Magazine article Perspectives on Language and Literacy

Diverse, Vulnerable Learners in Special Education: Policy and System Analysis to Improve Educational Quality

Magazine article Perspectives on Language and Literacy

Diverse, Vulnerable Learners in Special Education: Policy and System Analysis to Improve Educational Quality

Article excerpt

Our public schools are increasingly ethnically and racially diverse. The most recent report from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES, 2019) on elementary and secondary public school students, using the following categories, documents from 2000 to 2015 the percentage of White students decreased from 61 to 49% and Black students from 17 to 15%. During the same period, Hispanic students increased from 16 to 26%, Asian/Pacific Islander students increased from 4 to 5%, Native Americans remained constant at 1%, and students documenting two or more races were recorded in 2015 at 3%. By 2027 these percentages are expected to be 45 for White students, 15 for Blacks, 29 for Hispanics, 6 for Asian/Pacific Islander, 1 for Native Americans, and 4 for students reporting two or more races (see Figure 1). This shifting diversity has major implications for the way that this society continues to structure its schools and the expected outcomes. Students from diverse backgrounds are particularly vulnerable for failure and some students (i.e., Blacks) have the worst outcomes of all the students in schools in the U.S.

The educational history of most culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) learners in the U.S. has been a troubled and nearly intractable one, especially for students from Native, Hispanic, and African American groups. Looking past the painful periods of bondage (African Americans) or boarding schools (Native Americans), education for much of the past century for these groups has been characterized largely by segregation, scarcity of resources, insufficient instruction, restricted opportunities, and limited school success. Midway through the last century two major governmental actions occurred that were designed to remedy some of the noted shortcomings as well as to extend educational promise to another group of locked out youth, those with diversity profiled by ability differences (physical, cognitive), rather than principally race or ethnicity.

Brown v. Board of Education

First, there was the U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Brown v. Board of Education, Topeka, Kansas, 1954. Prior to this ruling, Black children in certain locations, particularly in southern states where segregation was the law, often had to travel long distances past White schools to attend Black schools, which typically were underserved or under resourced compared to the White schools. In the North, Black children were subjected to "de-facto" segregation due to the fact that their families were forced to live in Black residential areas and their children were assigned to attend their "neighborhood" schools. In 1954 the court ruled that within public schools the doctrine of "separate but equal" had no place and that separate facilities were inherently unequal. The schools were to be integrated with all deliberate speed (Blanchett, Mumford, & Beachum, 2005).

Shortly after the Supreme Court ruled that school segregation by race was unconstitutional, White parents in the South began to form private schools, especially through the church, so that few, if any, White children remained to attend racially integrated schools. One particularly egregious example was Prince Edward County in the state of Virginia (Green, 2015). In the North, where schools were residentially segregated through governmental design of social engineering (Rothstein, 2017), a brief period of limited integration took place until the country succumbed to pressure of anti-integrationist and elected politicians such as Ronald Reagan, who insisted that the focus should be placed on improving the performance of minority students through upgrading their schools rather than through racial integration (Hannah-Jones, 2016). Although this position was welcomed by the majority of Whites (Hannah-Jones, 2019) and many Blacks (Shealey, Lue, Brooks, & McCray, 2005), it can be legitimately argued that this policy was misguided. Hannah-Jones points out that it was during this period of integration that racial minorities were making the most progress in school. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.