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Minority Students in Special and Gifted Education
toms. Thus, voluntary minorities may maintain their language, but they also tend to learn the language of the new nation.
Some ethnographic evidence is consistent with Ogbu’s thesis. Fordham (1988) alleged that successful black high school students endeavored to hide their academic success in order to avoid their peers’ pejorative epithets. She reports that students were afraid of being labeled as “acting white” when they sought academic excellence.
However, more recent evidence raises questions about this claim. Using nationally representative data on 1990 high school sophomores, Ainsworth-Darnell and Downey (1998) found that high-achieving black students were more likely to be popular than similarly high-achieving white students. Cook and Ludwig (1998) show that the gaps between black and white students on a variety of important precursors to achievement (such as the amount of time spent on homework) and signals of achievement (such as the winning of academic awards) were sometimes trivial and sometimes favored black students. They conclude that there is little evidence in support of the oppositional culture thesis in the case of black students. Tyson (1998), analyzing data from observations of elementary school students, found little evidence of the racial differences in disdain for achievement that one might expect if the oppositional culture is based in community norms.
Research evidence does not support the proposition that minority students enter school opposed to what school has to offer. And if teachers engage in racial stereotype bias it is of a subtle and not a blatant variety. Notably, some research has suggested that teachers, counselors, and administrators are among the least prejudiced occupations in the United States (e.g., Lacy and Middleton, 1981). However, school personnel work in institutions with cultures and taken-for-granted pedagogical strategies that may be more harmonious with the home culture of larger numbers of majority children than minority children. Despite widespread good intentions, school personnel can engage in practices that are less supportive of the achievement of black, Hispanic, and other culturally different students. Subtle taken-for-granted assumptions that have become institutionalized may lead to a cultural mismatch that initiates a spiraling misunderstanding on the part of students and teachers. It is possible that the result of such misunderstanding might ultimately be the consignment of students to inappropriate special education treatments, or the failure to recognize and develop some students’ gifts and talents.
Role of Parents
A number of studies have found that ethnic minority families have uniformly high aspirations for their children (Haro et al., 1994; Delgado-Gaitan, 1990; Steinberg, 1996). But many low-income and minority par-