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Minority Students in Special and Gifted Education
quality. For these reasons, the committee concludes that efforts to reduce the number of minority students with academic and behavioral problems and increase the number who excel will require a more equitable distribution of human and financial resources among states, school districts within states, and individual schools. The committee endorses the recommendation of the NRC’s Committee on Education Finance that the distribution of resources take into account the higher cost of providing quality education in schools with disadvantaged student populations.
While school resources, class size, and indicators of teacher quality are associated with learning and behavior outcomes, their influence must be exerted through teacher-student interactions. In this sense, what is true of cognitive and behavioral development in the earliest years continues to be true in the school years. Social, economic and environmental factors are important because they affect the nature of the interactions between children and the influential adults in their lives—in the current context, the teacher. The weight of the burden in improving school outcomes for minority students, then, falls on the interactions in the classroom.
Moreover, in the new prevention and eligibility determining model the committee is proposing, it is not the child alone who is assessed, but the classroom and the instructional opportunities given the child as well. And it is not the child’s innate characteristics that are being measured, but the specific dimensions of the achievement or behavior problem. This implies new aspects to the role played by general and special education teachers as well as school psychologists. Before special education is considered, general education assessments and interventions not now commonly in place are proposed as standard practice.
The committee is convinced that the approach we propose would be far more effective at supporting the classroom success of a broader range of students than practices now in place, but these needed changes will rest substantially on the capability of individual educators. The need for highly capable educators is made even more compelling by the current shortage of qualified educators, particularly qualified special educators in urban schools. Key to our proposals are sustained efforts at capacity building, sufficient resources and coordination among stakeholders to build that capacity, and the time necessary to build capacity.
Recommendations for States
General education teachers need significantly improved teacher preparation and professional development to prepare them to address the needs of students with significant underachievement or giftedness.