This chapter focuses on various aspects of the context of general education and their contribution to minority children’s achievement. Our motivation for considering these issues is threefold. First, it is the committee’s contention that no coherent assessment of disproportion in special and gifted education can be conducted without a nuanced understanding of the factors leading to differences in measured achievement. This understanding is necessary because real achievement deficits are both the obvious competing explanation for any finding of racial disproportion, and because measured achievement differences are one means through which children are assigned to special and gifted education. Thus, in order to understand and potentially eliminate race-linked disproportion in special education and gifted and talented placements, one must understand the processes that can lead to measured achievement differences.
Second, the committee argues in this report that a key factor in addressing disproportion in special and gifted education is support for minority student achievement in general education. In order for such efforts to be successful, policy makers and practitioners need a thorough understanding of the kinds of factors that may matter for minority student achievement. Although we cannot provide a complete analysis of these issues here, we would be remiss to take this position yet provide no evidence to sustain it. We therefore suggest in this chapter the state of the literature in sufficient detail to further support this position.