Under and Over-representation Issues in Disability Classes


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In present day American society 30% percent of the school going children and youth population consists of minorities. This suggests that our schools are getting more diverse by the day. Schools have changed from being pre-dominantly white to being multi-culturally diverse institutions as students from diverse cultural backgrounds in such institutions increase by the day. According to research projections the United States (U.S) population is predicted to have a 50% percent composition of minorities by 2050 constituting mostly of Hispanics, Asians, Blacks and Native Americans (Goldman & Aldridge, 2010). As such it may become necessary for the nation to start addressing multi-cultural issues with regard to education because the multi-cultural environment that will result from this possibility may affect education systems. Therefore, the question of addressing cultural diversity in education is not a matter of obligation or liberalism, but rather an issue of national interest.

Cultural diversity has been known as contributor of richness that draws from diverse backgrounds, however; we should also be cognizant of the fact that cultural diversity may be more of a source of conflict rather than synergy, especially; in the educational system. This mainly results from cultural bias integrated schools with students from diverse backgrounds require good policies that address pluralism in integrated set ups in order to achieve academic success, conducive environs for proper racial relationships and students development. Biasness is part of human nature and this can only be addressed through proper teaching and training so that teachers and instructors can be enabled to rise above it in order to deliver equally and efficiently in multi-culturally integrated classrooms.

This is especially, of importance in dealing with disability cases. It is evident from research that culture affects every aspects of human life, including the learning process, favoring others while making others unable to equally achieve educational development at the same rate. Therefore, if this aspect is not well addressed there is a likelihood that some students from certain backgrounds may be left behind, and thus made to appear disabled academically and un-talented-whereas; this is not actually the case, but rather a mishap on the delivery system that has failed to address the cultural aspect in order to deliver a curriculum that addresses the cultural aspect of education (Goldman & Aldridge, 2010).

The present day multi-culturally faceted and integrated schools and their analysis have shown disparities in cultural representation among the disabled students category and classes. Elements of under-representation and over-representation have emerged, but interestingly they lack a solid basis of ground upon which the disparity element can be attributed. The trend is disturbing and of concern to both states and the federal government policy formulators in education especially; within programs of special education. The 1975 legislation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, has led to great achievements in the field of education among the disabled in society. Disabled children now enjoy proper education at affordable rates, but these achievements have not been evenly distributed across the board (Linda & Eric, 2000). The minority groups have often experienced disadvantages and poor service within this system.

Some of the minorities have undergone unnecessary isolation from their normal peers and received poor instructions and curriculum, not because they were disabled, but rather due to wrong assumptions that lead to them being declared disabled. These inappropriate practices more often than not leads to mis-classification which has seen many Native Americans, blacks and other minority groups sent to disabled programs for students. This is exemplified by the high rate of Black students identified as being academically disabled compared to their white peers.

In many states Black students are categorized as disabled at a rate that even quadruples or halves the number of white students identified as disabled according to their respective population composition by size. This includes emotional disturbance cases and mental retardation. Con-currently, the same minority groups are under-represented and least identified among the gifted students. This statistical analysis raises eyebrows and many tend to question whether the needs of students from minority groups are being met. The under-representation of minority groups in talented cases for example leaves some wondering whether minorities are less talented, or whether, it is the identification process that is a miss (Goldman & Aldridge, 2010).

The magnitude of the disparities is evident in data from Harvards Civil Rights Program, in wealthy districts black students and more so males have a high likelihood of being categorized among students with mental retardation. The rates of Native Americans were also high, but not as high as the Black students. The Black students with emotional problems were least served and provided with few hours of session with counselors and relevant services. According to Goldman and Aldridge (2010) school disciplinary action was also observed to be higher among blacks, and it was observed that 2 years after school 75% blacks still languished in an employment compared to their white peers at 47%.  Five years down the line after high school arrests for blacks having disabilities was 13% percent higher in comparison to their White counterparts.

In answering this question, this paper seeks to identify the potential causes of these disparities. The first possible basis of the disparities lies in the lack of a curriculum that sufficiently and efficiently takes into account the cultural differences among students. The culturally based differences in curriculum content reception and delivery may be explained by the cultural differences between low-context and high-context cultural groups which are different in many aspects. For example high-context cultures take reasoning to be knowledge attained via contemplation, spiral logic and intuition. Feelings are also of great importance in such groups. On the other hand, low-context cultural groups handle reasoning in a logical and linear format. They believe knowledge is achieved via analytical means of reason such as the Socratic model.

Words and not feelings are of great essence to this group. Relationships of an interpersonal nature also portray great differences, whereby; in low-context cultures importance is laid on an individual and in high-context cultures the group is important.  Therefore, cultural differences mean that great differences occur in performance among culturally different students and their interaction in various areas including non-verbal and verbal communications differ (Gabel & Danforth, 2006). Additionally, orientations with respect to social values, time conception and cognition differ. These learning differences may be particularly identifiable in language differences, styles of communication and styles of learning. Students from diverse backgrounds of a minor nature may be termed as not being gifted, but the actual sense, they may be gifted, but only unable to comprehend English based evaluations and express themselves well in English. As a result, research people have urged exercise of caution when using English standard tests in identifying gifted students among minority groups.

Instead, tests that reduce or eliminate linguistic bias should be adopted (Linda & Eric, 2000). Perhaps this explains why minority students often shy away from professions that require English proficiency and opt to take on scientific and mathematical courses at higher learning levels. The wrong delivery methods and curriculum designed not address the cultural and linguistic differences, may be the reason why students from diverse backgrounds are unable to well understand and achieve academically like their European English speaking counterparts, and thereby; being classified as disabled. This may be akin to a child that has a potential to develop and a positive and good character with appropriate upbringing and training, but however; because this is not available the child turns out to be ill mannered. Surely, this cannot be attributed to any innate nature in the child, but rather due to a lack of appropriate upbringing on the side of the parents or guardians: and so are the curriculum and the instruction system used on minorities.

The cultural differences between teachers and students may also pose a challenge, especially; in cases where teachers lack proper training on how to avoid cultural bias as well as on how to handle culturally diverse teaching. Notably, teachers from minority groups constitute a measly 13.5% percent of the teacher population, whereas; the population of minority students stands at 40% percent on a nation-wide scale. These disparities are even more pronounced among disabled students’ programs. This makes it worse because, a large number of students in these programs are from the minority groups, thus exposing them to more bias and cultural discordance between the students and their teachers. In a nut shell, we have a majority of European descent white teachers attending to a large group of minority students, thus implying that the cultural problems between that arise from differences in culture are likely to be more pronounced.

Another contributory factor to the problem is misidentification. Many workers dealing with minority groups have argued that the use of standardized English Intelligence quotient tests as the basic determinant of how gifted a student is, does not offer a fair accommodation of linguistic and cultural differences. If linguistic and cultural differences bring about differences in learning then, it should be inferred that these differences may also affect the outcome of such tests. This fails to identify gifted students as well as able learners. This could simply mean that students with limited-English-proficient (LEP) learners are missing out under the gifted category. For example, according to Linda and Eric (2000) in Arizona minorities take up 16.17% percent of the school going age population (96674), but a look at the gifted minorities only shows a measly 143 LEP learners under the gifted class. Further research studies imply that the proportion of Native Americans, Blacks and Hispanics chosen as gifted may only be less than half of the actual or expected figures (Linda & Eric, 2000).

Policy formulation in the educational set up may also be blamed for the same problems. There is no apparent affirmative action to ensure these disparities are addressed through curriculum rectification and adaptation, as well as development of tests that can be culturally inclusive. The teacher employment may also not be taking cultural diversity in to account. All these problems may actually be addressed through policy formulations to develop remedial steps, however; enough has not been done and is not currently being done, thus implying a grim feature for minorities education (Linda & Eric, 2000).

The development of solutions to these problems of under-representation and over-representation should include the development of a curriculum that addresses cultural diversity and lingual based differences. This should include customization of tests that can be administered in non-English languages to facilitate fairness and equality among the minority groups. Multi-cultural education should also no t be reserved for higher levels of education only, but it should be tailored to address even pre-school levels. There should be a cal for greater innovation in this line and a consideration for all diversity.

The testing activities and identification practices should also take into account cultural differences so as to identify gifted children that are linguistically and culturally constrained in their learning. The hiring of teachers should also take into consideration and enhance more cultural diversity among the teaching force by increasing the number of teachers from minority groups (Linda & Eric, 2000). All these propositions may only be realized through policy formulation and therefore; there is a need for affirmative actions and positive policies from the education officials at the state and federal level (Sally,1997).


Conclusively, statistical analysis has shown great disparities in over-representation and under-representation among students in terms of disabilities between the minorities and majorities in America. Research implies that there is more than meets the eye here and misidentification, poor service and bias are at play according to various researches from different quarters. These result from poor identification practices, too generalized curriculum that does not take care of cultural diversity, disparities in minority representation in the teaching force and lack of appropriate policies. The problems caused by these factors can only be remedied through taking correctional steps that will reform these areas in order to enhance equity in education among different cultural groups.


Gabel, L. S. and Danforth, S. (2006),.Vital questions facing disability studies in education, Peter Lang Publishers

Goldman, R. and Aldridge, J. (2010),. The over and under-representation in special education programs, retrieved on 26th February 2011 from http://www.education.com/reference/article/special-education-programs/

Linda, M. C. and Eric, E.C. (2000),. Meeting the needs of gifted and talented minority language students, retrieved on 26th February 2011 from http://www.kidsource.com/kidsource/content/gifted_and_minority_lang.html

Sally, J. S. (1997),. EEOC issues guidelines on disability representation, Corporate Legal Times, volume number 7, issue number 65, p 51. <http://ehis.ebscohost.com/ehost/results?hid=109&sid=6f71da4c-1a51-410a-af16-baeab33b024e%40sessionmgr111&vid=2&bquery=%28Under+AND+Over-representation+AND+Issues+AND+%22in%22+AND+Disability+AND+Classes%29&bdata=JmRiZ3JvdXA9NTc0MyZjbGkwPUZUJmNsdjA9WSZ0eXBlPTEmc2l0ZT1laG9zdC1saXZl

Nancy Morgan is the Author of this paper. She is a senior academic writer and an editor and she offers Dissertation Writing Service. Thus, people that doubt their own writing abilities can use the best custom paper writing service and forget about their fears and lack of confidence by visiting EssayWritingBay.Com

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