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Teaching Strategies and Standardized Tests

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0021226/00001

Material Information

Title: Teaching Strategies and Standardized Tests Effects on Educational Experiences of African American English-Speaking Students
Physical Description: 1 online resource (66 p.)
Language: english
Creator: Ford, Megan Louise
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2007

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords: aae, african, american, bias, black, ebonics, english, iq, methods, standard, standardized, students, teaching, testing, vernacular
Linguistics -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
Genre: Linguistics thesis, M.A.
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation

Notes

Abstract: African American English (AAE), also known as Black English Vernacular (BEV), African American Vernacular English (AAVE), or Ebonics, is a variety of English spoken in the United States largely by African Americans. This linguistic system has, as any language variety, a system of rules that will be discussed in this analysis, which govern its use. Also important to AAE, are the cultural influences on the language as well as the influences of the language on African-American culture and other cultures in the United States. The conventions of AAE consist of both similarities to and difference from Standard American English (SAE), the variety that the United States school system expects all students to know and use in educational settings and in other settings such as the workplace. The differences between the two varieties are great enough to warrant a modification in the way SAE is taught in schools and is used in standardized tests to assess a child?s learning abilities. The present analysis seeks to explore past research conducted to establish the degrees of success of AAE speakers in school and on standardized intelligence quotient (IQ) tests and other tests administered to assess learning disabilities, as well as learn (by interviewing student speakers of AAE who have been tested for learning disabilities, and educators who work with such students) about specific experiences of students and educators with testing and in the classroom. The American public education system relies deeply on standardized tests to assess students? academic and developmental abilities, progress, and potential. Yet, it fails to modernize these materials, or the teaching methods in schools according to the fluctuating student populations. While efforts are being made by the United States government to lessen the numbers of students misplaced in special education, much work is still needed. AAE speaking students suffer many consequences of the system?s failure including lower reading levels and increased enrollment in special education. This analysis will outline and discuss many problems such students face and the challenges that educators, schools, and linguists face is convincing a disinclined public to accept AAE as a systematic linguistic variety and encouraging them to approve of modified teaching methods.
General Note: In the series University of Florida Digital Collections.
General Note: Includes vita.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: Description based on online resource; title from PDF title page.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The University of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Statement of Responsibility: by Megan Louise Ford.
Thesis: Thesis (M.A.)--University of Florida, 2007.
Local: Adviser: LoCastro, Virginia.

Record Information

Source Institution: UFRGP
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: lcc - LD1780 2007
System ID: UFE0021226:00001

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0021226/00001

Material Information

Title: Teaching Strategies and Standardized Tests Effects on Educational Experiences of African American English-Speaking Students
Physical Description: 1 online resource (66 p.)
Language: english
Creator: Ford, Megan Louise
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2007

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords: aae, african, american, bias, black, ebonics, english, iq, methods, standard, standardized, students, teaching, testing, vernacular
Linguistics -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
Genre: Linguistics thesis, M.A.
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation

Notes

Abstract: African American English (AAE), also known as Black English Vernacular (BEV), African American Vernacular English (AAVE), or Ebonics, is a variety of English spoken in the United States largely by African Americans. This linguistic system has, as any language variety, a system of rules that will be discussed in this analysis, which govern its use. Also important to AAE, are the cultural influences on the language as well as the influences of the language on African-American culture and other cultures in the United States. The conventions of AAE consist of both similarities to and difference from Standard American English (SAE), the variety that the United States school system expects all students to know and use in educational settings and in other settings such as the workplace. The differences between the two varieties are great enough to warrant a modification in the way SAE is taught in schools and is used in standardized tests to assess a child?s learning abilities. The present analysis seeks to explore past research conducted to establish the degrees of success of AAE speakers in school and on standardized intelligence quotient (IQ) tests and other tests administered to assess learning disabilities, as well as learn (by interviewing student speakers of AAE who have been tested for learning disabilities, and educators who work with such students) about specific experiences of students and educators with testing and in the classroom. The American public education system relies deeply on standardized tests to assess students? academic and developmental abilities, progress, and potential. Yet, it fails to modernize these materials, or the teaching methods in schools according to the fluctuating student populations. While efforts are being made by the United States government to lessen the numbers of students misplaced in special education, much work is still needed. AAE speaking students suffer many consequences of the system?s failure including lower reading levels and increased enrollment in special education. This analysis will outline and discuss many problems such students face and the challenges that educators, schools, and linguists face is convincing a disinclined public to accept AAE as a systematic linguistic variety and encouraging them to approve of modified teaching methods.
General Note: In the series University of Florida Digital Collections.
General Note: Includes vita.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: Description based on online resource; title from PDF title page.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The University of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Statement of Responsibility: by Megan Louise Ford.
Thesis: Thesis (M.A.)--University of Florida, 2007.
Local: Adviser: LoCastro, Virginia.

Record Information

Source Institution: UFRGP
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: lcc - LD1780 2007
System ID: UFE0021226:00001


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3d0a43fb74aaddca7026b32387bd353f
37330e5c6cc9e2b571837a951cabbd96567a8815







TEACHING STRATEGIES AND STANDARIZED TESTS: EFFECTS ON EDUCATIONAL
EXPERIENCES OF AFRICAN AMERICAN ENGLISH-SPEAKING STUDENTS





















By

MEGAN L. FORD


A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
MASTER OF ARTS

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA

2007




































2007 Megan L. Ford

































To my parents who have supported my every ambition in life. The completion of this thesis
would not have been possible without your encouragement.

To all my friends and family members who have always encouraged and supported me.

To Jason, my best friend and soul mate, for reminding me that failure is not possible.









ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Many people have supported and contributed to the success of this endeavor, all of whom I

am indebted to. I would first like to extend my gratitude to those who gracefully contributed to

this study by participating in interviews and sharing their professional and personal experiences.

Your contributions are irreplaceable.

Virginia LoCastro not only served as the chair for this thesis, but has also been a mentor, a

teacher, a guide, and a sage who unknowingly revealed wisdoms about life, which cannot be

explained in books. I am grateful and will forever appreciate your support, encouragement and

guidance during my years at UF.

I would also like to thank Fiona McLaughlin for agreeing to be a member of my committee

for this thesis. I have benefited greatly from your assistance and guidance, as well as the

experiences and resources you have shared with me for this and other endeavors of mine in this

program.

I thank my parents for offering their devoted love, support, and encouragement (and

financial assistance) in my life choices and goals and especially in the pursuit of my education.

My accomplishments are a reflection of each of you.

My family and friends have always stood by me during all of my undertakings without

judgment, for which I am grateful. I appreciate that you have encouraged, pushed, and supported

me all these years.

Lastly I would like to express my deepest gratitude to Jason, the love of my life, and my

best friend who inspires me in life, impels me to succeed, and supports my dreams.









TABLE OF CONTENTS

page

A CK N O W LED G M EN T S ................................................................. ........... ............. .....

ABSTRAC T ........................................................................... 7

CHAPTER

1 INTRODUCTION ............... .............................................................9

T h e C u rren t S tu d y .............................................................................................................. 10
L iteratu re R ev iew .......................................................................12
A frican A m erican E english .................................................................. .......... ........... 12
Stan dardized T ests ................................................... ................. 14
B ias in E education and in T testing .............................................................................. .. 17
Methods Tested to Improve the Educational Experience of AAE Speakers...................23

2 METHODOLOGY .............................. ...................... ............36

Participants .........................................36
M methods and M materials ...................................... .. ......... ....... ...... 37
In terv iew s ................................................................3 7
T est M materials A naly sis ...................................................................... 38

3 A N A LY SIS ........................................ ............... 39

In terv iew s ..........................................................................3 9
E du cators ........... ... ............... ..................................... ...........................3 9
S tu d e n ts ...........................................................................................................................4 3
T e st M materials ........................... .............................................................. ................................4 5
WJ III ACH Tests and Examiner's Manual ..........................................45
WIAT-II Tests and Examiner's Manual ......................... 47
CELF-4 Exam iner's M annual ..................................................................... .. ....... ..........48

4 DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS .................................................50

Discussion .............................. .......... .................. 50
Im plications and Future Research ............. ..................... .......................................52
L im stations in the Present Study ............................................ .......................... ...............55
Conclusions......................... ...... ... ...................................56

APPENDIX

A Q U E STION S FO R ED U CA TO R S ............................................................. .....................58

B QUESTION S FOR STUDEN TS.................................................. .............................. 59









L IST O F R E F E R E N C E S .............................................................................. ...........................60

B IO G R A PH IC A L SK E T C H .............................................................................. .....................66





















































6









Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts

TEACHING STRATEGIES AND STANDARIZED TESTS: EFFECTS ON EDUCATIONAL
EXPERIENCES OF AFRICAN AMERICAN ENGLISH-SPEAKING STUDENTS

By

Megan L. Ford

August 2007

Chair: Virginia LoCastro
Major: Linguistics

African American English (AAE)-also known as Black English Vernacular (BEV),

African American Vernacular English (AAVE), or Ebonics-is a variety of English spoken in

the United States largely by African Americans. This linguistic system has, as any language

variety, a system of rules that will be discussed in this analysis, which govern its use. Also

important to AAE, are the cultural influences on the language as well as the influences of the

language on African-American culture and other cultures in the United States. The conventions

of AAE consist of both similarities to and difference from Standard American English (SAE),

the variety that the United States school system expects all students to know and use in

educational settings and in other settings such as the workplace. The differences between the

two varieties are great enough to warrant a modification in the way SAE is taught in schools and

is used in standardized tests to assess a child's learning abilities.

The present analysis seeks to explore past research conducted to establish the degrees of

success of AAE speakers in school and on standardized intelligence quotient (IQ) tests and other

tests administered to assess learning disabilities, as well as learn-by interviewing student

speakers of AAE who have been tested for learning disabilities, and educators who work with









such students-about specific experiences of students and educators with testing and in the

classroom.

The American public education system relies deeply on standardized tests to assess

students' academic and developmental abilities, progress, and potential. Yet, it fails to

modernize these materials, or the teaching methods in schools according to the fluctuating

student populations. While efforts are being made by the United States government to lessen the

numbers of students misplaced in special education, much work is still needed. AAE speaking

students suffer many consequences of the system's failure including lower reading levels and

increased enrollment in special education. This analysis will outline and discuss many problems

such students face and the challenges that educators, schools, and linguists face is convincing a

disinclined public to accept AAE as a systematic linguistic variety and encouraging them to

approve of modified teaching methods.









CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION

African American English (AAE)-also known as Black English Vernacular (BEV),

African American Vernacular English (AAVE), or Ebonics-is a variety of English spoken

largely by African Americans, although its use occurs among people of other ethnic groups and it

is not spoken by all African Americans (Van Keulen, et al., 1998). This linguistic system has,

as any language variety, a system of rules, which governs its use both grammatically and

pragmatically (Green 2002; Smitherman, 2000; Labov, 1972). Particular cultural influences and

traditions, and specific worldviews are also present in this system that influence the social

interactions and understandings of its speakers (Bohn, 2003; Smitherman, 2000, 1998a, 1998b,

1974). The conventions of AAE consist of both similarities to and differences from Standard

American English (SAE), the variety that the United States school system expects all students to

know and use in educational settings and in other settings such as the workplace. The

differences between the two varieties are great enough to warrant a modification in the way SAE

is taught in schools and is used in standardized tests to assess a child's learning abilities. As

Hess, (1974) observes, "two individuals who speak completely different dialects of the same

language may think that they are communicating clearly when they are not" (p. 281). Following

are two examples of exchanges that resulted in miscommunications between a SAE-speaking

teacher and an AAE-speaking student. (1) comes from Norma LeMoine's book and is cited in

Smitherman (2000) and in Seymour, Abdulkarim, and Johnson (1999). (2) appears in

Smitherman (2000) and is the transcript of a communication at a school in Detroit, Michigan.

(1) "Bobby, what does your mother do?" the teacher asked. "She be at home,"
Bobby replied. "You mean she is at home," the teacher said. "No she ain't,"
Bobby offered, "Cause she took my grandmother to the hospital this
morning." The teacher snapped. "You know what I meant. You aren't
supposed to say, "She be at home.' You say, 'She is at home.' But Bobby. .









could only reply "Why you trying to make me lie? She ain't at home."
(Smitherman, 2000, p. 25; Seymour, Abdulkarim, & Johnson, 1999, p. 66)

(2) Teacher: Where is Mary
Student: She not here
Teacher: (exasperatedly): She is never here!
Student: Yeah, she be here
Teacher: Where? You just said she wasn't here. (Smitherman, 2000, p. 25)

Both of these exchanges exhibit two of the fundamental differences between AAE and SAE: the

use of the habitual be and the zero copula. The habitual be in AAE serves the function of

indicating that something typically occurs, that the topic of discussion is the norm. In (1) Bobby

meant that his mother is normally home during the day, but the teacher, attempting to 'correct'

his grammar according to SAE rules, changes the meaning of his statement completely. 'She be

at home' means that normally she is at home, whereas 'she is at home' means that at that

particular moment she is home (Seymour, et al., 1999). A similar difference arises in (2), where

the teacher, upset by a student's absence (which is apparently frequent) makes an

overgeneralization that the student "is never here!" The student with whom she is talking about

Mary, replies to that generalization with "Yeah, she be here" meaning that although she is not

currently present, there are times that she is there (Smitherman, 2000). The zero copula is the

"absence" of the conjugated form of the verb to be. If, for instance, Bobby in (1) wanted to say

that his mother was home at the exact moment when the teacher asked, he could say she at home

and this sentence would not require a form of to be. While these are two specific examples that

exhibit two differences between the AAE and SAE varieties, there are others that can inhibit an

AAE speaker's learning processes and achievement on standardized tests.

The Current Study

The present analysis seeks to explore past research conducted to establish the degrees of

success of AAE speakers in school and on standardized intelligence quotient (IQ) tests and other









tests administered to assess learning disabilities, as well as learn-by interviewing student

speakers of AAE who have been tested for learning disabilities, and educators who work with

such students-about specific experiences of students and educators with testing and in the

classroom. The research and literature on the topic of standardized tests is abundant, as is the

literature of AAE speakers' success in their educational experiences (Downey & Pribesh, 2004;

Bohn, 2003; Green, 2002; Fogel & Ehri, 2000; Ogbu 1999; Rickford, 1999; Seymour, et al.,

1999; Wolfram, Adger, & Christian 1999; Van Keulen, et al., 1998; Smitherman, 1998; Steele &

Aronson, 1998; Harry & Anderson, 1994; Jones, 1979; Johnson, 1979; Smith, 1979;

Cunningham, 1976-77; Sledd, 1976; Somervill, 1975) all of which seek to discuss the

characteristics of the language and the culture of speakers, and explain how and why problems

arise for AAE speakers in education. A major issue within the education system is how to

distinguish the degree to which speakers of AAE diagnosed with learning disabilities (LD) are

actually learning disabled, and whether or not the deficits indicated by such standardized tests

are instead weaknesses due to differences in dialect. As Jane (Interview, 2007) emphasizes,

"being labeled LD causes problems [for all children] especially if you're not." Smitherman

(2000, 1998) discusses this obstacle with regard to the AAE speakers in Oakland, California

where "71% of Oakland's Black students are tracked in special education or learning disabilities-

type programs" even though of the entire student population "they were [only] 53 percent" but

says that "there is no inherent intellectual deficiency in these students" (1998, pp. 140, 150). A

second consideration is the extent to which it is necessary to change the format, language, and

content of standardized tests, or whether modifying teaching methods and teacher education so

that teachers are more effectively educating AAE speakers on the structure and conventions of

SAE would rule out the need to change the test. Lastly, it is important to take into consideration









that all the literature and studies that have been examined for the present analysis indicate ways

in which educational practices and standardized tests can be changed to better suit the learning

styles, linguistic characteristics, and cultural traditions of African American students who speak

AAE. However, all of these changes suggest that the purpose of such modifications would be to

create an environment where African American students can more effectively learn about and

master the mainstream culture and values, as well as the language. To accomplish such a goal, it

is necessary for educators to learn about and understand "linguistic diversity in schools" or it is

doubtful that the system will "overcome the historical pattern of educational preference for

upper-middle-class students who reside in homes where Standard English is the norm" (Baugh,

1998, p. 299).

Literature Review

African American English

The ongoing debates among those of the popular viewpoint, about AAE as a language

variety revolve around, in short, whether or not it is merely a substandard form of English, or a

linguistic system governed by a specific set of rules and characterized by particular phonological,

morphological, and syntactic structures (Smitherman, 2000; Van Keulen, et al., 1998; Labov,

1972). There are two main views people tend to adopt regarding AAE: the deficit view which

posits that it is a poor form of Standard American English (SAE), or the difference view, which

takes on the latter idea that it is a rule-governed system (Wolfram, et al., 1999; Van Keulen, et

al., 1998; Somervill, 1975). The view one chooses to adopt regarding the value of AAE will in

effect influence a person's attitudes about the use of AAE as a tool in an educational setting and

the attitudes towards the students who use AAE (Green, 2002; Smitherman, 2000; Wolfram, et

al., 1999; Van Keulen, et al., 1998).









In the present discussion, the difference view is assumed. However, one problem must

be clarified: one must understand that most literature appears to describe AAE in terms of the

deficit view. This is because AAE is perceived as a variety of the English language and it is

usually discussed in relation to SAE, the variety that is politically supported in the United States.

The downfall of such an analysis is that often AAE is discussed in terms of what it lacks (the

deficit view). While the structure of AAE will be examined here in this manner, the purpose of

such an analysis is to show how AAE and SAE differ because these structural differences are

fundamental to the discussion of students' performance in school and on standardized tests,

which are written, normed, and administered in SAE. Variations between the two varieties are

"evident in three areas: (1) patterns of grammar and pronunciation; (2) verbal rituals from the

oral tradition and the continued importance of the word as in African cultures; and (3) the

lexicon" (Smitherman, 1998b, p. 207). Regarding the lexical differences, Smitherman (1998b)

suggests that the words are the same in AAE and SAE but the meanings differ and that this

custom "goes back to enslavement and to the need for a system of communication that only those

in the slave community could understand" (p. 207). One example of such a lexical difference is

the word go as discussed in Martin & Wolfram, (1998) who show that "in AAVE [go] can

denote the static location of an object" such as in the sentence There go the pencil (p. 12).

Another case is the use of the word been as in "The woman been married" (Martin, & Wolfram,

1998, p. 14). Martin & Wolfram (1998) point out that a speaker of SAE would understand that

the woman was once married but is not currently yet, "AAVE speakers typically infer that the

woman has been married a long time and still is" (p. 14). Suggestions for the improvement and

modification of teaching methods and standardized testing methods have been made by many

researchers (DeBose, 2007; LeMoine, & Hollie, 2007; Rickford, 2007; England, 2005; Bohn,









2003; Baugh, 2000; Fogel, & Ehri 2000; Smitherman, 2000; Wolfram, et al., 1999; Wheeler,

1999; Van Keulen, et al., 1998; Somervill, 1975; Quay, 1974, 1972, 1971; Wolfram, 1970) most

of whom come to similar conclusions about the most constructive way to implement such

changes. Yet it has remained an arduous process, as realizing such changes is a complicated task.

One major issue in the discussion of AAE is the terms used to talk about it, such as

dialect, nonstandard form, or nonstandard dialect. The word dialect carries many negative

implications, especially that it is a lesser form of the "proper" language. In this discussion, this

term will be used solely to indicate a type. Other terms that will be used interchangeably with

dialect include linguistic system, or language variety. Language will be used as the parent term

to incorporate what a person speaks. Standard American English and African American English

are both varieties, linguistics systems, or dialects of the English Language. An important notion

to remember is that both of these varieties are mutually intelligible and very closely related;

something that may in fact make it more difficult for AAE learners to successfully master SAE

(Fogel & Ehri, 2000).

Standardized Tests

Standardized tests, or "norm-referenced standardized tests," are a cornerstone of the

American public educations systems (McLoughlin & Lewis, 2005). There are several types of

standardized tests including (a) the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT), used to determine the

potential academic abilities of college applicants (Jencks 1998); (b) tests to evaluate the language

ability of people of various ages-all of which may be included in the battery of tests used to

assess learning abilities-such as the Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals 4 (CELF-

4), Fluharty Preschool and Language Screening Test (FPLST), the Goldman-Fristoe Test of

Articulation (GFTA), the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-Revised (PPVT-R), and the Test of

Early Language Development-2 (TELD-2) (Witt, et al 1998) ; and (c) intelligence quotient (IQ)









tests which are tools for diagnosing learning disabilities (Medina). These latter tests include (a)

the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale; (b) the Wechsler Intelligence Scale (WAIS or WISC-

III)-of which there are multiple versions that are administered to various age groups; (c) the

Woodcock-Johnson Psychoeducational Battery-Revised (WJ-R); and (d) the Woodcock-Johnson

III Tests of Cognitive Abilities (WJ III COG). Other tests include achievement tests such as

Wechsler Individual Achievement Test, Second Edition (WIAT-II), Wide Range Achievement

Test 3 (WRAT 3), Peabody Individual Achievement Test-Revised/Normative Update (PIAT-

R/NU), and Woodcock-Johnson III Tests of Achievement (WJ III ACH) (Medina; McLoughlin,

& Lewis, 2005). Achievement tests do not require that an educational psychologist administer

them, yet being sufficiently trained in the administration of these tests is still necessary.

Standardized tests are used to measure various aspects of a student's educational experience

including abilities, skills, achievement, intelligence, social and emotional development,

processing, and speech and language development. Lisa and Karen (Interviews, 2007) pointed

out that a battery of tests is administered-not just a single test-when measuring whether the

student has a learning disability. Typically when a child is being assessed for learning

disabilities, educators rely on achievement and IQ tests to show at what level a child is in terms

of development and whether there is a discrepancy between the child's achievement and IQ for

their age or grade level. It is when an inconsistency exists, that the child will be considered for

accommodations for LD. "Norm-referenced" refers to the "performance of a norm group.

.under standard conditions" and these norms are what the test-takers' scores are compared to

(McLoughlin & Lewis 2005). The sample chosen as the norm group for such tests is selected

considering a range of demographic features of the student population. Such considerations

include the "age, grade, and gender" of the students, as well as "geographic region, ethnicity, and









some index of socioeconomic status" and generally consists of "students placed in general

education classrooms" (McLoughlin & Lewis 2005). Each test provides a manual, which

describes the norm group, testing procedures, and scoring standards, so that the person

administering the tests can be sure that the test is suitable for the test-taker, and can replicate the

conditions each time the test is given. On May 9, 2007, Zuckerbrod (2007) with the Associated

Press released an article about the government's new plan of involvement in the placement of

students in special education. Zuckerbrod notes that LD diagnoses tend to be "made around 4th

grade" and that the "new policy is aimed at intervening early" to target students who have LD

and provide them with the proper accommodations. A "broad special education law" was passed

in October 2006, which requires that schools use new methods of "determin[ing] if a child has a

learning disability" (Zuckerbrod, 2007). It prohibits dependence "solely on the IQ-vs.-

achievement method" and offers schools the opportunity "to observe how well children respond

to intensive instruction," as well as permitting "use [of] up to 15 percent of their special

education funds to provide the required early intervention" (Zuckerbrod, 2007). Zuckerbrod also

notes that this law requires districts with "a disproportionately high number of minorities in

special education" to use this money for intervention.

Since the inception of the "No Child Left Behind Act of 2001," standardized testing in

schools has increased because of the requirements set forth in this law. The purpose of this law,

according to Rod Paige, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, was to require "states to

set standards for student performance and teacher quality" (U.S. Department of Education,

2004). According to this law:

Every state is required to 1) set standards for grade-level achievement and 2) develop a
system to measure the progress of all students and subgroups of students in meeting those
state-determined grade-level standards (U.S. Department of Education, 2004, p. 8).









New standardized test have been created in individual states to act as assessment tools for the

standards each has set. In Florida, for example, the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test

(FCAT) was created to evaluate students at various grade levels. The tests consist of math,

reading, writing, and science sections. Students are assessed in math and reading every year

beginning in third grade and ending in tenth grade (Florida Department of Education website).

The science tests are given in grades five, eight, and ten, and writing tests are administered in

grades four, eight, and ten (Florida Department of Education website). Within the No Child

Left Behind law are provisions created to guarantee that students for whom English is a second

language and those with learning disabilities will "receive a quality education and the chance to

achieve their academic potential" (U.S. Department of Education, 2004, p. 16). The Florida

Department of Education created handbooks that give the requirements that must be followed

regarding all aspects of the tests for each of the various grade levels. In one such book, a

description of ways that test items are evaluated for the reading portion of the test for grades 3-5

states

Reading passages are also reviewed by groups of Florida educators generally
representative of Florida's geographic regions and culturally diverse population.
Passages are reviewed for the following kinds of bias: gender, racial/ethnic, linguistic,
religious, geographic, and socioeconomic. Passage reviews also include consideration of
issues related to individuals with disabilities (Language from FCATReading Grades 3-5
Test Item and Performance Task Specifications appears by permission of the Florida
Department of Education, Assessment and School Performance Office, Tallahassee,
Florida 32399-0400. 2001, p. 8).

Bias in Education and in Testing

Bias in standardized testing and in education is a frequently debated topic, specifically

regarding bias against African American children (Downey & Pribesh, 2004; Norment, Jr., 2003;

Smitherman, 2000; Wolfram, et al., 1999; Baugh, 1998; Ferguson, 1998; Jencks, 1998; Steele &

Aronson, 1998; Van Keulen, et al., 1998; Harry & Anderson, 1994). There are two issues of









concern regarding bias. First is the potential for cultural and language bias in the classroom.

According to the National Center for Education Information, in 2005, 85% of teachers in K-12

public education were white, and "eight out of 10 school teachers (82 percent) are female"

(News Release, August 2005). Such a high percentage of white teachers creates an environment

for incongruent language and culture relationships between white teachers and black students.

Harry and Anderson (1994) highlight the fact that "most teacher preparation programs typically

do not address the implications of this differential experience based on race and gender" (p. 610).

In one such book, Manning and Baruth (2000), which has been used to teach future educators

about diversity of cultures in American schools, one entire chapter is devoted to African

American students and discusses a variety of topics. The headings in this chapter include

"origins," "socioeconomic status," "families," "religion," and "language" (Manning & Baruth,

2000, pp. 60-74). While this seems useful, the language section is one area in this book that is

lacking in its description of the differences between AAE and SAE. The book discusses the

verbal mechanics of storytelling and outlines a few problems that students may face, but there

are no concrete examples of the grammatical differences between the two varieties.

The second potential for bias occurs in standardized testing. Wolfram, et al., (1999)

assert, "there is still a very strong expectation of linguistic and cultural uniformity in test

development, validation, and norming" (p. 103). Educators instruct students, evaluate their

progress, and assess their abilities. When there are inconsistencies in the students' achievements

compared to the standards set forth by the state, they are often referred for such standardized

testing. If teacher education fails to address the specific grammatical elements of the language

of students in the classroom, the referral for IQ testing is based only on partial knowledge of the

students' capabilities. One argument that Harry and Anderson (1994) make is that the students









are being evaluated according to the cultural and linguistic norms of the teacher, and if that

teacher is white and the student is black, then again there is a misbalanced standard (pp. 611-

612). Harry and Anderson (1994) also argue that an IQ test, administered to determine whether

a child has a learning disability:

inevitably reflects the cultural knowledge base and cognitive orientation of its creator(s)
and of the sample on which its items have been standardized. Thus, tests that are
standardized on the Euro-American majority, and that include test items chosen from the
cultural experience of this majority, are inevitably biased in favor of that majority and
therefore biased against minorities, whose cultural experience is distinctly different (p.
612).

Van Keulen, et al., (1998) make a similar argument, asserting, "too many general education

teachers view special education as the place to refer students whose behaviors, language, and

learning styles are not congruent with their perceptions and expectations" (p. 208). On the topic

of behavioral differences, Smitherman (1974) notes that "style" in AAE includes "Black Modes

of Discourse" including the tradition of call-and-response (p. 17). This practice ensures that a

conversation involves two people, and that the listener responds with verbal cues to show

listening behavior, as well as agreement. Smitherman makes two observations about this system

and the cultural discontinuity it may create between a white SAE speaker and a black AAE

speaker. First she states that "the white person gets the feeling that the Black person isn't

listening to him because he keeps 'interrupting'" and second-which holds particular importance

in the discussion classroom behavior-is "that in the classroom, rich verbal response from Black

kids should inflate and excite a teacher, cause it mean they diggin on what you sayin" (p. 17).

Once students are referred for IQ testing, they face another situation of bias in the tests

themselves, especially the assessment of African American children for learning disabilities.

One example, presented in Smitherman (2000), and Bailey, & Thomas (1998), is the differing

phonology between AAE and SAE. In SAE, the sounds /f/ (as infeel) and /T/ (as in thank) are









contrastive which means that in a word, changing one of the above sounds to the other will

change the meaning of the word. An example minimal pair-a pair of words that differ in only

one sound and have different meanings-is reef vs. i i leri/ ([rif] and [riT] respectively). As

Smitherman (2000) indicates, these two sounds are allophones of the same phoneme in AAE, or

in other words, they are complementary. In AAE, one phonological rule states that [T] becomes

[f] in word-final position so reef and i/ ic ilh are both pronounced the same way: reef([rif]).

Another phonological difference is that in some varieties of AAE, the consonant cluster [str] is

disallowed in word initial position, and is instead realized as [skr] (Bailey, & Thomas, 1998).

Dandy, (1991, p. 2, cited in Green, 2002, pp. 233-234) referenced an occurrence when a teacher

requested that a student read aloud in class. The student pronounced street as skreet and

stretched as skretched both of which resulted in "incessant correction" by the teacher silencing

the student completely.

Another example of how testing materials might pose a problem for certain minority

cultures comes from research conducted by Reynolds, Taylor, Steffenesen, Shirey & Anderson

(1982). In this experiment, students, both black and white, were asked to read "a passage that

dealt with an instance of 'sounding' or 'playing the dozens,' (p. 353). Playing the dozens is "a

verbal game of insult, usually about someone's mother [i.e. yo mommajokes]. played by all

ages [where] [o]ne-upmanship is the goal of this oral contest" (Smitherman, 2000). In this

experiment, Reynolds et al. (1982) showed that white students who read the passage were more

likely than black students to think that the story was about people fighting and were more likely

to think that the people involved were not friends. Reynolds et al. (1982) asserted, based on the

results of student responses to the passage, that "cultural schemata can influence how prose

material is interpreted" (p. 353). This particular experiment was probably a reversal of what









occurs in a typical American classroom because here "the white children misinterpreted the text"

(Reynolds, et al., 1982, p. 363).

Jencks (1998) suggests that standardized tests are not linguistically and culturally biased

but rather contain other types of bias, namely "labeling bias, content bias and methodological

bias" all of which might offer explanations for the reason that African American children

typically score lower on IQ tests than white children (p. 55). Jencks contends that "labeling

bias" occurs because there is a misuse of the term "intelligence" and that while psychologists

understand intelligence to mean "people's developed capacity for intelligent behavior, not their

innate potential," the general population tends to define it as 'innate intelligence' or as "an

individual's current capacity for intelligent behavior" (p. 66). "Content bias" is what others

argue is the main problem with standardized tests: that the tests are written from majority

worldview and thus do not account for the minority groups' understandings of the world or even

of the language in which the test is given (Wolfram, et al., 1999). Jencks (1998), however,

dismisses this bias claiming that although all tests have "some items that appear to favor one

cultural group over another. intuitive judgments about cultural bias do not seem to predict the

racial gap on a given item" (pp. 66-67). The final type of bias Jencks discusses is

"methodological bias;" a type of bias that other researchers also agree on (McLoughlin and

Lewis, 2005; Wolfram, et al., 1999). This is bias that occurs when the method of administering

the test poses a problem or threat to the results of the test such as when an African American

child who understands the meaning of a particular word is unable to identify the word because

the examiner pronounces it according to Standard American English phonology (Jencks, 1998).

A study conducted by Steel and Aronson (1998) evaluates an idea similar to the

methodological bias as described by Jencks. The experiments showed that African American









students' performance was lower than that of white students on tests "described as diagnostic of

intellectual ability" than if it was a test (the same tests were used for both conditions) which

students thought was "nondiagnostic" i.e. explained as "a laboratory problem solving task" (p.

405). Another experiment in the same study showed that when students were given a test that

was of the "nondiagnostic" type but asked to indicate their race prior to taking the test, the

African American students' performance was significantly lower than if they were not asked to

indicate race (pp. 419-421).

McLoughlin and Lewis (2005) talk about ways to avoid methodological bias when

administering the tests, discussing three key elements: "professional preparation of the tester,"

"tester attitudes," and a "working relationship between the student and the tester" (p. 113).

Most standardized tests require that the examiner have certain training in administering and

scoring the test. If a person who has not been sufficiently prepared gives a test, the results may

not be unbiased. IQ tests "require extensive preparation" and often only "school psychologists

are. licensed to administer them" (McLoughlin & Lewis, 2005, p. 90). The examiners'

personal beliefs about groups of people may also influence the administration of the test. One

must be careful when testing and scoring not to impose personal biases on the student's

performance. Lastly, McLoughlin and Lewis (2005) discuss the importance of "building rapport

with students" especially with those of "races, cultures, or experiential backgrounds different

from their own" (113). Some researchers say that the examiner should be of the same culture

and linguistic background as the student to avoid such biases in testing (McLoughlin & Lewis,

2005). It is this final issue, in methodological bias, which is pertinent to the present discussion.

It may be detrimental to the test results and the performance of an AAE-speaking African

American child if the test administrator is white.









The No Child Left Behind Act enacts a desire for all students, of all races, ethnicities, and

abilities have an equal opportunity for education. (U.S. Department of Education, 2004). Van

Keulen, et al., (1998) discuss the "Individuals With Disabilities Education Act" and the

conditions necessary for "legislated nondiscriminatory evaluation" (p. 150). Under these

requirements, the law stipulates that "schools must. .[administer] non-biased tests in ways that

do not put children to a disadvantage" and must "establish procedures to ensure that testing,

examination materials, and procedures used for evaluating and placing children with disabilities

will be selected and administered so as not to be racially or culturally discriminatory" which

includes offering such tests "in the child's native language or other mode of communication,

unless it is clearly not feasible to do so" (p. 150). As Wolfram, et al., (1999) point out, "there is

still a very strong expectation of linguistic and cultural uniformity in test development,

validation, and norming" (p. 63). While, for whatever reason, it may not be "feasible" to offer a

test in a child's native form of communication, if the anticipated results are that all children in

the American education system be able to function under a common cultural and linguistic

understanding, more care should be taken to ensure that they are properly prepared for such tests,

and that teachers are properly trained to "recognize the details of language variation" (Wolfram,

et al., 1999, p. 105).

Methods Tested to Improve the Educational Experience of AAE Speakers

Quay (1971, 1972, 1974) conducted studies to discover whether translating portions of

the Stanford-Binet Test of Intelligence into AAE would increase the scores of AAE speakers.

In the first experiment, Quay (1971) had an AAE specialist translate part of this test into AAE

and "[approve] both the standard English and the Negro dialect of the two examiners" who were

two black males "trained in the administration of the Stanford-Binet" (p. 7). With this

information however, Quay failed to note (in this and the subsequent studies) whether cultural









considerations were made in these translations, or simply grammatical. Although this

experiment would seemingly provide evidence about whether language differences are a problem

for AAE speakers' test results, Quay failed to support her claim that "neither deficits nor

differences in intelligence, language comprehension, or motivation in the testing situation

existed" (p. 14). The first major issue in this experiment is that one variable she tested for was

motivation. In each of the SAE and AAE versions of the tests, the examiners also used either

verbal praise or candy rewards as ways of motivating the test-takers. This is a major flaw in this

study since, as stated by McLoughlin and Lewis (2005) under "General Guidelines for Test

Administration" the person administering the test "may not in any way-verbal or nonverbal-

inform a student whether a response is correct. Correct responses may not be confirmed; wrong

responses may not be corrected" (p. 95). Also, according to these guidelines, praise is only

suitable "between test items or subtests to ensure that reinforcement is not linked to specific

responses" and should only come in the form of remarks such as "'You're working hard' and 'I

like the way you're trying to answer every question'" (p. 95). Quay (1971), by including the

condition of motivation, invalidated the test result of all the participants.

The second problem in this study was the failure to describe scoring procedures, except

to say that people other than the examiners scored each student based on "sound recordings. .

made of all tests" (p. 7). According to McLoughlin and Lewis (2005), "unless allowed by the

manual, no mechanical recording equipment. should be introduced into the testing

environment" because they "are typically not part of the standard conditions for test

administration and. may distract the student" (p. 96). Quay did not mention the norms of the

standardizing of this test. Lastly, although Quay mentions that students responded to certain









verbal items in AAE, she never clarifies whether or not these responses, if correct, were scored

as correct or were only scored as correct if given in SAE.

In her later studies, Quay (1972, 1974), using similar testing conditions, repeats the above

experiment without the motivational praise condition and still claims that language difference is

not the variable that results in lower scores for black children than white children. Her argument

stems from other research that showed AAE speakers' abilities to comprehend SAE was equal to

their ability to comprehend AAE and that the problem was in speech production. There is still

no direct mention in any of these studies whether answers given in AAE that were correct, were

scored as correct or incorrect. Overall, these studies seem to be lacking any evidence of validity

or reliability.

In contrast to Quay's (1971, 1972, 1974) findings, Robert L. Williams (1970, cited in

Baugh, 2000, pp. 60-61) found that the African American students he studied "performed better

on a test that contained items that were culturally familiar" than on general standardized tests.

Williams had created a test called the "Black Intelligence Test of Cultural Homogeneity"

(BITCH), which was purposely biased in favor of African Americans and contained material

"drawn exclusively from the Black Experience Domain" (Williams, 1975, p. 123, cited in Baugh,

2000, p. 75). Much of Smitherman's (1974) discussion is regarding "style" in the speech and

culture of African Americans. While she does discuss the important differences of grammar and

pronunciation in AAE, she emphasizes the vast differences in culture stating that there exists a

"cognitive linguistic style whose semantics bees grounded not only in words but in the socio-

psychological space between words," supporting the fact that purely grammatical considerations

in testing materials may not suffice to rid them of bias (p. 17).









In 1996, the School Board in Oakland, California "passed a resolution calling for the

recognition of Ebonics as the primary language of its Black students and for the use of this

language in teaching these students" (Smitherman, 2000, p. 150). The intentions of this school

board were to

implement the best possible academic program for imparting instruction to
African-American students in their primary language for the combined purposes
of maintain the legitimacy and richness of such language. and to facilitate
their acquisition and mastery of English language skills (Resolution of Oakland,
California School Board, cited in Smitherman, 2000, p. 150).

Helping students not only to appreciate their native tongue, but to also learn the variety

that will serve them best in greater society seemed to have its benefits. The idea was to use AAE

in a contrastive methods approach showing distinctions between the two varieties to teach

students how to translate between it and SAE effectively and according to appropriate

pragmatics of society. This decision has been discussed at length in the literature, especially by

linguists who argue against the public's claims that AAE is "bad" English or the claim that the

purpose of this decision was to teach AAE (Smitherman, 2000, 1998; Wheeler, 1999, Pullum,

1999; Van Keulen, et al., 1998). The problem is that many view AAE as a nonstandard form or

refer to it as a "dialect" using this term with the negative implications discussed above. Haugen

(2003) observes "four aspects of language [which are] crucial features in taking the step from

'dialect' to 'language', from vernacular to standard" (p. 421). These aspects include "(a)

selection of a norm, (b) codification of form, (c) elaboration of function, and (d) acceptance by

the community" (p. 421). The latter aspect is the one, which causes the most problems for AAE

in the education system, as the public is unwilling to accept the use of AAE in teaching speakers

of it. Wheeler (1999) discusses several studies cited by various researchers in such discussions,

which show that using AAE in the classroom has helped AAE speakers become better speakers,









readers, and writers of SAE. This includes the use of"dialect readers" using contrastive

methods in teaching writing, and another system referred to as the "bidialectal approach" (pp.

62-64). According to Wheeler (1999), the "dialect readers" were part of a program identified as

the "Bridge program" which was a series "published by Houghton Mifflin in 1977" (p. 62). The

purpose of these books and tapes was to provide material for AAE-speaking students in AAE

based on "'the traditional folklore of African-American culture'" (p. 62). The following

excerpt is an example of how SAE reading material and the dialect reader differ taken from Van

Keulen, et al., (1998).

SAMPLE TEXT: STANDARD ENGLISH VERSION
Alisha and Tamara are best friends. Alisha is nine years old. Tamara is nine too.
Alisha is taller than Tamara. Alisha lives near the school. Tamara lives near the
park. Tamara likes to play baseball. Alisha likes to play baseball too. Yesterday
Alisha and Tamara were at the park. They were playing baseball. They were
having fun.

SAMPLE TEXT: AAE VERSION
Alisha and Tamara best friends. Alisha nine years old. Tamara nine too. Alisha
taller than Tamara. Alisha live close to the school. Tamar live close to the park.
Tamara like to play baseball. Alisha like to play baseball too. Yesterday Alisha
and Tamara was at the park. They was playing' baseball. They was havin' fun.
(p. 198).

The utility of such readers was analyzed and showed that students who had used the readers were

showing significantly more progress than the students who did not. According to Wheeler

(1999), reports by Simpkins and Simpkins (1981) showed that students using the readers

progressed in reading abilities (in SAE) 4.6 months further than the students who did not use the

readers (p. 63). Due to the public's discontent with the readers, however, Houghton Mifflin

stopped publishing them. In his article about bilingual education, Tucker (2003) discusses

several inferences he made about the effectiveness of education for bilinguals. One such

conclusion is that "individuals most easily develop literacy skills" as well as "cognitive skills and









master content material ... in a familiar language" (p. 466). He also notes that following the

cultivation of both "cognitive/academic language skills and content-subject material" they

will "transfer readily" (p. 466). Other researchers in the field of second language acquisition

(SLA) also note that when students are able to read in their first language they are more

successful readers in the second language (Daniel, 2005), and that "prior knowledge of text-

related information strongly affects reading comprehension" (Grabe, 1991, p. 381). Not only is

the ability to read in the first language important, but the familiarity of content in the reading

material also improves the likelihood that the reader will fully grasp the information. Wolfram

(1970; See also Somervill, 1975) discusses several options for teaching reading to AAE speakers

and seems to favor the incorporation of dialect readers over other methods such as (a) instructing

students in the mechanics of SAE before teaching them how to read; (b) allowing students to

read SAE books aloud in AAE; or (c) what he calls "neutralization of dialect differences" which

essentially changes or avoids the features of SAE that do not occur in AAE (p. 19). The

importance of the dialect readers is the significant progress that AAE speakers made in reading

SAE if they successfully mastered reading in their own dialect. Those who supported the

implementation of these readers generally did so for three reasons, according to Wolfram (1970)

including:

(1) that there is sufficient mismatch between the child's system and standard
English textbook to warrant distinct materials, (2) the psychological benefits from
reading success will be stronger in the dialect than it might be if standard English
materials were used, and (3) the success of vernacular teaching in bilingual
situations recommends a similar principle for bidialectal situations (p. 26).

As Wheeler (1999) briefly observed, the most significant problem with the use of these

dialect readers was the public's aversion to them. Wolfram (1970) asserts "the codification of a

nonstandard language system may be viewed as a threat to the social mobility of blacks in our









society" because not only do members of "the dominant class" but also members of the AAE-

speaking community object to any use of AAE in an educational setting (pp. 29-31). Wolfram

(1970) contends that these objections are in spite of the evidence that "vernacular reading

materials have been reported to be successful as a bridge to literacy in the national language" (p.

31). Ogbu (1999) conducted a study in Lafayette, a predominantly African American

neighborhood located near Oakland, California, to research the dichotomy of language attitudes

that exists for the citizens. He found that the struggle children go through upon entering school is

not simply due to the language differences, but also the problem with negative attitudes: in

school from the teachers about the children's home language, and at home from parents and

other society members about their school language.

Other methods that have shown an increase AAE speakers' classroom performance

included two different teaching methods. The first was in Chicago where a teacher educated

AAE-speaking students on the differences between AAE and SAE and his system proved useful

when compared to the class where he used conventional teaching methods. According to

Rickford, cited in Wheeler (1999), the students who learned through the contrastive method

"'showed a 59% reduction in the use of Ebonics features in their SE writing'" and the group who

learned through the conventional method "'showed a slight INCREASE (8.5%)'" (p. 63). The

second case was of a teacher in Georgia who encouraged code-switching, and learning the

appropriate times and places for the use of each dialect. If a student used AAE, "the teacher

prompts the student to 'code-switch,'" a method that encourages the use of both dialects and

teaches the pragmatics of using them (p. 64).

Bohn (2003) made interesting observations in her exploration of unorthodox teaching

methods used by one teacher over a two-year period. The teacher, an African American woman,









used "rhetorical patterns of African American English" and exhibited "Standard English

grammar and pronunciation" (p. 689). The patterns included call and response, "rhythm and

repetition," signifying and testifying, and even code-switching (p. 696). Call and response is

traditionally used in the Black church, but is also a part of "black oral tradition" whereby a

speaker encourages response from the listeners which indicates agreement or approval of what

the speaker is saying (Smitherman, 2000, p. 64). "Rhythm and repetition" is also important in

AAE and can be used in most situations such as by a preacher, or in a narrative. The speaker uses

"cadence, tone, and musical quality ... and generally emphasizes] sound apart from sense"

(Smitherman, 2000, p. 64). Signifying, or signification is a "type of verbal playfulness,

challenging the listeners to stay on their toes" and tends to include "teasing" (Bohn, 2003, p.

697). One of the ways the teacher employed this technique was by giving "a logically

unexpected and incorrect response that had to be challenged" (Bohn, 2003, p. 697). Lastly,

testifying is another method that this teacher used, which according to Smitherman (1977) is

"giving verbal witness to the truth, efficacy and power of some experience" (p. 58, cited in Bohn,

2003, p. 697). Bohn (2003) described the teachers use of this device as a way to establish the

students' "rightful place in the group and to diminish his isolation" (p. 698). Another aspect of

the techniques used in this classroom is that the teacher allowed students to use AAE and never

"directly [corrected] their speech patterns" but rather 'rephrased the students' statements in

Standard English as an affirmation that she heard what her students were saying" (p. 690). What

Bohn (2003) discovered was that the teacher's methods appearede] to have achieved a number

of desirable educational effects" including, creating an environment where there was cultural

comfort, validation and encouragement of "language development," as well as response, interest

and participation from all students (not just the African American students) in the class (p. 701).









This strategy seemed to be very effective in several ways for this class; however, one limitation

might be that not all teachers would be able to employ the exact same methods, as did this

teacher. The woman Bohn (2003) observed was a member of the same community as many of

her African American students and shared cultural understandings with them. This is not always

going to be the case in every classroom.

One study conducted by Fogel and Ehri (2000) also supports the claim that the

contrastive method of instruction is the most beneficial in helping students learn the grammar of

SAE. Fogel and Ehri (2000) discovered in their experiment that the best technique for AAE-

speaking students to learn SAE effectively was to incorporate a three-part system-these parts

were called "exposure," "strategies," and "practice"-to produce the most successful outcome.

Their hypothesis was that if students were given the opportunity to learn "how the SE features

correspond to and differ from the BEV features" and to practice translating between the two

varieties, their success in recognizing the differences would be greater (p. 215). In the

experiments, three groups were administered different methods of learning SAE, as mentioned

above. In the group receiving the "exposure" method, students were taught in SAE but never

instructed in the specifics of its grammar or structure (pp. 215-216). "Strategies" was the second

method that was added to the "exposure" method for the second group. Here, not only were

students instructed in SAE, but specific structures of this variety were indicated to students so

they had an idea of what to watch for when reading. Fogel and Ehri focused their research on

writing and specifically looked at the differences in syntax between the two varieties. Structures

of AAE that were especially pertinent to this research were "syntactic features. because

unlike phonological features, nonstandard syntactic forms tend to stand out" (p. 215). The









features chosen included "six Standard English syntactic forms" including "possessive '-s,"'

which results in the difference between sentences (1) and (2) (p. 215).

(1) Mary's apple
(2) Mary apple

Second is the difference in the use of "past tense '-ed'" (p. 215). Other researchers argue that

the absence of this morpheme occurs because of a phonological rule rather than a morphological

rule; namely that in AAE, "the final member of the cluster [is] absent" (Fasold and Wolfram,

2003 p. 61). Since this "absence" of the -ed form occurs in writing, it was included in Fogel

and Ehri's (2000) study. The example sentences offered to show this difference in their study

are sentences (3) and (4) (p. 215).

(3) Yesterday she played
(4) Yesterday she play

Next is the use of "third-person present-tense singular '-s'" (215). In SAE, the verb forms for

first person present tense singular and third person present tense singular vary in that the latter

form includes the suffix -s. In AAE, both forms are the same, which would result in a sentence

such as (5) and (6) where (7) and (8) are the SAE forms of the same sentences (Green, 2003, p.

228).

(5) I eat
(6) He eat
(7) I eat
(8) He eats

Another feature that differs between AAE and SAE is the use of the plural form. In SAE,

typically nouns take the "plural '-s,'" suffix to indicate more than one (p. 215). In AAE

however, "plurality is generally realized by context" (Smitherman, 2000, p. 141). Examples of

how context allows an AAE speaker to realize plurality are found in sentences (9) through

(11)-with the corresponding SAE sentence in parentheses (Smitherman, 2000, pp. 141-142).









(9) Two captain (two captains)
(10) A few cartoon (a few cartoons)
(11) Two year (two years)

The fifth structure that was examined in Fogel and Ehri (2000) was the difference between the

AAE and SAE use of the "indefinite article" such as in sentences (12) and (13) (p. 215).

According to the rules of SAE, an must be used instead of a if it precedes a word that begins

with a vowel, which differs from the structure of AAE.

(12) A orange
(13) An orange

The final syntactic structure Fogel and Ehri (2000) discuss is the difference in construction of

"subject-verb agreement" (p. 218). The differences presented here are basically the same as the

differences noted in the use of third person present tense singular verb forms. One example that

does not relate is the verbal form of the third person past tense plural verb forms. Sentence (14)

exhibits the form for AAE while (15) shows how SAE forms differ (p. 232).

(14) They was so full
(15) They were so full

The outcomes of the performance of the first two groups (exposure only and exposure plus

strategies) had no significant differences. It was the third group (exposure, strategies and

practice) that showed the most success. Here the students were administered all three methods

listed above-"exposure," "strategies," and "practice,"-the latter of which allowed students

time to practice the strategies they had learned, giving them time to learn the structural

differences between SAE and AAE and have the opportunity to apply this knowledge when

translating sentences between the two varieties.

Another important study discusses standardized tests used to assess language abilities

determine if there is a language or speech disorder. Seymour, et al., (1999), speech-language









pathologists (SLPs) point out the necessity for educators to understand and consider AAE

grammatical elements so that they can correctly diagnose learning disabilities in AAE speakers

because "standardized tests for determining disability are based solely on SAE" (p. 74). This

does not mean that the student has a learning disability but rather that they may not be competent

in Standard English. They also argue the importance for SLPs to take these factors into

consideration when administering language tests to AAE speakers. Wolfram, et al., (1999)

argue a similar point noting that "the key consideration in distinguishing between a language

difference and a disorder is the language norm of the student's own speech community" (p. 105).

This is an important notion given that norm-referenced tests do not guarantee that AAE is part of

the norm group to whom the test was standardized. The study cited in the article, done at the

University of Massachusetts, tested AAE speakers based on the grammatical rules of that dialect.

The specific element discussed is the verb "to be" which is often deleted in AAE (Green, 2002;

Smitherman, 2000; Martin & Wolfram, 1998; Baugh, 1983; Labov, 1972). Where this verb is

deleted, however, is governed by a rule and one stipulation is that "when it is preceded by a word

ending in /t/" it must remain in the sentence. Two appropriate AAE sentences are "He bad"

and "It is bad" (76). Only when is is deleted in the latter form should there be concern that the

child has a possible disability.

Several teaching techniques, and classroom materials, as well as variations of standardized tests

have been researched to discover the most useful method of improving the quality of education

for AAE-speaking students. Each method studied has taken into account the fundamental

differences between AAE and SAE both grammatically and culturally, and has been created for

the purpose of considering such factors previously ignored. The present study seeks to consider









the possibilities, problems, and potential for future research and improvement of such methods

that, at a later date, could be used and codified in the American education system.









CHAPTER 2
METHODOLOGY


The first part of this section discusses the participants, who volunteered their time to be

interviewed for the purposes of this study, their backgrounds, and areas of expertise. The

following section provides a description of the interview setting, and lastly is a description of

specific tests that were examined for this analysis.


Participants

Data were collected through interviews with both educators and students who have

personal experiences within these fields. The participants included three professionals in the

educational field and two students who are AAE speakers and who have been tested for learning

disabilities at least once during their time in school and receive accommodations for such

disabilities in college. The identities of the participants will remain anonymous, as promised

prior to the interview. However, their credentials and backgrounds will be discussed, as they are

important to this investigation. To maintain anonymity, alias names have been assigned to each

participant for ease of discussion. All three of the educators are white females and will be

referred to as Lisa, Jane, and Karen. Two of the educators work directly with college students

with learning disabilities at a university. Lisa has a Ph.D. in Educational Administration and has

worked with students in either a community college or university setting for fifteen years. Jane

holds a Master's in Education with a specialty in Specific Learning Disabilities (SLD). She has

worked as a Special Education teacher for ten years with grades six through twelve and has spent

the last seventeen years working with various age groups of people with learning disabilities.

Lastly, Karen has a PhD in Special Education. She has taught as an adjunct professor and a full

professor of education for a combined total of eight years. She has also taught elementary-,









middle-, and high school-aged students with learning disabilities for eighteen years. In addition

to her teaching experiences, Karen has on various occasions administered different types of

standardized tests to students suspected of having learning disabilities. Each of these educators

has a different background and a variety of experiences pertinent to the present study.

The two student participants include one male and one female student at the University of

Florida. The alias names assigned to these students are Kevin and Marie respectively. Both are

twenty years old, and as of Spring 2007, have completed two years of their college educations.

Kevin comes from Irving, Texas, just outside of Dallas. He has been tested for learning

disabilities twice: once as a young child and again upon his entrance to the University of Florida.

Marie is from Columbus, Ohio, and has only been tested for learning disabilities once upon

entrance to the university.

Methods and Materials

Interviews

The five participants were asked a series of questions in an interview setting regarding

the standardized IQ tests that are administered to assess learning abilities; about teaching

methods in the classroom; and about ways to identify learning disabilities (Appendices A and B).

Each participant was interviewed individually in a private setting with no other distractions. Not

all of the questions in the appendices were asked of each participant, as some did not pertain to

every person. The participants' descriptions of their own experiences and the expertise of the

educators will be discussed in the present study in an effort to more closely analyze the details of

problems that arise for AAE speakers when being tested for learning disabilities, and in

classroom settings.









Test Materials Analysis

In addition to the interviews, two achievement tests and the corresponding examiner' s

manuals were reviewed and analyzed to better grasp the content which researchers argue contain

biases which hinder the results of AAE speakers. The two tests are the Woodcock-Johnson III

Tests of Achievement (WJ III ACH), and the Wechsler Individual Achievement Test, Second

Edition (WIAT-II). Both of these tests measure the achievement of students in reading, writing,

oral language, and mathematics. In addition to these four areas, the WJ III ACH also measures

"academic knowledge" (Mather, & Woodcock, 2001, p. 11). Also analyzed, was the examiner's

manual for the Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals, Fourth Edition (CELF-4). The

analysis of each of the above-named tests and manuals served several purposes. The first aim

was to look for test items that could be culturally or linguistically biased against AAE speakers.

The second purpose was to analyze the information about scoring procedures in the manuals to

see if any guidelines were given for the consideration of dialect differences in test-taker

responses. Lastly, the demographics of the norming group for the WIAT-II were examined since

one problem [that has been discussed above, see pp. 11-14] is that standardized tests are normed

for SAE.









CHAPTER 3
ANALYSIS

The first part of this chapter summarizes the information provided by each of the

interviewees, both the educators and the students. The second section details specific examples

and discussion of the three standardized tests examined for this analysis.

Interviews

Educators

The educators interviewed for this study all seem to agree on one point: that AAE-

speaking students need more effective instruction to successfully master SAE. When Karen

learned that dialect readers were used at one time and that studies showed (Wheeler, 1999) that

there was a significant increase in SAE reading progress for students who had used them, she

was shocked to hear that, due to the public's displeasure with them, dialect readers stopped being

published and educators discontinued using them. Jane, who has worked with students of all

ages, concedes that if AAE speakers are to be "held to the same standards as SAE speakers, we

need to teach them; we need to retrain them so they can fairly be held to the same standards."

She asserts that the purpose of educating people "is to have them be functional contributors to

society" and to do so requires that all people have an equal foundation from which they learn.

One problem, she points out, however, is that there is "no specific training for teachers" about

the mechanics of AAE and in testing situations, the examiners are not supposed to consider

dialectal variation but the consideration they give a student "may vary based on location of the

school." If the school is located in an area where examiners have had a significant amount of

exposure to AAE, they may score an answer given in AAE as correct instead of as a wrong

answer, whereas an examiner who is unfamiliar with the variety may score the answer as

incorrect. Lisa mentioned that directly instructing students on the differences between AAE and









SAE "would be helpful if it's done at an early age." The problem she observes with the students

at the university level is that they did not receive this type of training and as a result fell behind

in school. When they arrive at the university they are "starting with the absolute basic remedial

English which is 'this is a noun, this is a verb'" and although these students will receive tutoring

and accommodations during their college education, they use Ebonics because it is what they

know.

Karen and Jane both elaborated on the stages of assessing children for learning abilities.

Assessment of students' abilities, achievement, and progress begins in the classroom where "an

effective teacher continuously monitors and evaluates the students by observing behavior and

evaluating their work (Witt et al., 1998, p. 19). Karen mentioned that "teachers are trained in

what normal development stages are so they can spot when someone is struggling" and not

meeting those normal milestones. Behavioral changes can be indicative to a teacher that a

student might have LD. Karen and Jane outlined specific behavioral tendencies teachers would

observe which might prompt a referral to special education assessment. These behaviors include

students avoiding "academic tasks," seeming "disinterested" or less enthusiastic about school

and "not paying attention," or beginning to withdraw. This type of assessment is referred to as

"observation-based assessment," which can be done by the teacher ("direct assessment") or by an

examiner ("indirect assessment") in a test setting (Witt et al., 1998, p. 138-139). Other types of

assessment that can occur in the classroom are "curriculum-based assessment" where a teacher

measures students' academic accomplishment, and "performance-based assessment," which

measures the students' "knowledge or skills" based on their ability to formulate responses or

products[s" for some specified task (Witt et al., 1998, pp. 121-122, 165).









Karen then further outlined the process through which students suspected of learning

disabilities go. Following the teacher's classroom assessment, a child is referred to a "Child

Study Team" comprised of teachers, parents, and counselors. During this six-week intervention

period, the members of the team use various teaching methods, such as visual, auditory, and

kinesthetic, that may differ from those used by the student's regular teachers. The purpose of

this is to rule out the possibility that the child might just be a type of learner different from the

style of teaching in the classroom. Also during this period, hearing, vision, and sometimes

speech and language tests are given to ascertain whether one of these might be causing

interference for the child. If during the six weeks of intervention, none of the other teaching

methods is effective, and the student's hearing and vision are normal, the student is then referred

for educational testing.

On the subject of the specific tests used to assess a child's development and abilities,

each educator gave varying information based on their areas of expertise. Karen discusses the

tests used for assessment and the purpose of each after noting that there are a "battery of tests"

administered to the student, not just one. Achievement tests such as the WJ III ACH or the

WIAT-II assess the math, reading, and writing skills and determine if the child can perform at an

appropriate level for that age. If the team thought that behavior was an issue, the examiner might

administer a social and emotional test. The IQ of the child is also assessed using tests such as the

Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale, the WAIS or WISC-III, the WJ-R, or the WJ III COG. These

tests show the student's potential and the level at which they are performing. Processing tests

are administered to evaluate the child's visual and motor integration as well as the ability to

retain and recall information. Lastly, speech and language tests such as the CELF-4 or the PPVT

might be administered if the child is suspected of having a disorder in one of these areas. These









tests are not administered by educational psychologists but by speech and language pathologists.

The speech portion of these tests assesses the child's pronunciation while the language portion

measures "receptive and expressive" abilities. Karen was asked whether features of AAE-such

as [mawf] instead of [mawT] (moufand mouth respectively)-are used by a child in the speech

portion of the test, would the responses be scored as incorrect and perhaps lead the examiner to

conclude that the child has a disorder. To this, she responded that there are a few factors to

consider. First is that all examiners differ, and despite the guidelines in the manual which give

scoring procedures, examiners will still differ in scoring techniques. Examiners will also differ

in their knowledge of language varieties, such as AAE. However, despite these things, if an

examiner is familiar with the phonological rule in AAE that the /T/ becomes [f] in middle or

final position of a word, then that examiner will also elicit words from the child where /T/ occurs

in word initial position to learn whether the child has the ability to produce the sound.

Each of the educators noted that all tests are administered to students in their native

languages. If Spanish-speaking students are suspected of having LD, the aforementioned

battery of tests will be offered in Spanish. If the child was struggling in school but showed no

signs of LD on the Spanish tests, then the student will begin instruction in ESOL classes, not LD

classes. If the tests do indicate LD, the child will receive training in LD as well as ESOL. The

companies who create the standardized tests have trained professionals who are native speakers

of the target language translate the tests. Karen was unsure, however, whether the tests are

directly translated from English or are equivalent to the English test but maintain cultural values

and understandings of the learners' primary language.

Lisa and Jane have limited knowledge about the specifics of the tests as neither one

administers them. Instead, they see the evaluations submitted by the examiners, which they use









to create appropriate instructional methods for the students as well as ensure that students receive

and take advantage of proper accommodations. These accommodations may include, but are not

limited to, extra time or unlimited time on tests, note takers, never being evaluated in a test

situation for spelling, or the opportunity to tape record all classes. Lisa's experiences are

specific to higher education. At the university where she is currently employed, she noted as an

example, that athletes who enter the university are first given a test called the Standard

Achievement Test for Adults (SATA), which shows the students' reading and vocabulary levels.

Evaluating those scores in conjunction with the students' SAT scores and high school grades, she

and other educators can decide whether a student should be assessed for learning disabilities. If

they do suspect that a student has a learning disability, that student is sent to an educational

psychologist for formal testing. There are a battery of tests which assess "achievement, aptitude.

. processing speed" and other "aspects of a learning profile" including "auditory versus visual

versus even kinesthetic" learning styles to most effectively gauge whether or not there is a

disability and in what area. As a learning specialist, Lisa then receives the evaluations and

results of the students' tests, which help her create the best instructional methods for that student

in terms of tutoring, and what aspects of the students' education will require the most attention.

If nonnative English speakers enter the university and are suspected of having a LD, they are

first assessed in their native language, then in English. If the results from both tests indicate LD,

the student is awarded accommodations from the university. If the LD only occurs in English,

the student receives no university-sponsored accommodations as lack of proficiency in English is

thought to be the cause of such results.

Students

Kevin and Marie were both tested for learning disabilities when they entered the

University of Florida. These tests took place approximately two years ago, and each of them had









difficulty remembering specifics about their experiences. The testing takes between six and

eight hours, and as described by Lisa and Karen, consists of several different tests. Instead, the

students discussed their experiences in school starting as early as they could remember (which

was sometime in elementary school) until the present time.

Kevin remembered struggling as a young child with reading, and has struggled with math

for much of his life. In elementary school he was in a reading program that met after school to

help him become a better reader. He remembers that his parents read books to him as a young

child and required that he read on his own as well, but he claims he never liked reading. When

discussing the diversity of teachers and students in the schools he attended, Kevin remembers

that most of his teachers were white females and the student population seemed to be a fair

mixture of white, black, and Mexican students. He does not ever remember feeling

uncomfortable with instructors or tutors who were white, "as long as they knew what they were

talking about," race was never a source of unease. Regarding the standardized tests he has taken,

Kevin did state that the questions and reading material were always in SAE and he did not think

he ever responded in AAE when verbal answers were required of him. This is a difficult

assertion to measure, as often when people are asked about their own language use, they tend to

misreport it (Shuy, 2003). Kevin talked about his own language variety in comparison to others'

as well. He feels that he rarely experiences times when he encounters misunderstandings in

conversations with other AAE speakers or with SAE speakers.

Marie's experiences in school are not dissimilar to Kevin's. She remembered very little

about the testing except that it took a really long time and the examiner was a white female. She

discussed her teachers throughout her years in school, stating that in elementary school most of

her teachers were white but that in high school the distribution of black and white teachers was









equal and "maybe more black." She, like Kevin, is comfortable with any teacher regardless of

race or sex, and remembers having teachers who were both female and male, and black and

white with whom she could relate. For Marie, the ability to relate to the teacher is important in

her educational experience. There are two tutors with whom Marie works very closely on a

regular basis, especially with her writing. She explained that perhaps because of their (the

tutors') past experiences, there does not seem to be many misunderstandings between them and

Marie. However, when she collaborates with other subject area tutors, who are typically

undergraduate and graduate students at the university, there are more occasions when the tutor

cannot understand her "when [she] use[s] a little slang."

What Marie found most interesting when she moved to Florida to attend college was the

difficulty in conversing with other AAE speakers who come from southern states. She noted that

while most aspects of the language are similar, there are words that southern AAE speakers use

that AAE speakers from Ohio do not use. Although AAE is considered one dialectal variation of

English, there are regional variations that occur within this variety as well.

Test Materials

WJ III ACH Tests and Examiner's Manual

There are a total of twenty-two tests in the WJ III ACH that collaboratively measure the

five areas discussed above. Some items in the first test, "letter-word identification," do contain

words that might be considered "mispronounced" according to the rules of SAE, such as they,

there, must, against, and scientist ((Woodcock, McGrew, & Mather, 2001, pp. 1-33; Mather, &

Woodcock, 2001a, p. 47). The first two words would likely be pronounced by an AAE speaker

as dey and dere respectively since the voiced "th" sound [A] becomes "d" in word initial

position. The other three words all end in a consonant cluster [st], which in AAE is reduced to

the first consonant of the cluster [s]. In the manual, under the scoring procedures for this test,









Mather, & Woodcock (2001) state that the examiner should "not penalize a subject for

mispronunciations resulting from articulation errors, dialect variations, or regional speech

patterns" (p. 47). However, this would require that the examiner be familiar with all possible

"mispronunciations" due to these factors (p. 47). No such information about the specifics of

dialect differences is provided in this manual, but it is possible that the examiner would consider

them in the final interpretations of the test results.

Another test in the WJ III ACH is the "reading fluency" test, which requires the student

to read sentences and decide whether the statement is true or not (Mather, & Woodcock, 2001, p.

48). For example, a sentence might read a dog has four legs and the student has to decide if the

answer is yes or no. There were a few items of interest in this section, which are not directly

related to bias against AAE speakers, but could be biased against any group of people. Two

statements were about sports: one asked about golf and another about tennis. While these sports

are both shown on television, it is not necessarily true that all people of all social and economic

statuses would be familiar with them. The third item would be specifically biased against

students who have lived in a rural or farming area their entire lives. The statement was "a

neighbor is a person who lives very far away" (Woodcock, McGrew, & Mather, 2001b, p. 5).

While the most "logical" answer is "no," it might be true that children from a rural area only

have neighbors who are not in close proximity to their home. Under the scoring guidelines for

this section, no procedure is mentioned for consideration on specific answers.

For the "writing fluency test," where the student writes sentences about a picture

provided, the scoring guidelines are extensive, with examples in an appendix of possible answers

and the points awarded for them. In this appendix however, there are no AAE sentences

provided as possible answers and under the scoring guidelines, Mather, & Woodcock (2001)









state that when "a word ... critical to the sentence meaning is omitted, score the response as

incorrect" (p. 53). There is no indication whether an AAE sentence such as she home is

considered incomplete because according to SAE rules is should be in the sentence. It is possible

that if the examiner is aware of such dialect differences, consideration might be given for this

answer, but there is no way to know for certain.

These are just a few selections from the WJ III ACH that show specific places where bias

could occur. This list is by no means exhaustive, but it does show that perhaps more detailed

information about dialect differences should be offered to the examiner to eliminate the

possibility of misrepresenting the results of the students' performance.

WIAT-II Tests and Examiner's Manual

In the manuals provided for the WIAT-II test, there is no specific mention of scoring

procedures or considerations for dialect differences or any other language difference. The only

discussion related to this is that "results should never be interpreted in isolation but in

combination with a thorough evaluation and review of the individual's background, personality,

current emotional functioning, and attention and motivation levels" (p. 6).

The WIAT-II does, however, provide a thorough description of the norming sample for

these tests accounting for studies conducted "with special groups" to provide validity of the tests,

but groups who speak languages other than SAE are not accounted for in this section (p. 126).

The distributions of the various racial or ethnic groups were normed to emulate the "proportions

of U.S. students in Grades PreK-12 or ages 4-10 years" (p. 87). The percentage of African

American students included in the various norming samples ranged from 9% to 17% and the

percentages of white students ranged from 62.67% to 67.87% (pp. 89-98). While these

demographic percentages are representative of the American education system, and the

examiner's manual provides support of the validity and reliability of the tests, it seems









amazingly misbalanced that white students have an advantage in these tests because the majority

of the students in the norm group are similar in linguistic and cultural backgrounds.

CELF-4 Examiner's Manual

The CELF-4 is a standardized test used to measure speech and language abilities. This

test can only be administered by Speech and Language Pathologists (SLPs) to ensure that they

have had proper training in this area. The interesting information in this manual is the special

attention that examiners are required to pay to dialect differences of the students they are testing.

The manual states that the examiner "must record theses variations verbatim" and "[c]ount a

variation as correct if it is appropriate given that student's language background" (Selem, Wiig,

& Secord, 2003, p. 12). An appendix of dialectal differences between SAE and other varieties in

the United States, such as Southern White English, Appalachian English, is provided so the

examiner can determine if certain responses are in fact of the child's dialect. Selem, Wiig, &

Secord (2003) advise that an examiner "must be familiar with [dialectal] variables to effectively

determine which of a student's responses can be attributed to variations that reflect dialectal

differences and which responses indicate deficits in his or her acquisition of language rules"

(p. 305). Included in the appendix is information about cultural differences that may influence

the testing of a student, as well as specific dialect differences. The linguistic differences include

the characteristics (as discussed in Ch. 1) of plurals, phonology differences, past tense, third

person singular present tense, the zero copula and the habitual be, and many other AAE

constructions (pp. 308-313). This information provided the examiner is very important in

effectively assessing a student's abilities. One wants to discover whether a student has the ability

to acquire the rules of a language, and not just find out whether the student is fluent in SAE. The

appendix and specific instruction on dialect differences allows this in a CELF-4 testing situation.









Each of these tests provides useful information and insight into the reasons researchers

suspect bias, and suggestions of ways to avoid such biases. CELF-4 does, however, give specific

details on the exact dialect variations that could potentially lead to misinterpreted results by the

examiner. The other tests, while they may caution against such bias, do not provide an outline

about these differences.









CHAPTER 4
DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS

This chapter first provides a discussion of materials examined in this study, including

past research as well as the data collected for this analysis. Second, there is an examination of the

implications drawn from this analysis for areas of continued research, which were beyond the

scope of the present study, and suggestions of ways to satisfy the needs of the American

education system.

Discussion

Despite decades of research, and the implementation of many different teaching and

testing strategies, the fact remains that the percentage of AAE-speaking students in special

education is disproportionate to the percentage of AAE-speaking students in U.S. schools (Hehir,

quoted in Zuckerbrod, 2007). Although, as discussed above, there are items on tests which

present the potential for bias, of the many arguments about the possible opportunities for bias in

standardized tests, the most interesting data are that of the demographics for the norm groups

used for the WAIT-II. White students being assessed for potential learning, speech, or language

disabilities and disorders are at a great advantage when approximately 60% of the norming group

shares a common linguistic and cultural background with them. It would seem appropriate to

norm these tests for various groups, such as African Americans, so that the tests consider

linguistic and cultural factors of the test-takers in relation to the norm group. If the goal,

however, is to maintain a particular worldview and linguistic norm for all students in the

American education system, then perhaps the teaching methods require modification so students

of all linguistic, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds are properly prepared for the tasks required of

them on such tests.









The opinions and experiences of qualified educators serve as cautionary tales that more

realistically depict the possible and the impossible when it comes to teaching methods in the

classroom. It seems heroic to read and write about a topic in education without experiencing the

actual arduous task of performing in front of a classroom of thirty children all of whom come to

school with different backgrounds, socioeconomic statuses, languages, and cultures. Is it really

feasible to conduct a session on language differences between varieties of English if sixty

percent of the classroom is unfamiliar with a lesser-known variety such as AAE to begin with?

But then this brings us back to the original problem: the percentage of students who experience

this disadvantage because of teaching and testing methods in the American education system.

Lisa and Jane, in their current positions, have an advantage in that they work with individuals or

small groups of students. If the differences between AAE and SAE are causing a student to

perform poorly in academics, Lisa and Jane are likely to have the time to work directly with

them, contrasting the two varieties to aid the student in becoming a proficient user of SAE.

Karen, on the other hand, spent much of her teaching career in a public classroom setting, where

individual work with students might have been less practical. Unless students receive individual

instruction to learn strategies in recognizing the differences between SAE and AAE, they may

never directly learn about it.

In my personal experiences as a tutor for students with LD, and as an instructor for a

general education undergraduate humanities course, the possibilities (and impossibilities) of

individual instruction became apparent. As a tutor, I worked with students in individual or small-

group settings where direct attention to the needs of each student was the purpose of the sessions.

Many of the students with whom I worked were AAE speakers, and in these sessions we were

able to discuss and evaluate the differences between AAE and SAE. The students were able to









use this knowledge to better prepare for classes, read and write with more ease, and learn SAE

more effectively for academic purposes. In the general education classroom, containing a

minimum of twenty-four students, such individualized instruction in the classroom was less

feasible. Students were encouraged to meet with each other and with me outside the regular class

period to further their understanding of the topics and academic writing, but rarely took

advantage of such opportunities. LD students within these classes, as well as those I tutored, who

were awarded accommodations through the university, rarely benefited from the modifications

because it was a source of embarrassment for them.

If individual attention to students is not practical in the classroom, some other method

must be considered to create an environment where all students have the opportunity to learn and

grasp the same materials. Dialect readers showed improvement in the AAE readers' abilities to

read in SAE, while direct instruction of how AAE and SAE are both similar and different

improved students' writing. Perhaps introducing these readers and this type of instruction early

in the education of AAE speakers would greatly increase their abilities to read and write, which

would in effect enhance their entire learning experience.

Implications and Future Research

In the educational system norms of development and behavior are set and all students

who do not fall within the range of general developmental milestones are considered "abnormal"

in some way. While this in and of itself is not paradoxical, the standards by which such norms

are set and the students whose performance is compared to those standards is inconsistent. As

mentioned above, the norming groups for tests, such as the WAIT-II, consist primarily of white

students and so African American students taking these tests are unfairly disadvantaged by the

expectations of their test performance. Educators, administrators, and politicians set forth a

progression that should apply to all students in the American education system. However, while









norms are decided, cultural and linguistic factors are not being considered. For example, a child

might be required to exhibit certain behaviors at various ages; yet, these behaviors might not be

culturally normal for all children. There is a certain expectation that all students in this system-

even when they do not all come from the same background-will eventually have equal

knowledge and understanding of a single cultural experience and language. Perhaps it is not that

educators and test administrators and creators need to modify the system to help students learn a

single cultural worldview, but rather recognize the value of using a variety of cultural and

linguistic materials and methods to train all students in a variety of cultures. Research presented

in the present study shows those second language learners who master the ability to read and

learn materials in their native language can more successfully do so in the target language

(Tucker, 2003). Van Keulen, et al. (1998) advise that since AAE and SAE are closely related,

SLA-type instruction might be too ambitious and perhaps harmful (p. 192). However, the use of

specific methods, which successfully teach AAE speakers the grammar and pragmatic usage of

SAE, has proven highly effective by several researchers (Fogel & Ehri, 2000; Simpkins &

Simpkins 1981, cited in Wheeler 1999; Bohn, 2003).

Although Wheeler (1999) discusses several methods that have proven in the past to be

effective in teaching AAE speakers to master more fully SAE, there are, however, several

problems in implementing these teaching methods. First is the lack of support from the general

public (i.e. people who believe that AAE is a "broken" or "improper" form of English).

Decisions in the education system are frequently made as a result of the pressure put on the

system by the public. This, for example, was the reason that educators ceased the use of dialect

readers. The second problem is that while educators are trained in basic notions of diversity and

cultural differences, they are by no means well prepared to fully understand every culture









because they have not necessarily been a part of every culture. Language structure, however, is

one topic that, if explored in more detail when training educators about diversity of cultures,

would help them teach differences between SAE and any other variety. Understanding the

basics of linguistics and differences in language use that are based on dialect variation-for

example that [T] becomes [f] when in word final position in AAE-or even transfer from a first

language, would be a useful tool for educators in the classroom whereby they would be able to

more accurately evaluate students' progress.

The debates about the best way to educate children are ongoing, and while new methods

are sought out and applied, no one solution will fix every discrepancy in the system. Quay

(1971, 1972, 1974) researched whether or not changing the language of the Stanford-Binet IQ

test from SAE to AAE would be sufficient to create a fair method for analyzing AAE speakers.

Since these were direct translations from SAE, and no there was no indication that changes were

made to account for cultural differences, it is difficult to posit whether this method could have

been more useful. While the issue of students appearing in special education classes who simply

need help learning SAE is of major concern, avoiding misplacement would perhaps be a more

suitable goal. To create a system where students were not situated in an inappropriate

environment would require different teaching methods and thus different training for educators.

It is beyond the scope of the present analysis to assess how such methods might work. However,

one suggestion would be to reevaluate methods of teaching, which improve reading skills and

language skills of an AAE speaker to then create the effect of not needing to change the tests'

language because the students will already be masters of SAE.

There are two key tasks at hand for educators, schools, and linguists. First is the need to

implement, in the entire American education system, methods of instruction that will benefit the









AAE-speaking learner. One approach might be to reintroduce dialect readers to enhance the

reading and language capabilities of the student. The second task is to help those students who

have fallen behind in their educational experience due to the system's lack of attention to the

students' needs. Students of all ages for whom reading, language, and writing and other areas of

school are a struggle because they lack the necessary basic proficiency in these areas require the

attention of educators to "catch up" to the level at which they should perform. For example, there

are college students who are remediated upon admission to the university so their skills can

improve and correspond to those of their peers. At the University of Florida remedial classes in

reading, writing, and math are offered-all the core areas that are assessed on standardized tests.

Limitations in the Present Study

The intended list of interviewees included a total of four students and four teachers. The

value of interviewing more participants would have been the ability to incorporate a broader

range of experiences, especially student experiences, into the analysis. The fourth educator

considered for this study was an educational psychologist who administers standardized IQ and

achievement tests to students suspected of having learning disabilities. Several educational

psychologists were contacted, yet, regrettably, none responded to the inquiries. While Karen has

had some experience in administering tests, it is not her field of expertise. To account for a lack

of direct professional information about the various aspects of standardized tests, three tests were

examined and analyzed for discussion purposes in the present analysis. However, the length and

complexity of the tests as well as a lack of expertise by the researcher in the area of standardized

tests and administration is a disadvantage in the analysis of them. As such, only a few items

could be discussed with regard to test bias.









Conclusions

African American English is a linguistic system governed by logical grammatical rules and

rich in cultural influences and traditions and specific worldviews that inspire the social

interactions and understandings of its speakers (Bohn, 2003; Smitherman, 2000, 1998a, 1998b,

1974). The conventions of AAE consist of both similarities to and differences from Standard

American English, the variety that the United States school system expects all students to know

and use in educational settings and in other settings such as the workplace. The differences

between the two varieties are great enough to warrant a modification in the way SAE is taught in

schools and used in standardized tests to assess a child's learning abilities.

The present study provides analyses of the arguments for and against adopting new

instructional methods and considering revisions to standardized tests for AAE speakers. A

significantly larger corpus of research in both areas is available, yet was beyond the scope of this

research project. The American public education system relies deeply on standardized tests to

assess students' academic and developmental abilities, progress, and potential. Yet, it fails to

modernize these materials, or the teaching methods in schools according to the contemporary

student populations. While efforts are being made by the United States government to lessen the

numbers of students misplaced in special education, much work is still needed. AAE-speaking

students suffer many consequences of the system's failure including lower reading levels and

increased enrollment in special education. The crucial challenge that educators, schools, and

linguists face is convincing a disinclined public to accept AAE as a systematic linguistic variety

and encouraging them to approve of modified teaching methods such as dialect readers and/or

contrastive instruction.









The present study provides analyses of the arguments for and against adopting new

instructional methods and considering revisions to standardized tests for AAE speakers. A

significantly larger corpus of research in both areas is available, yet was beyond the scope of this

research project. The American public education system relies deeply on standardized tests to

assess students' academic and developmental abilities, progress, and potential. Yet, it fails to

modernize these materials, or the teaching methods in schools according to the fluctuating

student populations. While efforts are being made by the United States government to lessen the

numbers of students misplaced in special education, much work is still needed. AAE speaking

students suffer many consequences of the system's failure including lower reading levels and

increased enrollment in special education. The crucial challenge that educators, schools, and

linguists face is convincing a disinclined public to accept AAE as a systematic linguistic variety

and encouraging them to approve of modified teaching methods such as dialect readers or

contrastive instruction.









APPENDIX A
QUESTIONS FOR EDUCATORS

1. What method of assessment do you find most useful in determining whether a student has
a learning disability or a language or speech disorder?

2. Does this method have a specific section that examines the student's language abilities?

3. Are tests available in languages other than English? If so, which languages?

4. Is a student's variation in language use (that deviates from Standard American English)
considered when she is being tested?

5. Is language ability evaluated prior to any other testing?

6. What specific linguistic features are examined when determining whether a student has a
learning disability?

7. How do language-specific standardized tests such as the PPVT-R fit in to the overall
evaluation of the student, and other standardized test used?

8. What might a teacher notice that alerts her to the need for testing for learning disabilities?

9. What specific factors are considered when examining the results of these tests related to
language/dialect variation?

10. Have students ever employed code switching while responding to questions?
a. Were those response taken into consideration?
b. How were those responses scored?

11. If a student's test results showed that she fully grasps the rules of her linguistic system,
even if these rules are not the same as those of Standard American English grammar,
what steps are taken to ensure the proper accommodations?

12. Do any of the standardized tests incorporate a storytelling section?

13. If yes, what 'norms' are used to score such sections?

14. Are cultural, ethnic, and personal experiences considered?









APPENDIX B
QUESTIONS FOR STUDENTS

1. How many times in your life have you been tested for learning disabilities?

2. How old were you when you were evaluated?

3. What is the earliest memory you have of being in school?

4. Please describe this experience including the city and state where the school was located,
the setting of the classroom, the teacher, and the other students.

5. Were there any major differences between you and other students that made this
experience easier or more difficult?

6. Who evaluated you when you were tested for learning disabilities?

7. Would you have been more comfortable if a different person had been administering the
test?

8. What specifically were you tested on?

9. Do you remember any sections being more difficult than others?

10. During the test, was it obvious that any part was specifically evaluating your language
abilities?

11. If yes, how did you react to the questions?

12. Were these questions in "school English" or Ebonics?

13. Were your responses in "school English" or Ebonics?

14. What conclusions about your learning abilities did the examiner make?

15. Were you awarded any type of accommodations?









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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

Megan L. Ford was born in Greeley, Colorado, where she lived until the age of fourteen.

She graduated from Mounds View High School near St. Paul, Minnesota in 1996. Megan

completed her B.A in English with a minor in linguistics, graduating cum laude (2004) from the

University of Florida. Following a one-year break, she returned to the University of Florida to

complete her M.A. in linguistics. Megan's main research and professional interests are teaching

and testing methods for African American English speakers. This area became of interest to her

when she began a job tutoring athletes with learning disabilities at the University of Florida.

During her time as a graduate student at UF, Megan has worked as a graduate assistant.

For one year, she was a tutor for the office of Academic Technology in conjunction with the

Office of Student Life, tutoring athletes with learning disabilities in Theater and

Communications. Her second year as a graduate assistant was spent as an instructor of

Language: A Humanities Perspective, an introductory linguistics course for undergraduates.

Megan completed her Master of Arts degree during the summer of 2007 and accepted a

position as an Academic Advisor for St. Johns River Community College in St. Augustine,

Florida.





PAGE 1

1 TEACHING STRATEGIES AND STANDARIZED TESTS: EFFECTS ON EDUCATIONAL EXPERIENCES OF AFRICAN AMER ICAN ENGLISH-SPEAKING STUDENTS By MEGAN L. FORD A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLOR IDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2007

PAGE 2

2 2007 Megan L. Ford

PAGE 3

3 To my parents who have supported my every amb ition in life. The completion of this thesis would not have been possible without your encouragement. To all my friends and family members who have always encouraged and supported me. To Jason, my best friend and soul mate, for reminding me that failure is not possible.

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4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Many people have supported and co ntributed to the success of th is endeavor, all of whom I am indebted to. I would first like to extend my gratitude to thos e who gracefully contributed to this study by participating in in terviews and sharing their profe ssional and personal experiences. Your contributions are irreplaceable. Virginia LoCastro not only served as the chair for this thesis, but has also been a mentor, a teacher, a guide, and a sage who unknowingly revealed wisdoms about life, which cannot be explained in books. I am grateful and will foreve r appreciate your support, encouragement and guidance during my years at UF. I would also like to thank Fiona McLaughlin for agreeing to be a member of my committee for this thesis. I have benefited greatly from your assistance and guidance, as well as the experiences and resources you have shared with me for this and other endeavors of mine in this program. I thank my parents for offering their devot ed love, support, and encouragement (and financial assistance) in my life c hoices and goals and especially in the pursuit of my education. My accomplishments are a reflection of each of you. My family and friends have always stood by me during all of my undertakings without judgment, for which I am gratef ul. I appreciate that you have encouraged, pushed, and supported me all these years. Lastly I would like to express my deepest gratitude to Jason, the love of my life, and my best friend who inspires me in life, impel s me to succeed, and supports my dreams.

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5 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS...............................................................................................................4 ABSTRACT....................................................................................................................... ..............7 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION................................................................................................................... .9 The Current Study.............................................................................................................. .....10 Literature Review.............................................................................................................. .....12 African American English...............................................................................................12 Standardized Tests...........................................................................................................14 Bias in Education and in Testing.....................................................................................17 Methods Tested to Improve the Edu cational Experience of AAE Speakers...................23 2 METHODOLOGY.................................................................................................................36 Participants................................................................................................................... ..........36 Methods and Materials.......................................................................................................... .37 Interviews..................................................................................................................... ...37 Test Materials Analysis...................................................................................................38 3 ANALYSIS....................................................................................................................... ......39 Interviews..................................................................................................................... ..........39 Educators...................................................................................................................... ...39 Students....................................................................................................................... ....43 Test Materials................................................................................................................. ........45 WJ III ACH Tests and Examiners Manual....................................................................45 WIAT-II Tests and Examiners Manual..........................................................................47 CELF-4 Examiners Manual...........................................................................................48 4 DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS..................................................................................50 Discussion..................................................................................................................... ..........50 Implications and Future Research..........................................................................................52 Limitations in the Present Study.............................................................................................55 Conclusions.................................................................................................................... .........56 APPENDIX A QUESTIONS FOR EDUCATORS........................................................................................58 B QUESTIONS FOR STUDENTS............................................................................................59

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6LIST OF REFERENCES............................................................................................................. ..60 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH.........................................................................................................66

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7 Abstract of Thesis Presen ted to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts TEACHING STRATEGIES AND STANDARIZED TESTS: EFFECTS ON EDUCATIONAL EXPERIENCES OF AFRICAN AMER ICAN ENGLISH-SPEAKING STUDENTS By Megan L. Ford August 2007 Chair: Virginia LoCastro Major: Linguistics African American English (AAE)also know n as Black English Vernacular (BEV), African American Vernacular English (AAVE), or Ebonicsis a variety of English spoken in the United States largely by African Americans. This linguistic system has, as any language variety, a system of rules that will be discussed in this analysis, which govern its use. Also important to AAE, are the cultural influences on the language as well as the influences of the language on African-American cultur e and other cultures in the Un ited States. The conventions of AAE consist of both similariti es to and difference from Sta ndard American English (SAE), the variety that the United States school syst em expects all students to know and use in educational settings and in othe r settings such as the workplace. The differences between the two varieties are great enough to warrant a modification in th e way SAE is taught in schools and is used in standardized tests to asse ss a childs learning abilities. The present analysis seeks to explore past re search conducted to esta blish the degrees of success of AAE speakers in school and on standard ized intelligence quotient (IQ) tests and other tests administered to assess learning disabili ties, as well as lear nby interviewing student speakers of AAE who have been tested for lear ning disabilities, and educators who work with

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8 such studentsabout specific experiences of stud ents and educators with testing and in the classroom. The American public education system relie s deeply on standardized tests to assess students academic and developmental abilities, progress, and potential Yet, it fails to modernize these materials, or the teaching me thods in schools according to the fluctuating student populations. While efforts are being made by the United States government to lessen the numbers of students misplaced in special education, much work is still needed. AAE speaking students suffer many consequences of the system s failure including lower reading levels and increased enrollment in special education. This analysis will outline and discuss many problems such students face and the challenges that educat ors, schools, and linguists face is convincing a disinclined public to accept AAE as a systema tic linguistic variety a nd encouraging them to approve of modified teaching methods.

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9 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION African American English (AAE)also know n as Black English Vernacular (BEV), African American Vernacular English (AAVE), or Ebonicsis a variety of English spoken largely by African Americans, although its use oc curs among people of other ethnic groups and it is not spoken by all African Amer icans (Van Keulen, et al., 1998) This linguistic system has, as any language variety, a system of rules, which governs its use both grammatically and pragmatically (Green 2002; Smitherman, 2000; Labov, 1972). Particular cult ural influences and traditions, and specific worldviews are also presen t in this system that influence the social interactions and understandings of its speakers (Bohn, 2003; Smitherman, 2000, 1998a, 1998b, 1974). The conventions of AAE consist of both si milarities to and differences from Standard American English (SAE), the variety that the Unit ed States school system expects all students to know and use in educational settings and in ot her settings such as the workplace. The differences between the two vari eties are great enough to warrant a modification in the way SAE is taught in schools and is used in standardized tests to assess a childs learning abilities. As Hess, (1974) observes, two individuals who spea k completely different dialects of the same language may think that they are communicating cl early when they are not (p. 281). Following are two examples of exchanges that resulted in miscommunications between a SAE-speaking teacher and an AAE-speaking student. (1) co mes from Norma LeMoines book and is cited in Smitherman (2000) and in Seymour, Abdulkarim, and Johnson (1999). (2) appears in Smitherman (2000) and is the transcript of a co mmunication at a school in Detroit, Michigan. (1) Bobby, what does your mother do? the teacher asked. She be at home, Bobby replied. You mean she is at home the teacher said. No she aint, Bobby offered, Cause she took my grandmother to the hospital this morning. The teacher snapped. Y ou know what I meant. You arent supposed to say, She be at home. You say, She is at home. But Bobby.

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10 could only reply Why you trying to make me lie? She aint at home. (Smitherman, 2000, p. 25; Seymour, Abdulkarim, & Johnson, 1999, p. 66) (2) Teacher: Where is Mary Student: She not here Teacher: (exasperatedly): She is never here! Student: Yeah, she be here Teacher: Where? You just said she wa snt here. (Smitherman, 2000, p. 25) Both of these exchanges exhibi t two of the fundamental differences between AAE and SAE: the use of the habitual be and the zero copula. The habitual be in AAE serves the function of indicating that something typically occurs, that the topic of discus sion is the norm. In (1) Bobby meant that his mother is normally home during the day, but the teacher, attempting to correct his grammar according to SAE rules, changes the m eaning of his statement completely. She be at home means that normally she is at home, wh ereas she is at home means that at that particular moment she is home (S eymour, et al., 1999). A similar difference arises in (2), where the teacher, upset by a student s absence (which is appa rently frequent) makes an overgeneralization that the student is never here The student with wh om she is talking about Mary, replies to that generalization with Yea h, she be here meaning that although she is not currently present, there are times that she is there (Smitherman, 2000). The zero copula is the absence of the conjugated form of the verb to be. If, for instance, Bobby in (1) wanted to say that his mother was home at the exact mome nt when the teacher asked, he could say she at home and this sentence would not require a form of to be. While these are two specific examples that exhibit two differences between th e AAE and SAE varieties, there ar e others that can inhibit an AAE speakers learning processes and ach ievement on standardized tests. The Current Study The present analysis seeks to explore past re search conducted to establish the degrees of success of AAE speakers in school and on standard ized intelligence quotient (IQ) tests and other

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11 tests administered to assess learning disabili ties, as well as lear nby interviewing student speakers of AAE who have been tested for lear ning disabilities, and educators who work with such studentsabout specific experiences of stud ents and educators with testing and in the classroom. The research and literature on the to pic of standardized test s is abundant, as is the literature of AAE speakers suc cess in their educational expe riences (Downey & Pribesh, 2004; Bohn, 2003; Green, 2002; Fogel & Ehri, 2000; O gbu 1999; Rickford, 1999; Seymour, et al., 1999; Wolfram, Adger, & Christian 1999; Van Ke ulen, et al., 1998; Smitherman, 1998; Steele & Aronson, 1998; Harry & Anderson, 1994; J ones, 1979; Johnson, 1979; Smith, 1979; Cunningham, 1976-77; Sledd, 1976; Somervill, 1975) all of which seek to discuss the characteristics of the language and the culture of speakers, and expl ain how and why problems arise for AAE speakers in education. A major issue within the education system is how to distinguish the degree to which sp eakers of AAE diagnosed with learning disabilities (LD) are actually learning disabled, and whet her or not the deficits indicat ed by such standardized tests are instead weaknesses due to di fferences in dialect. As Ja ne (Interview, 2007) emphasizes, being labeled LD causes problems [for all child ren] especially if youre not. Smitherman (2000, 1998) discusses this obstacl e with regard to the AAE sp eakers in Oakland, California where % of Oaklands Black students are trac ked in special education or learning disabilitiestype programs even though of the entire studen t population they were [only] 53 percent but says that there is no inherent intellectual deficiency in th ese students (1998, pp. 140, 150). A second consideration is the extent to which it is necessary to change the format, language, and content of standardized tests, or whether modi fying teaching methods and teacher education so that teachers are more effectively educating AAE speakers on the structure and conventions of SAE would rule out the need to chan ge the test. Lastly, it is impor tant to take into consideration

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12 that all the literature and studies that have been examined for the present analysis indicate ways in which educational practices and standardized tests can be changed to better suit the learning styles, linguistic characteristics, and cultural tr aditions of African American students who speak AAE. However, all of these changes suggest that the purpose of such modi fications would be to create an environment where Af rican American students can more effectively learn about and master the mainstream culture and values, as well as the language. To accomplish such a goal, it is necessary for educators to learn about and under stand linguistic diversity in schools or it is doubtful that the system will overcome the histor ical pattern of educational preference for upper-middle-class students who reside in homes where Standard English is the norm (Baugh, 1998, p. 299). Literature Review African American English The ongoing debates among those of the popul ar viewpoint, about AAE as a language variety revolve around, in short, whether or not it is merely a substandard form of English, or a linguistic system governed by a specific set of ru les and characterized by particular phonological, morphological, and syntactic structures (S mitherman, 2000; Van Keulen, et al., 1998; Labov, 1972). There are two main views people tend to adopt regarding AAE: th e deficit view which posits that it is a poor form of Standard Ameri can English (SAE), or the difference view, which takes on the latter idea that it is a rule-governed system (Wolfra m, et al., 1999; Van Keulen, et al., 1998; Somervill, 1975). The view one chooses to adopt regarding the value of AAE will in effect influence a persons attit udes about the use of AAE as a tool in an educational setting and the attitudes towards the students who use AAE (Green, 2002; Smitherman, 2000; Wolfram, et al., 1999; Van Keulen, et al., 1998).

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13 In the present discussion, the difference view is assumed. However, one problem must be clarified: one must understand that most litera ture appears to describe AAE in terms of the deficit view. This is because AAE is perceive d as a variety of the English language and it is usually discussed in relation to SAE, the variety th at is politically supported in the United States. The downfall of such an analysis is that often AAE is discussed in terms of what it lacks (the deficit view). While the structure of AAE will be examined here in this manner, the purpose of such an analysis is to show how AAE and SAE differ because these structural differences are fundamental to the discussion of students performance in school and on standardized tests, which are written, normed, and admini stered in SAE. Variations between the tw o varieties are evident in three areas: (1) patterns of gramma r and pronunciation; (2) verbal rituals from the oral tradition and the continued importance of the word as in African cultures; and (3) the lexicon (Smitherman, 1998b, p. 207). Regarding the lexical differences, Smitherman (1998b) suggests that the words are the same in AAE a nd SAE but the meanings differ and that this custom goes back to enslavement and to the ne ed for a system of comm unication that only those in the slave community could understand (p. 207). One example of such a lexical difference is the word go as discussed in Martin & Wolfra m, (1998) who show that in AAVE [ go ] can denote the static location of an object such as in the sentence There go the pencil (p. 12). Another case is the use of the word been as in The woman ben married (Martin, & Wolfram, 1998, p. 14). Martin & Wolfram (1998) point out that a speaker of SAE would understand that the woman was once married but is not currently yet, AAVE speakers typically infer that the woman has been married a long time and still is (p. 14). Suggestions for the improvement and modification of teaching methods and standardiz ed testing methods have been made by many researchers (DeBose, 2007; LeMoine, & Holl ie, 2007; Rickford, 2007; England, 2005; Bohn,

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14 2003; Baugh, 2000; Fogel, & Ehri 2000; Smither man, 2000; Wolfram, et al., 1999; Wheeler, 1999; Van Keulen, et al., 1998; Somervill, 1975; Quay, 1974, 1972, 1971; Wolfram, 1970) most of whom come to similar conclusions about the most constructive way to implement such changes. Yet it has remained an arduous process, as realizing such changes is a complicated task. One major issue in the discussion of AAE is the terms used to talk about it, such as dialect, nonstandard form, or nonstandard dialect. The word dialect carries many negative implications, especially that it is a lesser form of the proper language. In this discussion, this term will be used solely to indicate a type. Other terms that will be used interchangeably with dialect include linguistic syst em, or language variety. Language will be used as the parent term to incorporate what a person speaks. Standard American English and African American English are both varieties, linguis tics systems, or dialects of the Eng lish Language. An important notion to remember is that both of these varieties are mutually intelligible and very closely related; something that may in fact make it more difficu lt for AAE learners to successfully master SAE (Fogel & Ehri, 2000). Standardized Tests Standardized tests, or norm-referenced standardized tests, are a cornerstone of the American public educations systems (McLoughlin & Lewis, 2005). There are several types of standardized tests including (a) the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT), used to determine the potential academic abilities of college applicants (Jencks 1998); (b) tests to evaluate the language ability of people of various agesall of which may be included in the battery of tests used to assess learning abilitiessuch as the Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals 4 (CELF4), Fluharty Preschool and Langua ge Screening Test (FPLST), the Goldman-Fristoe Test of Articulation (GFTA), the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-Revised (PPVT-R), and the Test of Early Language Development-2 (TELD-2) (Witt, et al 1998) ; and (c) inte lligence quotient (IQ)

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15 tests which are tools for diagnosi ng learning disabilities (Medina). These latter tests include (a) the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale; (b) th e Wechsler Intelligence Scale (WAIS or WISCIII)of which there are multiple versions that are administered to various age groups; (c) the Woodcock-Johnson Psychoeducational Battery-Re vised (WJ-R); and (d) the Woodcock-Johnson III Tests of Cognitive Abilities (WJ III COG). Other tests include achievement tests such as Wechsler Individual Achievement Test, Sec ond Edition (WIAT-II), Wide Range Achievement Test 3 (WRAT 3), Peabody Individual Achiev ement Test-Revised/Normative Update (PIATR/NU), and Woodcock-Johnson III Tests of Achievement (WJ III ACH) (Medina; McLoughlin, & Lewis, 2005). Achievement te sts do not require that an edu cational psychologist administer them, yet being sufficiently trained in the admi nistration of these tests is still necessary. Standardized tests are used to measure various aspects of a students educational experience including abilities, skills, achievement, intell igence, social and emotional development, processing, and speech and language development. Lisa and Karen (Interviews, 2007) pointed out that a battery of tests is administerednot just a single testwhen measuring whether the student has a learning disabilit y. Typically when a child is being assessed for learning disabilities, educators rely on achievement and IQ te sts to show at what level a child is in terms of development and whether there is a discrepa ncy between the childs achievement and IQ for their age or grade level. It is when an inconsis tency exists, that the child will be considered for accommodations for LD. Norm-referenced refers to the performance of a norm group. .under standard conditions and these norms are what the test-takers scores are compared to (McLoughlin & Lewis 2005). The sample chosen as the norm group for such tests is selected considering a range of demographic features of the student population. Such considerations include the age, grade, and gende r of the students, as well as geographic region, ethnicity, and

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16 some index of socioeconomic status and genera lly consists of students placed in general education classrooms (McLoughlin & Lewis 20 05). Each test provides a manual, which describes the norm group, testi ng procedures, and scoring sta ndards, so that the person administering the tests can be sure that the test is suitable for the test-taker, and can replicate the conditions each time the test is given. On May 9, 2007, Zuckerbrod (2007) with the Associated Press released an article about the governments new plan of i nvolvement in the placement of students in special education. Zuckerbrod notes that LD diag noses tend to be made around 4th grade and that the new policy is aimed at intervening early to target students who have LD and provide them with the proper accommodations. A broad special education law was passed in October 2006, which requires th at schools use new methods of d etermin[ing] if a child has a learning disability (Zuckerbr od, 2007). It prohibits depe ndence solely on the IQ-vs.achievement method and offers schools the oppor tunity to observe how well children respond to intensive instruction, as well as permitting use [of] up to 15 percent of their special education funds to provide the required early in tervention (Zuckerbrod, 2007). Zuckerbrod also notes that this law requires districts with a disproportionate ly high number of minorities in special education to use this money for intervention. Since the inception of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, standardized testing in schools has increased because of th e requirements set forth in this law. The purpose of this law, according to Rod Paige, Secretary of the U.S. Depa rtment of Education, was to require states to set standards for student performance and teac her quality (U.S. Depa rtment of Education, 2004). According to this law: Every state is required to 1) set standards for grade-level achieveme nt and 2) develop a system to measure the progress of all student s and subgroups of stude nts in meeting those state-determined grade-level standards (U .S. Department of Education, 2004, p. 8).

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17 New standardized test have been created in individual states to act as assessment tools for the standards each has set. In Florida, for exam ple, the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) was created to evaluate students at vari ous grade levels. The tests consist of math, reading, writing, and science sections. Student s are assessed in math and reading every year beginning in third grade and ending in tenth grade (Florida Depart ment of Education website). The science tests are given in grades five, eight and ten, and writing test s are administered in grades four, eight, and ten (Flori da Department of Education website). Within the No Child Left Behind law are provisions created to guara ntee that students for whom English is a second language and those with learning di sabilities will receive a qualit y education and the chance to achieve their academic potential (U.S. Depart ment of Education, 2004, p. 16). The Florida Department of Education created handbooks that give the requirements that must be followed regarding all aspects of the tests for each of the various grade levels. In one such book, a description of ways that test ite ms are evaluated for the reading portion of the test for grades 3 states Reading passages are also reviewed by groups of Florida educators generally representative of Florida s geographic regions and cultu rally diverse population. Passages are reviewed for the following kinds of bias: gender, racial /ethnic, linguistic, religious, geographic, and socio economic. Passage reviews also include consideration of issues related to individuals w ith disabilities (Language from FCAT Reading Grades 3 5 Test Item and Performance Task Specifications appears by permission of the Florida Department of Education, Assessment and School Performance Office, Tallahassee, Florida 32399-0400. 2001, p. 8). Bias in Education and in Testing Bias in standardized testing and in educati on is a frequently deba ted topic, specifically regarding bias against African American children (Downey & Pr ibesh, 2004; Norment, Jr., 2003; Smitherman, 2000; Wolfram, et al., 1999; Ba ugh, 1998; Ferguson, 1998; Jencks, 1998; Steele & Aronson, 1998; Van Keulen, et al., 1998; Harry & Anderson, 1994). There are two issues of

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18 concern regarding bias. First is the potential for cultural and la nguage bias in the classroom. According to the National Center for Educati on Information, in 2005, 85% of teachers in K-12 public education were white, and eight out of 10 school teachers (82 percent) are female (News Release, August 2005). Such a high percen tage of white teachers creates an environment for incongruent language and culture relationships between white teachers and black students. Harry and Anderson (1994) highlight the fact th at most teacher preparation programs typically do not address the implications of this differen tial experience based on race and gender (p. 610). In one such book, Manning and Baruth (2000), which has been used to teach future educators about diversity of cultures in American schools, one entire chapter is devoted to African American students and discusses a variety of topi cs. The headings in this chapter include origins, socioeconomic status, families, religion, and language (Manning & Baruth, 2000, pp. 60). While this seems useful, the language section is one area in this book that is lacking in its description of the differences between AAE and SAE. The book discusses the verbal mechanics of storytelling and outlines a few problems that students may face, but there are no concrete examples of the grammatical differences between th e two varieties. The second potential for bias occurs in stan dardized testing. Wolfram, et al., (1999) assert, there is still a very strong expectation of linguistic an d cultural uniformity in test development, validation, and norming (p. 103). Educators instruct stud ents, evaluate their progress, and assess their abilities. When there are inconsistencie s in the students achievements compared to the standards set forth by the state, they are often referred for such standardized testing. If teacher education fails to address the specific grammatical elements of the language of students in the classroom, the referral for IQ testing is based only on partial knowledge of the students capabilities. One argument that Harry and Anderson (1994) make is that the students

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19 are being evaluated according to the cultural and linguistic norms of the teacher, and if that teacher is white and the student is black, then again there is a misbalanced standard (pp. 611 612). Harry and Anderson (1994) al so argue that an IQ test, admi nistered to determine whether a child has a learning disability: inevitably reflects the cultural knowledge base and cognitive orientat ion of its creator(s) and of the sample on which its items have been standardized. Thus, tests that are standardized on the Euro-American majority, an d that include test items chosen from the cultural experience of this majority, are inevit ably biased in favor of that majority and therefore biased against minorities, whose cultu ral experience is distinctly different (p. 612). Van Keulen, et al., (1998) make a similar argum ent, asserting, too ma ny general education teachers view special education as the place to refer students whose behaviors, language, and learning styles are not congruent with their perceptions and expectations (p. 208). On the topic of behavioral differences, Smitherman (1974) notes that style in AAE includes Black Modes of Discourse including the tradit ion of call-and-response (p. 17). This practice ensures that a conversation involves two people, and that the listener responds with verbal cues to show listening behavior, as well as agreement. Smithe rman makes two observati ons about this system and the cultural discontinuity it may create between a white SAE speaker and a black AAE speaker. First she states that the white pers on gets the feeling that the Black person isnt listening to him because he keeps interrupting and secondwhich holds particular importance in the discussion classroom behavioris that in th e classroom, rich verbal response from Black kids should inflate and excite a teacher, cause it mean they diggin on what you sayin (p. 17). Once students are referred for IQ testing, they face another situation of bias in the tests themselves, especially the assessment of African American children for learning disabilities. One example, presented in Smitherman (2000), and Bailey, & Thomas (1998), is the differing phonology between AAE and SAE. In SAE, the sounds /f/ (as in f eel ) and / / (as in th ank) are

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20 contrastive which means that in a word, changi ng one of the above sounds to the other will change the meaning of the word. An example mi nimal paira pair of words that differ in only one sound and have different meaningsis reef vs. wreath ([rif] and [ri ] respectively). As Smitherman (2000) indicates, these two sounds ar e allophones of the same phoneme in AAE, or in other words, they are complementary. In AAE, one phonological rule states that [ ] becomes [f] in word-final position so reef and wreath are both pronounced the same way: reef ([rif]) Another phonological difference is th at in some varieties of AAE, the consonant cluster [str] is disallowed in word initial position, and is inst ead realized as [skr] (Bailey, & Thomas, 1998). Dandy, (1991, p. 2, cited in Green, 2002, pp. 233) referenced an occurrence when a teacher requested that a student read aloud in class. The student pronounced street as skreet and stretched as skretched both of which resulted in incessant correction by the teacher silencing the student completely. Another example of how testing materials might pose a problem for certain minority cultures comes from research conducted by Reynolds, Taylor, St effenesen, Shirey & Anderson (1982). In this experiment, stud ents, both black and white, were asked to read a passage that dealt with an instance of sounding or playing th e dozens, (p. 353). Playing the dozens is a verbal game of insult, usually about someones mother [i.e. yo momma jokes]. played by all ages [where] [o]ne-upmanship is the goal of this oral contes t (Smitherman, 2000). In this experiment, Reynolds et al. (1982) showed that white students who read the passage were more likely than black students to think that the stor y was about people fightin g and were more likely to think that the people involve d were not friends. Reynolds et al. (1982) asserted, based on the results of student responses to the passage, th at cultural schemata can influence how prose material is interpreted (p. 353). This partic ular experiment was proba bly a reversal of what

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21 occurs in a typical American classroom because he re the white children misinterpreted the text (Reynolds, et al., 1982, p. 363). Jencks (1998) suggests that standardized test s are not linguistically and culturally biased but rather contain other types of bias, namely labeling bias, conten t bias and methodological bias all of which might offer explanations fo r the reason that African American children typically score lower on IQ tests than white childr en (p. 55). Jencks c ontends that labeling bias occurs because there is a misuse of the te rm intelligence and th at while psychologists understand intelligence to mean peoples develo ped capacity for intelligent behavior, not their innate potential, the general popu lation tends to define it as i nnate intelligence or as an individuals current capacity for intelligent behavior (p. 66). Content bias is what others argue is the main problem with standardized tests: that the tests are written from majority worldview and thus do not account for the minority groups understandings of the world or even of the language in which the test is given (W olfram, et al., 1999). Jencks (1998), however, dismisses this bias claiming that although all tests have some ite ms that appear to favor one cultural group over another. intuitive judgments about cultural bias do not seem to predict the racial gap on a given item (pp. 66). The final type of bias Jencks discusses is methodological bias; a type of bias that other researcher s also agree on (McLoughlin and Lewis, 2005; Wolfram, et al., 1999). This is bi as that occurs when the method of administering the test poses a problem or threat to the results of the test such as when an African American child who understands the meaning of a particular word is unable to identify the word because the examiner pronounces it according to Standard American English phonology (Jencks, 1998). A study conducted by Steel and Aronson (1998) evaluates an idea similar to the methodological bias as described by Jencks. Th e experiments showed that African American

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22 students performance was lower than that of whit e students on tests described as diagnostic of intellectual ability than if it was a test (the same tests were used for both conditions) which students thought was nondiagnostic i.e. explained as a laboratory problem solving task (p. 405). Another experiment in the same study show ed that when students we re given a test that was of the nondiagnostic type but asked to i ndicate their race prior to taking the test, the African American students performance was significantly lower than if they were not asked to indicate race (pp. 419). McLoughlin and Lewis (2005) talk about wa ys to avoid methodological bias when administering the tests, discussing three key elem ents: professional preparation of the tester, tester attitudes, and a working relationship be tween the student and the tester (p. 113). Most standardized tests require that the examin er have certain traini ng in administering and scoring the test. If a person who has not been su fficiently prepared gives a test, the results may not be unbiased. IQ tests require extensive preparation and often only school psychologists are. licensed to administer them (McLoughlin & Lewis, 2005, p. 90). The examiners personal beliefs about groups of people may also influence the administration of the test. One must be careful when testing and scoring not to impose personal biases on the students performance. Lastly, McLoughlin and Lewis (20 05) discuss the importance of building rapport with students especially with those of races cultures, or experiential backgrounds different from their own (113). Some researchers say that the examiner should be of the same culture and linguistic background as the student to avoi d such biases in testing (McLoughlin & Lewis, 2005). It is this final issue, in methodological bias, which is pert inent to the present discussion. It may be detrimental to the test results a nd the performance of an AAE-speaking African American child if the test administrator is white.

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23 The No Child Left Behind Act enacts a desire fo r all students, of all races, ethnicities, and abilities have an equal opportunity for education. (U.S. Department of Education, 2004). Van Keulen, et al., (1998) discuss the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act and the conditions necessary for legislated nondiscrimi natory evaluation (p. 150). Under these requirements, the law stipulates th at schools must. .[administer ] non-biased tests in ways that do not put children to a disadvantage and must es tablish procedures to ensure that testing, examination materials, and procedures used fo r evaluating and placing ch ildren with disabilities will be selected and administered so as not to be racially or culturally discriminatory which includes offering such tests in the childs na tive language or other mode of communication, unless it is clearly not feasible to do so (p. 150). As Wolfram, et al., (1999) point out, there is still a very strong expectation of linguistic and cultural uniformity in test development, validation, and norming (p. 63). While, for whatev er reason, it may not be feasible to offer a test in a childs native form of communication, if the anticipated re sults are that all children in the American education system be able to function under a common cultural and linguistic understanding, more care should be take n to ensure that they are prop erly prepared for such tests, and that teachers are properly trained to recognize the details of language variation (Wolfram, et al., 1999, p. 105). Methods Tested to Improve the Educational Experience of AAE Speakers Quay (1971, 1972, 1974) conducted studies to di scover whether translating portions of the Stanford-Binet Test of Intelligence into AAE would increase the scores of AAE speakers. In the first experiment, Quay (1971) had an AAE sp ecialist translate part of this test into AAE and [approve] both the standard English and the Negro dialect of the two examiners who were two black males trained in the administration of the Stanford-Binet (p. 7). With this information however, Quay failed to note (in this and the subsequent studies) whether cultural

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24 considerations were made in these translat ions, or simply grammatical. Although this experiment would seemingly provide evidence ab out whether language diffe rences are a problem for AAE speakers test results, Quay failed to support her claim that neither deficits nor differences in intelligence, language comprehens ion, or motivation in the testing situation existed (p. 14). The first major issue in this ex periment is that one variable she tested for was motivation. In each of the SAE and AAE versions of the tests, the examiners also used either verbal praise or candy rewards as ways of motivating the test-takers. This is a major flaw in this study since, as stated by McL oughlin and Lewis (2005) under Gen eral Guidelines for Test Administration the person admini stering the test may not in any wayverbal or nonverbal inform a student whether a response is correct. Correct responses may not be confirmed; wrong responses may not be corrected (p. 95). Als o, according to these guidelines, praise is only suitable between test items or subtests to ensu re that reinforcement is not linked to specific responses and should only come in the form of remarks such as Youre working hard and I like the way youre trying to answer every quest ion (p. 95). Quay (1971), by including the condition of motivation, invalidated the te st result of all the participants. The second problem in this study was the failure to describe scori ng procedures, except to say that people other than the examiners scored each student based on sound recordings. made of all tests (p. 7). According to McLoughlin and Lewis (2005), unless allowed by the manual, no mechanical recording equipment. should be introdu ced into the testing environment because they are typically not part of the standard conditions for test administration and. may distract the student (p. 96). Quay did not mention the norms of the standardizing of this test. La stly, although Quay mentions that students responded to certain

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25 verbal items in AAE, she never clarifies whether or not these responses, if correct, were scored as correct or were only scored as correct if given in SAE. In her later studies, Quay (1972, 1974), using si milar testing conditions repeats the above experiment without the motivationa l praise condition and still claims that la nguage difference is not the variable that results in lower scores for black children than white children. Her argument stems from other research that showed AAE speak ers abilities to comprehend SAE was equal to their ability to comprehend AAE an d that the problem was in speech production. There is still no direct mention in any of these studies whethe r answers given in AAE that were correct, were scored as correct or incorrect. Overall, these st udies seem to be lacki ng any evidence of validity or reliability. In contrast to Quays (1971, 1972, 1974) findi ngs, Robert L. Williams (1970, cited in Baugh, 2000, pp. 60) found that the African American students he studied performed better on a test that contained items that were culturally familiar than on general standardized tests. Williams had created a test called the Black Intelligence Test of Cultural Homogeneity (BITCH), which was purposely biased in favor of African Americans and contained material drawn exclusively from the Black Experience Domain (Williams, 1975, p. 123, cited in Baugh, 2000, p. 75). Much of Smithermans (1974) discussi on is regarding styl e in the speech and culture of African Americans. While she does di scuss the important differences of grammar and pronunciation in AAE, she emphasizes the vast differe nces in culture stati ng that there exists a cognitive linguistic style whose semantics bees grounded not only in words but in the sociopsychological space between words, supporting the fact that purely gramma tical considerations in testing materials may not suffice to rid them of bias (p. 17).

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26 In 1996, the School Board in Oakland, Califor nia passed a resolution calling for the recognition of Ebonics as the primary language of its Black students and for the use of this language in teaching these students (Smitherman, 2000, p. 150). The intentions of this school board were to implement the best possible academic program for imparting instruction to African-American students in their primar y language for the combined purposes of maintain the legitimacy a nd richness of such language. and to facilitate their acquisition and mastery of English language skills (Resolution of Oakland, California School Board, cited in Smitherman, 2000, p. 150). Helping students not only to appreciate thei r native tongue, but to also learn the variety that will serve them best in grea ter society seemed to have its be nefits. The idea was to use AAE in a contrastive methods approach showing dist inctions between the tw o varieties to teach students how to translate between it and SA E effectively and according to appropriate pragmatics of society. This decision has been di scussed at length in the literature, especially by linguists who argue against the publi cs claims that AAE is bad English or the claim that the purpose of this decision was to teach AAE (Smitherman, 2000, 1998; Wheeler, 1999, Pullum, 1999; Van Keulen, et al., 1998). The problem is that many view AAE as a nonstandard form or refer to it as a dialect using this term with the negative imp lications discussed above. Haugen (2003) observes four aspects of la nguage [which are] crucial features in taking the step from dialect to language, from vernacular to st andard (p. 421). These aspects include (a) selection of a norm, (b) codifi cation of form, (c) elaboration of function, and (d) acceptance by the community (p. 421). The la tter aspect is the one, which causes the most problems for AAE in the education system, as the public is unwillin g to accept the use of AAE in teaching speakers of it. Wheeler (1999) discusses several studies cited by various researchers in such discussions, which show that using AAE in the classroom ha s helped AAE speakers become better speakers,

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27 readers, and writers of SAE. This includes the use of dialect read ers using contrastive methods in teaching writing, and another system referred to as the bidialectal approach (pp. 62). According to Wheeler (19 99), the dialect readers were part of a program identified as the Bridge program which was a series published by Houghton Mifflin in 1977 (p. 62). The purpose of these books and tapes was to provide material for AAE-speaking students in AAE based on the traditional folklo re of African-American culture (p. 62). The following excerpt is an example of how SAE reading materi al and the dialect reader differ taken from Van Keulen, et al., (1998). SAMPLE TEXT: STANDARD ENGLISH VERSION Alisha and Tamara are best friends. Alisha is nine years old. Tamara is nine too. Alisha is taller than Tamara. Alisha li ves near the school. Tamara lives near the park. Tamara likes to play baseball. A lisha likes to play baseball too. Yesterday Alisha and Tamara were at the park. Th ey were playing baseball. They were having fun. SAMPLE TEXT: AAE VERSION Alisha and Tamara best friends. Alisha ni ne years old. Tamara nine too. Alisha taller than Tamara. Alisha live close to the school. Tamar live close to the park. Tamara like to play baseball. Alisha like to play baseball too. Yesterday Alisha and Tamara was at the park. They was pl ayin baseball. They was havin fun. (p. 198). The utility of such readers was analyzed and show ed that students who had used the readers were showing significantly more progress than the students who did not. According to Wheeler (1999), reports by Simpkins and Simpkins (1981) showed that students using the readers progressed in reading abilities (in SAE) 4.6 months further than the stude nts who did not use the readers (p. 63). Due to the publics discont ent with the readers, however, Houghton Mifflin stopped publishing them. In his article abou t bilingual education, Tucker (2003) discusses several inferences he made about the effectiveness of education for bilinguals. One such conclusion is that individuals most easily develop literacy skills as well as cognitive skills and

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28 master content material in a familiar langu age (p. 466). He also notes that following the cultivation of both cognitive/academic language sk ills and content-subject material they will transfer readily (p. 466). Other researchers in the field of second language acquisition (SLA) also note that when students are able to read in their first language they are more successful readers in the second language (Dan iel, 2005), and that prior knowledge of textrelated information strongly affects reading co mprehension (Grabe, 1991, p. 381). Not only is the ability to read in the first language important but the familiarity of content in the reading material also improves the likelihood that the re ader will fully grasp the information. Wolfram (1970; See also Somervill, 1975) discusses several options for teaching reading to AAE speakers and seems to favor the incorporation of dialect re aders over other methods such as (a) instructing students in the mechanics of SAE before teachin g them how to read; (b) allowing students to read SAE books aloud in AAE; or (c) what he calls neutralization of dialect differences which essentially changes or avoids the features of SAE that do not occur in AAE (p. 19). The importance of the dialect readers is the signifi cant progress that AAE speakers made in reading SAE if they successfully master ed reading in their own dial ect. Those who supported the implementation of these readers generally did so for three reasons, according to Wolfram (1970) including: (1) that there is sufficient mismatch be tween the childs system and standard English textbook to warrant distinct material s, (2) the psychologi cal benefits from reading success will be stronger in the dial ect than it might be if standard English materials were used, and (3) the succe ss of vernacular teaching in bilingual situations recommends a similar principl e for bidialectal situations (p. 26). As Wheeler (1999) briefly obser ved, the most significant problem with the use of these dialect readers was the publics aversion to them Wolfram (1970) asserts the codification of a nonstandard language system may be viewed as a th reat to the social mobility of blacks in our

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29 society because not only do members of the dominant class but also members of the AAEspeaking community object to any use of AAE in an educational setting (pp. 29). Wolfram (1970) contends that these objec tions are in spite of the evid ence that vernacular reading materials have been reported to be successful as a bri dge to literacy in th e national language (p. 31). Ogbu (1999) conducted a study in Lafa yette, a predominantly African American neighborhood located near Oakland, California, to research the di chotomy of language attitudes that exists for the citizens. He found that the st ruggle children go through upon entering school is not simply due to the language differences, but also the problem with negative attitudes: in school from the teachers about the childrens home language, and at home from parents and other society members about their school language. Other methods that have shown an incr ease AAE speakers classroom performance included two different teaching methods. The fi rst was in Chicago where a teacher educated AAE-speaking students on the differences between AAE and SAE and his system proved useful when compared to the class where he used conventional teaching methods. According to Rickford, cited in Wheeler ( 1999), the students who learned th rough the contrastive method showed a 59% reduction in the us e of Ebonics features in thei r SE writing and the group who learned through the conventional method showed a slight INCREASE (8.5%) (p. 63). The second case was of a teacher in Georgia who en couraged code-switching, and learning the appropriate times and places for the use of each di alect. If a student used AAE, the teacher prompts the student to code-switch, a method that encourages the use of both dialects and teaches the pragmatics of using them (p. 64). Bohn (2003) made interesting observations in her exploration of unorthodox teaching methods used by one teacher over a two-year peri od. The teacher, an African American woman,

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30 used rhetorical patterns of African Ameri can English and exhibited Standard English grammar and pronunciation (p. 689). The patt erns included call and response, rhythm and repetition, signifying and testif ying, and even code-switching (p. 696). Call and response is traditionally used in the Black church, but is also a part of black oral tradition whereby a speaker encourages response from the listeners wh ich indicates agreement or approval of what the speaker is saying (Smitherman, 2000, p. 64). Rhythm and repetition is also important in AAE and can be used in most situations such as by a preacher, or in a narrative. The speaker uses cadence, tone, and musical quality and ge nerally emphasiz[es] sound apart from sense (Smitherman, 2000, p. 64). Signifying, or significat ion is a type of verbal playfulness, challenging the listeners to st ay on their toes and tends to include teasing (Bohn, 2003, p. 697). One of the ways the teacher employed this technique was by giving a logically unexpected and incorrect response that had to be challenged (B ohn, 2003, p. 697). Lastly, testifying is another method that this teacher used, which according to Smitherman (1977) is giving verbal witness to the truth, efficacy and power of some experience (p. 58, cited in Bohn, 2003, p. 697). Bohn (2003) described the teachers use of this device as a way to establish the students rightful place in the gr oup and to diminish his isolation (p. 698). Another aspect of the techniques used in this cl assroom is that the teacher allo wed students to use AAE and never directly [corrected] their speech patterns but ra ther rephrased the students statements in Standard English as an affirmati on that she heard what her studen ts were saying (p. 690). What Bohn (2003) discovered was that the teachers met hods appear[ed] to have achieved a number of desirable educational effect s including, creating an enviro nment where there was cultural comfort, validation and encouragement of languag e development, as well as response, interest and participation from all students (not just the African American students) in the class (p. 701).

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31 This strategy seemed to be very effective in se veral ways for this class; however, one limitation might be that not all teachers would be able to employ the exact same methods, as did this teacher. The woman Bohn (2003) observed was a member of the same community as many of her African American students and shared cultural understandings with them. This is not always going to be the case in every classroom. One study conducted by Fogel and Ehri ( 2000) also supports the claim that the contrastive method of inst ruction is the most beneficial in helping students learn the grammar of SAE. Fogel and Ehri (2000) di scovered in their experiment th at the best technique for AAEspeaking students to learn SAE effectively was to incorporate a three-pa rt systemthese parts were called exposure, strategies, and practic eto produce the most successful outcome. Their hypothesis was that if students were given the opportunity to learn how the SE features correspond to and differ from the BEV features and to practice transl ating between the two varieties, their success in r ecognizing the differences would be greater (p. 215). In the experiments, three groups were administered diffe rent methods of learning SAE, as mentioned above. In the group receiving the exposure me thod, students were taught in SAE but never instructed in the specif ics of its grammar or structure (pp. 215). Strategies was the second method that was added to the exposure method for the second group. Here, not only were students instructed in SAE, but specific structures of this variety were indicated to students so they had an idea of what to watch for when read ing. Fogel and Ehri focused their research on writing and specifically looked at th e differences in syntax between the two varieties. Structures of AAE that were especially pertinent to this re search were syntactic f eatures. because unlike phonological features, nonsta ndard syntactic forms tend to stand out (p. 215). The

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32 features chosen included six Standard Englis h syntactic forms including possessive s, which results in the difference betwee n sentences (1) and (2) (p. 215). (1) Marys apple (2) Mary apple Second is the difference in the use of past tense ed (p. 215). Other researchers argue that the absence of this morpheme occurs because of a phonological rule rather than a morphological rule; namely that in AAE, the final member of the cluster [is] absent (Fasold and Wolfram, 2003 p. 61). Since this absence of the ed form occurs in writing, it was included in Fogel and Ehris (2000) study. The example sentences offered to show this difference in their study are sentences (3) and (4) (p. 215). (3) Yesterday she played (4) Yesterday she play Next is the use of third-person present-tense singular s (215). In SAE, the verb forms for first person present tense singular and third person present tense si ngular vary in that the latter form includes the suffix s. In AAE, both forms are the same, which would result in a sentence such as (5) and (6) where (7) and (8) are the SAE forms of th e same sentences (Green, 2003, p. 228). (5) I eat (6) He eat (7) I eat (8) He eats Another feature that differs between AAE and SA E is the use of the plural form. In SAE, typically nouns take the plura l s, suffix to indicate more than one (p. 215). In AAE however, plurality is generall y realized by context (Smith erman, 2000, p. 141). Examples of how context allows an AAE speaker to realiz e plurality are found in sentences (9) through (11)with the corresponding SA E sentence in parentheses (Smitherman, 2000, pp. 141).

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33 (9) Two captain (two captains) (10) A few cartoon (a few cartoons) (11) Two year (two years) The fifth structure that was exam ined in Fogel and Ehri (2000) was the difference between the AAE and SAE use of the indefinite article such as in sentences (12) and (13) (p. 215). According to the rules of SAE, an must be used instead of a if it precedes a word that begins with a vowel, which differs from the structure of AAE. (12) A orange (13) An orange The final syntactic structure Fogel and Ehri (200 0) discuss is the differe nce in construction of subject-verb agreement (p. 218). The differences presented here are basi cally the same as the differences noted in the use of th ird person present tense singular ve rb forms. One example that does not relate is the verbal form of the third person past tense plural verb forms. Sentence (14) exhibits the form for AAE while (15) shows how SAE forms differ (p. 232). (14) They was so full (15) They were so full The outcomes of the performance of the first two groups (exposure only and exposure plus strategies) had no significant differences. It was the third group (expos ure, strategies and practice) that showed the most success. Here the students were administ ered all three methods listed aboveexposure, strateg ies, and practice,the latt er of which allowed students time to practice the strategies they had lear ned, giving them time to learn the structural differences between SAE and AAE and have th e opportunity to apply this knowledge when translating sentences between the two varieties. Another important study discusse s standardized tests used to assess language abilities determine if there is a language or speech di sorder. Seymour, et al., (1999), speech-language

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34 pathologists (SLPs) point out the necessity for educators to understand and consider AAE grammatical elements so that they can correctly diagnose lear ning disabilities in AAE speakers because standardized tests for determining disabili ty are based solely on SAE (p. 74). This does not mean that the student has a learning disability but rather that they may not be competent in Standard English. They also argue the im portance for SLPs to take these factors into consideration when administeri ng language tests to AAE speakers. Wolfram, et al., (1999) argue a similar point noting that the key cons ideration in distinguishing between a language difference and a disorder is the language norm of the students own speech community (p. 105). This is an important notion given that norm-referenced tests do not guarantee that AAE is part of the norm group to whom the test was standardized. The study cited in the article, done at the University of Massachusetts, tested AAE speakers ba sed on the grammatical rule s of that dialect. The specific element discussed is the verb to be which is often deleted in AAE (Green, 2002; Smitherman, 2000; Martin & Wolfram, 1998; Baugh, 1983; Labov, 1972). Where this verb is deleted, however, is governed by a rule and one sti pulation is that when it is preceded by a word ending in /t/ it must remain in the sentence. Two appropriate AAE sentences are He__ bad and It is bad (76). Only when is is deleted in the latter form should there be concern that the child has a possible disability. Several teaching techniques, and cl assroom materials, as well as va riations of standardized tests have been researched to discover the most usef ul method of improving the quality of education for AAE-speaking students. Each method stud ied has taken into account the fundamental differences between AAE and SA E both grammatically and cultura lly, and has been created for the purpose of considering such f actors previously ignored. The present study seeks to consider

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35 the possibilities, problems, and potential for futu re research and improve ment of such methods that, at a later date, could be used and c odified in the American education system.

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36 CHAPTER 2 METHODOLOGY The first part of this secti on discusses the participants, w ho volunteered their time to be interviewed for the purposes of this study, thei r backgrounds, and areas of expertise. The following section provides a description of the inte rview setting, and lastly is a description of specific tests that were examined for this analysis. Participants Data were collected through interviews w ith both educators and students who have personal experiences within these fields. The pa rticipants included three professionals in the educational field and two students who are AAE sp eakers and who have been tested for learning disabilities at least once during their time in school and receive accommodations for such disabilities in college. The identities of the pa rticipants will remain anonymous, as promised prior to the interview. However, their credenti als and backgrounds will be discussed, as they are important to this investigation. To maintain anonymity, alias names have been assigned to each participant for ease of discussion. All three of the educators are white females and will be referred to as Lisa, Jane, and Ka ren. Two of the educators work directly with college students with learning disabilities at a university. Lisa has a Ph.D. in Educati onal Administration and has worked with students in either a community colleg e or university setting for fifteen years. Jane holds a Masters in Education wi th a specialty in Specific Learni ng Disabilities (SLD). She has worked as a Special Education teacher for ten year s with grades six through twelve and has spent the last seventeen years working with various ag e groups of people with learning disabilities. Lastly, Karen has a PhD in Special Education. Sh e has taught as an adju nct professor and a full professor of education for a comb ined total of eight years. She has also taught elementary-,

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37 middle-, and high school-aged students with learning disabilities for eighteen years. In addition to her teaching experiences, Karen has on variou s occasions administered different types of standardized tests to students su spected of having learning disabil ities. Each of these educators has a different background and a variety of e xperiences pertinent to the present study. The two student participants include one male and one female student at the University of Florida. The alias names assigned to these stude nts are Kevin and Marie re spectively. Both are twenty years old, and as of Spring 2007, have comp leted two years of their college educations. Kevin comes from Irving, Texas, just outside of Dallas. He has been tested for learning disabilities twice: once as a young ch ild and again upon his entrance to the University of Florida. Marie is from Columbus, Ohio, and has only been tested for lear ning disabilities once upon entrance to the university. Methods and Materials Interviews The five participants were as ked a series of questions in an interview setting regarding the standardized IQ tests that are administer ed to assess learning ab ilities; about teaching methods in the classroom; and about ways to iden tify learning disabilities (Appendices A and B). Each participant was interviewed individually in a private setting with no ot her distractions. Not all of the questions in the appendices were asked of each participant, as some did not pertain to every person. The participants descriptions of their own expe riences and the expertise of the educators will be discussed in the present study in an effort to more closel y analyze the details of problems that arise for AAE speakers when bein g tested for learning disabilities, and in classroom settings.

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38 Test Materials Analysis In addition to the interviews, two achieveme nt tests and the corresponding examiners manuals were reviewed and analyzed to better grasp the content which researchers argue contain biases which hinder the results of AAE speaker s. The two tests are the Woodcock-Johnson III Tests of Achievement (WJ III ACH), and the Wechsler Individual Achievement Test, Second Edition (WIAT-II). Both of these tests measure th e achievement of students in reading, writing, oral language, and mathematics. In addition to these four areas, the WJ III ACH also measures academic knowledge (Mather, & Woodcock, 2001, p. 11) Also analyzed, was the examiners manual for the Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals, Fourth Edition (CELF-4). The analysis of each of the above-nam ed tests and manuals served se veral purposes. The first aim was to look for test items that could be culturally or linguistically biased against AAE speakers. The second purpose was to analyze the information about scoring procedures in the manuals to see if any guidelines were given for the consid eration of dialect diffe rences in test-taker responses. Lastly, the demographics of the nor ming group for the WIAT-II were examined since one problem [that has been discussed above, see pp. 11] is that standard ized tests are normed for SAE.

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39 CHAPTER 3 ANALYSIS The first part of this chapter summari zes the information provided by each of the interviewees, both the edu cators and the students. The second section details specific examples and discussion of the three standardized tests examined for this analysis. Interviews Educators The educators interviewed for this study all seem to agree on one point: that AAEspeaking students need more effective instructio n to successfully master SAE. When Karen learned that dialect readers were used at one time and that stud ies showed (Wheeler, 1999) that there was a significant increase in SAE reading progress for students who had used them, she was shocked to hear that, due to the publics di spleasure with them, dialect readers stopped being published and educators discontinue d using them. Jane, who has worked with students of all ages, concedes that if AAE speakers are to be h eld to the same standards as SAE speakers, we need to teach them; we need to retrain them so they can fairly be held to the same standards. She asserts that the purpose of educating people is to have th em be functional contributors to society and to do so requires that all people have an equal fo undation from which they learn. One problem, she points out, however is that there is no specifi c training for teachers about the mechanics of AAE and in testing situations the examiners are not supposed to consider dialectal variation but the consideration they gi ve a student may vary based on location of the school. If the school is located in an area where examiners have had a significant amount of exposure to AAE, they may score an answer gi ven in AAE as correct instead of as a wrong answer, whereas an examiner who is unfamiliar with the variety may score the answer as incorrect. Lisa mentioned that directly instru cting students on the diffe rences between AAE and

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40 SAE would be helpful if its done at an early ag e. The problem she observes with the students at the university level is that they did not receiv e this type of training a nd as a result fell behind in school. When they arrive at the university they are starting with the absolute basic remedial English which is this is a noun, this is a verb and although these students will receive tutoring and accommodations during their college education, they use Ebonics because it is what they know. Karen and Jane both elaborated on the stages of assessing children fo r learning abilities. Assessment of students abilities achievement, and progress begins in the classroom where an effective teacher continuously monitors and ev aluates the students by observing behavior and evaluating their work (Witt et al., 1998, p. 19). Ka ren mentioned that teachers are trained in what normal development stages are so they can spot when someone is struggling and not meeting those normal milestones. Behavioral ch anges can be indicative to a teacher that a student might have LD. Karen and Jane outlined specific behavioral tendencies teachers would observe which might prompt a referral to special education assessment. These behaviors include students avoiding academic tasks, seeming dis interested or less ent husiastic about school and not paying attention, or beginning to withdraw This type of assessment is referred to as observation-based assessment, which can be done by the teacher (direct assessment) or by an examiner (indirect assessment) in a test setting (Witt et al., 1998, p. 138). Other types of assessment that can occur in the classroom are curriculum-based assessment where a teacher measures students academic accomplishment, and performance-based assessment, which measures the students knowledge or skills ba sed on their ability to formulate responses or product[s] for some specified task (Witt et al., 1998, pp. 121, 165).

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41 Karen then further outlined the process th rough which students suspected of learning disabilities go. Following the te achers classroom assessment, a child is referred to a Child Study Team comprised of teachers, parents, and counselors. During this six-week intervention period, the members of the team use various teaching methods, su ch as visual, auditory, and kinesthetic, that may differ from those used by the students regular teachers. The purpose of this is to rule out the possibility that the child might just be a type of learner different from the style of teaching in the classroom. Also dur ing this period, hearing, vision, and sometimes speech and language tests are given to ascerta in whether one of these might be causing interference for the child. If during the six weeks of intervention, none of the other teaching methods is effective, and the students hearing an d vision are normal, the st udent is then referred for educational testing. On the subject of the specific tests used to assess a childs development and abilities, each educator gave varying information based on their areas of expertise. Karen discusses the tests used for assessment and the purpose of each af ter noting that there are a battery of tests administered to the student, not just one. Achievement tests such as the WJ III ACH or the WIAT-II assess the math, reading, and writing skills and determine if the child can perform at an appropriate level for that age. If the team thought that behavior was an issue, the examiner might administer a social and emotional test. The IQ of the child is also assessed using tests such as the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale, the WAIS or WISC-III, the WJ-R, or the WJ III COG. These tests show the students potential and the level at which they are performing. Processing tests are administered to evaluate the childs visual and motor integration as well as the ability to retain and recall information. Lastly, speech and language tests such as the CELF-4 or the PPVT might be administered if the child is suspected of having a disorder in one of these areas. These

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42 tests are not administered by educational psychol ogists but by speech and language pathologists. The speech portion of these tests assesses the childs pronunciation while the language portion measures receptive and expressive abilities. Karen was asked whether features of AAEsuch as [mawf] instead of [maw ] ( mouf and mouth respectively)are used by a child in the speech portion of the test, would the res ponses be scored as incorrect a nd perhaps lead the examiner to conclude that the child has a disorder. To th is, she responded that ther e are a few factors to consider. First is that all examiners differ, a nd despite the guidelines in the manual which give scoring procedures, examiners will still differ in scoring techniques. Examiners will also differ in their knowledge of language varieties, such as AAE. However, despite these things, if an examiner is familiar with the phonol ogical rule in AAE that the / / becomes [f] in middle or final position of a word, then that examiner will also elicit words from the child where / / occurs in word initial position to learn whether the child has the ability to produce the sound. Each of the educators noted that all tests are administered to st udents in their native languages. If Spanish-speaking students ar e suspected of having LD, the aforementioned battery of tests will be offered in Spanish. If the child was struggling in school but showed no signs of LD on the Spanish tests, then the studen t will begin instruction in ESOL classes, not LD classes. If the tests do indicate LD, the child wi ll receive training in LD as well as ESOL. The companies who create the standardized tests have trained professionals who are native speakers of the target language translat e the tests. Karen was unsure, however, whether the tests are directly translated from English or are equivalent to the Englis h test but maintain cultural values and understandings of the learners primary language. Lisa and Jane have limited knowledge about the specifics of the tests as neither one administers them. Instead, they see the evalua tions submitted by the examiners, which they use

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43 to create appropriate instructional methods for the students as well as ensure that students receive and take advantage of proper accommodations. These accommodations may include, but are not limited to, extra time or unlimited time on tests, note takers, never being evaluated in a test situation for spelling, or the opportunity to tape record all classes. Lisas experiences are specific to higher education. At the university where she is curre ntly employed, she noted as an example, that athletes who enter the univers ity are first given a te st called the Standard Achievement Test for Adults (SATA), which show s the students reading and vocabulary levels. Evaluating those scores in conjunction with the students SAT scores a nd high school grades, she and other educators can decide wh ether a student should be assessed for learning disabilities. If they do suspect that a student has a learning disab ility, that student is sent to an educational psychologist for formal testing. There are a batter y of tests which assess achievement, aptitude. processing speed and other aspects of a le arning profile including auditory versus visual versus even kinesthetic learning styles to most effectively ga uge whether or not there is a disability and in what area. As a learning sp ecialist, Lisa then receives the evaluations and results of the students tests, wh ich help her create the best inst ructional methods for that student in terms of tutoring, and what aspe cts of the students education w ill require the most attention. If nonnative English speakers ente r the university and are suspected of having a LD, they are first assessed in their native language, then in En glish. If the results fr om both tests indicate LD, the student is awarded accommodations from the uni versity. If the LD only occurs in English, the student receives no university-sponsored accomm odations as lack of proficiency in English is thought to be the cause of such results. Students Kevin and Marie were both tested for lear ning disabilities when they entered the University of Florida. These tests took place ap proximately two years ago, and each of them had

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44 difficulty remembering specifics about their ex periences. The testing takes between six and eight hours, and as described by Lisa and Karen, consists of several different tests. Instead, the students discussed their experiences in school starting as early as they could remember (which was sometime in elementary school) until the present time. Kevin remembered struggling as a young child w ith reading, and has struggled with math for much of his life. In elemen tary school he was in a reading program that met after school to help him become a better reader. He remember s that his parents read books to him as a young child and required that he read on his own as well, but he claims he never liked reading. When discussing the diversity of teachers and student s in the schools he attended, Kevin remembers that most of his teachers were white females a nd the student population seemed to be a fair mixture of white, black, and Mexican students. He does not ever remember feeling uncomfortable with instructors or tutors who we re white, as long as they knew what they were talking about, race was never a so urce of unease. Regarding the standardized tests he has taken, Kevin did state that the questions and reading material were alwa ys in SAE and he did not think he ever responded in AAE when verbal answers we re required of him. This is a difficult assertion to measure, as often when people are as ked about their own language use, they tend to misreport it (Shuy, 2003). Kevin talked about his own language variety in comparison to others as well. He feels that he ra rely experiences times when he encounters misunderstandings in conversations with other AAE speakers or with SAE speakers. Maries experiences in school ar e not dissimilar to Kevins. She remembered very little about the testing except that it took a really long time and the examiner was a white female. She discussed her teachers throughout he r years in school, stating that in elementary school most of her teachers were white but that in high school th e distribution of black and white teachers was

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45 equal and maybe more black. She, like Kevin, is comfortable with any teacher regardless of race or sex, and remembers having teachers who were both female and male, and black and white with whom she could relate. For Marie, the ability to relate to the t eacher is important in her educational experience. Th ere are two tutors with whom Marie works very closely on a regular basis, especially with her writing. Sh e explained that perhaps because of their (the tutors) past experiences, there does not seem to be many misunderstandings between them and Marie. However, when she collaborates wi th other subject area tutors, who are typically undergraduate and graduate students at the univer sity, there are more occasions when the tutor cannot understand her when [she ] use[s] a little slang. What Marie found most interesting when she moved to Florida to attend college was the difficulty in conversing with othe r AAE speakers who come from southern states. She noted that while most aspects of the language are similar, there are words that southern AAE speakers use that AAE speakers from Ohio do not use. Althou gh AAE is considered one dialectal variation of English, there are regional va riations that occur within this variety as well. Test Materials WJ III ACH Tests and Examiners Manual There are a total of twenty-two tests in th e WJ III ACH that collaboratively measure the five areas discussed above. Some items in the fi rst test, letter-word identification, do contain words that might be considered mispronounced according to the rules of SAE, such as they, there, must, against, and scientist ((Woodcock, McGrew, & Math er, 2001, pp. 1; Mather, & Woodcock, 2001a, p. 47). The first two words w ould likely be pronounced by an AAE speaker as dey and dere respectively since the voiced th sound [ ] becomes d in word initial position. The other three words all end in a consona nt cluster [st], which in AAE is reduced to the first consonant of the cluster [s]. In the manual, under the scoring procedures for this test,

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46 Mather, & Woodcock (2001) state that the exam iner should not penalize a subject for mispronunciations resulting from articulation er rors, dialect variations or regional speech patterns (p. 47). However, this would require that the examiner be familiar with all possible mispronunciations due to these factors (p. 47). No such information about the specifics of dialect differences is provided in this manual, but it is possible th at the examiner would consider them in the final interpretations of the test results. Another test in the WJ III ACH is the reading fluency test, which requires the student to read sentences and decide whether the stat ement is true or not (Mather, & Woodcock, 2001, p. 48). For example, a sentence might read a dog has four legs and the student has to decide if the answer is yes or no. There were a few items of in terest in this section, which are not directly related to bias against AAE speakers, but could be biased against any group of people. Two statements were about sports: one asked about golf and another about tennis. While these sports are both shown on television, it is not necessarily tr ue that all people of all social and economic statuses would be familiar with them. The th ird item would be specifically biased against students who have lived in a rural or farming area their entire lives. The statement was a neighbor is a person who lives very far away (Woodcock, Mc Grew, & Mather, 2001b, p. 5). While the most logical answer is no, it might be true that children from a rural area only have neighbors who are not in close proximity to their home. Under the scoring guidelines for this section, no procedure is mentioned for consideration on specific answers. For the writing fluency test, where th e student writes senten ces about a picture provided, the scoring guidelines ar e extensive, with examples in an appendix of possible answers and the points awarded for them. In this appendix however, there are no AAE sentences provided as possible answers a nd under the scoring guideline s, Mather, & Woodcock (2001)

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47 state that when a word critical to the sentence meaning is omitted, score the response as incorrect (p. 53). There is no indica tion whether an AAE sentence such as she home is considered incomplete because according to SAE rules is should be in the se ntence. It is possible that if the examiner is aware of such dialect differences, consid eration might be given for this answer, but there is no way to know for certain. These are just a few selections from the WJ III ACH that show specific places where bias could occur. This list is by no means exhaustive, but it does show that perhaps more detailed information about dialect differences should be offered to the examiner to eliminate the possibility of misreprese nting the results of the students performance. WIAT-II Tests and Examiners Manual In the manuals provided for the WIAT-II test, there is no specific mention of scoring procedures or considerations fo r dialect differences or any ot her language difference. The only discussion related to this is that results should never be interpre ted in isolation but in combination with a thorough evaluation and revi ew of the individuals background, personality, current emotional functioning, and atten tion and motivation levels (p. 6). The WIAT-II does, however, provide a thorough description of the norming sample for these tests accounting for studies conducted with special groups to provide validity of the tests, but groups who speak languages other than SAE ar e not accounted for in this section (p. 126). The distributions of the various racial or ethnic groups were nor med to emulate the proportions of U.S. students in Grades PreK-12 or ages 410 years (p. 87). The percentage of African American students included in the various no rming samples ranged from 9% to 17% and the percentages of white studen ts ranged from 62.67% to 67.87 % (pp. 89). While these demographic percentages are representative of the American education system, and the examiners manual provides support of the validit y and reliability of the tests, it seems

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48 amazingly misbalanced that white students have an advantage in these tests because the majority of the students in the norm group are sim ilar in linguistic and cultural backgrounds. CELF-4 Examiners Manual The CELF-4 is a standardized test used to measure speech and language abilities. This test can only be administered by Speech and Lan guage Pathologists (SLPs) to ensure that they have had proper training in this area. The inte resting information in this manual is the special attention that examiners are require d to pay to dialect differences of the students they are testing. The manual states that the examiner must reco rd theses variations verbatim and [c]ount a variation as correct if it is appropriate given that students language background (Selem, Wiig, & Secord, 2003, p. 12). An appendix of dialectal differences between SAE and other varieties in the United States, such as Southern White Engl ish, Appalachian English, is provided so the examiner can determine if certain responses are in fact of the ch ilds dialect. Selem, Wiig, & Secord (2003) advise that an examiner must be familiar with [dialectal] variables to effectively determine which of a students responses can be at tributed to variations that reflect dialectal differences and which responses indicate deficits in his or her acquisition of language rules (p. 305). Included in the appendix is informati on about cultural differences that may influence the testing of a student, as well as specific dial ect differences. The linguist ic differences include the characteristics (as discussed in Ch. 1) of plurals, phonology differen ces, past tense, third person singular present tense, the zero copula and the habitual be, and many other AAE constructions (pp. 308). This information pr ovided the examiner is very important in effectively assessing a students ab ilities. One wants to discover whether a student has the ability to acquire the rules of a language, and not just find out whether the student is fluent in SAE. The appendix and specific instruction on dialect differences allows this in a CELF-4 testing situation.

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49 Each of these tests provides useful information and insight into the reasons researchers suspect bias, and suggestions of ways to avoid such biases. CELF-4 does, however, give specific details on the exact dialect variations that could potentially lead to misinterpreted results by the examiner. The other tests, while they may caution against such bias, do not provide an outline about these differences.

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50 CHAPTER 4 DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS This chapter first provides a discussion of materi als examined in th is study, including past research as well as the data collected for th is analysis. Second, there is an examination of the implications drawn from this an alysis for areas of continued research, which were beyond the scope of the present study, and suggestions of ways to satisfy the needs of the American education system. Discussion Despite decades of research, and the impl ementation of many different teaching and testing strategies, the fact remains that the pe rcentage of AAE-speaking students in special education is disproportionate to the percentage of AAE-speaking students in U.S. schools (Hehir, quoted in Zuckerbrod, 2007). Although, as disc ussed above, there are items on tests which present the potential for bias, of the many argume nts about the possible o pportunities for bias in standardized tests, the most in teresting data are that of the demographics for the norm groups used for the WAIT-II. White students being as sessed for potential learning, speech, or language disabilities and disorders are at a great advantage when approximately 60% of the norming group shares a common linguistic and cu ltural background with them. It would seem appropriate to norm these tests for various groups, such as Afri can Americans, so that the tests consider linguistic and cultural factors of the test-takers in relation to the norm group. If the goal, however, is to maintain a particular worldvi ew and linguistic norm fo r all students in the American education system, then perhaps the te aching methods require modification so students of all linguistic, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds ar e properly prepared fo r the tasks required of them on such tests.

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51 The opinions and experiences of qualified educ ators serve as cautionary tales that more realistically depict the possible and the impossi ble when it comes to teaching methods in the classroom. It seems heroic to read and write ab out a topic in education without experiencing the actual arduous task of performing in front of a classroom of thirty children all of whom come to school with different backgrounds, so cioeconomic statuses, languages, and cultures. Is it really feasible to conduct a session on language differe nces between varieties of English if sixty percent of the classroom is unfamiliar with a le sser-known variety such as AAE to begin with? But then this brings us back to the original problem: the percentage of students who experience this disadvantage because of teaching and testing methods in the American education system. Lisa and Jane, in their current positions, have an advantage in that they wo rk with individuals or small groups of students. If the differences between AAE and SAE are causing a student to perform poorly in academics, Lisa and Jane are like ly to have the time to work directly with them, contrasting the two varietie s to aid the student in becoming a proficient user of SAE. Karen, on the other hand, spent much of her t eaching career in a public classroom setting, where individual work with students might have been less practical. Unless stud ents receive individual instruction to learn strategies in recognizing the differences between SAE and AAE, they may never directly learn about it. In my personal experiences as a tutor for students with LD, and as an instructor for a general education undergraduate humanities course, the possibili ties (and impossi bilities) of individual instruction be came apparent. As a tutor, I worked w ith students in individual or smallgroup settings where direct attention to the need s of each student was the purpose of the sessions. Many of the students with whom I worked were AAE speakers, and in these sessions we were able to discuss and evaluate the differences be tween AAE and SAE. The students were able to

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52 use this knowledge to better prep are for classes, read and write with more ease, and learn SAE more effectively for academic purposes. In the general education classroom, containing a minimum of twenty-four students, such indivi dualized instruction in the classroom was less feasible. Students were encouraged to meet with each other and with me outside the regular class period to further their understanding of the topics and academic writing, but rarely took advantage of such opportunities. LD students within these classes, as well as those I tutored, who were awarded accommodations through the univers ity, rarely benefited from the modifications because it was a source of embarrassment for them. If individual attention to st udents is not practical in the classroom, some other method must be considered to create an environment wher e all students have the opportunity to learn and grasp the same materials. Dialec t readers showed improvement in the AAE readers abilities to read in SAE, while direct instruction of how AAE and SAE are both similar and different improved students writing. Perhap s introducing these readers and th is type of in struction early in the education of AAE speakers would greatly in crease their abilities to read and write, which would in effect enhance thei r entire learning experience. Implications and Future Research In the educational system nor ms of development and behavior are set and all students who do not fall within the range of general deve lopmental milestones are considered abnormal in some way. While this in and of itself is not paradoxical, the standards by which such norms are set and the students whose performance is compar ed to those standards is inconsistent. As mentioned above, the norming groups for tests, su ch as the WAIT-II, consist primarily of white students and so African American students taking these tests ar e unfairly disadvantaged by the expectations of their test perf ormance. Educators, administrato rs, and politicians set forth a progression that should apply to all students in the American edu cation system. However, while

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53 norms are decided, cultural and lingu istic factors are not being cons idered. For example, a child might be required to exhibit cert ain behaviors at various ages; ye t, these behaviors might not be culturally normal for all children. There is a certai n expectation that all students in this system even when they do not all come from the same backgroundwill eventually have equal knowledge and understanding of a single cultural expe rience and language. Perhaps it is not that educators and test administrators and creators need to modify the system to help students learn a single cultural worldview, but ra ther recognize the value of us ing a variety of cultural and linguistic materials and methods to train all students in a variety of cultures. Research presented in the present study shows those second language l earners who master the ability to read and learn materials in their native language can more successfully do so in the target language (Tucker, 2003). Van Keulen, et al. (1998) advise that since AAE and SAE are closely related, SLA-type instruction might be too ambitious and perhaps harmful (p. 192). However, the use of specific methods, which successfully teach AAE speakers the grammar and pragmatic usage of SAE, has proven highly effective by several re searchers (Fogel & Ehri, 2000; Simpkins & Simpkins 1981, cited in Wheeler 1999; Bohn, 2003). Although Wheeler (1999) discusses several methods that have proven in the past to be effective in teaching AAE speakers to master mo re fully SAE, there are, however, several problems in implementing these teaching methods. Fi rst is the lack of su pport from the general public (i.e. people who believe that AAE is a b roken or improper form of English). Decisions in the educatio n system are frequently made as a result of the pressure put on the system by the public. This, for example, was the reason that educators cea sed the use of dialect readers. The second problem is that while educators ar e trained in basic noti ons of diversity and cultural differences, they are by no means we ll prepared to fully understand every culture

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54 because they have not necessarily been a part of every culture. Language structure, however, is one topic that, if explored in more detail when training educators about diversity of cultures, would help them teach differences between SA E and any other variety. Understanding the basics of linguistics and diffe rences in language use that are based on dialect variationfor example that [ ] becomes [f] when in word final position in AAEor even transfer from a first language, would be a useful tool for educators in the classroom whereby they would be able to more accurately evaluate students progress. The debates about the best way to educat e children are ongoing, a nd while new methods are sought out and applied, no one solution will fi x every discrepancy in the system. Quay (1971, 1972, 1974) researched whether or not changi ng the language of the Stanford-Binet IQ test from SAE to AAE would be sufficient to crea te a fair method for analyzing AAE speakers. Since these were direct translations from SAE, and no there was no indica tion that changes were made to account for cultural differences, it is di fficult to posit whether this method could have been more useful. While the issue of students ap pearing in special educa tion classes who simply need help learning SAE is of major concern, avoiding misplacement would perhaps be a more suitable goal. To create a system where studen ts were not situated in an inappropriate environment would require different teaching methods and thus different training for educators. It is beyond the scope of the present analysis to assess how such methods might work. However, one suggestion would be to reevaluate methods of teaching, which improve reading skills and language skills of an AAE speaker to then create the effect of not needing to change the tests language because the students will already be masters of SAE. There are two key tasks at hand for educators, schools, and linguists. First is the need to implement, in the entire Ameri can education system, methods of instruction that will benefit the

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55 AAE-speaking learner. One approach might be to reintroduce dialect readers to enhance the reading and language capabilities of the student. The second task is to help those students who have fallen behind in their educat ional experience due to the system s lack of attention to the students needs. Students of all ages for whom reading, language, and writing and other areas of school are a struggle because they lack the necess ary basic proficiency in these areas require the attention of educators to catch up to the level at which they should perform. For example, there are college students who are remediated upon ad mission to the university so their skills can improve and correspond to those of their peers. At the University of Flor ida remedial classes in reading, writing, and math are offeredall the core areas that are assessed on standardized tests. Limitations in the Present Study The intended list of interviewees included a tota l of four students and four teachers. The value of interviewing more partic ipants would have been the ab ility to incorporate a broader range of experiences, especially student experiences, into the an alysis. The fourth educator considered for this study was an educational ps ychologist who administers standardized IQ and achievement tests to students suspected of ha ving learning disabilities Several educational psychologists were contacted, yet, regrettably, none responded to th e inquiries. While Karen has had some experience in administering tests, it is no t her field of expertise. To account for a lack of direct professional information about the various aspects of standa rdized tests, three tests were examined and analyzed for discussion purposes in the present analysis. However, the length and complexity of the tests as well as a lack of expert ise by the researcher in th e area of standardized tests and administration is a di sadvantage in the analysis of them. As such, only a few items could be discussed with regard to test bias.

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56 Conclusions African American English is a linguistic syst em governed by logical grammatical rules and rich in cultural influences a nd traditions and specific worl dviews that inspire the social interactions and understandings of its speakers (Bohn, 2003; Smitherman, 2000, 1998a, 1998b, 1974). The conventions of AAE consist of both si milarities to and differences from Standard American English, the variety that the United St ates school system expects all students to know and use in educational settings and in other set tings such as the workplace. The differences between the two varieties are gr eat enough to warrant a modificati on in the way SAE is taught in schools and used in standard ized tests to assess a child s learning abilities. The present study provides analyses of th e arguments for and against adopting new instructional methods and consid ering revisions to standardized tests for AAE speakers. A significantly larger corpus of research in both ar eas is available, yet was beyond the scope of this research project. The American public education system relies deeply on standardized tests to assess students academic and developmental abiliti es, progress, and potential. Yet, it fails to modernize these materials, or the teaching me thods in schools according to the contemporary student populations. While efforts are being made by the United States government to lessen the numbers of students misplaced in special education, much work is still needed. AAE-speaking students suffer many consequences of the system s failure including lower reading levels and increased enrollment in special education. The crucial challenge that educators, schools, and linguists face is convincing a disinclined public to accept AAE as a systematic linguistic variety and encouraging them to approve of modified te aching methods such as dialect readers and/or contrastive instruction.

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57 The present study provides analyses of th e arguments for and against adopting new instructional methods and consid ering revisions to standardized tests for AAE speakers. A significantly larger corpus of research in both ar eas is available, yet was beyond the scope of this research project. The American public education system relies deeply on standardized tests to assess students academic and developmental abiliti es, progress, and potential. Yet, it fails to modernize these materials, or the teaching me thods in schools according to the fluctuating student populations. While efforts are being made by the United States government to lessen the numbers of students misplaced in special education, much work is still needed. AAE speaking students suffer many consequences of the system s failure including lower reading levels and increased enrollment in special education. The crucial challenge that educators, schools, and linguists face is convincing a disinclined public to accept AAE as a systematic linguistic variety and encouraging them to approve of modified teaching methods such as dialect readers or contrastive instruction.

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58 APPENDIX A QUESTIONS FOR EDUCATORS 1. What method of assessment do you find most usef ul in determining whether a student has a learning disability or a language or speech disorder? 2. Does this method have a specific section that examines the students language abilities? 3. Are tests available in languages other th an English? If so, which languages? 4. Is a students variation in la nguage use (that deviates from Standard American English) considered when she is being tested? 5. Is language ability evaluated prior to any other testing? 6. What specific linguistic features are examined when determining whether a student has a learning disability? 7. How do language-specific standardized tests such as the PPVT-R fit in to the overall evaluation of the student, and ot her standardized test used? 8. What might a teacher notice that alerts her to the need for testing for learning disabilities? 9. What specific factors are considered when exam ining the results of these tests related to language/dialect variation? 10. Have students ever employed code sw itching while responding to questions? a. Were those response taken into consideration? b. How were those responses scored? 11. If a students test results show ed that she fully grasps the rules of her linguistic system, even if these rules are not the same as t hose of Standard American English grammar, what steps are taken to ensure the proper accommodations? 12. Do any of the standardized tests in corporate a storytelling section? 13. If yes, what norms are us ed to score such sections? 14. Are cultural, ethnic, and personal experiences considered?

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59 APPENDIX B QUESTIONS FOR STUDENTS 1. How many times in your life have you been tested for learning disabilities? 2. How old were you when you were evaluated? 3. What is the earliest memory you have of being in school? 4. Please describe this experience including the city and state where the school was located, the setting of the classroom, the t eacher, and the other students. 5. Were there any major differences between you and other students that made this experience easier or more difficult? 6. Who evaluated you when you were tested for learning disabilities? 7. Would you have been more comfortable if a di fferent person had been administering the test? 8. What specifically were you tested on? 9. Do you remember any sections being more difficult than others? 10. During the test, was it obvious that any pa rt was specifically ev aluating your language abilities? 11. If yes, how did you react to the questions? 12. Were these questions in sc hool English or Ebonics? 13. Were your responses in sc hool English or Ebonics? 14. What conclusions about your learning abilities did the examiner make? 15. Were you awarded any type of accommodations?

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60 LIST OF REFERENCES Alim, H.S. (2004). You know my steez: An ethnographic and sociol inguistic study of styleshifting in a Black American speech community Publication of the American Dialect Society, 89, Annual Supplement to American Speech Duke University Press. Bailey, G. & Thomas, E. (1998). Some aspect s of African-American vernacular English phonology. In S.S. Mufwene, & J.R. Rickford (Eds.), African-American English: Structure, history, and use (pp. 85). New York: Routledge. Baugh, J. (1983). Black street speech: Its history, structure and survival Austin: University of Texas Press. Baugh, J. (1998). Linguistics, education, and the la w: Educational reform for African-American language minority students. In S.S. Mufwene & J.R. Rickford (Eds.), African-American English: Structure, history, and use (pp. 282). New York: Routledge. Baugh, J. (2000). Beyond Ebonics: Linguistic pride and racial prejudice New York: Oxford University Press. Bohn, A.P. (2003). Familiar voices: Using Eboni cs communication techniques in the primary classroom. [Electronic version]. Urban Education, 38(6), 688. Bragdon, I.B. (Summer, 1974). An essay on a li nguistic issue: What is Black English? The Journal of Negro Education: Black English and Black historycontinuing 43(3), 265. Retrieved November 21, 2006, from JSTOR database. Cummins, J. (2003). BISC and CALP: Origins and rationale for the distin ction. In C.B Paulston, & G.R. Tucker (Eds.), Sociolinguistics: The essential readings (pp. 322). Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing. Cunningham, Patricia M. (1976-77). Teachers co rrection responses to Black-Dialect miscues which are non-meaning-changing. Reading Research Quarterly 12(4) 637. Retrieved September 28, 2006, from JSTOR database. Daniel, M.C. (Summer 2005). Helping li nguistic minorities read independently. Academic Exchange Quarterly 9.2, 306. Retrieved May 3, 2007 from Academic One File, Thomas Gale database. DeBose, C.E. (2007). The Ebonics phenomeno n, language planning, and the hegemony of Standard English. In H.S. Alim, & J. Baugh (Eds.), Talkin Black talk (pp. 30). New York: Teachers College Press. Downey, D.B., & Pribesh, S. (October, 2004). Wh en race matters: Teachers evaluations of students classroom behavior. Sociology of Education 77(4), 267. Retrieved April 5, 2007, from JSTOR database.

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61 England, C.M. (2005). Divided we fail: Issues of equity in American schools. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. Fasold, R.W., & Wolfram, W.A. (2003). Some li nguistic features of Ne gro dialect. In N. Norment, Jr. (Ed.), Readings in African-American language: Aspects, features and perspectives (pp. 59). New York: Peter Lang. Florida Department of Education. (2000). Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, January 2001: Reading, Grades 3 5 Test item and performance task specifications. State of Florida, Department of State. Florida Department of Education. FCAT: Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. Retrieved April 15, 2007, from Website: http://fcat.fldoe.org Fogel, H., & Ehri, L.C. (2000). Teaching elementary students who speak Black English Vernacular to write in Standard English: Effects of dialect transformation practice. [Electronic version]. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 25, 212. Grabe, W. (Autumn, 1991). Current developmen ts in second language reading research. TESOL Quarterly 25(3), 375. Retrieved May 3, 2007, from JSTOR database. Green, L. (1998). Aspect and predicate phrases in African-American vernacular English. In S.S. Mufwene, & J.R. Rickford (Eds.), African-American English: St ructure, history, and use (pp. 37). New York: Routledge. Green, L. (2002). African American English: A linguistic introduction Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Green, L. (2003). Study of verb classes in Africa n American English. In N. Norment, Jr. (Ed.), Readings in African-American language: Aspects, features and perspectives (pp. 222 239). New York: Peter Lang. Harry, B., & Anderson, M.G. (Autumn, 1994). The disproportionate placement of African American males in special education pr ograms: A critique of the process. The Journal of Negro Education: Pedagogical and Contextual Issues Affecti ng African American Males in School and Society, 63(4), 602. Retrieved April 5, 2007, from JSTOR database. Haugen, E. (2003). Dialect, language, nation. In C.B Paulston, & G.R. Tucker (Eds.), Sociolinguistics: The essential readings (pp. 411). Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing. Hess, K.M. (February, 1974). The nonstandard sp eakers in our schools: What should be done? The Elementary School Journal, 74(5), 280. Retrieved May 3, 2007, from JSTOR database.

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62 Jencks, C. (1998). Racial bias in testi ng. In C. Jencks, & M. Phillips (Eds.), The Black-White test score gap (pp. 55). Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press. Jones, C.D. (June, 1979). Ebonics and reading. Journal of Black Studies: Ebonics (Black English): Implications, 9(4), 423. Retrieved April 5, 2006, from JSTOR database. Johnson, K.R. (June, 1979). Teaching mainstream American English: Similarities and differences with speakers of Ebonics and speakers of foreign languages. Journal of Black Studies: Ebonics (Black E nglish): Implications, 9(4), 411. Retrieved April 5, 2006, from JSTOR database. Labov, W. (1972). Language in the inner city: Studies in the Black English Vernacular Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. LeMoine, N. & Hollie, S. (2007). Developing academ ic English for Standard English learners. In H.S. Alim, & J. Baugh (Eds.), Talkin Black talk (pp. 43). New York: Teachers College Press. Linn, R.L., Baker, E.L., & Betebenner, D.W. (August/September 2002). Accountability systems: Implications of requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. [Electronic version]. Educational Researcher 31(6), 3. Lund, N.J., & Duchan, J.F. (1988). Assessing childrens language in naturalistic contexts: Second edition. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall. Manning, M.L., & Baruth, L.G. (2000). Multicultural education of children and adolescents: Third edition Boston: Ally and Bacon. Martin, S., & Wolfram, W. (1998). The sentence in African-American vernacular English. In S.S. Mufwene, & J.R. Rickford (Eds.), African-American English: Structure, history, and use (pp. 11). New York: Routledge. Marback, R. (September, 2001). Ebonics: Theorizi ng in public our attitudes toward literacy. College Composition and Communication 53(1), 11. Retrieved April 4, 2006, from JSTOR database. Mather, N., & Woodcock, R.W. (2001). Woodcock-Johnson III Tests of Achievement: Examiners manual, standar d and extended batteries. Itasca, IL: Rive rside Publishing. McLoughlin, J.A., & Lewis, R.B. (2005). Assessing students with spec ial needs: Sixth edition Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pear son Merrill Prentice Hall. National Center for Education Information. (Augus t 18, 2005). Profile of teachers in the U.S. 2005. National Center for Educatio n Information News Release. Retrieved April, 20 2007, from .

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66 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Megan L. Ford was born in Greeley, Colorado, where she lived until the age of fourteen. She graduated from Mounds View High School near St. Paul, Minnesota in 1996. Megan completed her B.A in English with a minor in linguistics, graduating cum laude (2004) from the University of Florida. Following a one-year break, she returned to the University of Florida to complete her M.A. in linguistics. Megans main research and professional interests are teaching and testing methods for African Am erican English speakers. This ar ea became of interest to her when she began a job tutoring athletes with learni ng disabilities at the Un iversity of Florida. During her time as a graduate student at UF, Megan has worked as a graduate assistant. For one year, she was a tutor for the office of Academic Technology in conjunction with the Office of Student Life, tuto ring athletes with learning disabilities in Theater and Communications. Her second year as a graduate assistant was spent as an instructor of Language: A Humanities Perspective, an introduc tory linguistics course for undergraduates. Megan completed her Master of Arts degr ee during the summer of 2007 and accepted a position as an Academic Advisor for St. Johns River Community College in St. Augustine, Florida.