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NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance.
This study was supported by Contract/Grant No. H324A980001 between the National Academy of Sciences and the U.S. Department of Education. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organizations or agencies that provided support for the project.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
National Research Council (U.S.). Committee on Minority Representation in Special Education.
Minority students in special and gifted education / Committee on Minority Representation in Special Education, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education, National Research Council; M. Suzanne Donovan and Christopher T. Cross, editors.
Includes bibliographical references (p. ) and index.
1. Special education—Government policy—United States. 2. Minorities—Education—Government policy—United States. 3. Educational equalization—Government policy—United States. I. Donovan, Suzanne. II. Cross, Christopher T. III. Title.
LC3981 .N355 2002
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Copyright 2002 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Suggested citation: National Research Council (2002) Minority Students in Special and Gifted Education. Committee on Minority Representation in Special Education, M. Suzanne Donovan and Christopher T. Cross, editors. Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES
National Academy of Sciences
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Institute of Medicine
National Research Council
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COMMITTEE ON MINORITY REPRESENTATION IN SPECIAL EDUCATION
Christopher T. Cross (Chair),
Center on Education Policy, Washington, DC
Carolyn M. Callahan,
Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
School of Education, University of Miami
Samuel R. Lucas,
Department of Sociology, University of California, Berkeley
Donald L. MacMillan,
Department of Education, University of California, Riverside
Margaret J. McLaughlin,
Institute for the Study of Exceptional Children and Youth, University of Maryland
School of Education, Boston College
Georgetown Center for Health and Education, Georgetown University
John B. Reid,
Oregon Social Learning Center, Eugene, Oregon
George Peabody College, Vanderbilt University
Rossier School of Education, University of Southern California
Bennett A. Shaywitz,
School of Medicine, Yale University
Margaret Beale Spencer,
Graduate School of Education, University of Pennsylvania
Edward Lee Vargas,
Hacienda La Puente Unified School District, Los Angeles, California
Department of Special Education, University of Texas, Austin
M. Suzanne Donovan, Study Director
Allison E. Shoup, Senior Project Assistant
There are few topics in education that are as politically and emotionally charged as the education of children with disabilities. Who we identify as gifted and talented does not tug at the heart or the conscience in quite the same way, but it nonetheless touches deeply held beliefs about ability and about privileged opportunity. When the focus is on whether minority children are being disproportionately assigned to special and gifted education programs, opportunities for separating evidence from emotion become rare. For the past two and one-half years the Committee on Minority Representation in Special Education of the National Research Council (NRC) has been engaged in one of those rare events—an analysis of the evidence that can inform public policy regarding these controversial issues.
The roots of our work trace back almost 20 years to a previous report of the National Research Council that dealt with many of the same issues. We began our deliberations with a review of that report, agreeing that in many respects its messages are as salient today as they were then. Why had the report not stimulated more change? Why were we being asked to revisit the issue? What should we do this time that would be different?
The previous committee focused primarily on defining a better set of rules for determining who needs special education, whether placement is beneficial, and when and how students would exit. Their concern was whether special education identification was operating fairly and to the
benefit of students, and their treatment of those issues was laudable. In fact, many of that committee’s suggestions are reflected in the amendments to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and federal guidelines and regulations. And their notion of a fair process is very consonant with our own.
In the last several decades, however, both the successes and failures of social policy in a variety of areas have gradually brought a shift in focus. We have learned that fair rules and regulations, important though they may be, are a point of departure and not a destination. When regulatory procedures require tests that are valid for the intended use, for example, the test instruments must be available and the capacity at the school level to use the instruments properly must be in place for the rules to matter. Similarly, both assessing and designing a program that is responsive to a student’s individual needs requires a capacity at the school level to observe, understand, and design responses that are sensitive to student differences. And the incentives put in place by the monitoring process may overwhelm the influence of the regulations themselves, as might the balance of influence among parents, teachers, and administrators in any school or school district. Moreover, placement in special and gifted education is rooted in achievement differences. Even the most unbiased rules of the game will not substantially reduce disproportion if there are genuine underlying achievement differences unless the sources of those differences are addressed.
While our committee embraced the principles in the earlier report, we cast our net more widely. We looked at the regulations and guidelines, but we also looked at issues of school-level capacity, at the supports for achievement available to students from different racial and ethnic groups, and at environmental influences on the developmental trajectory of children in the years before they reach the schoolhouse door that make them more vulnerable to school failure.
Our work began as a congressionally mandated study of minority children in special education only. It was funded through the Office of Research in the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services of the U.S. Department of Education. Shortly after we began our work, the Department’s Office of Educational Research and Improvement asked that we expand our charge to include the study of minority representation in programs for gifted and talented students. While at first that combination might seem awkward, it soon became clear that the issues were often the mirror image of one another. However, the work of the committee regarding gifted and talented students was constrained by both the limited resources available for that part of the study and the paucity of data that were available.
Who is the audience for this report? Since our charge came from the U.S. Department of Education, we took it as our primary mission to inform
federal policy makers regarding the complex knowledge base relevant to an understanding of minority representation in special and gifted education. The implications of our study reach into other federal departments that regulate the health and environmental safety of young children. But the report also has important implications for state education policy regarding general, special, and gifted education. We urge that policy makers who are concerned with these issues bridge the very artificial lines that have separated our consideration of the interrelationships that exist between general, special, and gifted education and between the developmental well-being of children both before and after they reach school age. The time for turf protection has long passed, and the time for thoughtful consideration of how best to support the success of all students is upon us.
Many people contributed to the launching of this study, the work of the committee, and the completion of the report. The committee is most grateful for their efforts. The support of our sponsors at the Department of Education, and their patience with the process and time required to produce a consensus report of this magnitude, was essential. We are grateful to Louis Danielson and Grace Duran (Office of Special Education Programs), Patricia O’Connell Ross (Office of Education Research and Improvement), and Rebecca Fitch and Richard Foster (Office for Civil Rights).
The committee extends its appreciation to those who assisted in the sometimes arduous task of assembling the data. Many of the data used by the committee were provided by the Department of Education with the assistance of Judith Holt and Peter McCabe. Data from the National Center for Education Statistics were provided by Mark Glander at the National Education Resource Center. Daniel Cork at the National Research Council’s Committee on National Statistics assisted with the translation of state data into figures.
In the course of our work, the committee drew on the expertise of many others. The committee commissioned six papers, and the authors of those papers met and discussed their work with the committee. These include Richard Figueroa, University of California, Davis; Patricia Gandara, University of California, Davis; Kathleen Hebbler, SRI International; L. Scott Miller, The College Board; Herbert Needleman, University of Pittsburgh; Mary Wagner, SRI International; and Richard Wagner, Florida State University. The committee also benefited from presentations given by Deborah Speece, University of Maryland, and Arthur Baroody, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Barbara Foorman, of the University of Texas, Houston, provided materials on the Texas Primary Reading Inventory, and the Texas Education Agency provided us with their complete TPRI tool kit for
reading teachers. Reid Lyon and Margot Malakoff of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development shared with the committee materials they had pulled together for a study of Head Start.
A special thanks to Janet Garton, who provided extensive research assistance and substantial support in attending to the detail required for accuracy throughout the report. Leah Nower spent a productive summer internship at the NRC providing research assistance for the project. The committee also benefited considerably from the research contributions provided to individual committee members by Vicki Marie Nishioka, University of Oregon at Eugene, Elizabeth Cramer, University of Miami, Kathleen Lane, Vanderbilt University, and John Hosp, Vanderbilt University.
Over the course of the two and a half years, the committee’s work was supported by three senior project assistants. Wendell Grant provided administrative support through the project’s launching, LaVone Wellman carried it through its midlife, and Allison Shoup ushered it to a close, handling the manuscript through its various stages.
The efforts of a committee are realized in a final report only with the help of those experienced in navigating the occasionally bumpy terrain of report preparation. Alexandra Wigdor helped launch the project in its early stages, and her careful reading and feedback in the final stages were invaluable. The committee’s work was also improved in the eleventh hour by thoughtful contributions of Patricia Morison. Our final product was polished by the skilled, professional editing of Christine McShane.
This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the Report Review Committee of the National Research Council. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making the published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process.
We thank the following individuals for the participation in the review of this report: Leonard Baca, BUENO Center For Multicultural Education, University of Colorado; Barbara Foorman, Center for Academic and Reading Skills, University of Texas-Houston Medical School; Lynn Fuchs, Peabody College, Vanderbilt University; Russell Gersten, College of Education, University of Oregon; Daniel P. Hallahan, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia; Barbara Keogh, Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, UCLA School of Medicine; Lorraine McDonnell, Department of Political Science, University of California, Santa Barbara; Nancy Robinson, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, emerita, University of Washington; Fred R. Volkmar, Child Study Center, Yale Univer-
sity School of Medicine; and James Ysseldyke, Office of the Dean, University of Minnesota.
Although the reviewers listed above have provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Arthur Goldberger, Department of Economics, University of Wisconsin, and Catherine Snow, Graduate School of Education, Harvard University. Appointed by the National Research Council, they were responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final context of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the institution.
Christopher T. Cross, Chair
M. Suzanne Donovan, Study Director
Committee on Minority Representation in Special Education