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How To Counter The ‘Vicious Cycle’ Of More Black Boys Being Placed In Special Ed Classes Than Gifted And Talented Ones

Happy black schoolboy having a class in the classroom and looking at camera.

Educators in the United States have known for years that black boys are overrepresented in special education (SPED) classes and underrepresented in gifted and talented education (GATE) ones.

Attentive Black Boy In Class
Photo via Envato Elements

‘DEFICIT THINKING’

In a recent paper published in the Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, Donna Ford, James Moore and Tanya Middleton from the Ohio State University along with Erik Hines from George Mason University “address the vicious cycle of deficit thinking and intelligence test inequities — the consequences and impact on Black males. The impact of high-stakes testing and racial prejudice and discrimination is stark.”

The authors present “an equity formula to guide readers in all roles in setting quantifiable equity goals.”

The impact of high-stakes testing and racial prejudice and discrimination is stark.

Ford, Moore, Middleton and Hines call for an increase in Black males’ representation in GATE classes from 3.7% to a minimum of 6.2%. Additionally, Black males’ participation in Advanced Placement courses should go up from the current 3.5% to a minimum of 6.5%.

Additionally, schools should strive for lowering the representation of black boys in SPED classes from 11,8% to a maximum of 9.2%.

Portrait of smiling african american elementary schoolboy standing by locker in school
Photo via Envato Elements

“We strongly recommend that educators calculate maximum equity representation goals for all SPED categories, and for high-incidence versus low-incidence categories,” they write.

BEING ‘VIGILANT’

The authors conclude that education professionals need to be “vigilant” about identifying and solving the issues that hinder black male students’ test performances.

Smiling Black Boy in Workshop
Photo via Envato Elements

“In essence, tests are tools,” they write. “The ultimate responsibility for equitable assessment rests with those who develop, administer, interpret and use tests.”

While tests in and of themselves can be harmless, “they become detrimental and high stakes when misunderstood and misinterpreted without a cultural lens, according to the authors. “Black boys have been and are being harmed educationally not only by test misuse and abuse, but by this lack of attention to cultural biases. Professional development and higher education courses and degree offerings are needed to reduce and eliminate deficit thinking among educators.”

Black boys have been and are being harmed educationally not only by test misuse and abuse, but by this lack of attention to cultural biases.

Check out the full report here.

Happy black schoolboy having a class in the classroom and looking at camera.
Happy black schoolboy having a class in the classroom and looking at camera.
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