Academic journal article The Western Journal of Black Studies

Shifting Assessment and Intervention Paradigms for Urban Learners

Academic journal article The Western Journal of Black Studies

Shifting Assessment and Intervention Paradigms for Urban Learners

Article excerpt

We live in two different Americas. In the ghetto, our laws are totally different, our language is totally different, and our lives are totally different. I've never felt American, I've only felt African-American. An American is supposed to have life, liberty, prosperity, and happiness. But an African-American is due pain, poverty, stress, and anxiety. As an African-American I have experienced beautiful things, but the majority of the things I've experienced are not beautiful. And I don't even have it as bad as most--there are millions of young men and women living the struggle even harder than me. As children, they have to make day-to-day decisions about whether to go to school or whether to go on the corner and sell drugs. As children, they know that there may not be a tomorrow. Why are African-American children faced with this dilemma at such an early age? Why must they look down the road to a future that they might never see? What have my people done to this country to deserve this? And yet I am supposed to feel American. I am supposed to be patriotic. I am supposed to love this system that has been detrimental to the lives of my people. It's hard for me to say how I'm an American when I live in a second America--an America that doesn't wave the red, white, and blue flag with fifty stars for fifty states. I live in a community that waves a white flag because we have almost given up. I live in a community where on the walls are the names of fallen comrades of war. I live in a second America. I live here not because I chose to, but because I have to. I hate to sound militant, but this is the way I feel. (Jones, 1997, pp. 199-200)

In the quote above, Jones (1997) expressed the disappointment and frustration of most urban children, youth, and adults, many of whom are from culturally different and low socioeconomic backgrounds in the United States. Apparently, the multidimensional problems confronting those who live in urban communities, to a large extent, reflect problems experienced by many urban learners (Kretovics & Nussel, 1994; Obiakor, Mehring, & Schwenn, 1997; Trubowitz, 1968). In schools, these problems include consistent misidentification, misassessment, misplacement, and misinstruction/misintervention because of their racial, cultural, and socio-economic backgrounds (Obiakor, 1994, 1996, 1999; Obiakor & Schwenn, 1996; Obiakor, Schwenn, & Rotatori, 1999; Samuda & Lewis, 1992).

In their classical work about three decades ago, Rosenthal and Jacobson (1968) found that a positive relationship exists between teacher expectation, differential treatment, and student self-fulfilling prophecy. A few years later, Proctor (1984) confirmed that "low expectations are generally associated with minority group membership, low SES (socio-economic status), male gender, nonconformity personality, physical unattractiveness, nonstandard speech patterns, and low achievement" (p. 122). Based on his assertion, critical issues that affect students and their parents in urban schools and programs are inexorably linked to assessment and intervention. For example, these students continue to be over-represented in special education programs and under-represented in gifted programs (Artiles & Trent, 1994); the majority of them continue to be labeled as students who have "low" or "negative" self-concepts (Obiakor, 1994, 1996, 1999); and many are consistently among the least likely to profit in school (Ysseldyke, Algozzine, & Thurlow, 2000).

Ford, Obiakor, and Patton (1995), Obiakor and Schwenn (1996), and Rotatori and Obi (1999) agreed that teachers tend to make idiosyncratic judgments on students' school and life successes and failures, especially when they come from different racial, cultural, and social-economic backgrounds. With demographic changes and predicted shifts in powers and paradigms, general and special educators must confront issues of assessment and intervention as they explore innovative ways to maximize the academic potential of urban learners. …

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