Ability Profiling and School Failure: One Child's Struggle to Be Seen as Competent

Ability Profiling and School Failure: One Child's Struggle to Be Seen as Competent

Ability Profiling and School Failure: One Child's Struggle to Be Seen as Competent

Ability Profiling and School Failure: One Child's Struggle to Be Seen as Competent

Synopsis

Ability Profiling and School Failure: One Child's Struggle to Be Seen as Competent explores the social and contextual forces that shape the appearance of academic ability and disability and how these forces influence the perception of academic underachievement of minority students. It is a powerful case study of a competent fifth grader, an African American boy growing up in a predominantly white, rural community, who was excluded from participating in science and literacy discourses within his classroom community. The case study form allows for the integration of the story of the student's struggle to be seen as competent in school, a context where his teacher perceives him as learning disabled, with Collins' own perspective as a researcher and teacher-educator engaged in a professional development effort with the teacher. The contribution of this book is to make visible the situated and socially constructed nature of ability, identity, and achievement, and to illustrate the role of educational and social exclusion in positioning students within particular identities. Highly relevant across the field of education, this book will particularly interest researchers, graduate students, and professionals in literacy and science education, curriculum and instruction, sociocultural theories of learning, discourse analysis of classrooms, research on teaching and learning, special education, social foundations, and teacher education.

Excerpt

It is well documented that children of color are overrepresented in special education programs (Artiles, 1998; Artiles & Trent, 1994; Harry & Anderson, 1994, 1999), and underrepresented in gifted education programs (Ford, 1998). For example, in 1991, Black children comprised 16% of the overall school population and 35% of the special education population in the United States (Harry & Anderson, 1994). Black boys, like Jay, are especially overrepresented in special education programs and are the recipients of a disproportionately high number of disciplinary procedures, such as corporal punishments and suspensions (Harry & Anderson, 1999). Other educational sorting practices, such as ability grouping and tracking, have resulted in similar forms of school segregation and unequal educational opportunities for students of color (Green, 1999; Oakes, 1985, 1995; Oakes, Wells, Jones, & Datnow, 1997). Further, in an analysis of the variables examined in educational research on overrepresentation, MacMillan and Reschly (1998) concluded that ethnicity serves as a “proxy” for socioeconomic status, and they called for increased attention to the role of social class in special education referral.

Despite this knowledge, there is a dearth of special education research that attempts to examine the ways in which the identification of disability is influenced by sociocultural and contextual factors such as students' perceived race, class, gender, language use, and the mediational features of activity contexts (Artiles, Aguirre-Munoz, & Abedi, 1998, Artiles & Trent, 1994; Artiles, Trent, & Kuan, 1997; Guitierrez & Stone, 1997 . . .

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