For my final project, I am creating a multimodal video that incorporates interview clips, photos, music, and voice over.  I am focusing on the over-representation of African Americans in special education classrooms, why it is happening, and what can be done to prevent this issue.

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According to an article from The News Times, special education graduation rates in Forest Grove are 21 percentage points behind the statewide graduation goal of 58 percent. Only 37.2 percent of the 43 percent high school special education seniors got a regular diploma.

Brad Bafaro, the districts special education director has said that the decrease in special education graduation rates is, in part, due to the increase in special education students, particularly with autism, that have provided new challenges.  In the last year and a half, the programs enrollment has increased by 155 students.

Bafaro has expressed many issues that he is not satisfied within the special education department.  First and foremost, he is not satisfied with his students graduation rate.  On the other hand,

He believes that more rigorous diploma requirements, mandated by the state for all students, could skew graduation rates for special ed pupils in the future. “It’s becoming more and more difficult for any student to earn a regular diploma, let alone the special ed student,” Bafaro said.

Aside from the decrease in graduation rates, there are some aspects of the program that are thriving, says Bafaro.  There is a noticeable increase in achievement among special education students in both language arts and math, both target areas in special education.  Also, during the 2007-2008 school year, 82 percent of special education students who did leave the program reported to have landed paying jobs or enrolled in college classes.

The week of April 13th thru the 18th, Miami University’s Best Buddies organization is hosting a ‘Disability Awareness Week.’  It is a week full of informational events in order to raise awareness for individuals with intellectual disabilities.disability

Monday 4/13: Jeff Moyer will be speaking in Leonard Theater in Peabody Hall at 7pm. He will show a video called Lest We Forget which shows peoples stories and first-hand experiences of institutionalization and segregation of those with intellectual disabilities.


Tuesday 4/14: We will have a table at Shriver to hand out information and spread the word as well as facts. So, please stop by!


Wednesday 4/15: We will have a fundraiser at Kona where our buddies, people with intellectual disabilities, will be bartending and displaying artwork that they have done. The artwork will be on sale for those interested in purchasing it. Please come and support our organization by grabbing a bite to eat from 6-8:45pm.


Thursday 4/16: A panel of individuals with intellectual disabilities will be speaking of their life experiences and answering questions at 6:30pm in MacMillan Great Room. It would be great if you could come and learn more about the lives of these individuals living in the community around you.


Saturday 4/18: Annual Best Buddies Bike or Hike which will be in Hamilton at the Fitton Center at 9:15am. You can chose to participate in a 12mile bike ride or a 3 mile walk. Donations are welcome. Registration will begin at 8:45am. Transportation will be provided for those who RSVP. If you are interested, I would need money by Thursday 4/9 in order to receive a t-shirt. Otherwise, all walkers or bikers are welcome.



This week is going to be an awesome way for people on Miami’s campus to learn more about students with disabilities, and reinforce the fact that they are no different from anyone else.

In this article from the Border Beat, it discusses the overepresentation of minorities, specifically Hispanics.  It says that in Arizona in predominantly white schools, Hispanic students are much more likely to be placed in special education, than their white peers. 

In fact, Hispanic males are labeled with disabilities at a 64 percent higher rate in schools where the white population is 75 percent or more, than in schools where the white population is 25 percent or less, the report said.

As I have found in other articles concerning the misplacement of minorities in special education classrooms, it can have a very harmful effect on the child.  By putting these students in classes that they do not need, it can permanently change what the kid expects from himself, and what the teacher expects.   The National Education Association proclaimed that, “Mislabeling students creates a false impression of the child’s intelligence and academic potential.”  In many cases, these minority students are being put in these special education classrooms, and are never integrated back into the general classrooms.

One of the main issues teachers face, especially with Hispanic students, is a language barrier.  They do not understand these students dominant language, and therefore refer them to special education.  It all comes down to teachers getting to know their students, and where they come from before sending them to special education services.

As I was searching for information on the overrepresentation of minorities in special education for my final project, I came across a very interesting file.  I found an administrators guide titled, “Addressing Over-Representation of African American Students in Special Education.”

This is a very informative pamphlet that gives lots of data and ways for teachers and administrators to become aware of over-representation in their schools.  I am going to share some of this information now.

Data presented in the 2000 Annual Report has shown that over-representation
of African American students in special education is a problem that undermines
efforts to provide equitable education for all children in this country.  In the 1998-1999 school year, African American students were:

-2.9 times as likely as white students to be labeled mentally retarded.

-1.9 times as likely to be labeled emotionally disturbed.

-1.3 times as likely to be labeled as having a learning disability.

Further, African American students were less likely than their white counterparts to be returned to general education classrooms once they entered special education.

African American youth ages 6 through 21 account for 20.2 percent of the special education population, and only 14.8 percent of the general population.

In 10 of the 13 disability categories, the percentage of African American student equals or exceeds the resident population percentage.

The representation of African American students in the mental retardation and developmental delay categories is more than twice their national population estimates.

**I found it very interesting to read that one of the most heard reasons for why a group of students is over-represented was “Lack of knowledge that a problem exists and, subsequently, how to resolve it.”  This just shows that many teachers are completely oblivious to their students and their needs.  As teachers, we need to get to know our students and the best way to teach ALL of them.

As I scrolled down, I found a whole section on why minorities may be over-represented.  Professional literature has identified the following possible causal factors:

-Failure of the general education system to educate children from diverse backgrounds.

-Inequities associated with special education referral and placement procedures.

-Misidentification and misuse of tests.

– Lack of access to effective instruction in general education programs.

-Insufficient resources and less well trained teachers making learning more difficult.

School climate can markedly affect over-representation. Administrators, faculty, and staff bring into the workplace their own assumptions, theories, and beliefs about students. A school climate that respects individual differences and embraces diversity may contribute to the decline of students being referred to special education, thus reducing the numbers of African American students disproportionately represented in special education.
^^ I found this to be EXTREMELY relevant to my whole final project.  It points out, in words, exaclty what it is that I am trying to broadcast in my final video.  Teachers need to eliminate their “lens” in which they see through, and get rid of their biases in order to ensure they are aware and understanding of all of the cultures in their classroom.

According to Larson and Avando, “Teachers, supervisers, and others bring to the classroom a variety of agendas, some public, many hidden, and probably most unknown, each of which has a telling impact on educational decision making.  Unfortunately, some of these life experiences that staff and faculty bring with them to the education setting will manifest themselves in the form of many unfounded biases- some of them in the areas of student achievement, low expectations, and student intelligence as they apple to race and discriminatroy systems and practices that people have created, supported, and maintained over time.”

As a side note to my studies of the over-representation of other minorities as well, Hispanics make up for 13.2 percent of special education (14.2 percent general population.)

I found all of this information to be extremely helpful in my studies of over-representation.  This pamphlet was a great guide for me as a student, and I’m sure would be extremely helpful to any school administrators and teachers.

http://www.dcsig.org/files/AddressingOverrepresentationAfricanAmericanguide.pd

Recently I read an article in the Rhode Island College’s newspaper about a very interesting happening.  The article tells the story of Rose, a young Rhode Island College student, who has had a deformity since birth, and as a result has had some trouble with speech. Because of this deformity that she has suffered from, she was wrongly placed in special education classes all of her life.  Without any aptitude testing or assessment Rose was placed in special education from the time she started school.  However, Rose has never actually needed these services.  She is able to take college classes as well as be graded on the same level as other college students.

Rose’s story is very eye openeing and provides a perfect example of how as teachers we must always be questioning ourselves and our judgement.  Just as teachers are found placing boys and minorities in special education classes more frequently, we also have to be aware of the assumptions are making before we make any special education decisions.  The decisions we make  could affect a child’s whole life. We need to be sensitive to each childs needs and their specific situations.

On Thursday March 19th, President Obama appeared on “The Tonight Show,” and made a very special mistake.   When talking to Jay Leno about his bowling game, Obama compared it to that of the Special Olympics.  Before the episode even aired, Obama sent his deepest sympathies and apologies to the Special Olympics Chairman from Air Force One.  It seems as though the president meant no harm by this remark, and actually believes the Special Olympics are a wonderful program.

This is another assignment we had to do for class.  I chose to make an argument to the Ohio School Board for the purpose and effect of special education.  Let me know what you think.

A recent article in the Daily Harold talks about the funding cuts that are taking place in the Elgin Area School District U-46.  As part of an effort to reduce spending, next year the district is going to be reducing spending by $17 million; special education will be taking a hard hit.  In order to cut down, they say they are going to be “right-sizing  special education by staffing to state standards.”

 

However, officials have stressed that the cuts will not effect the quality of the services provided.  The changes will include, different class size standards, and a reduction in special education teachers and teachers’ aides.    However, major concern for these special education students is becomming apparent.

“All things considered, I just can’t see how it’s going to work,” said Julie Radcliffe, a special education teacher at Century Oaks Elementary in Elgin. “The number of special education students isn’t going down, and yet staffing is being cut. I just don’t see how we’re going to meet every student’s (needs).”

Of the 348 jobs that are being cut next year in District U-46, 48 of them belong to special education teachers, and 68 belong to teachers’ aides.  Many of the special education teachers do not know how they are going to meet every students special needs.  They feel as though they are “Being set up to fail to meet their needs.”

According to an article from The New York Times, T.V. Raman, a visually impaired Google Engineer, has created and improved many technologies in order for them to be more accessible to the blind.  T.V. was a book-loving child who also had a passion for math and puzzles.  At the age of 14, however, he was diagnosed with glaucoma which took his eye-sight.  Since then Mr. Rama has worked to design a series of tools that allow him and others who are visually-impaired to take advantage of objects or technologies that were not designed with blind users in mind.

 

 Mr. Raman is to thank for building a version of Google that is tailored strictly for blind users.  He has also designed a Braille covered Rubicks Cube, and a software program that assists the blind with math problems.  Currently, he is working on a touch-screen phone for the blind.  Such a phone, he believes, could be useful for drivers, as well as the baby boomer generation who may be suffering from fa04blind_xlarge1ding vision.  Raman’s vision is that these touch-screen phones will help the blind to navigate the world.  He wishes to create a phone that can recognize and read signs through the camera, which he still feels is a few years away.

 

The article then goes on to talk about the problems technology has had in the past with being accessible to the blind.   As we talked about today in class, it is extremely important that websites are user friendly for ALL users, including the blind and the deaf.  The Web, although it may make it easier for the blind in some cases, is still full of obstacles.  One of the challenges is that technology develops faster than the guidelines that ensure Web sites work well with screen readers.  The Web is also a challenge for the blind.  Today, there is a plethora of videos online without captions, which result in major problems with the deaf community.

 

Overall, I believe that what Mr. Raman is doing is remarkable.  He is taking a personal catastrophe and using it to help a whole community.  With the help of all of his improved technologies, Raman could help change lives.