o n th e pr oc e ss, I EP, the individual educa tion plan team and who a re w e looking at for spe cial plac ement." He e mphasized, "I t's my job to go in and ma ke sure that I m on ever y one of those, e sp e c ia lly the Af ri c a n A me ri c a n s tud e nts ." Mic ha e l r e po rt e d, I n th e pa st t e a c he rs wo uld sign f or students to be tested without par ents or people of color be ing the re." He deter mined that "it should be that we re [Afric an Amer ican tea cher s] s tanding up for the Afric an Amer ican students so y ou kind of did that [attend meetings f or re fer ral] and a lmo st f e lt l ike a n o bli g a tio n th a t y ou ha d to be the re fo r t he m." Sa ra h d isc los e d in c ide nts wher e she r eporte d brea ches of confide ntiality to her school' s principal. She hig hlighted a c on ve rs a tio n a SST m e mbe r h a d w ith he r, [She ] dis c us se d h ow sh e tho ug ht t his c hil d should have be en re tained and e very body was wa lking by ." I n Sarah' s mind, all of the students' r ecor ds should be secur e. Howe ver Sar ah noted that there are some children, y ou know from diff ere nt backg rounds and if y ou wer e not to see the m in the special e d c la ssr oo m, y ou wo uld ne ve r k no w t ha t th e y we re in t he re ." Ot he r s tud e nts a re a lw a y s,

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92 always talked about." Teachers talk publicly about "[students] havin g a problem that day or if something went wrong in one of the meetings." I n h is e xpe ri e nc e wi th S STs Pa ul r e po rt e d te a c he rs re sis tin g his op tim ist ic perc eptions of Afr ican Ame rica n students being ref err ed: Oh y ouve g ot . thinking I m nu ts . in y ou r c la ss s he s thi s, sh e s thi s . a nd y ou kn ow ho w i t is T e a c he rs jus t g o on and on, fe eding on the neg atives, nothing positive about the child. Onc e the student is placed in spec ial educa tion, the ge nera l educa tion teache r fe els they re out of my ha ir a nd I do n t ha ve the tot a l r e sp on sib ili ty fo r t he m to g e t th e ba sic c or e stu ff in these c lasses ( Paul). Th e te a c he rs in t his stu dy str e sse d th e imp or ta nc e of te a c he rs kn ow ing the ir Afric an Amer ican students. Rebe cca believed [school] fac ulty could use some tra ining on ho w t o w or k w ith Af ri c a n A me ri c a n k ids ." Th e training would help the faculty "u n d er s t an d s o m e o f t h e t h i n gs t h ey [ Af ri ca n Am er i ca n s t u d en ts ] may say that aren't rea lly any thing to re fer them about." Michae l questioned, How ar e y ou g oing to tea ch so me bo dy if y ou ve ne ve r b e e n in the ir c omm un ity be fo re ? So h ow a re y ou g oin g to un de rs ta nd h ow a re y ou g oin g to u nd e rs ta nd the pe op le if y ou ve ne ve r b e e n in the ir community ? D avid pointed out, "I f you live in Dove Place and you never travel over to talk to your kids or visit your kids or see what your kids are living like in Highland Lake, you never know, I mean you don't know what they go through there." When describing the re fer ral proc ess, teac hers f ocused on the duration, g oals and interventions g ener ated. Te ache rs noted that ac ademic r efe rra ls tend to take long er a nd the te a c he r sti ll h a s to kin d o f w or k w ith tha t c hil d u nti l a ll t his [re fe rr a l pr oc e ss] i s finished and sometimes it takes a y ear or more (Paul). The ref err al proc ess consists of

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93 mee tings, mee tings in the morning in the am in the pm, ever y ones talking y ou know, long w inded ( Rebec ca) I n a dd iti on to t he le ng th o f t he pr oc e ss, te a c he rs we re c on c e rn e d a bo ut t he g oa ls and interve ntions for students being ref err ed. Te ache rs viewe d the g oals and interventions as minimal, bog us, and super ficial. Dur ing the ref err al proc ess, sometimes the little goa ls we put down ar e so minimal that its li ke, thats wha t we would have done any way so where s the cha lleng e her e to move them up ( Rebec ca) The g oal bec omes keeping the student happy without really challeng ing him or he r. When the student whines, the c halleng es stop, but y et, y ou know, it [ testing] shows that they have the ability but they do have a lear ning de ficit (Re becc a). Tea cher s attested to see ing inter ventions that were just written down on paper David purpor ted, B og us interventions are set up to make the w hole proc ess work, and teac hers cook up re fer rals base d on just about any thing. The pa rticipants alleg ed that teac hers know w hat to chec k and questions to ask to g et the re sults they want. Te ache rs put down some mea g er kinds of thing s, expectations, aca demic little goa ls, and thats about it; most of those thing s are superf icial any way (Paul). D avid re called a n instance during a re fer ral mee ting whe n the re g ular e d teac her ke pt refe rring back to the inter ventions that was wr itten . she kept say ing, Well let me see the folde r so I can r emember . You ve only g ot on e re fe rr a l in y ou r c la ss, if y ou r e re a lly g oin g fo rt h w ith the se [int e rv e nti on s] its something y oure g oing to r eca ll easily in y our mind. Tea cher s cautioned tha t interventions are written up, but often a re not implemented. All the teac hers noted a cade mics as their primar y rea son for re fer ral. When they are a par t of SSTs, all of the teache rs try to make sure that students are not being ref err ed fo r nit -p ic kin g be ha vio r ( Sa ra h) T he y qu e sti on e d w he the r t he re a so n f or re fe rr a l is behavior al or g enuinely aca demic. All of the te ache rs believe d that Afric an Amer ican

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94 students are ref err ed primar ily beca use of be havior a nd teac her intolera nce. Paul e xpla ine d, Mo st o f o ur [B la c k] c hil dr e n g e t in tho se pr og ra ms, the sp e c ia l e d p ro g ra ms beca use of that be havior e lement, they re ref using to do, c ant tell me wha t to do, who do y ou think y ou are I dont have to do it. Rebecc a ela borate d, To send the m [ Afric an Am e ri c a n c hil dr e n] do wn to r e fe rr a l be c a us e the y did n t do wh a t I sa id w he n I sa id d o it and they have a n attitude, I dont think thats something y ou send the kids down to be re fe rr e d f or . Pa ul h y po the size d th a t A fr ic a n A me ri c a n c hil dr e n c a nn ot b e e a sil y broke n. He arg ued, I dont ca re how bad y ou talk to them and how y ou trea t them, y ou dont brea k the m. Y ou c a n p us h me do wn y ou c a n s ho ve me he re I m no t g oin g to d o it Some people say they [African A merica n children] are emotionally disturbed, something s wrong with them beca use they re not responding to normal kinds of comments or commands. O ur childre n do act loud, talk loud and won t do n o t h i n g, but this does not mean they are incapa ble of lea rning or that they have e motional disabiliti es. Te a c he rs be lie ve d th a t pa re nta l in vo lve me nt w a s p e rt ine nt t o th e re fe rr a l pr oc e ss and student outcomes. The students with more pare nt involvement are less likely to have their re cords ope nly discussed. Sara h pointed out, "The se ar e some of the children tha t their par ents are on the PTA or they are alway s there c onstantly volunteering ." T he "pa rents y ou have ne ver se en that y ou wouldn' t rec og nize if they came to y ou on the street. Those tend to be the c hildren that all of their persona l information is talked about on th e si dew alk ." Whe n p a re nts a re un inv olv e d th e y a re lik e ly to b e lie ve wh a te ve r t he sc ho ol s a y s. Most parents do not want a ref err al and plac ement, but most say well the school thinks it' s r ig ht, thi s p a pe r t ha t th e y too k th e te st t ha t th e y too k s ho ws uh th a t it s r ig ht, the n it

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95 mus t be ri g ht. Mic ha e l a c kn ow le dg e d, we se nd ou r c hil d th ink ing the sc ho ol i s g oin g to do it a ll f or us so we jus t r e a lly ne e d to be se e n mo re ." Sa ra h b e lie ve d s ho wi ng up to me e tin g s is no t e no ug h. Pa re nts ne e d to ma ke su re tha t th e y fu lly un de rs ta nd wh a t th e ir di sab il it y is and wha t s tr ate gies are goi ng to be u sed ." Refer ral is not an ea sy proce ss. She disclosed, "I see a lot of the teac hers, they try to ex pl ain as m uch as t hey can, bu t s ti ll th ey wal k o ut of t here wi th a st ack o f pap ers ." Be ing a n Afric an Amer ican tea cher "the y [parents] tend to be more open w ith me and tend to sit down and ask . ask w hat they need to a sk." Paul sug g ested not placing b l am e o n s o m et h i n g t h e p ar en t s h av e d o n e, an d s t re s s i n g t h i s i s s o m et h i n g t h at 's happene d and that this kid can lea rn." He c ontended, I f we just sit and help them [pa re nts ], no t ju st s a y w e ll h e ha s le a rn ing dis a bil iti e s a nd we pu t hi m in thi s c la ss" pare nts do not become ove rwhe lmed. Some teache rs ar e not able or do not have the skills to relate to or handle some of the Afr ican Ame rica n students. Some children a re use d to differ ent manner isms and their tea cher s have some ma nnerisms that they dont seem to re spond to (Rebe cca ). F or example, Some kids are use d to cer tain kinds of words or a ctions to let y ou know that rea lly means this or not. Some of them ar e used to be ing y elled at a nd then when y ou dont, they are like, Oh I g ot . . the student fee ls empowere d (Rebe cca ). Th e pa rt ic ipa nts su g g e ste d th a t so me te a c he rs a re mor e tol e ra nt o f s ome stu de nts than others. Te ache rs r eally seem to lose patienc e whe n dealing with Africa n Americ an students for some re ason. We take so much time out to talk about other cultures, but we do n t r e a lly loo k in to h ow to d e a l w ith Af ri c a n A me ri c a ns (S a ra h) D ive rs ity tr a ini ng is a va ila ble fo r E SOL b ut we r eally dont have a plac e for our identity or . spec ial qualities that make our community shine. I know that a lot of tea cher s dont rea lly take the time a nd re a lly do tha t, t o in sti ll p ri de in t he ir [Af ri c a n A me ri c a n] c omm un ity in t he ir

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96 [Af ri c a n A me ri c a n] e thn ic ba c kg ro un d li ke the y do so me of the oth e r c ult ur e s. (Sara h) Th e dif fe re nc e s b e tw e e n A fr ic a n A me ri c a n c ult ur e a nd Ca uc a sia n c ult ur e s a re re a lly brushed unde r the rug (Sar ah). Te a c he rs in t his stu dy pe rc e ive d th a t sp e c ia l e du c a tio n r e fe rr a l he lpe d s ome Afric an Amer icans but has be come de trimental to many others. Te ache rs believe d that ref err ed Af rica n Americ an students work le ss beca use they are less challeng ed. Af rica n Am e ri c a n s tud e nts wo n t g o o ve r a nd be y on d b e c a us e the y kn ow the y c a n g e t by wi th doing le ss (Rebe cca ). They start to fee l they do not have to do as muc h or more tha n other students: I m specia l. I m ESE; I can t do that (Rebe cca ). Afr ican Ame rica n students who are ref err ed see m to conclude, I dont have to do much for those w ho kn ow tha t th e y a re c a pa ble of do ing mor e ; w e g o th e re [to s pe c ia l e du c a tio n] w e do thi s (Paul). All of the tea cher s hoped that the Af rica n Americ an students re fer red to spec ial educa tion would return to g ener al educ ation having made a cade mic prog ress a nd having achie ved enha nced se lf-conf idence Howeve r, the tea cher s noted littl e diffe renc e betwe en the students per formanc e prior to r efe rra l and af ter re fer ral. Micha el re marke d, Their sc ores se em to stay low from wha t I ve se en. Eve n afte r they left elementa ry school for middle school to hig h school, y ou know, what s the dif fe re nc e Wit h a ll o f t ha t a nd wh a t w e v e sp e nt m on e y wi se h ow ma ny we nt t o c oll e g e h ow ma ny be c a me su c c e ssf ul? Refer ral should he lp students stay at or a bove, but not alway s working below the r est of t h e [ gen er al ed u ca t i o n ] cl as s ( R eb ec ca ). T h e t ea ch er s s u gges t ed t h at t h er e a re l ar ge numbers of A frica n Americ an students who ar e re fer red to spec ial educa tion and never return to g ener al educ ation. When it is noticed they can pe rfor m at level or a bove, I dont think there s any eff ort to quickly g et the m ba c k in to a re g ula r s e tti ng H ow c a n o ne g e t ou t of the pr og ra m on c e in, is tha t bu ilt int o th e wh ole e du c a tio na l pl a n, y ou kn ow a nd I do n t he a r t ha t. ( Pa ul)

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97 Co m pos it e St r uc tu r al D e sc r ipt ion (A ll P ar ti c ipa nt s) The tea cher s in this s tudy wanted spe cial educ ation ref err al to appropr iately meet the ne e ds of stu de nts wh o a re str ug g lin g T he y ha d h op e s f or the pr oc e ss n ot o nly r e v e a l i n g s t u d e n t s w e a k n e s s e s b u t a l s o t h e i r s t r e n g t h s a n d h o w t o m a x i m i z e t h e m In deciding to refe r or not, the tea cher s considere d whether ref err al would bene fit the student. They questioned whe ther the student s aca demic and soc ial self would be nurtured. D espite their hope s, the teac hers pe rce ived re fer ral a s benef itting the re fer ring teac her more than the student. The te ache rs believe d that g ener al educ ation teac hers a re seeking a pe rfe ct class, one with fe w beha vior and/or a cade mic challeng es (Da vid). Th e stu de nts in a pe rf e c t c la ss l ist e n w e ll, fo llo w d ir e c tio ns r e sp e c t ot he rs c omp le te their assig nments independe ntly and re quire little redire ction. Students who distort t he picture of the pe rfe ct class by being differ ent from the ma jority of their pe ers a re quickly noticed and monitore d for possible re fer ral to spec ial educa tion and remova l from g ener al educ ation (Da vid). L ittle chang e is requir ed on the pa rt of the g ener al educa tion teache r, who is often f rustrate d and dete rmined to have the student remove d. Th e de te rm ina tio n to ha ve the stu de nt r e mov e d s ome tim e s c a us e s te ns ion wi th oth e r t e a c he rs wh o a re a pa rt of the SST. Th e te a c he rs in t his stu dy de sc ri be d SST meeting s where ref err ing te ache rs re sisted hear ing positive fe edbac k or per ceptions about the re fe rr e d s tud e nt f ro m ot he r t e a m me mbe rs T he fr us tr a te d r e fe rr ing te a c he r t e nd s to focus on ne g atives qualities. I n the end, the g ener al educ ation teac her is re lieved to have the re fer red student r emoved f rom his or her c lass and re sponsibili ty but the specia l e du c a tio n te a c he r f e e ls o ve rw he lme d a s h is o r h e r s tud e nt c a se loa d a nd re sp on sib ili ty inc re a se s.

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98 Tea cher s identified themselves a nd Afric an Amer ican tea cher s in ge nera l as a dv oc a te s f or Af ri c a n A me ri c a n s tud e nts du ri ng the sp e c ia l e du c a tio n r e fe rr a l pr oc e ss. Michae l wanted to know whic h students were being ref err ed and be lieved he or another Af ri c a n A me ri c a n s ho uld be pr e se nt a t r e fe rr a ls i nv olv ing Af ri c a n A me ri c a n s tud e nts Hi sto ri c a lly A fr ic a n A me ri c a n s tud e nts we re te ste d a nd pla c e d in sp e c ia l e du c a tio n w ith no repr esenta tion of an Afr ican Ame rica n pare nt or Afr ican Ame rica n teac her. Sarah r eporte d situations where te ache rs discussed c onfidential matters of Afric an Americ an students publicly (e.g ., sidewalks, par king lots, tea cher lounge s). Troubled by te a c he rs dis re g a rd of stu de nts pr iva c y Sa ra h r e po rt e d th e inc ide nc e s to he r p ri nc ipa l. Sa ra h w a nte d a ll t he stu de nts re c or ds se c ur e w he the r t he ir pa re nts we re inv olv e d w ith the school or not. As a membe r of the SST, Paul elabora ted on teac hers' resistanc e to his positive perc eptions of re fer red students. The disag ree ments cente red a round Paul' s positive experience s with the ref err ed student and the ref err ing te ache rs' neg ative experienc es wi th t he stu de nt. Pa ul r e po rt e d th a t r e fe rr ing te a c he rs te nd e d to fo c us on ly on stu de nts neg ative beha vior and/or ne g ative enc ounters with students' families. He e x plained that he did not have the problems in his class that the other SST members w ere having As the lone advoc ate f or the student, Paul disclosed being perc eived a s "nuts" for se eing the s t u d e n t p o s i t i v e l y. Te a c he rs be lie ve d th a t kn ow ing Af ri c a n A me ri c a n s tud e nts a nd the ir communities was per tinent to their aca demic and soc ial succe ss. Severa l teache rs be lie ve d th a t e du c a tor s n e e de d p ro fe ssi on a l de ve lop me nt t o a ssi st t he m in wo rk ing wi th a nd un de rs ta nd ing Af ri c a n A me ri c a n b e ha vio rs T his un de rs ta nd ing wo uld he lp f a c ult y re a lize tha t c e rt a in b e ha vio rs a re no t c a us e fo r r e fe rr a l. T e a c he rs qu e sti on e d te a c he rs '

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99 a bil ity to t e a c h A fr ic a n A me ri c a n s tud e nts wi tho ut k no wi ng the ir c omm un iti e s. Th is k n o w i n g g o e s b e y o n d w h a t i s w r i t t e n o n p a p e r o r d i s c u s s e d a m o n g s t t e a c h e r s It involves visiti ng the communities of the Af rica n Americ an students they serve int e ra c tin g wi th A fr ic a n A me ri c a n p a re nts a nd ha vin g re so ur c e s ( e .g c hu rc he s, community service g roups, sororities, fr ater nities) that are important to the lives of Afric an Amer ican students. I n their minds, teache rs' understanding of Afr ican Ame rica n stu de nts is l imi te d w he n th e y ha ve no t vi sit e d a nd sp e nt t ime kn ow ing the ir c omm un iti e s. I n a dd iti on to c omm un ity vis its tr a ini ng s sh ou ld a llo w e du c a tor s to critica lly ref lect on their pe rce ptions and expectations of Afr ican Ame rica n students and the Afr ican Ame rica n community Th re e of the te a c he rs de sc ri be the re fe rr a l pr oc e ss a s lo ng ta kin g a s mu c h a s a y ear to complete, and supe rficia l. Acade mic ref err als are often a longe r proc ess than be ha vio ra l r e fe rr a ls. Whil e the te a c he r w a its fo r a fi na l a na ly sis of the re fe rr a l pr oc e ss, she is expected to continue to wor k with the student despite ac ademic or social challeng es. The r efe rra l meeting s occur befor e and a fter sc hool and entail extensive discussion. The par ticipants reve al that teac hers ha ve a dif ficult time g etting to the he art of the students issues. Dur ing the ref err al proc ess, the tea cher and g uidance counselors develop g oals and interve ntions to assist in assessing the re fer red students a biliti es and prog ress. Tea cher s in this s tudy viewed the g oals and interve ntions as minim al, bog us and/or super ficial. The y reve aled that tea cher s write down g oals that they know ca n be easily implemented or that they will not be ca lled on the ca rpet for late r (Rebe cca ). L itt le tho ug ht i s p ut i nto ho w t he g oa ls a nd int e rv e nti on s w ill he lp t he re fe rr e d s tud e nt. The re fer ring teac her f ocuses on ke eping the re fer red student ha ppy When the student

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100 whines or c omplains about the work, the a ssignments a nd tasks are made e asier e ven though the student is capable of doing more. Onc e the g oals and interve ntions are wr itten, few teac hers c onsistently implement them. Al l th e te a c he rs in t his stu dy no te d a c a de mic s a s th e ir pr ima ry re a so n f or re fe rr a l. They rec og nized that some children strug g led in the g ener al educ ation setting a nd neede d small gr oup and individualized inst ruction. Afte r exhausting a ll resourc es (e .g ., other teac hers, pa rents, administrators) the teac hers use d ref err al as a last resort. All the te a c he rs pu rp or te d w a iti ng a s lo ng a s p os sib le to b e su re no thi ng e lse c ou ld b e do ne to help the student. Tea cher s questioned whethe r re fer rals we re g enuine. When the tea cher s in this st udy wer e a pa rt of SSTs, they car efully listened and obser ved other s to be sure students were being appropr iately and fa irly identified. Tea cher s did not li ke re fer ral meeting s where teac hers we re c lose-minded to insights about the c hild and focuse d on nit-picking beha viors or students little attitudes (Sar ah). Tea cher s in this s tudy believed tha t pare ntal involvement was pe rtinent to the ref err al proc ess for A frica n Americ an students. Students of Whit e par ents who ar e ofte n more involved than B lack pa rents ar e less likely to have their aca demic and/or social iss ue s p ub lic ly dis c us se d. Sa ra h r e ve a le d th a t st ud e nts of pa re nts wh o a re un inv olv e d in sc ho ols a re lik e ly to h a ve the ir pe rs on a l in fo rm a tio n d isc us se d o n s ide wa lks lo un g e s, and par king lots. Tea cher s repor ted that uninvolved par ents are likely to believe the perspe ctives of SSTs beca use they are unawa re of the conse quence s of re fer ral. Te ache rs in t his stu dy no te d th a t mo st p a re nts be lie ve tha t th e sc ho ol i s to ta lly re sp on sib le fo r t he ir c hil d' s e du c a tio n. I n th e se te a c he rs min ds n ot o nly sh ou ld A fr ic a n A me ri c a n p a re nts attend re fer ral mee tings, but they must empower themse lves with the knowledg e of the c on se qu e nc e s o f r e fe rr a l. I ns te a d o f b la min g pa re nts te a c he rs sh ou ld a ssi st p a re nts

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101 throug h the difficulty of re fer ral, c larify the child' s disability or re lated issues, and pr ov ide str a te g ie s to be us e d a t ho me to s up po rt stu de nts Th e te a c he rs sta te d th a t A fr ic a n A me ri c a n s tud e nts a re pr ima ri ly re fe rr e d b e c a us e of beha vior issues and lac k of tea cher toleranc e. All of the te ache rs ac knowledg ed that teac hing A frica n Americ an childre n can be challeng ing. T hey contend that Af rica n Americ an childre n can ha ve a littl e attitude w here they talk loud and re fuse to do so me thi ng (P a ul) I n th e ir min ds r e fe rr ing a stu de nt w ith a lit tle a tti tud e ma ke s li ttl e sense ( Rebec ca) The tea cher s surmised that Afric an Amer ican c hildren have diffe rent manner isms to which many teac hers do not know how to r espond (Rebe cca ). F or example, some students are a ccustomed to be ing spoke n to firmly and whe n teac hers make a quiet reque st, the students perce ive the tea cher as insincer e and pe rhaps we ak. Eventually the teac her s toleranc e drops a nd he or she loses her pa tience w ith the Afric an Amer ican student. Al l of the te a c he rs in t his stu dy c ri tic ize d th e la c k o f d isc us sio n a bo ut h ow to meet the ne eds of Af rica n Americ an students and their families. Tea cher s noted that a lot of tea cher s do not take time . to instill pride in the Afr ican Ame rica n students community and ethnic ba ckg round like the y do some other c ultures ( Sarah) The cultural c onflicts betwee n Afric an Amer ican c ulture and Cauc asian c ulture ar e ofte n ignor ed and vie wed a s unimportant. Four of the tea cher s perc eived spe cial educ ation ref err al as ofte n being cr ippling to Af rica n Americ an students a cade mic and socia l prog ress (Re becc a). Tea cher s believed tha t refe rre d students rec eived less wor k, and wor k that did not challeng e them to excel. They sug g ested that Af rica n Americ an students ar e ca pable of doing e x cellent wor k, but the specia l educa tion label often stig matizes them. W hen g iven

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102 a ssi g nme nts ma ny of the se stu de nts inf or m te a c he rs I c a n t do tha t be c a us e I m in ESE (Paul). B elieving that they cannot a chieve Afric an Amer ican students produc e the bare minimum Tea cher s in this s tudy posed that whe n Afric an Amer ican students ar e g iven cha lleng ing g rade level wor k without being told of the difficulty they often complete a ssignments with little or no protest. Wanting to see enhanc ed ac ademic g rowth and se lf-conf idence in Africa n Americ an students, teac hers que stioned the bene fit of spec ial educa tion refe rra l. Many of the re fer red A frica n Americ an students make littl e or no pr og ress, and whe n they do ma ke a c a de mic a nd /or so c ia l g a ins lit tle or no e ff or t is m a de to r e tur n th e stu de nt t o the g ener al educ ation classroom (Mic hael) Tea cher s noted that low test score s and below g ra de -l e ve l a c a de mic pe rf or ma nc e s f oll ow re fe rr e d A fr ic a n A me ri c a n s tud e nts thr ou g ho ut t he ir e du c a tio na l c a re e rs M os t of the te a c he rs in t his stu dy qu e sti on e d, wi th all the money spent money wise, the numbers of students who e nter c olleg e and a re succe ssful as a r esult of being ref err ed. (Micha el) Althoug h many meeting s occur to ge t students refe rre d to and place d in special e ducation, little discussion or planning ta kes place to ge t students out. Essence Th is i s th e su mma ry of the e sse nc e of sp e c ia l e du c a tio n r e fe rr a l a s it a pp lie s to the Afr ican Ame rica n teac hers in this study I n this investigation spec ial educa tion re fe rr a l r e fe rs to t he pr oc e ss e le me nta ry te a c he rs us e to r e c e ive sp e c ia l e du c a tio n h e lp a nd se rv ic e s f or str ug g lin g stu de nts tha t a re su sp e c te d o f h a vin g a dis a bil ity (e .g ., le a rn ing dis a bil ity e mot ion a l di sa bil ity me nta l r e ta rd a tio n) E sse nti a l c omp on e nts of the e xpe ri e nc e of sp e c ia l e du c a tio n r e fe rr a l in c lud e a pp ro pr ia te ne ss o f r e fe rr a l, conseque nces of ref err al, par ental influenc e on re fer ral, a nd g ood and bad r efe rra l.

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103 App r opr iat e ne ss o f Re fer r al Te a c he rs wa nt t o b e su re tha t r e fe rr a l is a pp ro pr ia te fo r s tud e nts N ot w a nti ng to confuse cultural diff ere nces w ith disabili ties, they tend to wait a little longe r than other te a c he rs be fo re re fe rr ing stu de nts Pa rt ic ipa nts we lc ome the c ha lle ng e of wo rk ing wi th students who are aca demically and/or socia lly strug g ling. The y collect wor k samples and pr ov ide stu de nts wi th c ha lle ng ing wo rk a nd div e rs e str a te g ie s in ho pe s o f i mpr ov ing the ir aca demic and soc ial achie vement. Te ache rs use obser vations and tests for the purpose of kn ow ing stu de nts s tr e ng ths a nd de te rm ini ng a pp ro pr ia te ins tr uc tio na l st ra te g ie s. Participants not only rely on themselves to assess students but also on par ents and other te a c he rs I n th e ir min ds s pe c ia l e du c a tio n r e fe rr a l is uti lize d w he n a ll o the r r e so ur c e s to help the students succ eed a re e x hausted. When considering specia l educa tion refe rra l, teache rs attende d to goa ls and interventions. The g oals and interve ntions ensure whe re a nd how students are helped. Te a c he rs re c og nize d th e imp or ta nc e of ha vin g a n a rr a y of str a te g ie s a nd int e rv e nti on s in working with students who are strug g ling. The y attributed many of the socia l and a c a de mic pr ob le ms t ha t te a c he rs ha ve wi th A fr ic a n A me ri c a n s tud e nts to a la c k o f s kil l, strateg ies, and interve ntions on the part of tea cher s. Some teache rs sug g ested that teac hers do not have the time or do not wish to help strug g ling students. Many of the te a c he rs vie we d th e g oa ls a nd int e rv e nti on s d e ve lop e d f or re fe rr e d s tud e nts a s mi nim a l. They questioned whe ther g oals and interve ntions are a ctually implemented. The te ache rs pe rc e ive d th a t of te n g oa ls a nd int e rv e nti on s a re wr itt e n a s a fo rm a lit y wi th t he so le intention of having students removed f rom g ener al educ ation. Participants also commente d on teac hers rea sons for re fer ring students. They noted that re fer rals we re ma de due to a cade mic and beha vior conc erns. When desc ribing

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104 the ir re a so ns fo r r e fe rr a l, a ll o f t he te a c he rs c ite d a c a de mic s ( e .g ., we a k b a sic sk ill s, proce ssing issues, pe rfor ming be low g rade level expectations) a s their primary cause for ref err al. The numbe r of Af rica n Americ an students re fer red be cause of beha vior disturbed teac hers. I n their minds, many of the be havior issues could be dealt with if the ref err ing te ache r had dive rse mana g ement skills and would utiliz e Af rica n Americ an pare nts and teac hers a s a re source They questioned whe ther tea cher s were perc eiving defic its or responding to cultural diffe renc es. Th e se g re g a tio n o f A fr ic a n A me ri c a n s tud e nts int o s pe c ia l e du c a tio n c la ssr oo ms fr us tr a te d te a c he rs T he y c on te nd e d th a t th e ma jor ity of the Af ri c a n A me ri c a n s tud e nts a re pla c e d in sp e c ia l e du c a tio n c la ssr oo ms b e c a us e of the ir lit tle a tti tud e s. I f t he y did no t ha ve lit tle a tti tud e s the g e ne ra l e du c a tio n te a c he r w ou ld b e wi lli ng to w or k w ith many of the a cade mic challeng es. The te ache rs noted that tea ching Afric an Amer ican c hil dr e n c a n b e c ha lle ng ing b ut a dmo nis he d th a t th e ir dif fe re nc e in m a nn e ri sms sh ou ld not be see n as def icits. I n their minds, refe rra l of Afr ican Ame rica n students should be fo r g e nu ine a c a de mic re a so ns a nd no t be c a us e a te a c he r r e fu se s o r d oe s n ot k no w h ow to appre ciate soc ial and/or c ultural diffe renc es. Co nse que nc e s o f Re fer r al Tea cher s questioned the bene fit of spec ial educa tion refe rra l. They believed specia l educa tion refe rra ls often stunted students lear ning a nd self-e steem, and the y voiced a strong conce rn about the impac t on Africa n Americ an students. Tea cher s observe d that students who wer e re fer red f or help tende d to reg ress a cade mically and emotionally Gene ral e ducation tea cher s expect special e ducation tea cher s to teach the g ener al educ ation curr iculum at a slower pace ; however this does not happen. I nstead, the par ticipants repor ted that re fer red students re ceive d unchalleng ing a nd water ed-dow n

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105 curr iculum. Three of the tea cher s sugg ested that students we re be tter off rema ining in the g ener al educ ation classroom ra ther than be ing pulled out f or spec ial educa tion services. Most of the teac hers view ed spec ial educa tion refe rra l as a c rutch for Afric an Americ an students. Once ref err ed, the students view the mselves as inca pable of producing quality work a nd obtaining g rade -leve l aca demic succ ess; other tea cher s tend to a ssu me thi s v ie w. With e a c h s c ho ol y e a r, e xpe c ta tio ns a nd re qu ir e me nts inc re a se wi th littl e ac ademic a nd/or social g rowth for ref err ed students. The te ache rs hy pothesized that Afric an Amer ican students produc e at the le vel that teac hers e x pect. L ittle effor t is made to return students bac k to the g ener al educ ation classroom. Ye ars of low expectations produce students who are aca demically and socia lly unprepa red f or the c halleng es of life P ar e nt al I nflue nc e on R e fer r al The tea cher s pointed to the importance of pare nt involvement in ensuring that students are helped a s a re sult of the ref err al proc ess. They noted diffe renc es betwe en the service s students rece ived base d on the involvement of the pa rent. Cauc asian pa rents tend to be more involved w ith schools than Africa n Americ an par ents. Tea cher s viewed Ca uc a sia n s tud e nts be ne fi tti ng fr om t he ir pa re nts be ing c on ne c te d to sc ho ols Pa re nts wh o v olu nte e r a t sc ho ol a nd /or de ve lop a re la tio ns hip wi th t he te a c he r a re mor e lik e ly to rec eive c oopera tive consult service s for their c hild rather tha n having their child pulled out of g ener al educ ation for spe cial educ ation service s. Participants noted that the students pe rsonal informa tion and aca demic re cords are held in confide nce. O nly the member s of the SST are a war e that the student is being ref err ed. The students problems ar e not openly discussed on school sidewa lks or teac her lounge s. Teac hers a lso noticed that pare nts who come to mee tings with questions and ideas to help students ar e tre ated diff ere ntly The tea cher s contende d that educa tors

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106 should focus less on par ents signing paper s and more on he lping pa rents deve lop strateg ies and interve ntions that can be use d to help students at home. Pa rt ic ipa nts wa rn e d th a t A fr ic a n A me ri c a n p a re nts a lie na tio n f ro m sc ho ols pu ts Af ri c a n A me ri c a n s tud e nts a tri sk of re mov a l f ro m op po rt un iti e s w he re the ir po te nti a ls can be enhanc ed and ma x imiz ed. Participa nts revea led that often w hen par ents do not a t t e n d S S T m e e t i n g s t e a c h e r s a s s u m e p a r e n t s d o n o t c a r e a b o u t t h e i r c h i l d r e n If Af ri c a n A me ri c a n p a re nts a tte nd the SST m e e tin g th e y of te n a sk fe w q ue sti on s. Tea cher s purported tha t both scenar ios are c halleng ing to the r efe rra l proce ss beca use the pa re nts ha nd ov e r t he ir po we r a nd inf lue nc e to t he SST t o d e c ide ho w a nd wh e re the ir child will be appropr iately serve d. I n addition to privately addre ssing Af rica n Americ an pare nts questions and conc erns, pa rticipants re veale d that they perf orm the role of advoca te for A frica n Americ an students by challeng ing e ducator s to consider Af rica n Americ an students pe rspec tives and assisting te ache rs who have problems with Afric an Am e ri c a n s tud e nts G oo d a nd B ad Re fer r als Tea cher s in this s tudy repor ted def initions of g ood and bad spe cial educ ation ref err al proc esses. I n these tea cher s minds, the ref err al proc ess is a g ood proc ess when teac hers a re ope n to support and sug g estions from par ents and other teac hers. The re fe rr ing te a c he r w e lc ome s a nd us e s p e rs pe c tiv e s th a t a re dif fe re nt f ro m hi s o r h e r o wn to he lp s tud e nts I n g oo d re fe rr a ls, e du c a tor s a re wi lli ng to c on ne c t w ith stu de nts fa mil ie s a nd c omm un iti e s. With the he lp o f o the r e du c a tor s th e re fe rr ing te a c he r v isi ts the home and c ommunity of the re fer red student. Par ticipants believed tha t refe rring te a c he rs sh ou ld k no w t he stu de nts a nd the pe op le wh o a re imp or ta nt t o th e m. O ft e n th e se teac hers try numerous strate g ies and interve ntions to help students. Teache rs believe d

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107 that home and c ommunity visits as well as the utiliz ation of Afr ican Ame rica n teac hers as a r esourc e ar e sig ns of teac hers eff orts and since rity in working with Africa n Americ an students. They noted that when te ache rs fe el supported by pare nts and other teac hers, the r efe rra l proce ss is helpful for both the student and te ache r. I n c on tr a st, in ba d re fe rr a ls t he re fe rr ing te a c he r r e fu se s to he a r d ive rs e p e r s p e c t i v e s a b o u t t h e s t u d e n t t h e s t u d e n t s f a m i l y a n d t h e s t u d e n t s c o m m u n i t y. Participants re ported SST meeting s where their per spectives of Afric an Amer ican stu de nts a re of te n c ha lle ng e d a nd ig no re d b y the re fe rr ing te a c he r. Whe n o the r S ST me mbe rs fo c us on po sit ive int e ra c tio ns wi th t he stu de nt, the re fe rr ing te a c he r s tr ug g le s to see be y ond the students we aknesse s and the tea cher s neg ative enc ounters with the students family During these mee tings, SST members do most of the talking and the pare nts ask few questions. I n addition, teache rs noted that in ba d re fer rals no matter what strate g ies or interve ntions are implemented, r efe rring teac hers view specia l educa tion refe rra l and place ment as the only option.

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108 CH APT ER 5 DI SCUS SI ON Introduction This investiga tion addresse d two rese arc h questions: How do Af rica n Americ an elementa ry teac hers pe rce ive spec ial educa tion refe rra l? and How do Af rica n Americ an teac hers e x perie nce the ref err al of Af rica n Americ an students to specia l educa tion classes? The teac hers in this study wer e Af rica n Americ an ele mentary teac hers who ha d been pa rt of a School Study Tea m used in the specia l educa tion refe rra l proce ss, and/or had initiated a spe cial educ ation ref err al. Even thoug h all of the tea cher s were Afric an Americ an, they varie d in teaching experience ref err als initiated, and per sonal experience wi th r e fe rr a l. T his c ha pte r w ill dis c us s th e fi nd ing s f ro m th is s tud y a nd pla c e thi s inf or ma tio n w ith in t he c on te xt of pr e vio us re se a rc h. Th e lim ita tio ns of thi s st ud y wi ll then be pr esente d, followed by a discussion of implications for re sear ch and pr actice Ke y F ind ings I n addre ssing the ma in resea rch que stions, I found that all of the te ache rs attende d to t he sa me a sp e c ts o f s pe c ia l e du c a tio n r e fe rr a l ( stu de nt l e a rn ing p a re nt i nv olv e me nt, and g ood and ba d re fer rals). The emphasis the tea cher s place d on eac h aspec t was ve ry sim ila r, wi th m ino r v a ri a tio ns inf lue nc e d b y te a c he rs v a lue s a nd pr ior e xpe ri e nc e s. Wit h the exception of one te ache r, the tea cher s viewed spe cial educ ation ref err al more neg atively than positively particula rly for Af rica n Americ an students.

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109 St ude nt Le ar ning All of the tea cher s focuse d on student learning when de scribing specia l educa tion ref err al. They wanted stude nts to have the be st environments for a cade mic and emotional g ro wt h, a nd qu e sti on e d w he the r s pe c ia l e du c a tio n r e fe rr a l w a s a pp ro pr ia te or in t he be st interest of A frica n Americ an students. A majority of the tea cher s addre ssed the short-term a nd longterm impact of spe cial educ ation ref err al. I n the short-ter m, special educa tion refe rra l seemed he lpful for students. On the othe r hand, in a n examination of the long -term, tea cher s noted Afr ican Ame rica n students who had low selfconfide nce a nd lit tle or no imp ro ve d a c a de mic sk ill T e a c he rs a ttr ibu te d s tud e nts p oo r p ro g re ss t o water ed-dow n curr iculum for students with disabiliti es and low e x pecta tions of ge nera l a nd sp e c ia l e du c a tio n te a c he rs Con ne c te d to stu de nts l e a rn ing te a c he rs a tte nd e d to the de ve lop me nt o f g oa ls a nd int e rv e nti on s w he n d e sc ri bin g sp e c ia l e du c a tio n r e fe rr a l. T he y pu rp or te d th a t, whether intentionally or unintentionally g ener al educ ation teac hers de veloped g oals and interventions that set students up to fail and ha ve them re moved from the g ener al educa tion classrooms. Tea cher s repor ted that minimal goa ls and interventions we re written to protec t teache rs jobs and pr event possible lawsuits from pa rents. Refe rring teac hers g rapple d with the decision of wr iting g oals and de veloping interventions that wo uld be ne fi t th e re fe rr e d s tud e nt, or de ve lop ing g oa ls a nd int e rv e nti on s th a t th e y c ou ld re a lis tic a lly c omp le te in a dd iti on to m e e tin g the ne e ds of the oth e r s tud e nts in t he c la ss. Re c og nizi ng tha t a c a de mic a nd so c ia l de ma nd s w ou ld i nc re a se in t he a c a de mic fu tur e s o f r e fe rr e d s tud e nts te a c he rs in t his stu dy wa nte d A fr ic a n A me ri c a n s tud e nts to be cha lleng ed ea rly in their ac ademic c are ers to produc e quality work. The y perc eived tha t qu a lit y wo rk c ou ld n ot b e pr od uc e d s ud de nly a nd tha t A fr ic a n A me ri c a n s tud e nts

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110 neede d fre quent and e arly models for pra ctice. I n their minds, ge nera l educa tion provided t h e b es t o p p o rt u n i t y fo r s t u d en t s t o b e e x p o s ed t o ch al l en gi n g wo rk an d h i gh e xpe c ta tio ns T he se e xpe c ta tio ns no t on ly pr e pa re d s tud e nts to a dd re ss a c a de mic challeng es, but also lifes c halleng es. I f and w hen students wer e re moved from the g ener al educ ation classroom for specia l educa tion services, the teac hers wa nted to be assure d of their quick r eturn. Some of the tea cher s who participa ted in this investigation re g ularly collabora ted with other tea cher s to discuss what could be done to help ref err ed students re main in the g ener al educ ation classroom. With the collaboration of the g ener al educ ation and spec ial educa tion teache rs, the tea cher s believed students c ould rec eive spe cial educ ation service s in the g ener al educ ation classroom. I n their minds, this collaboration produce d a share d responsibility for students le arning and g rowth. P ar e nt Inv olv e m e nt Pe rc e ivi ng sp e c ia l e du c a tio n r e fe rr a l a s d e tr ime nta l to Af ri c a n A me ri c a n s tud e nts teac hers in the study noted par ent involvement as the missing component in providing Afric an Amer ican students with the ac ademic a nd emotional support they need to be succe ssful. I n their minds, if Afric an Amer ican pa rents continue to be uninvolved and unempower ed in schools, Afr ican Ame rica n students will continue to be overr epre sented in special e ducation cla ssrooms. They had notions for re aching out to Africa n Americ an pare nts and helping them participa te asser tively and ef fec tively with educa tors. The tea cher s stated that many Afric an Amer ican pa rents ar e unaw are of wha t sp e c ia l e du c a tio n r e fe rr a l me a ns in t he sh or t a nd lon g te rm s a nd a re a fr a id t o a sk questions. Teac hers pur ported that whe n there is no parent involvement or the par ents are not actively involved in the ref err al proc ess, the fa te of Af rica n Americ an students is left

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111 in the hands of the SST. Gene rally using the ir persona l experience s and belief s, the SSTs make r efe rra l and place ment decisions with littl e or no know ledg e of pa rents w ishes. Tea cher s in this s tudy disclosed that they perf ormed the r ole of a dvocate on the behalf of Afr ican Ame rica n students in the school SS Ts. Recog nizi ng that few people on the SST understand Afr ican Ame rica n culture a nd espec ially that of Afr ican Ame rica ns from low ec onomic backg rounds, these te ache rs attempted to broa dened the perspe ctives of their f ellow teac hers a nd administrators. All of the tea cher s admonished that in order to meet the nee ds of Afr ican Ame rica n students, teache rs in their schools nee d to know their Afr ican Ame rica n students, families and communities. Good and Bad Referr al Tea cher s possessed diverse fee lings a bout the ref err al proc ess. The te ache rs viewed the ref err al proc ess as long and time consuming Tea cher s repor ted that the ref err al proc ess ca n last an entire school y ear or more, a nd during the wait time teac hers a nd pa re nts a re e xpe c te d to c on tin ue to s up po rt the re fe rr e d s tud e nt. Th e wa iti ng is frustra ting f or eve ry one involved. The ref err ing te ache r continues to attempt to meet the ne e ds of the re fe rr e d s tud e nt, a s w e ll a s h is o r h e r o the r s tud e nts T he pa re nts a re a t ho me str ug g lin g wi th h ow to h e lp o r i f t he y sh ou ld h e lp, a nd the re fe rr e d s tud e nt c on tin ue s to strug g le. Tea cher s also highlig hted that often r efe rra l meeting s were unfocuse d. The ref err ing te ache r per ceive s that the ref err ed student has a cade mic and/or socia l d i f f i c u l t i e s a n d i s c h a l l e n g e d w i t h p r o v i d i n g t h e S S T w i t h t h e e v i d e n c e o f t h e p r o b l e m In addition to the refe rring teac her, e ach me mber of the SST presents his or her pe rspec tive of the issue a t hand. As SST members pre sent their diver se per spectives, the c o n v e r s a t i o n s a b o u t h o w t o h e l p t h e r e f e r r e d s t u d e n t a r e o f t e n v a g u e a n d l e n g t h y.

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112 Tea cher s repor ted that SSTs dis cuss the re fer red students pa st school y ear s, previous te a c he rs a nd fa mil y sit ua tio ns A ma jor ity of the te a c he rs int e rv ie we d d isc los e d th a t a teac her s positive and neg ative re lationships with t he par ents and siblings of ref err ed students are also discussed in SST meetings. Such c onversa tions are of ten neg ative and pla c e re sp on sib ili ty fo r s tud e nts d if fi c ult ie s o n th e stu de nts f a mil y or the stu de nts themselves. De sp ite the c ha lle ng e s o f r e fe rr a l, t he pr oc e ss w a s in sig htf ul t o te a c he rs be c a us e students streng ths and wea knesses we re r evea led. I n addition, teache rs re ceive d definitive strate g ies and interve ntions for helping students. As a re sult of the ref err al proce ss, teache rs wer e provide d with a label f or the re fer red students a cade mic and/or social beha vior. Tea cher s in this s tudy disclosed that labeling of the proble m allowed them to appropria tely adjust their teac hing a nd behavior manag ement to meet the ne eds of students. Over all, teac hers in this study wer e appr ehensive about re fer ring students for specia l educa tion placement. The y viewed spe cial educ ation ref err al and plac ement as detrimental a nd a cr utch for A frica n Americ an students. Most of the tea cher s sugg ested that the g ener al educ ation classroom with supports adde d was the most appr opriate pla ce for students. B ut on the other ha nd, all of the tea cher s reve aled that they ref err ed or would have r efe rre d students beca use of a cade mic rea sons and to obtain the help they could not provide in the g ener al educ ation classroom. Connections to the Existing Li ter ature Th is s tud y ha s si mil a ri tie s a nd dif fe re nc e s w ith pr e vio us re se a rc h f ind ing s. Tea cher s in this s tudy highlig hted that White students who were ref err ed ofte n rec eived c oll a bo ra tiv e c on su lta tio n, in c on tr a st t o A fr ic a n A me ri c a n s tud e nts wh o g e ne ra lly

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113 re c e ive d p ull -o uts a nd e ve ntu a l f ull -t ime pla c e me nt i n s pe c ia l e du c a tio n r e so ur c e ro oms J ordan a nd her c olleag ues (1993) noted that teac hers who posse ssed hig h self-e ffica cy pref err ed collabor ative consultation ser vices for students with whom they wer e conf ident they could cr eate positive outcomes. Te a c he rs in t his stu dy su g g e ste d th a t di ff e re nc e s in se rv ic e s f or Whit e stu de nts and Af rica n Americ an students may be attributed to tea cher s and administrators ide nti fy ing wi th t he a c a de mic a nd so c ia l ne e ds of Whit e pa re nts T he y dis c los e d th a t in addition to having similar c ultural experience s and expectations, White parents ar e ofte n more involved with school administrators a nd teac hers. Te ache rs believe d that when pa re nts a re inv olv e d w ith sc ho ols (e .g ., se rv e a s v olu nte e rs a tte nd pa re nt c on fe re nc e s) teac hers a nd administrators ar e more likely to identify with Whi te par ents nee ds and expectations. I n contra st, teache rs and a dminist rators w ho are less likely to have met and/or identified w ith Africa n Americ an par ents form their ow n judgme nts of Afric an Am e ri c a n s tud e nts a nd pa re nts Tea cher s in this s tudy cited beha vior as the r eason most Afr ican Ame rica n students are ref err ed to spec ial educa tion and remove d from g ener al educ ation c la ssr oo ms. Te a c he rs no te d th a t r e fe rr ing te a c he rs we re mor e tol e ra nt o f s tud e nts wi th aca demic cha lleng es than those with beha vioral cha lleng es. This study supports the work of Abidin and Robinson (2002), whic h found that tea cher s were more likely to refe r students with behaviora l problems. Tea cher s in this i nvestig ation disclosed that g ener al educa tion teache rs wer e ofte n not tolerant of the littl e attitudes a nd behavior s that were of te n e xhibi te d b y the re fe rr e d A fr ic a n A me ri c a n s tud e nts I n addition to behavior, tea cher s in this i nvestig ation repor ted that the cultura l dif fe re nc e s o f A fr ic a n A me ri c a n s tud e nts a re of te n mi su nd e rs too d a nd wr on g ly

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114 misint erpr eted a s deficits. Simil ar to the inve stiga tion of Christenson et al. (1983), w hich found that tea cher s attributed students diffic ulties to withi n-student cha rac teristics (61.7%) and students home situation (35.6%) teac hers in this study pointed to home and community situations that force stude nts into survival mode. Conflicts within the family and/or ne ighbor hood spill over into the classroom ca using diff iculty for the student who is expected to focus on his or he r work. T eac hers disclosed tha t teache rs and a dmi nis tr a tor s a re un c e rt a in a bo ut h ow to a dd re ss A fr ic a n A me ri c a n s tud e nts a c a de mic and socia l challeng es. F rom the re fer ring teac her s perspe ctive, the students c halleng es oversha dow their a cade mic and/or socia l streng ths. Simi lar to pre vious resea rch of Afric an Amer ican tea cher s (Foste r, 1990, 1993, 19 97 ; Sid dle -Wa lke r, 19 96 ; I rv ine 2 00 2; L a ds on -B ill ing s, 20 00 ), the te a c he rs in t his study saw themselve s in the roles of pr otector of and advoc ate f or Afr ican Ame rica n students. Teac hers be lieved that Af rica n Americ an tea cher repr esenta tion was nee ded at meeting s involving Afr ican Ame rica n students. Teac hers ha d hear d of SST meetings f or Afric an Amer ican students whe re no A frica n Americ an par ents or Af rica n Americ an teac hers we re pr esent. With Africa n Americ an par ents often une mpowere d in the ref err al pr oc e ss, te a c he rs in t his stu dy vie we d A fr ic a n A me ri c a n te a c he rs a s b e ing imp or ta nt i n challeng ing the ir collea g ues to examine their teac hing pr actice s and per spectives a bout Afric an Amer ican students. The tea cher s in this i nvestig ation noted that SSTs do not provide Africa n Am e ri c a n p a re nts a c le a r p ic tur e of the c on se qu e nc e s o f s pe c ia l e du c a tio n r e fe rr a l. Parents lea ve re fer ral mee tings thinking their child will catc h up with his or her classmates a nd eventua lly return to the g ener al educ ation classroom. The y are surprised to f ind ou t y e a rs la te r t ha t th e ir c hil d h a s r e ma ine d b e low g ra de le ve l. T he te a c he rs in t his

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115 study proposed that tea cher s inform pare nts of the shorta nd longterm conse quence s of specia l educa tion refe rra l and par ticularly of the possibility of the re fer red student ne ver meeting g rade level and te ache r expectations. Th is s tud y ma ke s se ve ra l c on tr ibu tio ns to t he e xistin g lit e ra tur e T his inv e sti g a tio n p ro vid e s A fr ic a n A me ri c a n p e rs pe c tiv e s o f s pe c ia l e du c a tio n r e fe rr a l a nd its impact on Afr ican Ame rica n students. I n addition to candidly reve aling the conse quence s of spec ial educa tion refe rra l, this st udy discloses Afr ican Ame rica n teac hers positive and neg ative experienc es with SSTs. This investiga tion also reports Af rica n Americ an teac hers perc eptions of why Afric an Amer ican students ar e re moved from g ener al e du c a tio n a nd ov e rr e pr e se nte d in sp e c ia l e du c a tio n. Ad de d to the se c on tr ibu tio ns th is study shows the ac ademic a nd social cha lleng es tea cher s, pare nts, and students fac e whe n they differ ently view their w orlds. Lim it at ion s Severa l limi tations of this investigation have the potential of influenc ing the validity of the finding s. These limitations include the following : (a) limitations of the analy sis method, (b) willingne ss of participa nts to participate in the study and (c ) the a do pti on of inc lus ion in t he sc ho ols of thr e e of the te a c he rs Limit ations of P henom enology On e the ma jor a ssu mpt ion s in ph e no me no log ic a l r e se a rc h is tha t th e e sse nc e is re pr e se nta tiv e of a ll s imi la r p he no me na a nd e xpe ri e nc e s o f t he pa rt ic ipa nts (Husser l, 1964; Moustakas, 1994). B eca use the g oal of phe nomenolog y is to find the c omm on a lit y a mon g pa rt ic ipa nts u niq ue qu a lit ie s o f i nd ivi du a l te a c he rs a re los t. T his has implications reg arding the g ener alizabilit y of the re sear ch finding s. The per ception prese nted in this study is a share d perspe ctive of f ive teac hers a nd not all Africa n

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116 Am e ri c a n te a c he rs Y e t, w ith in t he c omm on a lit ie s o f t he te a c he rs the re a re div e rs e experience s and value s that comprise their pe rce ption of special e ducation re fer ral a nd particula rly the re fer ral of A frica n Americ an childre n. Willin gness of P artic ipan ts I expected that more teac hers would wa nt to participant in this investigation. Twenty -one invitations wer e mailed to tea cher s; however only nine re sponded. Thre e te a c he rs inf or me d me tha t ot he r r e sp on sib ili tie s w ou ld n ot a llo w t he m to pa rt ic ipa te in the study and one te ache r did not participate beca use she did not meet the te aching experience require ment for the study Five te ache rs wer e sele cted f or the study A s ma ll a nd ho mog e no us sa mpl e a llo we d me to d e ve lop the pa rt ic ipa nts collective a nd in-depth desc riptions of special e ducation re fer ral; howe ver, the addition of more pa rticipants would have added to the study s bre adth. This study is not a true repr esenta tion of the curr ent teac hing popula tion, which is predominantly fema le. Of the five tea cher s selecte d for the inve stiga tion, three a re ma le. Most of the cur rent re sear ch o n s p e c i a l e d u c a t i o n r e f e r r a l d e s c r i b e s t h e e x p e r i e n c e s o f f e m a l e t e a c h e r s In t h i s s t u d y, the desc riptions of special e ducation re fer ral a nd particula rly the re fer ral of A frica n Am e ri c a n s tud e nts a re pr ima ri ly fr om m a le pa rt ic ipa nts Inc lusi on Sc hoo ls Some of the tea cher s in the study wer e tea ching in schools that had adopted inc lus ion mod e ls. Th e se te a c he rs of te n c omp a re d th e ir e xpe ri e nc e s b e fo re inc lus ion wi th their cur rent e x perie nce in a n inclusive school. I n interviews 2 a nd 3, I ref ocused pa rt ic ipa nts on the re fe rr a l pr oc e ss r a the r t ha n th e c ur re nt w a y of se rv ing stu de nts in inclusive settings. The se tea cher s had positive experience s with inclusion that oversha dowed the r efe rra l proce ss. For e x ample, tea cher s viewed r efe rra l as a potential

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117 helping tool for students and tea cher s, but removal to spec ial educa tion classrooms was no longe r an option, and the ref ore g ener al educ ation and spec ial educa tion teache rs wo rk e d to g e the r t o s e rv e a ll s tud e nts O the r t e a c he rs in t he stu dy re fl e c te d o n th e ir experience s with the traditional ref err al proc ess, while these teac hers c ompare d and contra sted traditional re fer ral a nd the cur rent re fer ral proc ess in inclusive schools. The teac hers ther efor e, had f undamentally differ ent experienc es on which to ba se their view s of re fer ral. The teac hers who ha d positive ex perie nces w ith inclusion t alked a bout ref err al diffe rently from those who only experience d traditional specia l educa tion ref err al. Im plications f or Re searc h The de scription of spec ial educa tion refe rra l presente d throug h this resea rch ha s sh e d s ome lig ht o n h ow Af ri c a n A me ri c a n te a c he rs pe rc e ive sp e c ia l e du c a tio n r e fe rr a l, and par ticularly the re fer ral of A frica n Americ an childre n. Even thoug h this investigation has g iven voice to Af rica n Americ an tea cher s, further rese arc h is neede d. The study re fl e c ts t he pe rc e pti on s o f f ive Af ri c a n A me ri c a n e le me nta ry te a c he rs fr om a un ive rs ity community in north centra l Florida. To inc rea se the bre adth of spec ial educa tion refe rra l rese arc h, future studies should include la rg er sa mple siz es and A frica n Americ an teac hers f rom diverse school districts. L ittle resea rch ha s compare d Afric an Amer ican male teac hers a nd Afric an Americ an fe male tea cher s per spectives of specia l educa tion refe rra l. Future rese arc h sh ou ld c omp a re Af ri c a n A me ri c a n f e ma le te a c he rs a nd Af ri c a n A me ri c a n ma le te a c he rs perc eptions of spec ial educa tion refe rra l and par ticularly the re fer ral of A frica n Americ an males. Past rese arc h sug g ests that male tea cher s are less likely to refe r students than

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118 fe ma le te a c he rs (M c I nty re 1 98 8) E xami nin g the se fi nd ing s is pa rt ic ula rl y imp or ta nt i n connec tion to the refe rra l of Afr ican Ame rica n males. Resea rch litera ture re veals that Af ri c a n A me ri c a n ma le s a re mor e lik e ly to b e re fe rr e d to sp e c ia l e du c a tio n a nd pla c e d in specia l resourc e rooms than a ny other g roup (Ha rry & A nderson, 1994; Townse nd, 2000). Af ri c a n A me ri c a ns a re on ly on e of ma ny dif fe re nt r a c ia l a nd e thn ic g ro up s w ho se voices a re unde rre prese nted in rese arc h literature Future rese arc h should include the vo ic e s o f s uc h g ro up s. Na tiv e Am e ri c a n a nd L a tin o A me ri c a n s tud e nts a re a lso ov e rr e pr e se nte d in sp e c ia l e du c a tio n ( OSE P, 2 00 5) St ud e nts fr om t he se g ro up s a lso experience a cultura l disconnect in schools. L ike Afr ican Ame rica n teac hers, Na tive Am e ri c a n te a c he rs a nd L a tin o A me ri c a n te a c he rs a re mor e lik e ly to i de nti fy wi th students from their ra cial and e thnic g roups. Yet, their voices a re a lso silent in m uch of the mainstrea m special e ducation re sear ch litera ture. To a ppropriate ly meet the ne eds and enhanc e the e ducation of the se students, the voice s of Native A merica n and L atino Americ an tea cher s are pertinent. I n this study teac hers we re a sked to descr ibe their e x perie nce w ith refe rra l. Future rese arc h might use va rious data c ollection methods such as obser vations of Afr ican Americ an tea cher s during SST m eeting s and the re fer ral proc ess. Var ious data collec tion methods enhanc e the trustwor thiness of the data and provide diverse pe rspec tives of the ph e no me no n ( Gl e sn e 1 99 9) T hr ou g h th e us e of mul tip le da ta c oll e c tio n me tho ds rese arc hers c an examine the cong ruenc e of A frica n Americ an tea cher s belief s and pr a c tic e s, a s w e ll a s e xplor e the ro le of c ult ur e in t he re fe rr a l pr oc e ss f ro m di ve rs e vantag e points.

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119 Im plications f or P ract ice Prior data r eporte d that over 70% of the students re fer red f or spec ial educa tion are found elig ible for spe cial educ ation service s (Ysseldy ke et a l., 1997). The c urre nt finding s and prior r esea rch sug g est that some teac hers view the re fer ral proc ess as a way of g etting stude nts removed f rom g ener al educ ation classrooms (Christenson e t al., 1982; L og an et a l., 2001; W aldron e t al., 1998). I n contra st, the ref err al proc ess could be use d as an oppor tunity for de veloping a toolbox of strate g ies, interventions, and pe rspec tives to help lay a strong er a cade mic and socia l foundation for the strug g ling student. SSTs s hould be a plac e whe re te ache rs fe el safe to express their student and teac hing c oncer ns as well as r ece ive the re source s neede d to help themselves and stu de nts Re fe rr ing te a c he rs ne e d h e lp i n c on str uc tiv e ly pin po int ing the ir pr ob le ms w ith re fe rr e d s tud e nts a nd in d e ve lop ing g oa ls a nd int e rv e nti on s th a t c ha lle ng e a nd e na ble students to succee d. Administrators can he lp SS Ts by providing opportunities for teac hers to collabor ate a nd critica lly assess their e motional and teac hing ne eds, as we ll as the ne e ds of stu de nts a nd stu de nts f a mil ie s. I n th e c a se of Af ri c a n A me ri c a n s tud e nts thi s is e sp e c ia lly imp or ta nt b e c a us e thi s st ud y a nd pr ior re se a rc h s ug g e st t ha t g e ne ra lly te a c he rs do no t id e nti fy wi th a nd a re no t se ns iti ve to t he ne e ds a nd a ttr ibu te s o f t he se students (I rvine, 1990; Ka ufman e t al., 1980; Thompson, 2004; Uhlenberg & B rown, 2002; Washington, 1982). All of the tea cher s in this s tudy attended to tea cher s tolera nce of Afric an Americ an students, and most sug g ested that c ultural sensitivity training was ne eded f or teac hers a nd administrators. Tea cher s repor ted that cultura l sensitivit y is larg ely ignor ed when de aling with Africa n Americ an students, but embra ced w hen discussing ESOL students. They noted that teac hers of ten lost their patience with Africa n Americ an

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120 stu de nts a nd we re ig no ra nt o f A fr ic a n A me ri c a n c ult ur e a nd its c on tr ibu tio ns T o a ssi st teac hers in wor king w ith Africa n Americ an students and their families, opportunities for dialog ue ar e nee ded in collabor ative and suppor tive teac her le arning communities. The study also points to the importance of c andid dialog ue with par ents. Tea cher s in this st udy perc eived that the spe cial educ ation ref err al meeting was org anized so that pare nts would sign pape rwork a nd ask fe w questions. They repor ted that par ents are often intimi dated by the re fer ral proc ess and ne ed assistanc e in deve loping que stions for the SST. Te a c he rs no te d th a t pa re nts c a n b e ov e rw he lme d w he n h e a ri ng tha t th e ir c hil d is be low g ra de le ve l or dis pla y ing ina pp ro pr ia te be ha vio rs I n a pa nic ke d a nd de fe a te d s ta te the pa re nt s ig ns pa pe rs wi tho ut b e ing fu lly a wa re of the me a nin g of re fe rr a l, p la c e me nt, or disability Thus, candid dialog ues would assist pare nts and teac hers in deve loping skills and strateg ies to help students as well as e mpower pa rents to bec ome influential advoca tes for the ir children. Te a c he rs in t his stu dy be lie ve d it is i mpo rt a nt f or te a c he rs to kn ow the ir Af ri c a n A me ri c a n s tud e nts a nd c omm un iti e s a s w e ll a s f or Af ri c a n A me ri c a ns pa re nts to know their childs e ducator s. I n their minds, this knowing meant visiting the home s an d co m m u n i t i es o f t h e c h i l d re n t h ey t ea ch as we l l as i n v o l v i n g t h em s el v es i n t h e t h i n gs that are important to students. Teache rs disclosed that as a result of pa rents and te ache rs knowing ea ch other better, the y can de velop appr ecia tive and supportive c ommuniti es for students. Tea cher s noted that pare nts trust school personnel to ca re f or their c hildren and do what is in their best intere st. I rvine (2002) found tha t car ing . unde r g irds and explains ma ny of the a c tio ns of de dic a te d a nd c omm itt e d B la c k te a c he rs (p 3 4) Ro ss e t a l. ( in pr e ss) fu rt he r e xpla ine d th a t c omm un ic a tin g c a re re qu ir e s b e ing op e nmin de d, wh ile

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121 appre ciating and re specting other c ultures. Caring is not li mited to Africa n Americ an teac hers, but is demonstrate d by all teac hers who c hoose to dedica te themselves to the needs of Afric an Amer ican students, by becoming other -mothers and pre paring students to challeng e and r esist oppression and ra cism (I rvine, 2002). Another w ay for tea cher s to ex press car e f or their students is to have ope n dialog ues with pare nts about the conseque nces of specia l educa tion refe rra l. Teac hers sug g ested that ha ving upfront conve rsations would preve nt pare nts and students from becoming disill usioned in the later sc hool y ear s. Toliver (1993) an Ea st Harlem junior hig h te a c he r f or ov e r 2 5 y e a rs e xpla ine d th e imp or ta nc e of c a ri ng : Students li ke Xa vier a re e asily missed. Their brilliance is almost buried under the pr ob le ms t he y a re ha vin g in t he ir e nv ir on me nts a nd a t ho me T he y of te n a pp e a r t o be unwilling to lea rn or hope less to teach, a nd many slip throug h the cr acks of the educ ational sy stem, never rea ching or see ing the ir potential. Only a ca ring teac her c an bring out their true intellig ence and vitality (p. 36) L ike Toliver, tea cher s in this s tudy dedica ted themselves to maximi zing the potentials of the many Xavier s, who strug g le to meet the e x pecta tions and challeng es of g ener al educa tion and whose brilliance has y et to be discove red.

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122 APPENDI X A AFRI CAN AMERI CANS AGES 6-21 SERVED UNDER I DEA 2001-2002 Table A -1. Perce ntag e of students ser ved by disability and ethnicity in the United States Di sa bil ity Americ an I ndian/ Alaska Native As ia n/P a c if ic I slander Bla ck (nonHi sp a nic ) Hi sp a nic Whit e (nonHispanic) Specific le arning disabiliti es 1.47 1.56 18.72 18.48 59.77 Speech/lang uag e impairments 1.19 2.58 15.92 14.63 65.67 Mental re tarda tion 1.06 1.73 34.08 12.08 51.05 Emotional disturbance 1.24 1.17 28.23 9.50 59.86 Multipl e disabilities 1.30 2.28 19.81 13.87 62.74 Hea ring impairments 1.22 4.65 16.36 20.12 57.64 Orthopedic impairments .88 2.77 14.46 15.75 66.14 Other he alth impairments 1.06 1.43 14.92 8.51 74.08 Visual impairments 1.16 3.66 17.34 16.64 61.21 Autism .63 4.76 17.19 9.92 67.50 Dea fblindness 1.86 3.60 13.54 18.01 62.98 Trauma tic brain injury 1.24 2.25 18.38 11.13 67.00 Deve lopmental delay 1.95 2.55 22.74 8.01 64.75 All disabilit ies 1.31 1.87 20.28 15.42 61.13 Resident population .99 3.95 15.12 16.60 63.34 Source : Office of Specia l Education Prog rams, 2005 Table A -2. Perce ntag e of students ser ved by disability and ethnicity in the State of Florida during the 2001-2002 school y ear Ex ceptional e ducational pr og ram Whit e no nHi sp a nic Bla ck no nHi sp a nic Hi sp a nic Emotionally disturbed 49.28 39.81 10.44 Specific le arning disabled 55.41 24.95 18.76 Mental re tarda tion 35.54 49.20 14.34 Speech impair ed 57.24 26.47 14.65 Dea f/Har d of hea ring 50.26 25.15 22.56 Trauma tic brain injury 56.88 26.25 16.25 Orthopedic ally impaired 59.84 20.84 17.74 All disabilit ies 53.18 29.42 16.33 School population 56.45 21.65 19.64 Source : Office of Specia l Education Prog rams, 2005

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123 APPENDI X B RECRUI TMENT L ETTER Depa rtment of Specia l Education P.O. Box 117050 College of Educa tion University of F lorida November 2004 Dea r Tea cher : I m an Af rica n Americ an doctor al student at the Unive rsity of F lorida in the De pa rt me nt o f S pe c ia l E du c a tio n. Th e pu rp os e of thi s le tte r i s to se c ur e y ou r c on se nt t o pa rt ic ipa te in a stu dy of the e xpe ri e nc e s o f A fr ic a n A me ri c a n e le me nta ry te a c he rs wi th the re fe rr a l of Af ri c a n A me ri c a n s tud e nts to s pe c ia l e du c a tio n. B y a g re e ing to participa te, y ou consent to completing three in-depth interview s about y our experienc es as an e ducator perc eptions of teac hing A frica n Americ an childre n, and spec ial educa tion ref err al. I m looking f or ten (10) Afric an Amer ican e lementar y teac hers who w ould ag ree to be interview ed and pa rticipate in membe r che cking for the ( 6) month study period. I m as k i n g y o u r c o n s en t fo r t h e f o l l o wi n g: 1. To be intervie wed individually by me three times during N ovember 2004-January 2005. The intervie ws will last approxi mately 90 minutes eac h. They will be audio taped a nd transcr ibed by a g radua te student. You do not have to answer any qu e sti on y ou do no t w ish to a ns we r. To pr ote c t y ou r i de nti ty a ps e ud on y m w ill be used in plac e of y our name During the study the interview tapes will be ke pt locked in my file ca binet. I will destroy the tapes a nd transcr iptions at the end of the study 2. To participa te in 2 informal mee tings (a t the beg inning a nd near the end of the study ) for the purposes of building ra pport and a sking que stions y ou may have f or the re sear cher 3. To complete a demog raphic survey that asks about y our re fer ral e x perie nce in the past 5 y ear s, level of e ducation, annua l household income g rowing up, and the schools y ou previously attended. T o ensure y our anony mity a pseudony m will be us e d f or y ou r n a me on a ny do c ume nts or c op ie s y ou su bmi t. 4. To participa te in member c hecking during the data a naly sis to ensure that I ve fully captur ed y our experienc e. This will involve review ing y our interview tr a ns c ri pts tha t I wi ll s e nd to y ou a nd ma kin g c or re c tio ns or a dd iti on a l c omm e nts to elabora te y our experienc e. Do not edit for g rammatica l corre ctions. 5 T o r e v i e w m y f i n a l a n a l ys i s f o r a c c u r a c y.

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124 Your identity will be kept conf idential to the extent provided by the law. I do not pe rc e ive tha t th e re a re a ny ri sk s f or y ou r p a rt ic ipa tio n in thi s st ud y T e a c he rs te nd to enjoy talking a bout their teac hing e x perie nces. The re w ill be no compensation for pa rt ic ipa tio n in thi s st ud y Y ou a re fr e e to w ith dr a w y ou r c on se nt t o p a rt ic ipa te a nd to discontinue participa tion in the study at any time without prejudice. Please sig n and re turn to me this copy of the letter A sec ond copy is enclosed f or y our re cords. I f y ou have a ny questions or conc erns a bout the study or the proc edure s for data c ollection, please contac t me (392-0701, e x t. 262 or trentz@ufl.edu ) or my advisor, Dr. James McL eskey (392-0701, e x t. 278 or mcleskey @coe .ufl.edu). I f y ou have a ny questions about the rig hts of rese arc h participa nts, y ou can c ontact the Unive rsity of Florida I nstitut ional Review B oard O ffice P.O. Box 112250, UF, Ga inesville, FL 32611. S i n c e r e l y, Tarc ha Rentz, Principal I nvestig ator Doctora l Student I have r ead the proce dure a bove for the study of Afr ican Ame rica n elementa ry teac hers perspe ctives of spe cial educ ation ref err al of Af rica n Americ an students. I ag ree to participate in the proce dure, a nd I have r ece ived a c opy of this description. ____________________________ ____________ Sig na tur e of pa rt ic ipa nt Da te

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125 APPENDI X C DEMOGRAPHI C SURVEY Name: P lease answer all qu estions to the best of your abili ty. 1. How many y ear s have y ou taug ht? ______________ 2. I n the past 5 y ear s, how many students have y ou ref err ed to spec ial educa tion? 3. How many of those students wer e Af rica n Americ an? 4. How many wer e male? 5. How many wer e fe male? 6. Whats y our annua l household income? a. L ess than $30,000 b. $30,000 $40,000 c. $40,000 $50,000 d. Above $50,000 7. Whats y our hig hest level of e ducation? a. Ba chelor s b. Masters c Spe c ia lis ts d. Do c tor a te 8. L ist y ou r t e a c he r c e rt if ic a tio n a re a (s ): 9. Growing up, what wa s y our fa mily s annua l household income? a. L ess than $10,000 b. $10,000 $20,000 c. $20,000$40,000 d. Above $40,000 10. The c ommunity in which y ou g rew up could be de scribed a s ________ a. Rural b. L arg e Ur ban c. Small Urban d. Suburban 11. Desc ribe the e lementar y school(s) y ou attended.

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126 12. Was the high sc hool y ou g radua ted from a Pu bli c b. Pr iva te c. Other 13. Desc ribe the hig h school from whic h y ou g radua ted. 14 Wha t w a s th e size of y ou r g ra du a tin g c la ss? a Un de r 5 0 s tud e nts b. 51 -1 00 stu de nts c 10 120 0 s tud e nts d. L a rg e r t ha n 2 00 stu de nts 15. Desc ribe the c olleg es/universities y ou attended. a Pr e do min a ntl y Whit e b. Historically Bla ck c. Equally Mix ed

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APPENDI X D RECRUI TMENT F L YER

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128 Figure D-1. Front and back cover of the recruitment brochure for African American teacher participants

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129 Figure D-2. Inside of the recruitment brochure for African American teacher participants

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130 APPENDI X E I NTERVI EW P ROTOCOL Int e r vie w 1: Life hist or ie s a nd pas t e xpe r ie nc e s t hat hav e influe nc e d t he conceptualization of sp ecial education re ferral of Af rican Am eric an student I a m in te re ste d in le a rn ing ho w y ou e xpe ri e nc e sp e c ia l e du c a tio n r e fe rr a l. I m g oin g to ask about y our past experienc es that have influence d y our conc eption of spec ial e du c a tio n r e fe rr a l, e xclu din g y ou r e xpe ri e nc e s f ro m th e c ur re nt s c ho ol y e a r b e g inn ing in Aug ust 2004. 1. Tell me about the c ommunity and fa mily y ou g rew up in. 2 D e s c r i b e t h e A f r i c a n A m e r i c a n s t u d e n t s f r o m yo u r s c h o o l ? Y o u r c o m m u n i t y? 3. What does ref err al mean to y ou? Wha t do y ou wa nt t o s e e in r e fe rr a l? Wha t do n t y ou wa nt t o s e e in r e fe rr a l? 4. De sc ri be y ou r e xpe ri e nc e s w ith re fe rr a l? Wha t ki nd of re fe rr a l ha ve y ou ini tia te d in the pa st? Were y our experienc es g ood or bad? 5. How has spe cial educ ation ref err al af fec ted y ou? 6. Ho w h a s sp e c ia l e du c a tio n r e fe rr a l a ff e c te d th e Af ri c a n A me ri c a n s tud e nts ? 7. What feeling s were g ener ated by the re fer ral e x perie nce? 8. What thoughts stood out for y ou? 9 H a v e y o u s h a r e d a l l t h a t i s s i g n i f i c a n t w i t h r e f e r e n c e t o s p e c i a l e d u c a t i o n r e f e r r a l ? I ntervie w 2: Curre nt perce ptions of the re ferral of Af rican Am eric an stud ents to spe c ial e duc at ion During the pre vious interview we discussed y our past experienc es with specia l educa tion re fe rr a l. F or thi s in te rv ie w I wo uld lik e to f oc us on y ou r p re se nt e xpe ri e nc e s w ith ref err al. B efor e we beg in, I would like to review what we talked about a t our previous m ee t i n g. No w l e ts d isc us s y ou r c ur re nt e xpe ri e nc e s w ith re fe rr a l. 1. De sc ri be on e of y ou r A fr ic a n A me ri c a n s tud e nts wh o y ou wo uld or ha ve re fe rr e d to specia l educa tion rece ntly ? What is he/she like? Desc ribe his/her f amily 2. Desc ribe the c urre nt proce ss for re fer ring a student to specia l educa tion?

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131 3. Wha t f e e lin g s a re g e ne ra te d b y the e xpe ri e nc e of sp e c ia l e du c a tio n r e fe rr a l? 4. How do y ou deter mine if an Af rica n Americ an student should be re fer red to spec ial educa tion? 5. How has r efe rra l affe cted y our Afr ican Ame rica n students? What chang es do y ou associate with his/her ref err al to specia l educa tion? 6. Wha t f e e lin g s w e re g e ne ra te d b y the e xpe ri e nc e wi th o f r e fe rr a l? 7. What thoughts stand out for y ou? 8. I s there a ny thing e lse y oud like to add? Interview 3: Repre sentation of Af rican Am eric an stud ents in Sp ecial Education I n the first two interview s we discussed y our past experienc es with ref err al and y our curr ent experienc es with ref err al. Today I would like to focus on wha t special e ducation re fe rr a l me a ns to y ou in l ig ht o f o ur pr e vio us dis c us sio ns 1. Wha t s y ou r t e a c hin g ph ilo so ph y fo r t e a c hin g Af ri c a n A me ri c a n s tud e nts a nd ho w i s it c on ne c te d to re fe rr a l? 2 H o w s h o u l d s p e c i a l e d u c a t i o n r e f e r r a l a f f e c t y o u a s a n A f r i c a n A m e r i c a n t e a c h e r ? Wha t c ha ng e s d o y ou e xpe c t f ro m r e fe rr a l? 3. How should specia l educa tion refe rra l affe ct y our Afr ican Ame rica n students? What chang es do y ou expect from him/her be ing r efe rre d? 4. What feeling s should be g ener ated by the re fer ral e x perie nce? 5. L ets re view wha t the components of spe cial educ ation ref err al would look like to be sure I clea rly understand 6. What should or can be done to help g ener al educ ation and spec ial educa tion teache rs in t he re fe rr ing of Af ri c a n A me ri c a n s tud e nts ? 7. Desc ribe wha t elementar y teac hers ne ed to be suc cessf ul with Africa n Americ an students who are being ref err ed to spec ial educa tion. 8. Have y ou been involved in a discussion of specia l educa tion refe rra l of Afr ican Am e ri c a n s tud e nts be fo re the se int e rv ie ws ? 9 I s t h e r e a n y t h i n g e l s e y o u w o u l d l i k e t o s h a r e ?

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132 APPENDI X F TH AN K Y OU L ET TE R TO CO RES EA RCH ERS Date ________________ Dea r ________________ Thank y ou for mee ting with me in an e x tended inter view and sha ring y our e xpe ri e nc e s w ith sp e c ia l e du c a tio n r e fe rr a l of Af ri c a n A me ri c a n s tud e nts I a pp re c ia te y our willingne ss to share y our unique a nd persona l thoughts, fe eling s, events, and situations. I have e nclosed a transcr ipt of y our interview Would y ou please revie w the entire doc ument? Be sure to ask y ourself if this interview has fully captur ed y our experience with special e ducation re fer ral of A frica n Americ an students. Afte r re viewing the transc ript of the intervie w, y ou may rea liz e that an importa nt experience (s) wa s ne g le c te d. Ple a se fe e l f re e to a dd c omm e nts w ith the e nc los e d r e d p e n, tha t w ou ld further elabor ate y our experienc e(s) or if y ou pref er w e ca n arr ang e to meet a g ain and tape r ecor d y our additions or cor rec tions. P lease do not edit for g rammatica l corre ctions. Th e wa y y ou tol d y ou r s tor y is w ha t is c ri tic a l. Whe n y ou ha ve re vie we d th e ve rb a tim tr a ns c ri pt a nd ha ve ha d a n o pp or tun ity to make c hang es and a dditions, pl ease return the transcr ipt in the stamped, addre ssed envelope I have g rea tly valued y our par ticipation in this rese arc h study and y our willingness to shar e y our experienc es. I f y ou have a ny questions or conc erns, do not hesitate to ca ll me. Wit h war m reg ards, Ta rc ha Re ntz

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133 REFERENCES Abidin, R. R., & Robinson, L L (2002). Stress, biase s, or profe ssionalism: What drives t e a c h e r s r e f e r r a l j u d g m e n t s o f s t u d e n t s w i t h c h a l l e n g i n g b e h a v i o r s ? Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 10 (4), 204212. Ander son, P., Cronin, M., & Miller, J (1986). Ref err al re asons for le arning disabled students. Psychology in the Schools, 23, 388-394. Arg ulewicz, E. N., & Sanchez, D. T. (1983) The spec ial educa tion evaluation proc ess as a moder ator of f alse positives. Exc eptional Chil dren, 49 (5), 452454. Artiles, A. J., & Tre nt, S. C (1994). Ove rre prese ntation of minority students in special educa tion: A continuing deba te. Journal of Special Education, 27 (40), 410438. Artiles, A., Ha rry B., Resc hly D., & Chinn, P (2002). Ove r-identific ation of students of color in spec ial educa tion: A critical over view. Multicultural Perspective s, 4 (1), 3-10. B a hr M ., & F uc hs D ( 19 91 ). Ar e te a c he rs p e rc e pti on s o f d if fi c ult -t ote a c h s tud e nts r a c i a l l y b i a s e d ? School Psyc hology Rev iew, 20 (4), 599609. Ba hr, M., Fuc hs, D., Stecker P., & F uchs, L (1991). Ar e tea cher s per ceptions of d i f f i c u l t t o t e a c h s t u d e n t s r a c i a l l y b i a s e d ? School Psyc hology Rev iew, 20 (4), 599608. Ba n d u ra A. (1 9 9 3 ). P er ce i v ed s el fef fi ca cy i n co gn i t i v e d ev el o p m en t an d fu n ct i o n i n g. Educational Psychologist, 28 (2), 117148. B oc ia n, K. B e e be M ., Ma c Mil la n, D. & Gr e sh a m, F ( 19 99 ). Com pe tin g pa ra dig ms i n lear ning disa biliti es cla ssification by schools and the va riations in the meeting of discrepa nt achieve ment. Learning Disabili ties Researc h & Practice, 14 (1), 114. Bolima, D. ( 2004). Context for understanding: Educational theories of learning. Retrieved Ma y 29, 2006, from htt p:/ /de pts .w a sh ing ton .e du /c oll e g e /mc e /A rt ic le .h tm Bor kan, J. (1999). I mmersion/Cry stalliz ation. I n B. F Crabtre e & W. L Miller (Eds.), Doing qualitati ve re search (2nd ed., pp. 330). Thousand O aks, CA: Sag e.

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143 B I OG RA PHI CA L SKE TCH Tarc ha F olston Rentz was born in Ga inesville, Florida, on F ebrua ry 18, 1972. She is a g radua te of Ea stside High School in Ga inesville, Florida. T arc ha re ceive d her B a c he lor of Ar ts i n h ist or y a nd a B a c he lor of Sc ie nc e in s oc iol og y fr om F lor ida Sta te University Whil e tea ching in a middle school, she re ceive d her Ma ster of Educ ation deg ree from the Unive rsity of F lorida. She cur rently lives in Gainesville, Flor ida.


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Title: African American teachers' perceptions of special education referral
Physical Description: Mixed Material
Language: English
Creator: Rentz, Tarcha F. ( Dissertant )
McLeskey, James L. ( Thesis advisor )
Bondy, Elizabeth ( Thesis advisor )
Lane, Holly ( Reviewer )
Townsend, Brenda ( Reviewer )
Koro-Lunjungberg, Mirka ( Reviewer )
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2006
Copyright Date: 2006

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords: Special Education thesis, Ph.D
Dissertations, Academic -- UF -- Special Education

Notes

Abstract: This qualitative study examines African American elementary teachers' perceptions of special education referral and particularly the referral of African American students. This investigation describes teachers' experiences with referral for subjective disabilities (i.e. mental retardation, emotional disturbances, learning disabilities) and not gifted and talented programs. Using phenomenological research methods, 15 interviews were conducted with 5 African American elementary teachers who taught at schools where 25% to 50% of the student population was African American. The study participants were male and female teachers who had taught at least 3 years and had been a part of a School Study Team and/or initiated special education referral. The two main questions that guided this study were: (a) How do African American teachers perceive special education referral and (b) how do African American teachers experience the referral of African American students? Findings suggest that the teachers experienced similar positive and negative feelings about referral. Wanting special education referral to be helpful for students, teachers questioned whether teachers were referring students for an actual disability or because of a cultural difference. Teachers preferred the referral process to be one of maintaining students in general education by identifying their strengths and weaknesses and developing appropriate interventions and strategies to enhance and motivate students. They contended that the referral process is detrimental to African American students who often receive pull-out services in special education resource rooms. Teachers proposed that African American students can be maintained in general education with proper supports in place.
Subject: Blacks, elementary, referral, teacher
General Note: Title from title page of source document.
General Note: Document formatted into pages; contains 153 pages.
General Note: Includes vita.
Thesis: Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Florida, 2006.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
General Note: Text (Electronic thesis) in PDF format.

Record Information

Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
System ID: UFE0015698:00001

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0015698/00001

Material Information

Title: African American teachers' perceptions of special education referral
Physical Description: Mixed Material
Language: English
Creator: Rentz, Tarcha F. ( Dissertant )
McLeskey, James L. ( Thesis advisor )
Bondy, Elizabeth ( Thesis advisor )
Lane, Holly ( Reviewer )
Townsend, Brenda ( Reviewer )
Koro-Lunjungberg, Mirka ( Reviewer )
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2006
Copyright Date: 2006

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords: Special Education thesis, Ph.D
Dissertations, Academic -- UF -- Special Education

Notes

Abstract: This qualitative study examines African American elementary teachers' perceptions of special education referral and particularly the referral of African American students. This investigation describes teachers' experiences with referral for subjective disabilities (i.e. mental retardation, emotional disturbances, learning disabilities) and not gifted and talented programs. Using phenomenological research methods, 15 interviews were conducted with 5 African American elementary teachers who taught at schools where 25% to 50% of the student population was African American. The study participants were male and female teachers who had taught at least 3 years and had been a part of a School Study Team and/or initiated special education referral. The two main questions that guided this study were: (a) How do African American teachers perceive special education referral and (b) how do African American teachers experience the referral of African American students? Findings suggest that the teachers experienced similar positive and negative feelings about referral. Wanting special education referral to be helpful for students, teachers questioned whether teachers were referring students for an actual disability or because of a cultural difference. Teachers preferred the referral process to be one of maintaining students in general education by identifying their strengths and weaknesses and developing appropriate interventions and strategies to enhance and motivate students. They contended that the referral process is detrimental to African American students who often receive pull-out services in special education resource rooms. Teachers proposed that African American students can be maintained in general education with proper supports in place.
Subject: Blacks, elementary, referral, teacher
General Note: Title from title page of source document.
General Note: Document formatted into pages; contains 153 pages.
General Note: Includes vita.
Thesis: Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Florida, 2006.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
General Note: Text (Electronic thesis) in PDF format.

Record Information

Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
System ID: UFE0015698:00001


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AFRICAN AMERICAN TEACHERS' PERCEPTIONS
OF SPECIAL EDUCATION REFERRAL















By

TARCHA F. RENTZ


A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA


2006

































Copyright 2006

by

Tarcha Folston Rentz















ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I give thanks to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who has granted me unmerited

favor. I am indebted to the caring teachers in our public schools for my own education

and the existence of this study. My sincere appreciation and respect go to the five African

American teachers who dared to be a part of this study. Their time and commitment were

valuable.

I am thankful for my committee chair, Dr. James McLeskey, and cochair, Dr.

Elizabeth Bondy, who provided excellent examples for balancing work and family. To

my other committee members, Dr. Holly Lane, Dr. Brenda Townsend, and Dr. Mirka

Koro-Lunjungberg, I extend my gratitude for without their expertise this dissertation

would not have been possible.

I am thankful for my husband, Ishmael, and my son, Ian. Their love, support, and

patience motivated me, encouraged me, and propelled me to the next level of excellence.

I love them both.

I send thanks to my dad and mom, and I thank them for believing in my ability to

finish as well as for babysitting.

I thank Mother Alice for her many prayers.

I thank Daddy Saul and Mother Deloris for encouraging me to strive for

excellence.

I dedicate this dissertation to the many African American teachers and educators

who wish other teachers knew what they know about maximizing the potentials of









African American children and their communities; my husband, Ishmael, and son, Ian;

my godchildren (Nayshma and Steve Jr.); my siblings (Zeriah, Ira [Monique], Alonozo

[Tabrica], Nakoto [Keisha], Priscilla [Douglas]), nephews (Jalen, Nehemiah, and Noah);

my dad (Ernest) a UF alumni for being my example, my mom (Dorothy), and

grandmothers (Ruthie and Victoria), who never attended college, but encouraged me to;

Dr. Cecil Mercer, who believed I should pursue a PhD; Regina Bradley, Janivea Lewis,

Lashawn Williams, and the late Twanna Markham, who stopped everything at the office

to pick me up or drop me off on campus whenever I called; and the many Pastors and

friends (Sandra Folston, Frederica Johnson, Tonya Foster, Elois Waters, Dr. Pam

Williamson, Dr. Karen Kuhel, Dr. Barry Bogan, Tyran Wright, and Angela Oats) who

prayed with me through this process, my battle with breast cancer, and the birth of our

first born.

The Lord is Good and His Mercy Endures Forever.















TABLE OF CONTENTS

Page

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS .................................. ............ iii

LIST OF TABLES ..................................................... vii

LIST OF FIGURES ....................................... ........ viii

ABSTRACT .............. ......................................... ix

CHAPTER

1 INTRODUCTION .......................................... 1

Background ............... ............................. 1
Purpose of the Study ................. ............................ 6

2 REVIEW OF LITERATURE .......................................... 9

Overview of the Study ............................................. 9
Introduction ..................... ................................. 10
Overrepresentation of African Americans in Special Education ................ 10
Teacher Beliefs: An Introduction ......................................18
Teachers' Perceptions about Special Education Referral ..................... 24
Conclusion ............ ............................................ 39

3 RESEARCH METHODS ............................................ 42

Introduction to Phenomenology ................... .................... 42
Subjectivity Statement ............... .......................... 46
Methods ................. ...................................49

4 FINDINGS ............... .................................. 59

David ................ ......................................60
Rebecca ................. .....................................71
Composite Textural Description (All Participants) ....................... .. 90
Composite Structural Description (All Participants) ....................... 97
Essence ............ ............................................. 102


v











5 DISCUSSION .....................................................108

Introduction ............ .......................................... 108
Key Findings ................................................... 108
Connections to the Existing Literature ............................... 112
Limitations ............ .......................................... 115
Implications for Research ........................................... 117
Implications for Practice ................ .......................... 119

APPENDIX

A AFRICAN AMERICANS AGES 6-21 SERVED UNDER IDEA 2001-2002 .... 122

B RECRUITMENT LETTER .......................................... 123

C DEMOGRAPHIC SURVEY ................ ....................... 125

D RECRUITMENT FLYER ........................................... 127

E INTERVIEW PROTOCOL ................. ...................... 130

F THANK YOU LETTER TO CORESEARCHERS ........................ 132

REFERENCES .................... .............................. 133

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ............... ......................... 143
























vi















LIST OF TABLES

Table page

3-1 Participant demographics ........................................... 52

A-i Percentage of students served by disability and ethnicity in the United States 122

A-2 Percentage of students served by disability and ethnicity in the State of
Florida during the 2001-2002 school year ........................... 122















LIST OF FIGURES


Figure page

D-1 Front and back cover of the recruitment brochure for African American teacher
participants ........... .........................................128

D-2 Inside of the recruitment brochure for African American teacher participants 129















Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

AFRICAN AMERICAN TEACHERS' PERCEPTIONS
OF SPECIAL EDUCATION REFERRAL

By

Tarcha F. Rentz

August 2006

Chair: James McLeskey
Cochair: Elizabeth Bondy
Major Department: Special Education

This qualitative study examines African American elementary teachers'

perceptions of special education referral and particularly the referral of African American

students. This investigation describes teachers' experiences with referral for subjective

disabilities (i.e., mental retardation, emotional disturbances, learning disabilities) and not

gifted and talented programs. Using phenomenological research methods, 15 interviews

were conducted with 5 African American elementary teachers who taught at schools

where 25% to 50% of the student population was African American. The study

participants were male and female teachers who had taught at least 3 years and had been

a part of a School Study Team and/or initiated special education referral. The two main

questions that guided this study were (a) how do African American teachers perceive

special education referral and (b) how do African American teachers experience the

referral of African American students?









Findings suggest that the teachers experienced similar positive and negative

feelings about referral. Wanting special education referral to be helpful for students,

teachers questioned whether teachers were referring students for an actual disability or

because of a cultural difference. Teachers preferred the referral process to be one of

maintaining students in general education by identifying their strengths and weaknesses

and developing appropriate interventions and strategies to enhance and motivate students.

They contended that the referral process is detrimental to African American students who

often receive pull-out services in special education resource rooms. Teachers proposed

that African American students can be maintained in general education with proper

supports in place.















CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION

Background

Despite the academic and social gains of African Americans over the past 40

years, African American children continue to lag academically behind their White

counterparts (Artiles, Harry, Reschly & Chinn, 2002; Hoffman, Llagas & Synder, 2003).

For example, although African American students made reading gains since the 1970s,

their reading performance in 1999 remained lower than their White counterparts. More

specifically, African American students' average scores among "9 year-olds were 16%

below Whites' scores (a gap of 35 points), among 13 year-olds they were 11% below

Whites' scores (a gap of 29 points) and among 17 year-olds they were 10% below

Whites' scores (a gap of 31 points)" (Hoffman et al., 2003, p. 48). Similar differences

were found when comparing math performance for African American and White students

(Hoffman et al., 2003).

Academic differences between White students and African American students

continue throughout their school years. For example, high school students who seek entry

into United States colleges and universities take the American College Test (ACT) and/or

Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT). Students whose composite scores are below 19 on the

ACT are likely to need remedial courses before taking courses for college credit. In 2001,

African American students' average composite score (16.9) was lower than average

composite scores of other racial/ethnic groups (Hoffman et al., 2003). In the same year







2

African American students scored lower than any other ethnic/racial group on the SAT.

On average, African American students "scored 96 points lower than White students on

the verbal section .. and they scored 105 points lower than White students on the

mathematics section" of the SAT (Hoffman et al., 2003, p. 62).

African American students have higher grade retention (Hoffman et al., 2003),

higher suspension/expulsion rates (Townsend, 2000), lower standardized test scores in

reading and math, and higher dropout rates than their White counterparts (Hoffman et al.,

2003). In 1998, 71% of kindergarteners from African American families were more

likely to have one or more "risk factors" than their White counterparts (Hoffman et al.,

2003). In the following year, compared to 9% of Whites, 18% of African American

students had repeated at least one grade (Hoffman et al., 2003). Thirty-five percent of

African American students in grades 7 to 12 had been expelled or suspended in their

school careers compared to 15% of White students (Hoffman et al., 2003). Compared to

7% of Whites, 13% of African Americans ages 16 to 24 had not earned a diploma or

General Educational Development (GED) credential (Hoffman et al., 2003).

Added to African American students' academic issues, they are often taught by

teachers who misunderstand them. In classrooms where the educators are often White,

female, and middle class, they experience cultural dissonance between home and school

(Villegas, 1988); teachers' expectations are unfamiliar to them (Harry & Anderson,

1994). Cultural mismatching and incongruence between teachers and African American

students can limit or enhance the academic success of students depending on how the

teacher perceives differences (Ross, Kamman, & Coady, in press). Ross and her

colleagues further explained that students' actions can be implicitly perceived as

abnormal when they differ in significant ways from the teachers' culture. Harry and









Anderson (1994) purported that instead of building on students' cultural repertoires,

"teachers typically aim to extinguish and replace these behaviors with conduct more

acceptable to them and to move quickly to find the deficit in those children who prove

less malleable to conformity" (pp. 610-611).

Teachers' knowledge and acceptance of cultural difference influence their

perceptions and expectations of African American students (Ross et al., in press). Pugach

and Seidl (1998) suggested that teachers are more likely to misinterpret students'

behavior and development and label it negatively when they do not share a common set

of experiences or common language with their students. Hoffman et al. (2003) disclosed

that lower percentages of teachers reported African American kindergartners were on

task, eager to learn, and paying attention "often or very often" as compared to White or

Asian first time kindergarteners. Similarly, in a study of prospective teachers'

perspectives on the teachability of students from various ethnic groups, Tettegah (1997)

noted that teachers consistently rated White and Asian American students higher than

Hispanic and African American students on cognitive and motivational measures.

The academic challenges of African American students as well as general

education teachers' perceptions and beliefs regarding these students are reflected in

special education identification rates. African American students are often labeled

disabled and/or "at-risk" and are overrepresented in special education (Artilles, Harry,

Reschly, & Chinn, 2002; Coutinho, Oswald, & Best, 2002; Office of Special Education

Programs [OSEP], 2005; Hoffman et al., 2003). To illustrate, in the 2001-2002 school

year, the proportion of African American students served by the Individuals with

Disabilities Education (IDEA) Act was higher than the proportions of Whites, Hispanics,

and Asian/Pacific Islander (OSEP, 2005). Nationally, Black children represented 15% of









the resident population ages 6 to 21, yet they were overrepresented in specific learning

disabilities (18%), mental retardation (34%), and emotional disturbance (28%) categories

(OSEP, 2005). In the same school year, Blacks were 21% of Florida's school population

and overrepresented in the same categories 24%, 49%, and 39%, respectively (OSEP,

2005).

When teachers are uncertain about how to meet the needs of students, they often

seek help through special education referral. Relying on local and classroom norms,

teachers make decisions concerning whether a student's behavior is cause for alarm

(Bocian, Beebe, MacMillian, & Gresham, 1999). Zigmond (1993) explained, "The

referral is a signal that the teacher has reached the limits of his or her tolerance of

individual differences, is no longer optimistic about his or her capacity to deal effectively

with a particular student in the context of the larger group, and no longer perceives that

the student is teachable by him or herself' (pp. 262-263). He or she initiates the referral

process believing that he or she has exhausted all of his or her resources (Logan, Hansen,

Niemnen, & Wright, 2001). Through the referral process, the referring teacher hopes to

receive confirmation of a "problem" and/or insight into the child's strengths and

weaknesses (Donovan & Cross, 2002).

Various examinations of referral and the overrepresentation of African American

students have resulted in the banning of IQ tests and discriminatory practices, yet little

change has occurred (Hosp & Reschly, 2003). Missing from the referral and

overrepresentation research are the voices of African American teachers. Scholars

contend that African American teachers can assist their colleagues in making appropriate

judgments concerning the academic placements of African American students (Delpit,

1995; Foster, 1990, 1993; Irvine, 1989; King, 1993; Ladson-Billings, 1994; Patton, 1998;









Sexton, Lobman, Constans, Synder & Ernest, 1997). Having African American teachers

is not the cure-all, or a guarantee, that all African American students will be successful,

but these teachers have "a deeper reservoir of skills and abilities on which to draw" as

they have more commonalities with their students' experiences (Ladson-Billings, 2001,

p. 81).

In addition to being role models for students, Ewing (1995) suggested that

African American teachers impact schools in several positive ways including their ability

to

* Foster improved cross-cultural understanding and diverse cultural tolerance.

* Understand cultural diversity so as not to label a disability inappropriately.

* Provide non-African American teachers with relevant on-site collaboration that will
promote more successful learning environments.

* Provide a positive school climate that meets the academic, social, and emotional
needs of minority students.

* Provide on-site conversations about culturally relevant curriculum matters (e.g.,
textbook adoptions, real life experiences, community involvement, policy and
program issues).

Studies suggest that there is a correlation between the percentage of African

American teachers and African American students' academic and social performance and

placement. In their investigation of 174 United States school districts with a minimum

enrollment of 15,000 students of which 1% were black, Meier, Stewart, and England

(1989) examined equal educational opportunities. Meier et al. (1989) stated, "In every

case, blacks are overrepresented in every category with a negative connotation and

underrepresented in every category with a positive connotation" (Meier et al., 1989,

p. 107). Meier and his colleagues (1989) noted the more African American teachers in a

school district, the lower the ratio of African American students suspended, expelled,









served in special education classes, and dropping out of school. On the other hand, the

more African American teachers in a school district, the higher the ratio of African

American students who were served in honors and gifted programs and who graduated

from high school with diplomas.

In a similar vein, Serwatka and Deering (1995) studied 67 Florida school districts

and found that 58 of 67 Florida school districts had African American students

overrepresented in emotionally handicapped (EH) classes. Noting several correlations,

they found that as the percentage of African American teachers increased at the

elementary and secondary levels, the overrepresentation of African American students in

EH programs decreased. The researchers disclosed, "School districts that had higher

disproportionate representation of African American students in specific learning

disability classes tended to have higher overrepresentation of African American students

in EH classes" (Serwatka & Deering, 1995, p. 499). They found a similar correlation in

school districts with greater underrepresentation in gifted and talented programs; such

districts also had higher overrepresentation of African Americans in EH classes. The

current study seeks to shed some light on why such correlations exist.

Purpose of the Study

Research literature describing the special education referral process is

overwhelmingly presented from a White middle class perspective. The lack of literature

describing African American teachers' perceptions and experiences with special

education referral, and particularly the referral of African American students, led to my

interest in African American elementary teachers' perceptions of special education

referral. Irvine (2002) stated,









Researchers often ignore or devalue the culturally specific pedagogy and teaching
beliefs of African American teachers; that is the culturally specific ways in which
African American teachers see themselves ... as part of the solution. This
oversight in the research is a serious issue because it leaves the perspectives and
voices of African American teachers and the African American community
silenced, marginalized, and invisible. (p. 140)

To meet the academic and social needs of African American students, the voices

of African American teachers must be heard. As Ladson-Billings and Tate (1995) stated,

"Without authentic voices of people of color it is doubtful we can say or know anything

useful about education in their communities" (p. 8). In a similar vein, Patton (1998)

stated, "A system is needed in special education that nurtures, develops, and allows for

the voices of African American knowledge producers to be heard, confirmed, and

affirmed. Their voices will more closely represent those who are studied, tested,

identified, labeled, and placed in special education programs-often at levels well

beyond accepted rates" (p. 30).

The purpose of this study is to add authentic voices of African American teachers

to the teacher discourse and research literature regarding special education referral. More

specifically, this study investigates African American teachers' perceptions and

experiences regarding special education referral of African American students. This

study centers on two questions: (a) "How do African American elementary teachers

perceive special education referral?" and (b) "How do African American teachers

experience the referral of African American students to special education classes?" These

questions are meant to explore African American teachers' experiences and perceptions

of African American students with and without disabilities, as well as their experiences

with the special education referral process. This study focuses on referral of students to

disability categories, and not the referral of students to gifted and talented programs. In









an effort to understand special education referral from a diverse perspective, this

investigation seeks to evoke the voices of African American teachers.

Chapter 2 describes how special education referral and the referral of African

American students have been addressed in the professional literature, focusing on the

history of African American students in United States public schools, teacher beliefs and

efficacy, and the special education referral process. Chapter 3 includes a brief

introduction to phenomenology, defining characteristics of phenomenology, a

subjectivity statement, as well as the methods used in this study. Chapter 4 presents the

findings or descriptions of special education referral from African American teachers'

perspectives. The textural and structural descriptions of two key informants (i.e., David

and Rebecca), and the group's textural and structural descriptions are presented. This

chapter concludes with a discussion of the essence of special education referral. Finally,

Chapter 5 presents a discussion of the key findings, connections and differences between

the findings and the professional literature in this area, implications for practice and

future research, and a presentation of the limitations of this study.















CHAPTER 2
REVIEW OF LITERATURE

The classroom teacher has a powerful influence on the referral process.

Ultimately "it is the classroom teacher who makes the comparison [between what is

acceptable and unacceptable] and decides whether referral is appropriate" (Donovan &

Cross, 2002, p. 227). Only students who are "referred" are given full and individual

evaluation mandated by law. After considering all of the data (e.g., teacher observations,

prereferral interventions, psychoeducational assessment results) placed before them, the

multidisciplinary team determines if the student is eligible or ineligible for special

education services. Typically, multidisciplinary teams consist of a regular (general)

education teacher, special educators, parents, guidance counselor, and a school

administrator. The multidisciplinary team (e.g., School Study Team [SST], Student Study

Team [SST]) decides whether the student will receive special education services, where

the student will receive special education services and for how long. Ysseldyke,

Vanderwood, and Shriner (1997) revealed that over 70% of those students referred to

special education are placed. Clearly, an important predictor of special education

eligibility is the classroom teachers' referral of the student for assessment or intervention

(Artiles & Trent, 1994; Hosp & Reschly, 2003; Ysseldyke & Algozzine, 1983).

Overview of the Study

The purpose of this study was to add the voices and experiences of African

American teachers to the research literature by examining African American teachers'









perceptions of special education referral. Another purpose of this study was to discover

how African American teachers experience the referral of African American students to

special education programs. The study addressed the following questions: (a) "How do

African American elementary teachers perceive special education referral?" and,

(b) "How do African American teachers experience the referral of African American

students to special education classes?" By interviewing teachers using open-ended

questions (about their past, present, and future experience with special education

referral), the study attempted to disclose the perception of African American teachers.

Introduction

This chapter provides a review of literature related to the overrepresentation of

African American students in Special Education and the influence of teachers'

perceptions on the referral process. The review consists of (a) an overview of the

overrepresentation of African Americans in Special Education, (b) an overview of the

literature on teacher beliefs, and (c) a review of the literature regarding influence of

teachers' perceptions on the referral process.

Overrepresentation of African Americans in Special Education

In the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, the United States Supreme

Court declared the claim of separate but equal schools to be unconstitutional. With this

ruling came the desegregation of public schools. Black teachers and students from

previously segregated schools faced new challenges. When schools in the South

eventually desegregated, the African American community quickly recognized a

dismantling of many "all-Black" schools (Etheridge, 1979; Foster, 1997; Siddle-Walker,

1996). Rather than have White students integrate newly built all-Black schools, most all-

Black schools were forced to close and Black students were assigned to existing "White"









schools (Foster, 1997). In addition, Black administrators and Black teachers were

removed from their positions at all-Black schools and assigned to previously all-White

schools in low numbers (Etheridge, 1979; Foster, 1997). Black teachers often had more

academic training and years of teaching service than their White counterparts, yet White

teachers had more employment opportunities (Foster, 1997). In addition to staff and

faculty changes, Black teachers and students were challenged to adjust their behaviors

and beliefs to the expectations and culture of White schools (Foster, 1997; Irvine, 1990;

Watkins, Lewis, & Chou, 2001).

As a result of desegregation, White teachers had the responsibility of teaching,

interacting with, and motivating Black students. The previous inequities of segregation

and the unwillingness and unpreparedness of White teachers to accept and teach black

students led to other forms of segregation within integrated schools (Artiles & Trent,

1994). A teacher from Foster's (1997) study stated,

The teachers made it clear that Blacks were not welcome. In the classroom, the
White teachers would put the Black kids on one side of the room and the White
kids on the other side. This is so that they wouldn't touch or mingle. (p. xxxiv)

Noticing academic and social differences between White students and Black students,

teachers intentionally and unintentionally "contributed to the establishment of special

education classrooms that would enroll disproportionate numbers of Black students"

(Artiles & Trent, 1994, p. 417).

Later, Lloyd Dunn (1968) was the first to address the overrepresentation of

children of color with mental retardation in special education classrooms. In comparison

to the student population found in general education classrooms, Dunn (1968) noted that

60% to 80% of the students taught by special educators were children of color (Dunn,

1968). Since Dunn, many researchers have examined the overrepresentation of minority









students in special education. Overrepresentation in special education occurs when a

group's (e.g., African American) membership in the program or a given disability

category is proportionately larger than its resident population (National Alliance of Black

School Educators [NABSE] & ILIAD Project, 2002). For example, previous researchers

and studies often focused on statistics indicating that the percentage of African American

students enrolled in special education was significantly higher than the percentage of

African American students in the overall, school age population (Artiles et al., 2002;

Artiles & Trent, 1994; Chinn & Hughes, 1987; Harry & Anderson, 1994, Hosp &

Reschley, 2002, 2003; Oswald, Coutinho, Best & Singh, 1999; Zhang & Katsiyannis,

2002). Evidence has shown that the overrepresentation of African American students in

special education remains prevalent today (OSEP, 2005; Appendix F).

During the 2001-2002 school year the proportion of African American students

served by IDEA was higher than the proportion of Whites, Hispanics, and Asian/Pacific

Islander (OSEP, 2005). Nationally representing 15% of the resident population, Black

children ages 6 to 21 were overrepresented in specific learning disabilities (18%), mental

retardation (34%), and emotional disturbance (28%) categories (OSEP, 2005). In the

same school year, representing 21% of Florida's school population, Black children were

overrepresented in the same categories 24%, 49%, and 39%, respectively (OSEP, 2005).

The current research literature reveals several contributing factors to the

overrepresentation of African American students in special education. These factors

include

* The educational system's inability to educate African American students.
* Discrepancies in the referral and placement process.
* Overreliance on intelligence tests.
* Lack of access to appropriate forms of instruction in general education.
* Inadequate resources and underqualified teachers. (NABSE & ILIAD Project,
2002)









All these factors influence whether students are referred for special education services

and labeled with a disability.

Historically, the segregation and integration of racial and ethnic groups has been

instrumental in the development of public schools in the United States. Between 1875

and 1914 "public schools were transformed from a minor social institution that largely

catered to the middle class, to one that was available to all levels of society, legally

compelling all children to attend" (Hoffman, 1975, p 416). Soon after the serious

enforcement of compulsory school attendance, educators were speaking of separate

schools and separate classes to accommodate students they defined as "unmanageable or

mentally deficient" (Hoffman, p. 416). Special education and gifted and talented

programs in public schools were established, corresponding to the ideology that

education was the solution to social and economic progress (Cohen, 1970). During the

1920s many schools placed Italian, Polish, and southern Black children in special classes

for the purpose of "social adjustment" (Thomas, 1986, p. 10). To handle the greater

cultural diversity these pupils brought into schools, social adjustment classes were used

to help them assimilate into the dominant culture (Thomas, 1986).

At a critical time (e.g., Civil Rights movement, War on Poverty initiative, and the

Coleman Report), Dunn (1968) publicly voiced his concern with the effectiveness of self-

contained special education classes for children with mild mental retardation, and a need

for educational alternatives in general and special education classrooms. He asserted that

60% to 80% of the students placed in classes for the mildly retarded were from "low

status backgrounds" (Dunn, 1968, p. 6). Dunn believed that a better solution was needed

to provide better outcomes for these students. He suggested that homogenous groupings

of students with mild learning problems was harmful, and that these students could learn









more from being in the general education classroom with supports from special

educators.

Dunn (1968) pointed out that removal of slow learning students from general

education was done to remove pressure from general education teachers at the expense of

the students. In concluding his article, Dunn stated,

The conscience of special educators needs to rub up against morality. In large
measure we have been at the mercy of the general education establishment in that
we accept problem pupils who have been referred out of the regular grades. In
this way, we contribute to the delinquency of the general educations since we
remove the pupils that are problems for them and thus reduce their need to deal
with individual differences. The entente of mutual delusion between general and
special education that special class placement will be advantageous to slow
learning children of poor parents can no longer be tolerated. We must face the
reality-we are asked to take children others cannot teach, and a large percentage
of these are from ethnically and/or economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
Thus much of special education will continue to be a sham of dreams unless we
immerse ourselves into the total environment of our children from inadequate
homes and backgrounds and insist on a comprehensive ecological push-with a
quality educational program as part of it. This is hardly compatible with out
prevalent practice of expediency in which we employ many untrained and less
than master teachers to increase the number of special day classes in response to
the pressures of waiting lists. Because of these pressures from the school system,
we have been guilty of fostering quantity with little regard for quality of special
education instruction. Our first responsibility is to have an abiding commitment to
the less fortunate children we aim to serve. Our honor, integrity, and honesty
should no longer be subverted and rationalized by what we hope and may believe
we are doing for these children-hopes and beliefs which have little basis in
reality. (p. 20)

Also in the 1960s, educators adopted the theory that the culture of African

American students was inherently inferior, and therefore, the students needed exposure to

"good" (e.g., Euro-American) culture (Bolima, 2004). Cultural deficit (also known as

deprivation) theorists suggested that African American students were not born inferior

but possessed a culture that caused them to be socially, emotionally, and cognitively

delayed (Bolima, 2004). Engelmann and Bereiter (1966) (as cited in Bolima, 2004)

stated, "Until dealt with, these cultural differences, would make it 'impossible for'







15

culturally deprived students 'to progress in academic areas'" (para 4). Schools operating

under the cultural deprivation theory believed special classes and ungraded classes would

assist teachers in coping with students exhibiting academic deficits and behaviors

different from the norm.

Later, cultural deprivation theory was discounted by cultural discontinuity theory,

which argued that differences between the home culture of African American students

and the school culture explained their academic and social challenges (Irvine, 1990;

Ladson-Billings, 1994). According to cultural discontinuity theory, when there is a

cultural mismatch between teachers and students, behaviors are often misinterpreted

because the teacher and the student are not aware that they are using equally important,

but different codes (Irvine; Ladson-Billings).

Eight years after Dunn's article, PL 94-142, also known as "The Education for

All Handicapped Children Act," was passed in 1975. This act was passed into law for the

following reasons:

* To ensure that all children with disabilities have free appropriate public special
education and related services designed to specifically meet their unique needs.

* To protect the rights of students with disabilities and their parents.

* To assist states and localities in providing a free and appropriate public education to
all children with disabilities.

* To assess and assure the effectiveness of the special education and related services
for all children with disabilities. (OSEP, 2005)

As amended in 1990, PL 94-142 became commonly referred to as the Individuals with

Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Regulations governing assessment and decision making for children and youth

with disabilities were put into law by the 1977 Protection in Evaluation Procedures









Provisions (PEP). Influenced by previous consent decrees that settled class action court

cases, PEP required: "(1) a comprehensive, individualized evaluation;

(2) nondiscrimination regarding ethnic and cultural minorities; (3) consideration of

multiple domains of behavior and not just a single measure such as IQ; and (4) decision

making by a team of professionals with the participation of parents" (Donovan & Cross,

2002, p. 214). Under PEP regulations, all students with potential disabilities would be

considered for special education services, while those students who appeared to have

learning and/or behavior differences due to cultural differences were determined

ineligible for special education services (Donovan & Cross, 2002). These regulations

changed in 1999 when the regulations for IDEA 1997 were published as Procedures for

Evaluation and Determination of Eligibility (PEDE) (Donovan & Cross, 2002).

Historically, the goal of IDEA had been to provide an equal opportunity for

students with disabilities to have a public, free, and appropriate education like that of

students in general education. The 1997 amendments to the IDEA placed more emphasis

on curriculum and objectives to address students' educational outcomes. The integration

of PEDE, other IDEA (1997, 1999) regulations and Individual Educational Program

(IEP) regulations required the following:

* Participation of someone who can interpret instructional implications based on
evaluation results.

* A statement of the student's current educational performance level and how the
disability will impact his success in the general education curriculum.

* Inclusion of all students in state and district-wide assessment, including
modifications and accommodations that the student may need.

* Measurable, annual and short-term goals and objectives. (Donovan & Cross, 2002)

* A general education teacher as a mandatory member of the IEP team. (Special
Education & Rehabilitative Services, 1999)









The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004, which is the

reauthorization of IDEA 1997, continues to support the mandatory requirement of a

regular education teacher in the referral and IEP process.

Since the desegregation of public schools in the United States, laws have been

enacted to ensure that all students receive a free and appropriate public education, yet the

segregation of African American students continues. Theories (i.e., unpreparedness of

teachers, low teacher expectations, and cultural deficit theory) influenced by beliefs

about race and culture have attempted to explain why African American students are not

faring well in schools. Specifically, these theories have resulted in the overrepresentation

of African American students in special education programs and disability categories.

In contrast to these theories, other researchers disclosed that African American

students are neither genetically inferior or a part of an inferior culture, but they

experience cultural discontinuity in schools (Irvine, 1990; Ladson-Billings, 1994). The

cultural mismatch between African American students and White teachers often result in

African American students and African American culture being misunderstood and

largely unrecognized.

As members of SSTs, general education teachers make judgments about which

African American students' behaviors are appropriate and inappropriate. In addition to

assessments, teachers' judgments determine the types of help African American students

receive. Knowing the origin of beliefs (also known as judgments or perceptions), how

teachers' beliefs develop, and the use of teacher beliefs is pertinent to understanding why

some teachers refer African American students.









Teacher Beliefs: An Introduction

Teachers' beliefs allow them to make sense of their worlds by defining the

teaching task and organizing knowledge and information for retrieval in the teaching

process (Nespor, 1987). In fact, a teacher's beliefs may have more influence on what

goes on in a classroom and between a teacher and his or her students than teacher

knowledge and/or training (Nespor). Nevertheless, researchers reveal that there is no

consensus on a definition for teacher beliefs (Eisenhart, Shrum, Harding, & Cuthbert,

1988; Kagan, 1992; Pajares, 1992).

Concepts of teacher beliefs have been used in various ways, from general terms to

specifically shared ideas to individualistic perceptions (Kagan, 1992). Kagan defined

teacher belief as "a particularly provocative form of personal knowledge that is generally

defined as pre- or in-service teachers' implicit assumptions about students, learning,

classrooms, and the subject matter to be taught" (pp. 65-66). In addition to having

multiple definitions, the term "teacher beliefs" is not consistently used in the research

literature (Eisenhart et al., 1988; Fang, 1996; Pajares, 1996). The term is interchanged

with teachers' private views (Buchmann, 1987), theories (Fang, 1996), perceptions (Bahr

& Fuchs, 1991; Uhlenberg & Brown, 2002), personal epistemologies (Gordon, 1990),

perspectives (McLeskey, Waldron, & So, 2001) or orientations (Kagan, 1992).

In his review of teacher beliefs, Pajares (1992) explained that

defining beliefs is at best a game of player's choice. They travel in disguise and
often under the alias of: attitudes, values, judgments, axioms, opinions, ideology,
perceptions, conceptions, conceptual systems, preconceptions, dispositions,
implicit theories, personal theories, internal mental processes, action strategies,
rule of practice, practical principles, perspectives, repertories of understanding,
and social strategy, to name but a few that can be found in the literature. (p. 309)









Most teachers are apprehensive about publicly expressing their beliefs because

what teachers know and believe about teaching is often implicit and invisible (Kagan,

1992). Kagan suggested that asking students about their teaching philosophies is often

ineffective or counterproductive. Furthermore, beliefs are difficult to change, and when

they do, the change occurs over time and as a last alternative to one's deeply rooted

values and judgments (Nespor, 1987; Pajares, 1992).

Researchers struggle with the distinction between knowledge and beliefs

(Buchmann, 1987; Fang, 1996; Pajares, 1992). Evidence suggests that beliefs are a form

of knowledge (Fang, 1996; Nespor, 1987; Pajares, 1992). Kagan (1992) further explained

that

a teacher's knowledge of his or her profession is situated in three important ways:
in context (it is related to specific groups of students), in content (it is related to
particular academic material taught) and in person (it is embedded within the
teacher's unique belief system). (p. 74)

Teachers may have similar knowledge, but their thought processes and expectations of

students cause teachers to practice differently (Calderhead & Robson, 1991; Kagan,

1992; Pajares, 1992; Semmel, Abernathy, Butera, & Lesar, 1991). The nature of teaching

and the teacher's work is an often ill-defined and entangled domain wherein entities are

diverse, partially overlapping, and connections are incomplete or unclear (Nespor, 1987).

Beliefs are created through the process of cultural transmission (Pajares, 1992).

Drawing from Melville Herskovits's Cultural Anthropology (1963) and Man and His

Works (1956), Van Fleet (1979) suggested that the cultural transmission process consists

of enculturation, education, and schooling. Enculturation is a learning process that occurs

throughout a person's life, consisting of the training he or she receives from others and

the implicit assimilation of elements from his or her culture (Van Fleet). Through









observation, imitation of others and the transmission of elements of culture, individuals

are implicitly and explicitly taught what is "normal" and "abnormal" behavior (Ross,

Kamman & Coady, in press). Formal and informal educations are used to bring behaviors

in line with specific cultural requirements (Van Fleet, 1979). Van Fleet further explained

that schooling uses specific learning and teaching processes outside the home in specific

places, at definite times, and by prepared persons.

Formal and Informal Teacher Education

Similar to the process of cultural transmission, teaching involves teacher

enculturation, teacher education, and teacher schooling (Van Fleet, 1979). Like their

students, teachers do not enter classrooms or colleges of education as blank slates upon

which to write. Teacher enculturation occurs early for teachers. Nimmo and Smith (1994)

suggest that teacher enculturation is comprised of teacher socialization and teacher

development. Teachers are presented with images of teaching through both formal and

informal knowledge (Calderhead & Robson, 1991; Lortie, 2002). Like Van Fleet's

(1979) 8-year-old niece playing school, teachers have watched teachers, heard others talk

of teachers, and been exposed to teachers throughout their lives. Teacher socialization

occurs before and after entering the classroom. Teachers' different life perspectives,

colleagues, and work culture form their images of teaching (Zeichner & Gore, 1986).

Whether positive or negative, these images form a teacher.

Research suggests that "student teachers have spent thousands of hours in an

apprenticeship of observation (Lortie, 2002) leading to the development of a body of

values, commitments, orientations, and practices" (Calderhead & Robson, 1991, p. 1).

Apprenticeship observations by preservice and inservice teachers help form images of

good and bad teaching. In addition, these images influence their decisions to become







21

teachers and the type of teacher they wish to become (Calderhead & Robson, 1991; Fang,

1996; Lortie, 2002).

According to Nimmo and Smith (1994) teacher development is a multi-faceted

process that is often nonlinear and unique. They suggest that it involves teachers'

backgrounds interacting with various dispositions and situations that produce personal

and professional development and growth (Nimmo & Smith, 1994). Through formal

teacher education, teachers begin to understand the behaviors, thoughts and feelings of

teaching (Van Fleet, 1979).

Most people are aware of the formal teacher education that occurs in colleges of

education and teacher education institutions, but few are aware of the teacher education

that occurs in schools, during conferences, and outside of school when teachers advise

each other at social events (Van Fleet, 1979). Cooperating teachers fill the role of teacher

educators for pre-service teachers during field placements, and in-service teachers often

have peer teachers to orient them to the specifics of school culture (Irvine, 1990; Ishler,

Edens, & Berry, 1996; Ladson-Billings, 1994). Teachers inform other teachers regarding

students' behaviors and what school policies must be followed.

Van Fleet (1979) reported that teacher education "includes directed learning

experiences that aim to bring teacher behavior in line with specific requirements

sanctioned by the school culture"(p. 283), revealing school context and educational

policy as key factors in influencing teacher beliefs and actions. In the teacher education

process, people who want to teach are often removed from the public school environment

to be "instructed in the profession and mythology, in making practical implements, and in

proper etiquette and social relations among professionals. Trainees participate in work

settings and mock battles. When finished, they are ceremonially certified and returned to









the public school" (Van Fleet, p. 284). These teachers are expected to utilize the skills

and strategies from years of schooling to maximize the academic and social potentials of

their diverse students.

Function of Teacher Beliefs

Nespor (1987) conveyed, "Beliefs perform the function of framing or defining the

task at hand" (p. 322); however, teachers' knowledge and action are not necessarily a

function of their beliefs. After following seven preservice teachers during a year,

Calderhead and Robson (1991) reported that preservice teachers may possess teacher

knowledge, consisting of formal knowledge of theories, pedagogy, and strategies, but not

utilize this knowledge in their actual classrooms or interactions with certain students.

Similarly, in their 4-year study of teacher beliefs and conceptions about reading, Duffy

and Anderson (1984) reported that teachers provided distinct reading theories outside the

classroom, but the teachers' actual instructional practice was governed by changes in

grade level and/or changes in the ability levels of the students being taught in the class. In

a similar vein, surveying 381 regular and special education teachers, Semmel and

colleagues (1991) revealed that teachers' beliefs do not necessarily appear in their

actions. They found that general education teachers believed that students with mild

disabilities had a basic right to be included in general education classrooms, but they

preferred pull-out programs and felt inclusion would have a negative impact on students

with and without disabilities.

Recalled Images Shaping Teachers' Beliefs and Practices

For a teacher to solve a certain problem, he or she has to develop a mental model

or image of the problem, as well as possible solutions (Calderhead & Robson, 1991;

Nespor, 1987). The emotions, feelings, moods, and subjective qualities that often









envelope beliefs are important to facilitating memory (Nespor). Nespor conveyed that

affection serves the purposes of facilitating recall, providing cohesion to the pieces of the

memory, and constructing and reconstructing the memory processes. Calderhead and

Robson (1991) stated "being able to recall images, and to adapt and manipulate these

images in reflecting about action in a particular context is possibly an important task of

teaching" (p. 3).

Studies have revealed the influence of teachers' recalled images of their

cooperating teachers and/or mentor teachers on their perceptions of good or bad teaching

(Calderhead & Robson, 1991; Lee, 2002; McCray, Sindelar, Kilgore, & Neal, 2002;

Mitchell, 1998; Walker, 2001). In McCray and her colleagues' (2002) study of African

American teachers' decision to become teachers, participants' images of effective

teachers were reflective of the impact of a recalled image of a teacher from a book:

[Marva Collins's] expectations and methods were very inspirational because she
had students in her classroom that were labeled mentally retarded. She was told
that they were not able to learn. But she didn't let that stigmatize the way she
taught them, and she had great expectations for them. In the end, one girl in
particular ended up graduating from college summa cum laude. That's the kind of
teacher I want to be. (p. 282)

Similarly, African American teacher Beverly Cokerham disclosed that her field

experience and cooperating teacher had the greatest influence on her evolution as a

teacher (Lee, 2002). Calderhead and Robson (1991) suggested that recalling the images

of past teachers who were perceived as unsympathetic, intolerant, impatient teachers who

frequently shouted and were generally distant from children shaped teachers' beliefs and

practice into becoming what they desired as students and/or their teachers lacked.

Teacher beliefs can be defined as teachers' implicit assumptions about teaching,

students and subject matter. In research literature various terms (e.g., perceptions,









judgments, assumptions, theories) are used for teacher beliefs. Teacher beliefs are

developed by formal education and life experiences (before and after entering the

teaching profession). They inform teachers' teaching practices and images of teaching.

In addition, teachers' beliefs inform teachers' visions of who they are able and willing to

teach. Using their perceptions, teachers determine what is academically and socially

appropriate for students. When students do not match teachers' perceptions of "normal,"

teachers are likely to refer them.

Teachers' Perceptions about Special Education Referral

Influence of Teachers' Perceptions

Referral research suggests that teacher perceptions are pertinent to the referral

process (Abidin & Robinson, 2002; Giesbrecht & Routh, 1979; Kauffman, Swan &

Wood, 1980; Kelly, Bullock, & Dykes, 1977). In a study representing three elementary

schools, Abidin and Robinson asked 30 teachers to identify three students from their

classrooms who they would refer for psychoeducational assessment. They found that

teachers' perceptions were based on observed behaviors of students and not demographic

characteristics. Abidin and Robinson found that teachers' judgments about the presence

of behavioral problems and students' academic competence were the best predictors of

special education referral. Racial bias, socioeconomic bias, and teaching stress were not

significant in the study.

In a similar vein, Gresham, MacMillan, and Bocian (1998) investigated 60

teachers on School Study Teams (SSTs) and reported data suggesting that

classification decisions are being made in public schools based on the child's
perceived educational needs by school study team members rather than scores
obtained from intelligence and achievement tests and the extent these scores meet
some arbitrary criteria for the presence of a mild disability. (p. 189)









Gresham and his colleagues (1998) found low levels of agreement with the Office of

Special Education Programs' (OSEP) definitions of mild disability groups. These

teachers relied on their individual judgments and did not give great weight to

psychological assessment.

Geisbrecht and Routh (1979) examined 104 elementary teachers' responses to

artificially constructed cumulative folders. They reported that teachers perceived students

to more likely need special education assistance if cumulative folders included negative

teacher comments. Teachers in the study were more likely to suggest referral for Black

children whose parents were less educated. In cumulative files with more negative

teacher comments, students were more likely recommended for behavioral help than

students without comments.

In an examination of the referral and placement process, Argulewicz and Sanchez

(1983) found that if placements were based only on teachers' perceptions, the

representation of minority students in special education would be higher (Argulewicz &

Sanchez). The researchers contended that psychoeducational evaluation conducted by

special education services often served as a moderator for special education placement.

Ysseldyke, Algozzine, Ritchey, and Graden (1982) examined 20 videotaped placement

team meetings. They observed that "a good deal of the information (83%) presented at

the team meetings was irrelevant to final placement decisions made by the placement

team" (p. 42). According to the researchers, SST members used assessment data to

confirm or justify previously made assumptions about students and did not use specific

criteria in making their decisions. In addition, the more information that was provided to

the placement team, the greater the likelihood of the student being identified for special

education services. Ysseldyke and his colleagues (1982) concluded that eligibility









decisions are made independent of tests supporting or contradicting teachers'

perceptions.

Teachers' perceptions are instrumental in determining what children are

appropriate for special education referral. With the exception of keeping larger numbers

of minority students out of special education, assessment appears less significant than

teachers' perceptions in the referral process. As members of the SSTs, teachers influence

other teachers in their judgments of which students need special education services and

placement. Not only do teachers consider other teachers' judgments in referral decisions,

but they also ponder how outside resources should be utilized.

Teacher Perceptions of Outside Resources

Research suggests that teachers' perceptions of outside resources influence their

decisions to refer students (Waldron, McLeskey, Skiba, Jancaus, & Schulmeyer, 1998;

Wilton, Cooper, & Glynn, 1987; Winfield, 1986). Wilton et al. (1987) investigated the

personal and professional characteristics of general education teachers who had referred

or would refer struggling students in their classrooms. All of the teachers in the study had

at least one student who would qualify for special education referral. The researchers

concluded that referring teachers more likely had previous and better access to the school

psychologists. These teachers believed that school policy encouraged referrals.

Similarly, in a study of 24 high and low referring elementary teachers, Waldron

and her colleagues (1998) found that high referring teachers often used outside resources

to confirm or disconfirm their suspicions of a disability. Waldron et al. revealed that low

referring teachers used information from previous teachers and consultants to obtain

additional ideas on how to assist students and adapt curriculum. They concluded that the

goal of low referring teachers was to "exhaust all options" (p. 37). Teachers who









perceived they had options available to them and were able to use them appeared less

likely to refer.

In their investigation of student and classroom factors that placed students at risk

of referral, Skiba, McLeskey, Waldron, Grizzle, and Bartley (1993) found the classroom

referral rates to be significantly related to the use of a variety of management strategies.

Low referring teachers had higher rates of intervention and used a variety of strategies to

address inappropriate classroom behavior (Skiba et al.). Added to this, Waldron et al.

(1998) interviewed 24 high and low referring teachers on their perceptions of the students

they referred, and the criteria and resources they used to make referral decisions. The

researchers reported that low referring teachers implemented 50% more interventions

than high referring teachers. In contrast, high referring teachers provided little detail

regarding the interventions previously implemented for students. They found that flexible

grouping patterns were utilized in the low referring teachers' classroom to accommodate

students' diverse needs. High referring teachers were less flexible in their classroom

groupings, placing students having difficulties in already existing groups or looking for

out-of-class alternatives (Waldron et al., 1998).

In a study of 24 general education elementary teachers' perceptions of Student

Support Teams (SSTs) and the students they brought to SST for referral, Logan et al.

(2001) reported that teachers believed that they and their colleagues had done all they

could to help the referred student and that the sole purpose of the SST was to test

students and place them in special education. Students with whom teachers had not been

successful or who required too much time to teach or manage were sent to the SST. In the

teachers' minds, special education provided what general education could not. Teachers









often cited special education as the place for students to receive small group instruction

and 1:1 teaching.

Logan et al. (2001) reported that teachers did not want fellow teachers to think

they had not done their job by not referring students. The teachers viewed the referral

process with the SST as difficult, time consuming, frustrating and threatening (Logan et

al.). They wanted the process to move quickly, considering that they documented their

actions, contacted the parents, and sought help from the special education teacher. Added

to their anxiety was the fear that administrators were covertly evaluating teachers during

the referral process (Logan et al.).

In a similar vein, Christenson, Ysseldyke, and Algozzine (1982) examined 52

Minnesota and Florida general and special education teachers' list of barriers to and

factors facilitating the referral process. Seventy-seven percent of the teachers noted

barriers to referral. Christenson et al. found organizational factors, availability of

services, and "hassle" (e.g., paperwork, meetings, time, scheduling meetings) as the most

reported barriers to referral. Teachers in their study often noted their skepticism about the

payoff of referral.

Teachers' perceptions assist them in determining which resources are appropriate

for students. Low referring teachers believe they have resources available to assist them

with students who are difficult to teach. These teachers tend to use a variety of strategies

and interventions to maintain students in general education. They refer for the purposes

of developing appropriate strategies and general education classroom environments to

meet the needs of students. In contrast, high referring teachers perceive that all of their

resources are exhausted with the exception of special education. These teachers have few

strategies and interventions, and are reluctant about changing the general education









classroom and/or curriculum to appropriately help students. Teachers who often refer

students use the process to remove students from general education. They also have

difficulty envisioning success with students who are difficult to teach.

Influence of Teachers' Self-Efficacy

Research suggests that decisions to refer students are influenced by teachers'

beliefs in their abilities to effectively instruct students. Bandura (1993) stated, "Among

the mechanisms or agency, none is more central or pervasive than people's beliefs about

their capabilities to exercise control over their own level of functioning and over events

that affect their lives" (p. 118). Teacher education programs attempt to build teaching

efficacy by providing teachers with diverse teaching methods and strategies as well as

proper field experiences. Teaching efficacy is the belief that various teaching strategies,

pedagogy, and curriculum are effective and bring about success for students (Bandura,

1993). Researchers revealed that many teachers might possess teacher efficacy, but lack

self-efficacy.

Examining teacher efficacy and self-efficacy is critical to understanding why

some students are successful in school and others are not (Jordan, Kircaali-Iftar, &

Diamond, 1993; Podell & Soodak, 1993; Soodak, Podell & Lehman, 1998). "The task of

creating environments conducive to learning rests heavily on the talents and self-efficacy

of teachers" (Bandura, 1993, p. 140). Teacher self-efficacy is the belief in one's ability to

motivate, promote learning and create an environment where even the most difficult

students excel academically and socially (Bandura). According to Bandura, "Efficacy

beliefs influence how people feel, think, motivate themselves and behave" (p. 118).

Teachers with high self-efficacy visualize success scenarios that serve as guides and

motivation for performance (Bandura). Having high expectations of students, these









teachers demand better performance from students and give students praise. In contrast,

teachers who doubt their self-efficacy visualize failure and the possibility of things going

wrong (Bandura). They are likely to accept poor performance from students for whom

they have low expectations and are less likely to praise poor performing students when

they perform well.

Teachers' self-efficacy influences their beliefs and expectations of learners, and

therefore their decision to refer (Jordan et al., 1993, 1997). Jordan and her colleagues

(1997) examined nine elementary teachers and their third grade students' conversational

reactions during an academic lesson. The researchers categorized the teachers' beliefs as

either "interventionist" (preventive) or "pathognomic" (restorative). Teachers who

possessed pathognomic (restorative) beliefs assumed that problems largely resided within

the child, and the responsibility of the teacher was to have the child assessed for

confirmation. These teachers possessed little belief in their ability to provide academic

and/or social success for the students who were struggling and/or "at-risk." In contrast,

teachers with high self-efficacy possessed interventionist (preventive) beliefs. They

attempted prereferral interventions and requested assessment for the purpose of

pinpointing possible strategies to change the classroom environment as well as

instruction. Jordan et al. (1997) revealed that teachers with high personal efficacy

engaged in more academic interactions and exhibited greater use of various strategies to

extend students' thinking. Using higher levels of cognitive extension, teachers with high

self-efficacy interacted more positively with typically achieving students, students with

disabilities and students labeled "at-risk."

Researchers found that teachers with low personal efficacy often sought

nonteacher based solutions for problems with students, and blamed the homes of students









or the students themselves for the academic and/or social problems (Jordan et al., 1993,

1997; Soodak & Podell, 1994). In their study of 110 elementary teachers' decisions with

difficult to teach students, Soodak and Podell (1994) reported that teachers with low

personal efficacy wanted other professionals to fix their problems with difficult to teach

students rather than attempting to develop effective strategies. The researchers contend

that teachers' personal efficacy influenced the type of personal responsibility teachers

accepted for difficult to teach students. Teachers with low personal efficacy were

reluctant to ask for help and prone to seek professional assessment for students. They

perceived special education as the logical place for students that were difficult to teach

(Podell & Soodak).

In another study, Podell and Soodak (1993) investigated 192 general and special

educators' judgments of referral, using case studies describing a student with a learning

disability and/or behavior problem. They found that general education teachers with

greater personal efficacy were more likely to perceive general education as more

appropriate for students with a learning disability and/or behavior problem. Teachers

with high self-efficacy preferred collaboration with other professionals to develop

diverse strategies and skills to provide success for students (Soodak et al., 1998).

In a similar vein, Soodak and her colleagues (1998) surveyed 188 general

educators' responses to including students with disabilities in their classrooms. They

discovered that collaboration with other teachers and development of differentiated

teaching practices appeared to reduce teachers' anxiety and increase receptivity toward

inclusion of students "at-risk" and/or with disabilities (Podell & Soodak, 1993; Soodak et

al., 1998).









Similarly in a study of 26 elementary general education teachers, Jordan and her

colleagues (1993) reported that teachers with high personal efficacy preferred

cooperative consults rather than pull-out programs that removed students from the

general education classroom. High personal efficacy teachers were confident in being

able to create positive student outcomes. The researchers concluded that teachers with

"restorative" beliefs (low personal efficacy) viewed "problems" within students, the

parents and others outside the classroom as being more influential on students' social and

academic outcomes.

In a study of teacher beliefs about academically "at-risk" students, Winfield

(1986) categorized ways that teachers conceptualized four teacher behaviors for dealing

with students who were struggling: (a) tutors; (b) general contractors; (c) custodians; and

(d) referral agents. The tutors were the teachers who indicated it was their responsibility

to improve all students' reading, even the lowest reading group. Teachers who expressed

that remedial instruction was needed for students, but the responsibility for instruction

should be given to another, were categorized as general contractors. Custodians were

teachers who conveyed concern for supporting low achieving students in the general

education classroom, but also expressed that nothing or little could be done for the

struggling students. Referral agents had a similar attitude as the custodians; however,

referral agents shifted the responsibility of maintenance to other teachers and specialists.

Smart, Wilton, and Keeling (1980) compared general education teachers who

referred students to special education (SC) and general education teachers who had

students who qualified for special education classes, but had not referred these students

(NR). NR teachers strongly believed in the benefit of mainstream classes for low ability

students, and in their personal ability to accommodate students with special needs.









Higher proportions of low achievers were reported in the classrooms of NR teachers. In

contrast, mainstreaming did not seem important to SC teachers, who were older, had

more teaching experience, but were not as qualified as the NR teachers.

When teachers cannot visualize success scenarios for students, they are likely to

refer those whom they perceive cannot be helped. Teachers with high self-efficacy

visualize success with students, even the students that are challenging. These teachers use

outside resources to help students remain in the general education classroom. They utilize

outside resources to gain various strategies and interventions to appropriately change the

general education classroom environment and curriculum for students who are

struggling.

In contrast, teachers with low self-efficacy are likely to use outside resources to

confirm their suspicions of a "problem." They believe that students' problems reside

within the student and/or student's family. These teachers see themselves as not having

appropriate resources or the ability to teach students whose behaviors are different from

the "norm" they envision. In addition, teachers with low self-efficacy are challenged with

identifying the specific problems they have with students.

Teachers' Perceptions of the "Problem"

When teachers refer students they often provide vague reasons for referral.

Anderson, Cronin, and Miller (1986) examined the referral reasons for 269 students with

learning disabilities from four elementary schools. The researchers found that referral

statements tended to be general and unclear about the particular concerns. Forty-two

percent of the referrals were nonspecific academic referrals, and 41% percent of the

referrals were both academic and behavioral (Anderson et al., 1986). Seventeen percent

of the referrals focused solely on student behavior. In a similar vein, Pugach (1985)









studied 39 elementary and junior high classroom teachers. She found that what teachers

said as the reason for referral often did not match what they wrote on paper.

Using actual referrals, Christenson, Ysseldyke, Wang, and Algozzine (1983)

investigated teachers' specific reasons for referring students. Teachers in the study

attributed 97% of elementary students' difficulties to nonteacher and nonschool causes.

Within-student characteristics (e.g., birth deficits, potential; 61.7%) and home causes

(e.g., family difficulties; 35.6%) were most often cited (Christenson et al., 1983).

Hutton (1985) reviewed referral information on 215 students from five different

school districts referred to school psychologists. Most of the referrals reported behaviors

that were described as conduct and personality disorders (Hutton). Hutton reported seven

frequently stated reasons for referral:

* Poor peer relationships
* Frequent displays of frustration
* Performance below academic expectations
* Shy and withdrawn behavior
* Disruptive behavior
* Fighting
* Refusal to work
* Short attention span.

Hutton (1985) found that poor peer relationships was reported as the number one reason

for referral. Kindergarten to third-grade teachers most often cited fighting as their reason

for referral.

Referring teachers who have low self-efficacy struggle to identify students'

problems. These teachers often provide unclear, general, and/or nonacademic reasons for

referring students. They are likely to believe that the referred students' academic and/or

social issues are out of their control and that the problems reside in the student or

students' family. These teachers are less likely to appreciate and respect students'







35

differences. General education teachers who have few positive experiences with African

Americans are more likely to misinterpret African American behavior and the influence

of African American culture in their classrooms.

Influence of Teachers' Views of Behavioral and Cultural Differences on Referral

Research suggests that teachers' acceptance and perceptions of behavior influence

their decision to refer students. McIntyre (1990) studied 88 teachers from 11 public

schools and found that teachers with strict classroom standards were more likely to refer

students with low aggressive behaviors than teachers with more lax classroom standards.

In contrast, the students with high aggressive behaviors were less likely referred by

stricter teachers than lax teachers. The students labeled learning disabled were typically

viewed as having low aggressive behaviors in comparison to students labeled

emotionally disturbed (McIntyre).

Kelly, Bullock and Dykes (1977) investigated 2,664 regular education teachers'

perceptions of the behavior levels of their students in 13 Florida school districts. They

found that teacher perceptions of behavioral disorders gradually increased between

grades K-5. In addition, for every White student perceived to have a behavioral disorder,

approximately two Black students were perceived to have a behavioral disorder in grades

K-7 (Kelly et al.). Researchers revealed that "in general, White teachers perceived more

Black students as exhibiting behavioral disorders when contrasted with the perceptions of

Black teachers" (Kelly et al., p. 317).

Additional research suggests that referral may be influenced by students and

teachers' racial and cultural similarities and differences. Tomlinson, Acker, Canter, and

Lindborg (1977) studied the gender and minority status of 355 students referred for

psychological services "in relation to the frequency of referral, type of problem, and









nature of subsequent psychological services" (p. 456). Noting a significantly higher

percentage of the minority population being referred for psychological services, the

researchers found no difference with respect to the type (e.g., academic or behavior) of

problem for which students were referred. Tomlinson et al. found that psychologists

significantly more often contacted majority parents and provided them with suggestions

for helping their children. In contrast, the researchers noted that the parents of minority

students were less likely contacted by the psychologists and more often recommended for

special education resource services and placement.

In a 3-year ethnographic study of African American families in the special

education referral process, Harry, Klinger, and Hart (2005) found "stark discrepancy

between school personnel's views of Black families and the views developed through

research interviews and home visits" (p. 104). In most cases school personnel had not

visited students' homes and had made negative assumptions about families based on

unfounded evidence. Harry and her colleagues observed conferences in which teachers,

from various racial groups including African American, treated African American

parents and caregivers respectfully and disrespectfully. Educators in the study by Harry

et al. ignored parent/caregiver's comments and questions, tended to respond to

parents/caregivers with sarcasm, and overused educational jargon during meetings.

In a study of White and Black parents, teachers, psychologists, and educational

diagnosticians, Kaufman et al. (1980) examined the perceptions of problem behaviors of

194 White and Black children labeled emotionally disturbed. They found that Black

parents often perceived their children differently than the teachers. Teachers' perceptions

more often agreed with White parents than Black parents. The researchers did not record









the race of the teachers, but disclosed that between 75% to 80% of the teachers in the

study were White and 25% were Black (Kaufman et al.).

More pointedly, using constructed case histories to study 199 teachers, Tobias,

Cole, Zibrin and Bodlakova (1982) investigated the influence of students' race and

teachers' race on special education referral. The researchers purported no difference in

referral recommendations based on students' ethnic background; however, they revealed

that teachers were less likely to refer students whose backgrounds were identical to their

own. Researchers concluded that teachers who were familiar or had identical

backgrounds to minority students were more aware of students' culture and perceived

certain behaviors as acceptable based on this knowledge (Tobias et al.).

Investigating the impact of race and social behavior on teacher recommendations

for referral, Pernell (1984) examined questionnaire responses of 275 secondary teachers.

He found that Black teachers identified other races for referral before their own. Black

teachers in the study often predicted higher levels of social adjustment and reading for all

students than White students.

Similarly, in a study of Black teachers and White teachers' perceptions of

possible causes and potential solutions to the achievement gap between White students

and Black students, Uhlenberg and Brown (2002) surveyed 26 Black, 25 White and 2

multi-racial teachers. Researchers found that "issues that are based on making racial

distinctions or that are perceived to affect Black students more than White students tend

to produce perceptional disparities between Black teachers and White teachers"

(Uhlenberg & Brown, p. 519). Black teachers in the study viewed teachers with low

expectations for Black students, teachers not meeting the instructional needs of Black

students, and teachers acting in a racist manner (whether they meant to or not) as







38

significant factors in the achievement gap (Uhlenberg & Brown). The authors found that

Black teachers perceived factors such as Black students misbehaving, lacking effort and

lacking potential, as less significant factors. In contrast to other teachers in the study,

Black teachers believed Black parents' level of education, income, and parenting

techniques were less significant contributing factors for the achievement gap between

Black and White students (Uhlenberg & Brown). Black teachers in the study perceived

"more parental outreach and education, more mentoring programs, recruiting more Black

teachers, and better classroom instruction as relatively useful and effective solutions to

the achievement gap" (Uhlenberg & Brown, p. 516).

In an attempt to replicate their previous study, Tobias, Zibrin, and Menell (1983)

studied 320 teachers' responses to an adapted case history that investigated the influence

of student gender and ethnicity and the gender, ethnicity and teaching level of the teacher

on referral. They failed to replicate the findings of their earlier study where teachers

referred fewer students of their own race. Tobias et al. (1983) found that

recommendations for referral were influenced by teachers' ethnicity and teaching level

rather than students' gender or race.

Similarly, Washington (1982), using interviews and descriptive evidence with in-

service teachers, and identified six positive and six negative student characteristics as

important in the school context. Teachers were asked to assign two students from their

classrooms to each of the characteristics. She found that Black teachers viewed Black

boys, Black girls, and White boys more negatively than positively. Washington reported

that, with the exception of academic competency, "teachers tended to designate pupils of

their own race to negative characteristics" (p. 71). Two possible explanations are

provided. One, students' academic strengths are more uniformly evaluated. Two, teachers









are more sensitive to and/or aware of normative traits in their race and are therefore

better able to discriminate between students of their race who fall below the norm

(Washington).

In a similar vein, Bahr and Fuchs (1991) investigated whether teachers'

perceptions of difficult to teach students of 40 classroom teachers were racially based.

They found that both White and Black general education teachers rated Black students as

more appropriate for referral than White students. Both groups of teachers perceived the

classroom behaviors of White and Black students to be the same. The researchers noted

that behavior did not appear to be the basis for more Black students being referred.

Teachers in the study appeared to be more concerned about students' work issues than

behavior. Bahr and Fuchs concluded that the teachers perceived Black students as weaker

students and in need of specialized instruction.

General education teachers are more likely to refer African American students to

special education than White students. These referrals are generally based on the general

education teachers' perceptions of appropriate and inappropriate behavior. White

teachers' perceptions are often similar to perceptions of White parents and in contrast to

the perceptions' of African American parents and African American teachers. African

American parents and teachers are less likely to refer African American children and

have them removed from general education. African American teachers are often familiar

with the experiences of African American students and are more likely to have high

social and academic expectations for them.

Conclusion

Legislation such as Brown v. the Board of Education and PL-94-142 opened the

doors for African American students to receive an equal, free, and appropriate public









education. With the eventual integration of public schools, White educators were given

the responsibility of educating African American students in racially and academically

mixed classrooms (Foster, 1990, 1997). These educators perceived academic and social

differences in African American students. Researchers asserted that educators'

willingness to work with and perceptions of African Americans have led to the

overrepresentation of African Americans in special education and disability categories

(Artiles & Trent, 1994).

Using their individual perceptions and cultural experiences, teachers judge which

students are teachable and "normal" in the general education classroom (Donovan &

Cross, 2002; Ross et al., in press). Students who do not match teachers' "norm" are

perceived to have a deficit. Researchers suggest that general education teachers'

perceptions of African American students' behaviors influence SSTs more than

psychological assessments (Abidin & Robinson, 2002; Giesbrecht & Routh, 1979;

Gresham et al., 1998). Teachers' perceptions are developed before and after they enter

the classroom, and influence how they view teaching and students (Fang, 1992; Kagan,

1992; Nespor, 1987; Van Fleet, 1979). Teachers visualize the types of teachers they wish

to become and the students they are able and willing to teach (Calderhead & Robson,

1991; Nespor, 1987).

Teachers' beliefs in their abilities to teach African American students influence

whether they refer students (Jordan et al., 1993; Logan et al., 2001; Podell & Soodak,

1993; Smart et al., 1980; Soodak et al., 1998; Winfield, 1986). Teachers who believe in

their ability to teach African American students, even the most challenging ones, are less

likely to refer them (Jordan et al., 1993; Podell & Soodak, 1993; Soodak et al., 1998).

These teachers use outside resources (i.e., special education referral, parents, and other









teachers) to change the general education classroom and curriculum to accommodate

students who are struggling (Skiba et al., 1993; Waldron et al., 1998).

Teachers who believe they cannot teach African American students who are

struggling are likely to refer them (Jordan et al., 1993; Podell & Soodak, 1993; Soodak

et al., 1998). They tend to be less flexible in their grouping of students and provide little

changes to their teaching and curriculum to accommodate students (Waldron et al.,

1998). These teachers use outside resources to confirm problems within students and

remove students from the general education classroom (Jordan et al., 1993; Podell &

Soodak, 1993; Logan et al., 2001; Soodak et al., 1998).

This investigation adds the voices of African American teachers whose

perceptions are largely missing from the special education referral research (Irvine 2002;

Ladson-Billings & Tate, 1995; Patton, 1998). Past research has often been presented

from the perspective of White teachers (Graham, 1992) who are often unfamiliar with

African American culture and its influence on academic and social interactions between

the teacher and African American student (Irvine, 1990, 2002).

The teachers in this study are more likely to have a cultural match to African

American students. Because their life experiences are more similar to African American

students and families, they are less likely to misinterpret African American students'

behaviors. By examining African American teachers' perceptions of special education

referral, we can come closer to learning how African American teachers make sense of

their worlds. Understanding how these teachers make sense of their worlds will add

multicultural voices to the special education referral discourse.















CHAPTER 3
RESEARCH METHODS

The purpose of this study is to examine the phenomenon of special education

referral from the perspective of African American elementary teachers. The guiding

questions for this study are (a) "How do African American elementary teachers perceive

special education referral," and, even more specifically, (b) "How do African American

teachers experience the referral of African American students to special education

classes?" Using phenomenological methodology, I want to understand how African

American elementary teachers make sense of special education referral. This chapter

begins with a brief description of the phenomenological research approach. I will present

the defining characteristics of a phenomenological study and what it offers to this

investigation. The chapter describes my experiences related to special education referral.

What follows are a description of participant recruitment and selection process, and

specific information about each of the participants. The chapter concludes with a

presentation of data collection and analysis procedures.

Introduction to Phenomenology

In qualitative research, it is important for the researcher to consider and reflect on

his or her assumptions about knowledge (Crotty, 1998). These assumptions are inherent

in the theoretical perspective and methodology that has been chosen (Crotty). The

philosophical stance that lies underneath the chosen methodology "provides a context for

the process and grounds its logic and criteria" (Crotty, p. 7). Interpretivism is the









underlying philosophical stance in phenomenology. The interpretivist approach "looks

for culturally derived and historically situated interpretations of the social life-world"

(Crotty, p. 67). Phenomenology is one kind of interpretive research.

Phenomenology is grounded in the epistemological assumption that the world is

made up of phenomena and experiences (Crotty, 1998; Husserl, 1931; Moustakas, 1994).

Miller and Crabtree (1999) suggest that phenomenology "seeks to understand the lived

experience of individuals and their intentions within their 'lifeworld'" (p. 28). In search

of essences, the researcher asks questions such as "what is it like to have a certain

experience" and "what is the essence of the particular experience" (Miller & Crabtree).

This is accomplished by an investigator bracketing his or her preconceived ideas, and

entering into the participant's lifeworld and using the self as an experiencing interpreter

(Miller & Crabtree).

Perceived through physical senses, experiences are the initial focus of a

phenomenological study (Husserl, 1964). The researcher seeks to understand the

phenomenon by observing physical manifestations and experiences of the phenomenon in

order to describe "a new meaning, or fuller meaning, or renewed meaning" of the

experience (Crotty, 1998, p. 82). By reflecting on all of the possible meanings of the

experience, the researcher comes to know and fully describe all aspects of the experience

identifying essential characteristics that surpass specific incidences (Moustakas, 1994).

Experiences often influence perceptions and perceptions experiences. Considered

the primary source of knowledge in phenomenology, perceptions are different from

experience in that perceptions are mental processes involving thoughts and reflections,

and based on various assumptions and/or beliefs. Moustakas (1994) noted that "with

every perception we experience the thing perceived as one-sided adumbrationn' while at







44

the same time apprehending and experiencing the thing as a whole object" (p. 53). One or

multiple perceptions enhance the possibilities of knowing and experiencing (Moustakas,

1994). New perceptions make possible the addition of new knowledge. Each perception

adds to the experience. Observing each angle of the object allows various perceptions

(horizons) to emerge.

The epistemology of phenomenology is both objective and subjective.

Phenomenology is objective in the sense that phenomenological research is focused on

seeing the object from a fresh, unbiased perspective free from prior experiences with the

phenomenon (Husserl, 1964). After focusing on the experiences of the phenomenon from

multiple points of view, the researcher conducts a subjective activity of reflecting on

possible meanings of the experience. Phenomenology is subjective in that the laborious

process of developing the essence of an experience occurs in the mind of the researcher

(Moustakas, 1994; van Kaam, 1966). Approaching the phenomena from both objective

and subjective perspectives enables the researcher to arrive at universal aspects of the

experience (Husserl, 1964).

Intentionality lies at the heart of phenomenology (Crotty, 1998). By intentionally

laying aside preconceived ideas and prevailing understandings of the phenomena,

researchers can revisit the experience anew and witness the possibilities of new meaning

or authenticate and enhance former meaning (Crotty, 1998). The presumption is that

there are 'things themselves' (objects) to visit in our experience (Crotty, 1998, p. 79).

When the investigator intentionally focuses on the phenomenon and reflects on its

meaning, he or she is able to describe the universal truths, or essences of the phenomenon

(Moustakas, 1994).









Like many other theoretical frameworks, phenomenology has evolved over time

(Crotty, 1998; Schwandt, 2001). Husserl (1931), van Kaam (1966) and Moustakas (1994)

described Transcendental Phenomenology as the search for universal truths of

experiences that form a single objective reality that is shared by all people. This universal

truth is considered objective and the essence of the phenomenon (Husserl, 1931, 1964;

Moustakas, 1994). Modem researchers (Seidman, 1991; Worthen & McNeill, 1996) in

the United States are interested in viewing phenomena through the lenses of others.

These multiple truths created from viewing the phenomenon from different perspectives

(Schwandt, 2001) form essences. Descriptions of universal truths of experience

(objective phenomenology) have evolved to characteristics of the experience as situated

within the context of the participants being studied subjectivistt phenomenology) (Crotty,

1998).

The evolution of phenomenology is pertinent to this study. I believe that there is

an essence of special education referral rooted within the context of the individual and

group of African American elementary teachers being studied. This study would not be a

true representation of the essence of special education referral that Husserl refers to. The

culture and ethnicity of the participants are relevant to this study. From this study,

multiple truths will be created by viewing special education referral from diverse

perspectives. Following the approach of phenomenology, this study seeks to describe the

phenomenon of special education referral from the perspective of teachers who are often

silenced in the literature. By providing African American teachers the opportunity to

describe how they perceive special education referral, a diverse view and dialogue of

special education referral will be created.









The ultimate goal ofphenomenological research is to thoroughly describe all

aspects of the experience in as much detail as possible (Husserl, 1931, Moustakas, 1994).

Using careful and intense study, phenomenology endeavors to "go back to the things

themselves" (Crotty, 1998, p. 59) to experience phenomenon from a fresh perspective

free from bias and judgments, from as many perspectives as possible (Crotty, 1998;

Moustakas, 1994). Intentionally setting aside, as best we can, the prevailing

understanding of special education referral and revisiting special education referral

allows opportunities to verify or enhance former meaning or derive new meaning for

special education referral (Crotty, 1998). This intentionality is essential to experiencing

the object, special education referral, from the vantage points of the subjects, African

American teachers.

Subjectivity Statement

Various subjectivities make up a researcher's autobiography and, to know which

subjectivities are engaged in the research, researchers develop subjectivity statements

(Glesne, 1999). The subjectivity statement candidly discloses the experiences of the

researcher. This disclosure reveals who I am in relationship to what I am learning from

the research and what I may be preventing myself from learning (Glesne, 1999). As an

African American researcher engaging in a phenomenological study of African American

teachers' perceptions of special education referral, I have many life experiences that are

bracketed in order to examine the phenomenon from an unbiased and fresh unadulterated

perspective (Crotty, 1998). I am a middle-class female who has lived in the state where

the data was collected for most of my life.

My interest in African American teachers' perceptions of special education

referral originates from my experiences as an African American student and a teacher.









After more than 12 hours of labor, my earth days began on Friday, February 18, 1972.

Doctors told my young parents (ages 21 and 17) that their first child, a daughter, had

suffered multiple seizures immediately after delivery and may have developmental

problems in the future. Thankfully, my parents sought a second opinion, finding a doctor

who told them that there was nothing wrong with their first born other than she had been

allowed to stay inside of her mother too long. I entered a world that was rapidly changing

for African Americans. The establishment of affirmative action programs and social

programs such as Head Start, public housing, Medicaid, and other programs during the

late 1960s and early 1970s suggested that the United States was ready to acknowledge its

wrongs and mistreatment of poor people and people of color.

My mother, a graduate of the last segregated class of Lincoln High School, and

my father, one of the first to integrate Newberry High School, imparted their dream of

academic, social, and political empowerment for the African American community to

their only daughter. My earliest memories are that of school, church, and service. Public

schooling began with Head Start and elementary school in a small rural community. By

my seventh birthday, my father entered the Christian ministry, which provided me the

opportunity to speak candidly and sing before congregations on special occasions, as well

as serve those in the community.

In the seventh grade, my family and I moved from one small town to another.

With the move came a new neighborhood and new school. For the first time we lived in a

neighborhood where we were the "only" persons of color. In the midst of our move to the

new school, my school records were misplaced. Neither my parents nor I were aware of

the mishap or my placement in a remedial reading class, until my report came home with

an "A" and the comments "reading below grade level." Immediately my father went to









the school to inquire about the mistake. It was revealed that my school records never

arrived from the previous school, and that I had been arbitrarily placed in a classroom. I

was quickly placed in an on-grade-level reading class. In eighth grade, I became an "A"

student in advanced placement courses. I suppose this placement would be considered

today's gifted and talented programs. During the next years, it quickly became apparent

that I would become one of the "first, only, and few": one of six African Americans to be

accepted in the International Baccalaureate Program at Eastside High School, and the

first female in my family to complete a bachelor's degree.

As an alumnus of the University of Florida, my father was not too thrilled about

his daughter attending Florida State University as an undergraduate, but the experience

would forever change my life. My junior year, I blindly entered Dr. William Jones'

"Race, Racism, and Institutions" class. Dr. Jones spoke ofmarginalization, racism,

institutionalized racism, power, blaming the victim, praxis, and hegemony. Having come

from an emerging middle class, immediately I became intrigued by this man who many

believed to be radical and fanatical. By the end of the semester, I had changed majors to

sociology, American history, and Black studies. For the first time, I began to question the

many privileges based on race and class that many others and I had taken for granted.

After graduation, I needed a job and decided to enter into teaching temporarily. Teaching

would forever change my life. I taught in the Alachua County public school system for

5 years, entering the field of special education through an alternative certification in

middle grades social science.

As an African American middle school special education teacher and a graduate

student, I became sensitive to the disproportionate numbers of my students who were

African American. Initially, I believed that the overrepresentation of African American









students in special education was an isolated occurrence, until later reading data that

explained it as national trend. During my 5 years of teaching, my class sizes fluctuated

from 8 students to 27 students, often with one or no aide. Even more troubling to me was

the inappropriate instruction and mislabeling of students who were falling behind their

peers in general education. I remember thinking during Individual Education Program

(IEP) meetings, "I don't observe the issues you're having with this student," and often

volunteering my help to the newly mainstreamed students and general education

teachers, while some of my special education colleagues predicted automatic failure.

Rarely was a student mainstreamed without one or more teachers angrily questioning

another's rationale for wanting to expose students with disabilities to the possibilities of a

general education curriculum and environment. Feeling like a trader, I began to question

my expectations of students and my ability to provide individualized instruction. Did my

colleagues and I have low expectations of our African American students? What were we

providing students with disabilities that was so "special" that it could only be provided in

certain classrooms on one side of the school, closest to the parking lot?

During the week of ninth grade registration, one of my eighth grade students

questioned me about the benefits of special education. "You all never teach anything

new. We learn the same thing every year. It's just switched around. How are we going to

be able to work with letters [variables in algebra] if you all never give us a chance?" she

asked. My conscience was pricked by her words.

Methods

The methods selected and utilized for this study were aligned with the

assumptions of transcendental phenomenology and guided specifically by the work of

Moustakas (1994) and van Kaam (1966). This section describes the strategies used to







50

recruit participants and to collect and analyze data. The rationale for the choices made is

also presented.

Participants

Selection criteria. Purposeful and homogenous sampling was used (Glesne,

1999) and participants met several criteria. They were African American elementary

teachers, with at least 3 years of teaching experience, who had referred a child to special

education and/or had been a part of a School Study Team. All of the teachers who

participated in the study taught in elementary schools during the 2004-2005 school year.

The race of the participants is important because the purpose of the study is to

convey perspectives and provide voice to an underrepresented group in educational

research (i.e., African American teachers). The minimum of 3 years of teaching

experience was important, as teachers who have taught at least 3 years are certified, have

completed some beginning teacher induction, and have been observed and evaluated by

their school principals. To develop in-depth descriptions of special education referral, it

was necessary for teacher participants to have experienced referring a child to special

education or been a part of a School Study Team. Elementary teachers were selected

because most children referred to special education are in elementary school. To ensure

that teacher participants had experience teaching diverse learners, teachers were selected

from schools that had African American student populations from 25% to 50%.

Twenty-one invitations to participate in this study were sent to African American

elementary teachers at seven schools in a small urban community. Eight teachers

returned signed informed consent forms, but only five teachers met the study criteria.

Using the five participants' perspectives of special education referral, "info-rich cases,

in-depth understanding" are presented (Glesne, 1999, p. 29).









Selection procedures. After receiving IRB approval, I contacted the School

Board to obtain study approval. My contact person at the school board sent my study

information (Appendix A) to elementary principals who had African American teachers

on staff and whose African American student population met the criteria for the study.

Seven out of 14 principals gave me approval to contact their teachers. After meeting with

the principals or designated contact persons at interested schools, I took packets and/or

truck-mailed a study packet consisting of consent letter (Appendix B), demographic

survey (Appendix D), and a study flier (Appendix A) to the 21 African American

teachers in the seven schools. The study flier was added to address a low initial response.

After several phone calls, e-mails, reminders, visits, and resending packets, 5 of 7 teacher

respondents were selected based upon study criteria. Selected teachers were contacted to

schedule an informed consent meeting and first interview. Those who did not meet the

study criteria were called and thanked for their interest in the study.

Demographic information. Demographic information is summarized in

Table 3-1. Participants had 4 to 32 years of teaching experience. The highest educational

level attained for these teachers ranged from a bachelors degree to a doctorate. All had

been part of a school study team and, with the exception of one teacher, had initiated a

referral to special education. Three teachers had referred African American students

while two had not. Unlike the general teaching population, the majority of the

participants were male.

Data Collection

Data collection consisted of participant interviews. The specific strategies for data

collection follow.












Table 3-1. Participant demographics

Teacher Paul David Rebecca Sarah Michael


Been apart of a school study team?

Number of referrals of in the past 5
years.

Number of referrals of African
American students in the past 5
years.

Number of years teaching


Current annual household income


Family household income growing
up

School experience (elementary, high
school, college)


None


None

31


Above $50,000



Above $40,000


All Black,
historically
Black


Yes


3



2

11


None

4


$30,000- $40,000 Above $50,000



$20,000-40,000 $10,000-20,000


Predominantly
Black, White
middle class,
historically Black


All Black,
predominantly
White


Less than $30,000 $40,000-50,000



$20,000-40,000 $10,000-20,000


Predominantly
White,
historically
Black


Equally mixed,
predominantly
White









Participant interviews. In a phenomenological study, the methods selected for

data collection should focus on the participant's perceptions (Moustakas, 1994; Seidman,

1991). Typically in phenomenological research multiple, semi-structured, and interactive

interviews are used to gather data (Moustakas, 1994, Seidman, 1991). With proper

interview structuring, researchers reduce researcher bias as well as leading participants'

description of the experience (Seidman). Utilizing open-ended comments and questions

the researcher elicits participants' descriptions of the experience (Seidman). Using

Seidman's interview model, three interviews per participant were conducted in the

current study.

In addition to the interviews, multiple meetings with each participant allowed me

to establish rapport and trust necessary for in-depth descriptions (Seidman, 1991). Most

of the interviews were scheduled no more than 2 weeks apart, and none occurred on the

same day (Seidman). In line with Seidman's 60-minute interview duration, the interview

duration for each interview was between 30 to 70 minutes. Importantly, busy teachers

were given reasonable time to talk about their experiences, but not so much that they or

the researcher became inattentive or tired. Due to the teachers' schedules and my

availability, the data collection process occurred from January through May of 2005.

The purpose of interview one was to establish the context of the participants'

experience with the phenomenon (special education referral). The first interview

(Appendix C) asked them to reconstruct early life experiences with families, friends,

school, the African American community, and work as each related to special education

(Siedman, 1991). Because I am examining the African American experience of special

education referral, participants were asked to describe their communities and family as









they grew up, as well as African American students in their schools. I wanted to know

what special education referral meant to these teachers before they became teachers.

Second interviews (Appendix C) began with a brief member check using the

words of the participant the researcher summarized from interview one. Participants were

then given the opportunity to agree or disagree with my synopsis of interview one. The

second interview asked participants to describe special education referral currently.

Participants were asked what they currently do in their classrooms with students they

would refer, and to talk about their interactions with students, parents, and other school

staff as these relate to special education referral.

Beginning with another member check, the third and final interview (Appendix

C) was centered on the meaning of special education referral and, more pointedly, the

referral of African American students. During this interview, teachers were asked the

following questions: "How should special education referral affect your African

American students?", "What changes do you expect when they are referred?", "If you

could design the steps for special education referral, what would they look like?"

Reflection on the meaning of referral encourages participants to reflect on the meaning

their experience holds for them and how their experiences, past and present, influence

their understanding regarding what should happen in the future with special education

referral (Seidman, 1991).

To make the interviews convenient and comfortable for the teachers, interviews

were scheduled according to the teachers' availability and location. The majority of the

teachers asked to be interviewed after school on their school's campus. I met teachers in

their classrooms, teacher lounges, conference rooms, and offices. One teacher decided to









come to my home during the early evening hours. Meeting at the end of the school day

eliminated distractions from students and coworkers.

All interviews were audiotape recorded and transcribed verbatim by the

researcher. After the transcriptions were complete, the researcher took the transcriptions

and listened to the audio recordings to conduct a side-by-side check for accuracy. After

doing my own check for accuracy, each participant was sent a copy of his or her

transcripts for the purpose of adding comments or making corrections to elaborate on his

or her experience with special education referral (Appendix E).

Defining Characteristics of Phenomenology

Epoche is a process through which the researcher actively sets aside or brackets

all assumptions, bias, understandings, and experiences related to the phenomenon being

studied (Moustakas, 1994). The researcher begins his or her research by identifying all

assumptions, life and personal experiences, and describing them in written form for the

purpose of ignoring them for the duration of the research (Moustakas, 1994). By

bracketing or setting aside the researchers' preconceived notions, special education

referral is revisited from a fresh unadulterated perspective free from bias from as many

vantage points as possible to describe the phenomenon as fully as possible (Crotty,

1998). The participants in this study were the direct experiences of special education

referral and as a result of epoche, I am present to it only through their descriptions

(Giorgi, 1985). I have presented a subjectivity statement and bracketed my assumptions

and experiences to describe the phenomenon, special education referral, through a fresh

and unbiased lens. Despite my experiences and notions, I remained focus on what is

before me.









After collecting the data, the researcher progresses to the next stage of

phenomenological research, phenomenological reduction (Moustakas, 1994). During this

stage the transcribed interviews are examined for themes. Each participant's transcribed

interview is examined for all aspects of their experience that are unique to special

education referral (phenomenon). Statements that are irrelevant to special education

referral or that are repetitive are eliminated. Using the participants' words, relevant

themes are identified and a reduction of the data occurs. The experiences are developed

into relevant and invariant themes from which individual textural descriptions are

developed. Invariant themes and meaning units illustrate lack of variance in the data.

They are "unique qualities of an experiences, those that stand out" (Moustakas, 1994,

p. 128). At the core of the data shared ideas (essence) can be found amongst participants.

The textural descriptions are descriptions of the observable characteristics of the

phenomenon (Moustakas, 1994). Individual textural descriptions are combined to

develop a composite textural description of special education referral.

After phenomenological reduction is complete, the researcher returns to the

original data to conduct imaginative variation. During imaginative variation, structural

descriptions of the phenomenon are developed. The structures of the experience are the

meaning and causes of the textural description (Moustakas, 1994). The relationship of

texture and structure is that both the appearance and the hidden come together to create

full understanding of the essences of a phenomenon and experience (Moustakas, 1994,

p. 79).

In this phase, the researcher focuses on meaning and essences rather than

empirical data (Moustakas, 1994) using a procedure known as free fantasy variation. Free

fantasy variation is a reflective phase in which the researcher examines and reflects on









many possibilities, giving full and detailed description to the search for essences

(Moustakas, 1994). Possibilities imagined are "structures of time, space, materiality,

causality, and relationship to self and others" (Moustakas, 1994, p. 99). Thus, by using

the information provided by the participants, and unbiased ideas that come from free

fantasy variation, individual structural descriptions for each participant are formed

(Husserl, 1931; Moustakas, 1994). The individual structural descriptions are combined to

create a composite structural description that is representative across participants.

Finally, the textural and structural composite descriptions are combined to construct the

essence of the phenomenon (Moustakas, 1994).

Data Analysis

I began analysis with analyzing first the data of two key participants, David and

Rebecca, followed by the three other participants. First, I open coded each participant's

three interviews. From the open codes, I developed horizons for the experience. Each

participant's transcripts were examined line by line for words, phrases, and statements

significant to the special education referral experience (invariant meaning units), and

then placed in themed categories. Next, the invariant meaning units and themes were

synthesized together to form one textural description (descriptive summary) of the

experience of special education referral. Actual data from the participant's transcriptions

were used as examples.

After reflecting on each participant's textural descriptions, I developed structural

descriptions (interpretative summaries) for each participant using free fantasy. Free

fantasy is a written expansion of the participant's textural description through my eyes,

while continuing in Epoche. Next, I combined all of the participants' textural

descriptions to develop a group textural description. From the group's textural









description, the group's structural description was developed. During the final phase of

analysis, I integrated the verbatim descriptive summaries and the interpretative

summaries to form the groups' synthesis textural-structural description of special

education referral.

Trustworthiness of the Study

Validity in qualitative research can be defined as verification that the findings,

bound to a particular context, are truthful and accurate (Borkan, 1999). I chose the term

trustworthiness because it not only emphasizes trustfulness of my interpretation, but also

affirmation of the data by my colleagues and the participants being studied (Glesne,

1999). Several steps were taken to ensure the trustworthiness of the findings. Using a

subjectivity statement, I clarified my biases. In addition to the subjectivity statement, I

remained in epoche byjoumaling my personal reflections and experiences during each

phase of the investigation. During member checking, study participants were given the

original transcripts for the purposes of ensuring clarity and adding any relevant

information. With the exception of one participant, none of the participants made

changes or additions to their transcripts. As a part of the member checking, participants

were also given their textural and structural descriptions to review for accuracy.

External auditing occurred through biweekly meetings with my professor for the

purposes of reflection and critique of my writing, the research process, and data analysis.

Peer reviewing and debriefing took place at the beginning and end of the data collection

and analysis. I presented my work and talked with doctoral students about the challenges

of data collection, the analysis and arriving at findings.















CHAPTER 4
FINDINGS

This chapter highlights the descriptions of two key participants, David and

Rebecca (all of the names of participants are pseudonyms), followed by the group's

description of special education referral. David and Rebecca were chosen to be key

participants because of their diverse experiences with special education referral, as well

as the richness of their special education referral description. David, a special education

teacher, had a childhood friend and a cousin who were referred and placed in special

education. He and his childhood friend attended the same schools but experienced school

differently. As a special education teacher, David observed his cousin's educational

decline and eventual withdrawal from school. When referrals occur in his school, he is

generally the teacher who is given the primary responsibility for the referred students'

academic and social progress. Rebecca, a general education teacher, experienced her

daughter being referred to special education; therefore, she has experienced the roles of

teacher and parent of a referred student. At the time of the study, Rebecca's daughter was

preparing to graduate from high school with honors.

In this chapter the key participants' textural and structural descriptions are

presented. After David and Rebecca's descriptions, composite textural and structural

descriptions, which include the voices of all participants, are presented. To respond to the

primary research questions, the chapter concludes with a description of the essence of

special education referral from the perspective of the African American elementary

teachers in this study.









David

Textural Description

Early experience with referral

David recalled his early experience of special education. He remembered one of

his childhood friends, an African American male, who was regularly pulled out of class

in elementary school. David "didn't really know what he was getting pulled out of class

for." Eventually, he found out that his friend was labeled emotionally handicapped and

was on medication. He said, "I can remember he was the only kid that I went to school

with that had a label." David recalled that other Black students stayed in class together.

This friend would get pulled out of class right before lunch and a couple of additional

times a week. David and the other students would ask, "Why can't we go to speech," not

realizing that it was a part of a special education program. "We just thought he was

getting privileges that we weren't getting," David concluded.

When David and his peers transitioned to middle school, they recognized their

classmate as "different" when they rarely saw him during the school day. Eventually,

someone stated that David's friend had a "skill-pack." David explained, "Back then,

skill-packs was an indication that he was behind." David pointed out that later in high

school, his friend would be placed on the "wang." He reported, "At GHS we had this

thing we used to call "wang" where, like all the ESE kids went. You don't hang out with

them, and you never really see them." David's friend was unique in the eyes of his peers,

"a celebrity type, an athlete and real popular amongst the girls so everybody of course

wanted to be cool with him." He and David have remained friends.

Before becoming a teacher, David presumed the students in special education

were retarded. Thinking the students in special education had "a real big problem," he









and his peers made comments like, "Oh they need to get a check and their mental

capacity is shot." In hindsight, David wished he had "504 accommodations like all the

extra time on tests." He has noticed that the students at his current school ask to come to

his classroom, unaware of the referral process or that he is the special education teacher.

David suggested that if children need help "they should get it as early as possible, when

it's not so much attention brought to the situation." He purported that "when kids are old

enough to understand, it's [being referred] actually depressing." In elementary school

they are too young to understand the referral process "or they're just having too much fun

in life to know, but every year [they] get older, things get a little bit more serious and I

think that's when they realize, [they are different]."

The "bittersweet" of the referral process

David described the referral process as "bittersweet." According to him, in an

effort to achieve a "perfect class," general education teachers remove students who are

different or stand out from the rest of the class. The general education teacher

get [s] them out because they're causing your [her] reading group to go a little bit
slower ... for the ESE teachers ... it's bitter ... for the regular ed teachers that
can dump on the ESE teachers, it's sweet because they don't have to put up with
it.

He perceived that regular education teachers make few adjustments in their teaching style

or lesson plans for students who are struggling.

David contended that referral becomes inevitable for those who do not match the

"norm." He explained, "once you get into the referral process, most likely they are going

to find some kind of, you know ... disability." He noted,

If 100 students are referred, 60 of them will qualify for something. Once they get
you ... in for speech and language, if you qualify in speech and language
eventually that kid ends up ... in for math, spelling .. then the whole academic
setting.







62

David observed that at the end of the school year students are often staffed for speech and

language,

then all of the sudden when the school year starts back because they didn't score
this on the FCAT or placement test .. they're [general education teachers]
calling for another IEP meeting saying, "Oh these kids need small group
instruction in reading or math or writing."

Students that were doing well after being referred are caught by the referral process and

removed from general education.

David noted experiences where

a referral might have started a year before and this kid, you know, is doing well
and they figure well this kid qualifies for SLD, they place the kid on consult, by
time the kid gets two referrals oh he needs to get ESE minutes.

He attested that referral becomes an easy way out for general education teachers. David

explained, "How much easier is it to teach a class with no behavior problems, it's great.

You're never having to redirect the student." In the end the referral process often

becomes more bitter than sweet for the referred student, who is removed from general

education to special education where he or she receives inappropriate behavioral models

and instruction.

Elements influencing the referral process

David recognized teacher tolerance, guidance counselor support, and "bogus"

interventions as major factors influencing the referral process. According to David,

referral starts with a teacher not wanting to deal with "inappropriate behavior." Teachers

have different levels of tolerance and they give different definitions of a "normal

student." David explained that the general education teachers' definition of a

normal student is as soon as they come in, [they] do what they are asked to do the
first time, you don't have to redirect them, you don't have to go slow ...
everything is done at normal speed and you don't have to worry about this kid not
understanding this and understanding that.









David revealed that for some teachers a problem 2 days in a row is a cause for

referral. David purported, "If you're not normal for some reason, you know, whichever,

whatever normal may mean, you know it gives the teacher an opportunity to get you

removed from that class." Teachers can be intolerant of students due to current academic

or social performance, and due to family history. David reported teachers many times

saying, "Oh, I had his sister or I had his brother and ... I'm not going to put up with that

from him."

David preferred the referral process to be "an effort to keep a kid out of ESE," but

he has observed referral meetings being used to push students into ESE. He revealed,

"The guidance counselors and all play a big part you know with these kids getting ...

once they get referred getting put into ESE." He recalled sitting in meetings and hearing

"parents be persuaded into signing, you know, the documents, you know to get their kids

into ESE." According to David, guidance counselors informed the parents, who are often

poor, of possible economic benefits (i.e., a disability check) they could receive because

of the child's label. After the teacher and guidance counselor explain the referral, the

referral process does not sound serious. David observed,

ESE gets smoothed over as, you know they [students] get extra time on their tests,
you know, even the FCAT, you know they [students] get questions read aloud,
even on the FCAT if they [students] need it, you know, they [teachers] can write
for them [students] on the FCAT, if they [students] need it.

To a trusting parent, ESE sounds as if their child "is just getting an edge."

David revealed, as a part of the School Study Team, members (e.g., general

education teachers, special education teacher, school administrator, school district

representative, guidance counselor, and school psychologists) are faced with the dilemma

of using referral to maintain students in general education with supports and resources or

remove students from the general education classroom. David illustrated,









If a teacher is coming to her [guidance counselor] saying, "You know, [David]
he's tearing up my class. I can't have him in there, Ok we'll refer him for EH."
Ok, you totally refer him so at the same time are you going to put everything out
on the table with his parents and tell them, "Well you know maybe you can do
this, maybe this will work," or are you going to set up some type of bogus
interventions to make sure this process works?

He pointed out that interventions are developed solely by the general education

teacher or with the help of the guidance counselor. David reported that he has seen

interventions implemented as well as merely written down on paper. According to him,

"Bogus interventions are set up to make the whole process work." Teachers "cook up

referrals based on just about anything." During a previous referral meeting David

recalled,

The regular ed teacher kept referring back to the intervention that was written ...
she kept saying, "Well let me see the folder so I can remember." You've only got
one referral in your class, if you're really going forth with these [interventions],
it's something you're going to recall easily in your mind.

Plans for interventions were written up, but they often were not implemented.

Parents' understanding of the referral process

David perceived parents as lacking understanding of the referral process and its

implications, being nonparticipatory and unempowered, and motivated by money during

the referral process. According to David, "Parents are just kind of taking trust in the

school ... to make sure their kids' education is, you know, taken in their best interest."

Parents do not understand what referral and placement mean. David admitted, "Working

in the school system doesn't help you understand it. Depending on who's putting this

information across to them, they [parents] may develop limited understanding." Unaware

of the referral process and its long-term effects "parents come in here and don't ask one

question and will tell you, 'Well, just give me everything you need me to sign.'"









David detected differences in the referral experience when referring African

American students versus White students. At the two elementary schools in which David

has taught, "the majority of White kids [were] on consult services and the Black kids are

the ones receiving the minutes (in a special education class)." David described attending

meetings for students he did not know and hearing things that made him think, "If it was

my brother, or my sister I'd say hold on what's going on here, but you know, when it's

another student and not your relation and you're really part of this team, you know it's

just not my role."

In contrast, "White parents think of, you know, different ways they can help their

kid out." David observed that the involved parents who volunteer at school and are a part

of PTA catch on to the process quickly and ask for clarification. A lot of Black parents do

not understand. David suggested that before a child receives ESE services, parents should

be educated about the short-term and long-term implications of referral, "even if you

have to go to the house, the home, or wherever, to have a meeting with them." Before

parents sign any papers, they should "realize that your [their] kid may never get out of

this process and the way they're going to feel you know in 11th grade if they don't drop

out."

David alleged that a lot of students are borderline ESE and can do without ESE

services if their parents support and push them. Often parents do not show up to the

meetings "so then it's like a 10-day process, and then whatever the committee wanted to

happen, happens and the parent has no say about it and don't even really technically

don't even know about it." When parents are not involved in their children's school, they

are often unaware of their academic and social progress. David illustrated, if









I sit at this table and I say, [David] he's reading at a start level or 1.5 and he's in
the third grade and he's doing this and he's doing that, the only thing you're [the
parent] thinking is "Oh no, he's so behind, I've got to get him some help," never
mind you know whatever you've tried.

On several occasions David observed Black parents "sitting over there and they

are just like, 'Ok whatever you can do to help' and at the end they [parents] ask, 'Uh, is

there any paper I can [sign to] ... get financial benefits or something for this?'" David

grappled with who should help parents understand their decision regarding whether they

should support referral. Whose position is it to explain, "Ok, if you get this ball rolling

downhill, it may never stop and it may hit something that totally tears up your kid's life.

How can that be explained to a parent?" David questioned.

Structural Description

Student perceptions of referral and teacher perceptions of referral

David's childhood perceptions of referral differed from the perceptions he

developed as a teacher. His childhood friend was the only person David knew that had a

special education label. He noticed and did not understand why his friend, an African

American male, was pulled out of their general education classroom. His friend seemed

happy to go with the special education teacher and always returned with treats, pencils, or

stickers. David and his classmates wanted to go with him to the place that made him so

happy and gave him such wonderful things. "Why can't we go to speech?" David and his

classmates asked. They did not know he was in special education. They thought, "He was

getting special privileges."

When the transition to middle school occurred, David and his peers realized there

were differences between themselves and their classmate. They rode with him on the bus

each day, but never saw him during the school day. "Where did their classmate spend his









day?" they wondered. As time passed, the secret was exposed when someone saw the

classmate carrying a "skill-pack". Everyone in middle school knew what a skill-pack

meant. It meant you were slow, behind, or lacking something. To be caught with a skill-

pack was embarrassing and a secret that no one wanted others to know. David's school

day separation from his childhood friend continued into high school, when everyone

knew this friend was on the "wang." Most schools have a "wang," the area where the

portables and/or classrooms are closest to the parking lot and/or away from the general

education population. General education students quickly learn to shun the "wang," and

the students with disabilities were encouraged to stay "in their own area."

With the exception of his friend and before becoming a teacher, David thought

students referred to special education must really have something wrong with them. In

college, David found little difference between himself and students with disabilities. As

an athlete, he met teammates who had disabilities and benefitted from accommodations

he wished he had.

David contended that referral becomes inevitable for those who do not match the

norm, and typically results in the segregation of those students. Once the referral process

is initiated, the student is bound to receive a label. In David's mind, if a student is

evaluated, the chances of being labeled and eventually removed from general education

become high.

In the beginning, the referral process appears minimal, but the consequences

become greater with time. For example, David pointed out that students may start out

being referred for speech and language, but they often continue to be referred for other

subject areas until they are eventually removed from the general education setting.

Students are quickly and easily placed into more restrictive settings rather than supported









in the general education classroom. Referred students are allowed few lapses in

academics and/or behavior. If a referred student does well for a while and then has a

lapse in academics and/or behavior, that student is quickly moved for more of the day to

a special education classroom.

Teachers' use of referral

In David's mind, referral is an easy way out for general education teachers who

do not want challenging behaviors or struggling students in their classrooms. These

teachers want classrooms with "normal" students who do what is requested the first time,

grasp concepts and ideas quickly, and do not need redirection. Students who do not

match the "norm" quickly provide reason for referral. The referral process often starts

with a teacher's refusal to deal with what he or she considers inappropriate behavior. Not

only are teachers intolerant of students' inappropriate behavior and poor academic

performance, but they are also intolerant of families. Teachers sometimes hold grudges

or reflect on encounters with parents or older siblings when dealing with a current

student.

David would like for special education referral to be a genuine effort to keep

students out of special education, but he has experienced it to be a push to remove

students from general education. Once the referral process starts, there appears to be no

turning back. In most situations, the general education teacher and guidance counselor

collaboratively work to have the student removed from the general education classroom

and placed elsewhere.

While in the general education setting, some students receive collaborative

consultation. These students are often White and have parent support and involvement.

Black students are more likely to be pulled from general education and provided

increased time in the special education classroom.









During the meetings for referral, parents are often persuaded to sign documents

for referral and placement. When the teacher and/or guidance counselor explains referral,

it does not seem serious or harmful. Parents are told their child will receive extra help,

more time, assistance on FCAT, and/or assignments read or written for them. Parents

leave meetings with the impression that eventually the child will catch up with his or her

classmates. Parents who are uninformed or uninvolved are often trusting of teachers and

schools. They rely on the teacher and school to do what is academically and socially

beneficial for their child.

School Study Team members are faced with the dilemma of maintaining referred

students in general education with supports and resources, or having students removed

from general education. A frustrated teacher who is having daily issues with a student

often views removal from her class as the only alternative. She has spoken with the

guidance counselor about her concerns, and the strategies and interventions she has tried

to no avail, and she concludes that there is nothing to do but refer the student.

Teachers who are determined to have a student removed from their classrooms

can easily make it happen. The interventions developed by the School Study Team

become a formality. Often they are identified with little thought given to the student's

needs. Simply words on a page, they are generic rather than tailored to a particular

student. David suggested that if a teacher were serious about helping a student, the

interventions would be diverse, genuine, and applicable to the student's needs.

Role of parents in the referral process

Part of David's experience of the referral process for African American students

involves the important role of parents. In general, parents fail to understand the process.

They trust the school to do what is best and do not ask questions or know what questions









to ask. David explained that even parents who work in the school system fail to

understand referral and placement. Depending on who is presenting the referral and

placement information, parents may develop a limited or no understanding of its short-

term or long-term effects.

When White parents participate in referral meetings, teachers and administrators

tend to identify with their concerns and desires. White parents tend to think of ways to

help their children succeed. They are quick to catch on to the referral process, and do not

hesitate to ask for clarification. These meeting typically result in their children receiving

collaborative consultation services.

In contrast, African American parents tend to be less involved with schools and

their children's academics. David observed that they are often uninformed, uninvolved,

and unempowered. There is often a disconnect between the school and African American

parents' concerns and desires. African American parents do not come to the referral

meetings with suggestions for how to help their children succeed. Uninformed about the

referral process, African American parents tend to be unaware of the short-term and

long-term implications. Referrals for African American students typically result in

placement in a special education class and eventually full-time placement. David stressed

that before parents sign any papers, they should consider that their child may never return

to general education, and how they will feel in high school when they realize their

academic and social opportunities are limited. He recognized a necessity for active

involvement and the empowerment of parents in their children's academic and social

futures. David alleged that many students are "borderline" and can do without special

education services if they have parent involvement and support. By not attending referral









meetings, parents release their power and influence to schools, who decide on the

placement and type of services their children will receive.

Rebecca

Textural Description

Use of referral

Rebecca described special education referral as a collaborative effort to help

students. She reported that special education referral helps[] us [teachers] help the

students to gain the services they need to support them throughout their educational life."

Teachers, with the help of parents, "recognize the learning level, strengths, and

weaknesses or deficiencies of the student" as a result of the process. Like a doctor, the

teacher notes the areas of concern in order to refer the student for the appropriate

services. "The teacher is there ... to watch, to observe, to do different interventions, and

then to help to write a prescription for what the child needs to help them to be successful

in a learning environment."

Rebecca considered several things before referring an African American student to

special education. She stated that she tries to make a referral for students who she believes

will be helped as a result of the process. In her decision-making, Rebecca disclosed that

she takes some direction "from professionals that are there to analyze the student's

progress and determine what their needs may be." However, "Before I refer a student, I

would like to see how much they are able to do their work, to what level, how much they

can achieve if given the opportunity to strive for higher standards of production and

learning, and achievement." Rebecca also makes her decision from "talking with the

parents, watching the kid, taking documentation of how their work habits and their study

habits are." She notes what kind of learner the student is, what strategies work and do not







72

work with the student, how much information the student retains and how well he or she

does on tests. Rebecca also examines African American students' interactions with other

students, and their academic and social level in comparison to where they should be.

As an African American teacher she disclosed that she felt bad about the use of

referral for African American students to special education. "It is very, very, very, very

embarrassing for me within my own self" seeing so many African American students

referred for special education. "I know that some of them [African Americans students]

are really nice sweet kids, they just come with like a little attitude" which leads them to

being referred. Rebecca continued, "To send them down for referral because they didn't

do what I said when I said do it and they have an attitude, I don't think that's something

you send the kids down to be referred for."

In cases where an African American student is being referred to special

education, Rebecca said she wanted to learn more about the student. Rebecca wanted to

"see if I can extend the learning and see how far they can go give them some

enriching activities to see if they can handle any of it... try to see what's the highest

level I can take them and get a positive response." Her objective was to avoid placing

African American students in "an ESE class and have the work watered down and do the

bare basic minimum and they sit around all day doing nothing." From her perspective,

teaching students basic concepts is a necessity, but "do not get stuck on the basics."

Rebecca wanted African American students to remain challenged and motivated.

"Good" and "bad" referral process

Rebecca had mixed feelings about the referral process. She experienced the

process from the roles of teacher initiating referral, teacher on School Study Team, and

parent of a child being referred. She expressed that her referral experiences have been







73

both "good" and "bad." Having the parents and professionals work together to determine

the needs and appropriate interventions was helpful to Rebecca:

I felt good about the parents and the professionals being there and everyone
putting in their opinion and documenting what they felt was needed. Finding out
what the student's medical or psychological needs were and what interventions
were tried was beneficial. Everybody seems to have some information that you
could put together.

However, she noted several issues that have made the experience difficult. One,

Rebecca revealed that "Sometimes the little goals we put down are so minimal that it's

like, that's what we would have done anyway so where's the challenge here to move

them up." The goal becomes keeping the students happy without really challenging them.

When the student whines, the challenges stop, "but yet, you know, it [testing] shows that

they have the ability, but they do have a learning deficit." Two, she disclosed, "the

meetings are so long." Everyone is allowed to talk without getting directly to the point.

"Meetings, meetings in the morning, in the am in the pm, everyone's talking, you know,

long winded."

In addition to the minimal goals and long meetings, Rebecca revealed a concern

about "people like parents trying to manipulate the system to get additional stuff when

the kid really doesn't need it. It gets to be a power struggle. What I can do or what I can

get. Which is great if you need it." Four, in her experience Rebecca found that "Parents

don't a lot of times, know the gaps that we teachers see, they don't know where most of

the class is now in their learning process versus where your kid is and they don't know

the range." She conveyed that parents often compare their children to themselves when

they were their age and in a particular grade level: "They can't fathom that the first

graders are reading what they call second-grade material now until they come here and

actually see it and process it. They really don't quite understand the level that kids are

reading at these days."







74

Rebecca noted that the referral process generated a variety of feelings for her as a

teacher and a parent of a child who has been referred. These feelings included fear,

depression, expectation, intimidation, and confusion. Rebecca revealed in her experience

as a teacher with "bad" special education referral, "It gets to be what am I going to write

on this sheet. Something I know I can cover or something I think he really, really needs

that would challenge him." Fear sets in because "if you write more, something

challenging, then you're called on the carpet for not having reached a goal." The rules

and procedures "put more fear in the process than support to really help the kid. All "t's"

must be crossed, and all "i's" dotted in fear of being sued or losing your job."

As a parent, she struggled with similar emotions when her daughter was referred.

"I felt bad. I'm a teacher, and she's being referred. I was very depressed." Later Rebecca

agreed to have her daughter tested to find out what was going on. She reported, "But it

was a hard question to say, 'yes, let's do it [test her].' That was very, very hard." Once

she agreed to the referral process, "the time frame from being referred to being tested is a

long one and uh, you kind of don't know what path to take so you're constantly up and

down, 'what should I do,' 'what do you need', 'can they do it,' 'can they not do it,' 'is

there a problem,' or 'no problem at all.'" Not knowing what to do, Rebecca questioned,

"Should I help her with her homework or should I, you know, should she be able to do it

on her own. We were confused." In hindsight, the referral of Rebecca's daughter became

a "good" experience because she became aware of her daughter's academic strengths and

weaknesses as well as appropriate strategies and interventions to help her.

Reasons for referral

Reflecting on her experiences with School Study Teams and referrals, Rebecca

noted several reasons for referring students to special education: (a) behavior issues; (b)









academic problems; (c) lack of parent involvement; and (d) difference in mannerisms.

Rebecca disclosed that if she were to refer,

it would be because they're [students] definitely lacking some skills and even
though we've tried different interventions, they still don't seem to grasp it.
Referral would not occur until I had extinguished various types of teaching
strategies for the point in time, the student's age frame and grade level.

Rebecca purported that African American students struggle academically because they

"just don't know what to do because they just didn't listen or they didn't understand the

directions, or the directions weren't presented in a manner that they could understand and

then work with, independently."

In Rebecca's experience with School Study Teams and referral, student behavior

plays a significant role in placement. The behavior issues may stem from "not doing well

in class." She noted that students who are referred for behavior issues do not stop

misbehaving even when asked to. Rebecca disclosed, "For a lot of students, if they did

not have a behavior issue, which could be the signs of a learning disability, they wouldn't

be referred. For some of them, they are just having a behavior problem." She purported

that for many African American children "if they in any way show out [explicitly

misbehave] or have a behavior problem, and are lacking just a little bit in their school

work, that behavior issue is going to catapult them right into the referral list."

Rebecca observed problems not only in the classroom, but also between home

and school. She revealed, "There are issues between home and school with things you

can do at school, and things you do at home." Rebecca revealed, "I see a lot of students

that are being referred that are indeed the ones that bring behavior from home to school."

Many of these students have behavior cards. She pointed out "You have a class of 25 and

5 walk into the room with these cards, and they are all Black." At the end of the day the







76

students with behavior cards report to the behavior resource teacher (BRT) to assess how

well they did for the day. The severe cases are then walked to the buses in a single file

line. "When they walk them down, it may be 10 or 15 of our [African American] students

in that line of behavior kids."

Rebecca conveyed, "It just seems to be strange and it hasn't just happened, it's

been like that for years. Each year you see the same students and you know, African

American students, still in the BRT office, in [in-]school suspension, in [out of] school

suspension, being suspended, etc." The severe behaviors are those involving hitting or

tagging others "just their way of saying hi or whatever," talking back to the teacher,

voicing that they are not going to do something and not doing it. Rebecca remarked, "A

lot of them may have said something in a rude way. They may be used to saying it that

way, at home, so why would it be a problem here."

The number of times a student goes to the BRT is documented, as well as who

goes and why they go to the BRT. Rebecca disclosed that their information goes on a

report to the school board "and it's our [Black] kids, our kids, our kids." When the

student spends time at the BRT office, the student cannot get his homework or

schoolwork done and "this [school] is the only place [he is] going to get it done."

Students then fall into "the well let's refer them to ESE because they haven't done

anything." Rebecca noted, "around this time of the year (spring) the line [to the bus] gets

longer."

Rebecca believed that parent involvement is important to the referral process. In

her mind, without parent involvement teachers inappropriately address the needs of

African American students. Rebecca purported that for some students, a push and

additional supports from teachers and family may be all they need to move ahead









academically and socially. She believed that "there just needs to be something else in

place with parents to be involved." Teachers and parents should have the opportunity to

work on intensive behavior modification before making referrals to special education.

Some kids need parental support and help getting work done."

Rebecca also believed that parents' expectations play a significant role in the

placement of students. She perceived that parents initially think referral helps students,

but "after a while they may notice that the student has less work to do and that keeps

them sort of pacified." Parents who have high expectations for their child "ask that they

not be pulled out [of general education] and be kept in the classroom with the rest of the

students so they can be exposed to the same material in the sequence that it is brought

forth in that grade level." These parents are aware of how referral influences their child's

academic and social futures. As time passes, students "get to the high school level and

[they're] faced with a special diploma, no diploma, regular diploma, or university ready

diploma, it [referral and placement] becomes the concern." By high school the student

"has been in that cycle and .. it's hard to pull them out."

In addition to problems between home and school and lack of parent involvement,

teachers' abilities to understand students influences whether students are referred.

Rebecca believed that many teachers do not possess the skills to relate to or handle some

of their students. She pointed to "the teacher lacking the strategies, the motivation, or

support that causes students to act out. As a result of the students' acting out, the teachers

and others say, 'Well let's refer them.'" Rebecca further revealed, "Some children are

used to different mannerisms and their teachers have some mannerisms that they don't

seem to respond to." For example, "Some kids are used to certain kinds of words or

actions to let you know that [certain behaviors or words] really means this or not. Some









of them are used to being yelled at and then when you don't, they are like, 'Oh I got

[you]' and the student feels empowered".

Added to students' different mannerisms, African American students bring

neighborhood situations that many teachers do not understand. For example, a student

may have had a fight in the neighborhood, which is carried on to the school bus and then

into school. "Everyone in the school doesn't understand it, what's going on." When he

arrives at school he carries the anger and frustration into the classroom setting where his

or her education and that of his or her peers are placed in jeopardy. Using his or her

judgment the teacher determines whether the student's behavior is cause for alarm.

Consequences of referral on teachers and African American students

Rebecca perceives special education referral to have helped some African

American students, but for many others it "has been a determent to their educational

growth." She believes that referred students work less than other students in the general

education classroom, and that the students are academically losing out because work is

made easy for them. As a result the students produce lower quality work and look for the

"easy way out. They won't go over and beyond because they know they can get by with

doing less. The kid loses because they don't try to push hard to strive for excellence."

During their school careers, students are expected to have skills that will enable

them to join the military, enroll in college, or obtain a job. Rebecca purported, "The kids

[referred students] don't have them [skills] because they've taken the least amount of

work as possible. The ESE classrooms are filled with our [Black] students." Special

education is "just a cycle that doesn't help them in the end." According to Rebecca, once

African American students are referred, they get caught in a cycle of watered-down

curriculum that is "detrimental to their progress as they go throughout the educational







79

levels." She disclosed "that we just have too many students in that cycle that really don't

need to be there." Once parents are educated on what they can do to help students and

develop collaboration with schools, then the "expectations need to be raised, [for African

American students] not lowered .. according to what is expected."

Rebecca believed that African American students must be encouraged to strive

for excellence early. "It's hard to just start doing it all of the sudden." She observed that

when students are referred they feel 'Oh, but I'm special, I'm ESE I can't do that." They

use the idea of being in special education as their reason for why they cannot do higher-

level reading or higher-level math. Rebecca suggests, "In actuality they could if they tried,

and they had the support, and they didn't take the 'I can't because' attitude." When it is

determined that the student has a learning disability and needs help learning basic skills,

then the question becomes "Why would you want them to do more, or try to do more,

what makes you think they can do it?" The achievement gap between students with

disabilities and students without disabilities becomes wider and wider. Rebecca

disclosed, as a teacher

you're working on their basic addition with the group instead of moving on to
algebraic equations. If you don't sometimes tell them, 'this might be difficult for
you' and just give it to them, sometimes a lot of them will do it and move on.

According to Rebecca, referral has its benefits and can initiate positive change.

Referral of students helps teachers realize "how they [students] learn best." Teachers are

made aware of students' learning styles, strengths and weaknesses, and the tasks and

assignments that are easy and difficult for them. Rebecca suggested that from the referral

process teachers learn "how to make adjustments and accommodations to compensate

for, you know, other skills they may or may not have." The teacher and parents are able

to work together to help support the student. Rebecca pointed out, as a result of the









referral process "we've [teachers] had to do more faculty, professional development on

the topic of management of behavior and working with ESE students and understanding

what their needs may be."

In Rebecca's mind, referral should impact African American students in positive

ways. As a result of referral, African American students' potentials should be maximized.

Teachers should feel they are "helping the student and not hindering them by referring

them." Rebecca believed that students should move from "surface level understanding to

a more in depth understanding" of concepts. African American students should be

provided with various strategies and opportunities to enhance their learning, "not be

given watered down curriculum or no curriculum or haphazard curriculum or if you're in

third-grade, first-grade curriculum." The accommodations given to students should "help

them to learn and to stay, you know, in tune with the classroom or the grade level" so

they make academic and social progress. According to Rebecca, referral should help the

student "stay at or above, but not always working below the rest of the class." When

referral is done in conjunction with parent participation, the process is made easier;

however, when it is left solely to the teacher who has other students with special needs,

the process does not work well.

General education and special education collaboration to help students

Rebecca believed that "for the most part, it's possible to keep referred students

within the classroom [general education]" by bringing in the special education teacher to

assist the classroom teacher with accommodations. In her mind, general education and

special education "need to work together .. almost in the same classroom because what

the homeroom [general education] teacher is expecting the kid to do when they go to

special ed doesn't necessarily happen." General education is expecting special education









to take the general education curriculum and teach it using accommodations at a slower

pace. Rebecca noted that special education "may do a couple of chapters and the teacher

[general education] has done 30 and they [general education] are expecting that the kids

were exposed to all of it and it doesn't happen."

In Rebecca's mind, general education and special education teachers should

collaborate throughout the entire school year to appropriately support each other's work.

Rebecca suggested that general education and special education teachers

meet weekly to go over what chapters we're [they're] going to be working on,
what strategies we're [they're] going to use with these students, what do you
expect them to know, what are they expected to know, and let the parents know
where they are.

She revealed that teachers do not have time to collaborate during the school day. Rebecca

suggested that teachers be paid to meet after school. Teachers should "get stipends for an

hour where they can talk together and develop the plan for the week for the student." She

found that when teachers and/or parents do not meet for "weeks and weeks at a time,

everybody kind of gets off level."

Structural Description

Purpose of referral

Rebecca does not make referrals for students who she thinks will not be helped by

being referred. She believes that all students can be successful if given appropriate

supports. Before referring a student, Rebecca closely examines the work the student is

able to do and provides opportunities for the student to maximize his or her potential.

Rebecca revealed that before she refers a student, she wants the opportunity to observe

the student's strengths and challenge the student to take advantage of opportunities to

enhance his or her learning and achievement. She believes that some students only need

teachers and families to collaborate to enhance their social and academic well-being.







82

Rebecca views special education as the place where students should be provided

the support and opportunities to maximize their potentials. Their differences are

appreciated and seen as "normal." Students are provided the best resources and personnel

to meet individual needs, which may be emotional, academic, or physical. Special

education referral helps students to receive life-long support. It helps teachers and parents

collaborate to determine students' strengths and weaknesses. The role of the group,

similar to that of well-trained doctors, is to diagnose and solve the student's problem.

The teacher plays a major role in the examination process, having observed the child and

used various strategies that have failed to produce the desired results.

Rebecca believes that some teachers lack the strategies to help students who are

struggling in school, particularly those with behavior challenges. Referring these students

appears to them to be the only way to get help for the student and relief for the teacher.

After dealing with the problem behavior for a period of time, some teachers lack the

motivation or support to help the struggling student, who, out of frustration begins to act

out in class. Having gathered support from others, the teacher throws up his or her hands

and cries out, "Refer him!"

How the referral system should work

In Rebecca's mind, referral of students should not occur until all resources and

interventions are exhausted. Through the referral, the teacher will become aware of a

possible underlying problem of which she was unaware. The problem could be within the

student or within the teacher and/or classroom. As a result of the referral process, the

teacher will be provided with insight into how to redirect or support the child. Rebecca

described two phases of referral: informal referral and formal referral. Informal referral

occurs before formal referral, and begins with observations by the teacher. She examines







83

whether the child's classroom performance (i.e., academic and/or behavioral) is cause for

a referral. After she has decided that the child's performance is cause for alarm or too

much for her to successfully address, she speaks with the school guidance counselor. The

teacher and the guidance counselor discuss the student of concern and set a time for the

guidance counselor to come into the classroom to observe the student.

After the guidance counselor observes the student, the teacher meets with the

guidance counselor again and possibly the principal, parents, and other relevant

individuals. At this point they discuss accommodations and interventions to help the

student achieve the academic and behavioral success expected at his or her grade and age

level. With the agreement of the interested parties, teachers return to the classroom to

implement the suggestions and plans for the student. If the teacher continues to see little

or no progress, the teacher has the option of meeting with the SST and the parents, and

decides whether to make a formal referral. During the formal referral, testing occurs. The

student is given a battery of tests to confirm suspected deficiencies or underlying issues

and a determination is made as to whether the child should be labeled and receive special

education services.

Pitfalls of the referral process

Although she has strong beliefs about how the system should work, Rebecca

describes referral as both a positive and frustrating experience. A positive aspect is that

teachers, parents, administrators, and other professionals work together to provide the

best learning opportunity and environment for the student. Everyone provides his or her

perspective about the child's performance in and outside of school. The student's medical

and psychological information, along with the failed interventions, are discussed in hopes









of getting him or her the appropriate help. Teachers who had been frustrated by a

problem they were not able to previously identify are given a name and label.

A troubling aspect of referral is that everyone has an opinion about the student's

problem, often resulting in a lengthy process. Rebecca revealed that there are several

meetings where everyone continuously talks without getting to the issue at hand, "How

can we in general education best help this student?" When goals are finally developed for

the student, they are often unchallenging, providing no opportunity for academic and/or

social growth. She reported goals being implemented to keep students content rather than

challenge students to maximize their potentials. Through the referral process, tests reveal

that the student has a disability; however, in an attempt to keep him happy, goals are

written that do not challenge him.

Another difficult aspect of referral is the power struggle that can arise between

parents and educators. Rebecca disclosed that informed of possible services and

assistance available to students with disabilities, parents makes requests that they do not

necessarily need. In addition, parents have a difficult time understanding the educational

gaps educators see. She pointed out that parents are not in the classroom and are unable

to compare their child's performance with the other students in the class. Uninformed

parents often compare themselves to their children when they were their age and grade

level: "When I was a kid I could not read as well as Mike." But it was over 20 years ago

since some parents were in third grade. It is difficult for parents to understand the

academic or behavioral gaps their children may be experiencing in comparison to their

peers.

It is no surprise that referral elicits feelings of fear, depression, intimidation, and

confusion for teachers, parents, and students. If a teacher documents that she will cover









three-digit addition and subtraction with a student, she is expected to meet the goal or

face possible scrutiny from the administration and parents. Rebecca revealed that

teachers experience a tension between writing goals that are convenient for the teacher or

goals that help and challenge students. She purported that fear sets in because you do not

want to appear to be a bad teacher. Rebecca disclosed that teachers fear developing goals

that are in-depth and challenging because of the possible consequences of not meeting

goals. In her mind, the rules and procedures of the referral process invoke fear and

intimidation rather than help for the students. Teachers could help students more if the

fear of not reaching goals and being fired or sued was not so dominant in the process.

Reasons teachers refer students

Rebecca pointed to teaching style and academic issues, behavioral challenges, and

cultural differences as reasons why teachers refer students. She was concerned about the

numbers of African American students who are swiftly swept out of general education to

special education classrooms when they show signs of a problem. Rebecca believed that

if sincere efforts were made to include African American parents in the educational

process and to provide African American students with additional strategies,

accommodations, and modifications, African American students would excel in general

education, rather than waste away in special education.

Rebecca had concerns about the overrepresentation of African Americans in

special education, particularly the number of African American boys labeled learning

disabled and/or emotionally handicapped. She did not want to see the majority of the

special education classrooms filled with African American students and particularly

African American boys. Rebecca believed there should be balance in the numbers of

African American students served in special education programs in comparison to their









representation in the school population. She wanted African American students to have

the most appropriate educational environment and questioned, "Why are there not more

African Americans students in gifted programs? Are African American children more

disabled than gifted?"

Rebecca disclosed that many children are referred because of teaching style

and/or academic challenges. She reported that African American students are less likely

to respond to the teacher's teaching style. The student is either inattentive to instruction

or does not comprehend the curriculum to a level of independence. Rebecca reported that

when African American students leave the classroom they do not know how to complete

the assignments and are less likely to have the resources at home to assist them in their

understanding. She purported that teachers do not present the assignments in a manner

that the African American student can understand and work with appropriately. Often

these teachers struggle to teach ethnically and racially diverse students.

Some students misbehave because they are not doing well in school. They lack

academic skills and are challenged to complete assignments with few supports at home

and/or in school. Other behavior problems stem from home and neighborhood issues.

Rebecca pointed out that many students who are referred bring "inappropriate behaviors"

from home to school. Students also have family and neighborhood challenges over which

they have no control. Once students arrive at school, they may have difficulty turning off

home and neighborhood issues in order to focus on school responsibilities.

Rebecca revealed that many students who have not mastered the skill of turning

off the home and neighborhood issues have behavior cards and are in the referral process.

At Rebecca's school, all of the students with behavior cards are African American. At the

end of the school day, all of the children with behavior cards report to the BRT's office









where their performance is assessed. Rebecca purported that every year African

American students are continuously contained in the BRT office. In addition to the BRT

office, African American students, are in [in-]school suspension, in [out of] school

suspension, and being suspended. When the school day is over the students are marched

to their buses in a single file line. School year after school year it has been the same, a

line of Black children escorted to the bus.

Rebecca noted that teacher perceptions of differences were important to the

referral process and particularly the referral of African American students. She believed

that the teachers and African American students are culturally and socially disconnected.

Most teachers operate from a White perspective in contrast to their student population

that is increasingly ethnically and racially diverse. Teachers struggle with identifying

with their students' lives. Rebecca explained that she is a teacher who knows the

backgrounds of African American children, but is sometimes surprised by their

neighborhood and family situations. She revealed that she forgets that students do not

live in ideal home situations where both parents work, children and parents respect each

other, and there are desks, supplies, and a computer to complete assignments.

Recognizing and appreciating individual differences, Rebecca builds upon students'

strengths.

Rebecca cited that cultural mismatching between the teachers and students often

results in teachers not wanting to teach African American students. Many teachers are

not prepared for the culture African American students bring to the classroom. Rebecca

disclosed that most African American students are accustomed to certain mannerisms of

which their teachers are unaware. She reported that teachers with a sweet and soft tone of

voice have difficulties managing and teaching African American students, who often

respond better to authoritative behavior management. According to Rebecca, a power









struggle begins when the African American student does not respond to his or her

teacher's method of behavior management.

According to Rebecca, a teacher's ability to tolerate and/or manage behavior

influences whether a student is referred. The students with "severe" behaviors, who are

often African American, are sent to the BRT's office. Rebecca defined "severe"

behaviors as hitting or tagging others, talking back to the teacher, and defiance. The

teacher may perceive that the student behaved in a rude way, but Rebecca points out that

the student may have simply behaved as he or she would at home. She discloses that

when a student is sent to the BRT's office, every visit is documented and reported to the

school board. While students are in the BRT's office, they miss instruction, assignments,

and examples of positive behavior, as well as possible help from their teacher. After a

period of time, students fall further behind their peers academically. Rebecca purported

that often school is the place where students have the resources and supports available to

complete their assignments and homework. Removal of students from their general

education classroom becomes detrimental to their academic and social growth.

Significance of parent involvement

Rebecca identified parent involvement as the missing link for African American

students' academic and social success. In her mind, teachers and schools should willingly

invite parents to spend time in their child's classroom. These visits would allow parents

to observe their child and the teacher's interaction, as well as the instruction, resources,

and teaching strategies used. Rebecca suggested that teachers can train parents to use

strategies and instructional resources at home. She explained that many parents believe

that teachers have the sole responsibility of educating children. This belief is detrimental

to the academic and social success of many African American students, who are often









academically behind the average White student, and do not receive continued academic

review and practice at home. Early parent, student, and teacher communication and

training on school and academic expectations would result in fewer referrals to special

education.

The outcome of referral is strongly influenced by parent expectations. Rebecca

perceives that parents initially think that referral is going to help students. Soon the

parent may notice that their child has less work, which they may view as positive

(e.g., less stress, more free time) or a negative (e.g., less or no challenge, too much free

time) for others. Rebecca reported that often African American parents are unaware of

the school's expectation of how parents will provide academic support to their children.

Often they leave the educational responsibilities to the teacher. Not understanding the

long-term educational and social outcomes of referral, these parents are unaware of the

consequences of special education referral. Other parents who are aware of the

consequences request for their children to remain in the general education classroom

where they are exposed to the general education curriculum and general education peers.

Rebecca revealed as time goes on the child gets to the high school level and is faced with

the decision of pursuing a special diploma, no diploma, regular diploma, or university

ready diploma referral and placement becomes the concern. In elementary and middle

school the referral placement appeared to be a blessing, but by high school, when

students have been in the cycle of special education placement for years, it is difficult to

pull them out.

A collaborative approach to help students

Rebecca concluded that by bringing the special education teacher into the general

education classroom it is possible to keep students who would be referred in the general









education classroom. She suggested that the general education and special education

teachers work together to provide necessary supports in the same classroom. As it is now,

general education teachers expect special education teachers to teach the same

curriculum as general education at a slower pace; however, this does not happen in

special education because of the various levels and needs of students.

When special education teachers and general education teachers collaborate on

curriculum and strategies, all students as well as the teachers benefit. They are able to

discuss appropriate strategies and curriculum for students, what is expected of each

teacher, what they expect students to know, and they can collaborate to form proactive

communication with parents. Rebecca suggested that general education and special

education teachers receive stipends that will encourage them to meet and develop weekly

lesson plans for students. She cautioned that when teachers do not consistently and

collaboratively meet, students' needs are often inappropriately addressed. Through

consistent teacher collaboration, students have multiple teachers, and referred students

are provided with role models of positive behavior and grade level academic success in

the general education classroom.

Composite Textural Description (All Participants)

All of the teachers in this study wanted special education referral to be a

collaborative effort to help students. Many hoped that the process would reveal where the

student was performing academically and how best to help the student. In deciding

whether to refer, they considered whether referral would "be something that will

definitely help the child move forward" (Rebecca).

When describing the referral process, teachers in the study noted students being

referred for the sole benefit of the referring teacher. Teachers suggested in an effort to