African American Male Students And Special Education Education Essay

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During the conduction of the literature one of the objectives was to locate existing studies and research that have been done on African American male students' participation and subsequent performance in special education as well as their relationship with guidance counselors. This study will therefore involve a variety of scholarly journals in various databases in trying to examine the relationship between the African American male students in special education and school counselors in an attempt to improve school guidance counseling services. Among these databases include Academic Search Premier, New Jersey Education Association Center, Education Research, Eric and Primary Search. During the search, a variety of terms were used; African American males, Critical Race Theory (Critical Ethnography), Special Education, Overrepresentation, Counseling services, Guidance Counselor, and teacher perception.

The review begins with an introduction and other research-related expressions from research questions. The introduction is followed by some historical background information regarding the issue of African American males' participation in special education. It also incorporates student support and other minority needs. After that, there is an in-depth evaluation of some of the crucial aspects of Critical Ethnography Theory. These aspects include background information of the theory, effects on the community, special education, and the various tenets of the theory as well as the methods involved in Critical Ethnography. The study then concludes with a research on African American males and student achievement, followed by an evaluation of the effects of overrepresentation on the students. In addition, this last part of the literature review also highlight on the various interventions that can be put into place such as collaboration between guidance counselors, parents, and the community.

Historical Perspective

Zastrow, and Kirst-Ashman (2010) present that racism and ethnocentrism begun to fade away with the Civil Rights movements that came into fall force in the 1960's. However, some scholars have opposed this idea that civil rights movements were the main driving force towards the obliteration of racism with Lewis (2007) claiming that very little had been done to support this claims. It is also arguable that it is still evident that segmentation as well as slavery continues to impact on most parts of the United States' societies (Erickson, 2007). According to Jones (2005), African Americans were still being denied their basic rights and access to quality education despite claims that these movements brought the issue of racism to an end in the 1960's. indeed, Jones (2005) goes ahead as to be of the opinion that the criminal justice system played little or no part in curbing the situation perhaps because it created a situation in which one out every five African American males had a probability of one of going to jail.

Poor school performance by African American students can be attributed to the claims that, the students readiness to always learn about the environment that they were subjected to, did not provide them with adequate opportunities to be the best that they could (White, 2005). White (2005) further presents that despite the fact that the students were very optimistic about getting better grades, they were denied access good educational facilities as opposed to the coloreds, who were always given priority when it came to matters pertaining educational resources and facilities. This imbalance in status quo has over time had a spillover effect on the subsequent African American students who have detested guidance and counseling services.

Student Support

Viadero (2005) documented evidence which indicated that African American students, more often than not, do not receive the much needed support that they naturally need in an apt education system. This therefore brings to the limelight the question of what are the key contributors of low academic achievements of African American males. Frierson and Wyche (2009) assert the immediate financial gratification by the young African American males may explain this phenomenon, which in usually results in incarceration, thereby reducing the number of males' enrolment. Tolson (2008) further expounded on this issue by explaining that teachers' and counselors' expectations as well as their perceptions about the African American male students are some of the contributors to their low academic performance. Vaidero (2005) revealed that school factors and parental factors also had great effects on the performance of these students. Pitre (2009) documents that more African America children are raised in poor, single parent families than children of any other racial or ethnic group which translates to approximately forty two percent of Young African American men living in single-parent households. These young men are therefore vulnerable to behavioral problems that necessitate their placement in these special schools. However, Piter (2009) advances that the special education label worn by these students often serves as a stigma, producing negative effects on these young men bearing the label and others interacting with these stigmatized African American male students.

Minority Needs

According to Lewis (2007), past research on Minority Public schools for students with special needs began in California in the late 1960's with the main aim of establishing what contributed to lower performance of students within the area. The research indicated that apart from school factors (White 2005), other factors such as differences in culture, social class and language were noted to also impact on their performance. The study was conducted comparatively and the same results were obtained from different societies including Japan and the United States. The causes of the gap in school achievement and performance were summarized to be either school based or community based (Lewis, 2007) implying that school based factors emanated from within the schools which included issues such as adjustments and teachers perceptions. Community based factors imply to issues that emanated from within the society such as stigmatization among others. Nevertheless, some scholars suggested that the studies were conducted on a much smaller level (Buhl,2005), which therefore called for more research on the minority classes in order to identify other factors apart from these two.

Community forces, as a factor that speeds up the drop in performance of students, Sanders (2007) explains that they should be included in the discussions that are carried out by educators, policymakers as well as the concerned minorities, who are in dire need of improving the general perception of the common African American child and their academic performance. Cianciotto and Cohill (2007) affirm that studies that were conducted pointed out that 26.6% of African Americans lived below the poverty line. The whites in that states represented only 10% of that population. Cianciotto and Cohill (2007) contend that these figures were likely to be that way due to the attitude held by the African American towards the whites. This implies that although most of the African Americans were good in terms of character, the environment around them was not conducive for them to exercise their kindness as well as their virtue. This would consequently force them to act rudely in order to earn respect and get to be noticed. This however goes against the Critical ethnography theory, which opposes such attitude by the African Americans because proponents of the theory state that human race is entitled to behave regardless of the environment that they are in. however, they it is their responsibility to watch on how they react to their emotions and their surroundings.

Critical Race Theory

Johnson (2005) presents that the process of enactment and assessment of the African American male students, who were referred to special education, was not fair. This was due to what Woodland (2008) considered as the disproportionate placement of the African American students, which failed to fall within the expected and desirable percentage of enrollment in special education programs. Enrollment within this program echoes the reasons for the poor relation that exist between the African American students, in special education, with guidance counselors (Pitre 2009). According to woodland (2008), the Critical Race or Critical Ethnography Theory is considered as a reliable tool in the assessment of the extent to which African American students are affected by the discriminations along the racial lines in matters pertaining to enrollments in special education. Zamudio, Russell, Bridgeman and Rios (2010) discerned that the theory seeks to expound on the human race's position to act according in a way that they deem as appropriate in the face of their immediate environment. Bearing in mind the fact that approximately 27% of the African American male students are products of special education schools, the program often fails to fulfill the main purpose that it was intended for (Wilson & Caston, 2006). This is opposed to the percentage of the white race who graduates from these institutions. As a result this has frequently proved to be a demoralizing issue for the male students of the African American race.


The sluggish pace at which the civil rights movement was being enacted, saw to the emergence of the Critical Race theory in the first part of the 1970's as a result of increasing concern by the scholars, lawyers and other intellectual activists. Their main precedence at that time was that the prevailing progresses that were being experienced by then were turning out to be rather inactive and eroded. As a result, a first conference to find solutions to the issue was organized at Madison Wisconsin in the year 1989. This movement by scholars initiated the exposure of some of the inconsistencies that were conspicuous in the in the legal policies. However, the movement was not that much successful despite the exposure to these inconsistencies, since it not include aspects of racism and its overall effects on the people of color. Among the pioneer scholars applauded for their efforts in the development of the Critical Race Theory include Derrick Bell and Alan Freeman.

Critical Race theory provides a means through which humanity can appreciate how various educational structures such as knowledge, objectivity and truth can be used to pull together the boundaries that exist between the white colony and racism. One of the pioneer developers of the theory claimed that any victory by the African Americans over the whites had no relationship with moral consciousness of the blacks, but most importantly on the political position of the whites. Another outstanding scholar in the development of the theory was known as Crenshaw (Gresson, 2008). He pointed out both the expansive as well as the restrictive aspects in the anti-discriminatory law. Whereas the expansive aspect focused on the major decisions that were laid out by the court in the quest of eliminating the visible effects of race and racism among the colored people, the restrictive aspect gave value to equality thereby focusing on the future measures of curbing discriminations of any kind.

Crenshaw argued that voices and stories of the people and color came from different experiences and backgrounds of the different groups of people which needed to be listened to. Despite the fact that the voices were different from whites, who are the dominant culture, there was need to give them an opportunity to express themselves, due to the existing semantics that exist between the African Americans and the European Americans.

Effects on the Community

The Critical Race Theory is deemed as vital in addressing the existence of social inequalities within the society as well as explaining the various ways in which racism and other related race issues operate among the society. One major drawback of the theory stems up from the fact that it is remarkably uncommon and unknown by the majority of the American citizens. However, scholars have been on the forefront in countering this issue through ensuring that their work is fairly documented in order to fit into the different cultural societies (Gresson, 2008). Critical race theory therefore investigates matters that pertain to race and racism, ethnicity and class as sources of power in the community, which therefore helps predict as well as solving any form of conflict that may arise from the existing diverse cultures and beliefs (Ladson-Billing, 2005).

According to Codjoe (2005), most African American male students are disproportionately represented in special education programs due to the existing race and racism in the American society as whole. This is seconded by Pitre (2009) who argues that African American Students are 2.88 times as likely as white students to be identified and placed in special education programs. Moreover, by the year 1991, African American students made up approximately 16% of the nation's school population and 35% of the special education population. Pitre (2009) further advances that it is well documented that African American males are particularly overrepresented both in disciplinary practices and in certain special education in segregated classrooms or buildings.

Rong (2006) claims that African American male students are disproportionally placed in special education institutions on the basis of learning disability, mental retardation, behavioral disorders and or due to emotional instability. Once they have been placed in these special education programs on such grounds, the chances of exiting such facilities are very minimal as compared to white counterparts in such institutions. This has been attributed to such as issues as financial well being of the latter. On the same note, Rong (2006) also points out that most of the African American students in these institutions are denied with opportunities to interact with other races or access other general education curriculum. As a matter of fact, they are separated from the other students. This traditional practice of denying young African American males opportunities to excel within the society appears to be a continuation of the practice of tearing them as innately inferior. This is due to a common perception by many in the school environment that African American males in special education do not care about their future (Pitre, 2009).

Racism focuses mainly on promoting the white dominance and power by diminishing the colored people (Reschley, 2007). Reschley (2007) highlights that the disparity in terms of proportions among the students is more apparent when the enrolled students in a given special education institution surpass the required placement number of students.

One of the most probable outcomes of post school outcomes for most of the African American males usually include high school dropouts, low academic performance among them due to the limited access to general education programs offered in classrooms. Additionally, they also face difficulties when it comes to accessing post-secondary education which may consequently lead to low employment opportunities due to inadequate experience to join the workforce. This subsequently creates a vicious cycle that will see their future generations to go through the same ordeal that their foregoing generations have faced over time.

In the course of trying to find the most appropriate solution to this problem of overrepresentation of the African American male students in the special education, there is need to first prepare counselor as well as other parties who are in direct contact with such students to tackle the various needs of all students irrespective of their cultural background. There is need to work on improving the counselors' abilities to provide culture and positive ethnic responsive instructions to these students so as to consequently improve their performance in schools. Also, due to the perceptions that many African American families do not care about their children's education, there is also need for the respective parents to get involved in their children's education.

Critical Race Theory Tenets

The theory seeks to deal with social inequalities behaviors as exhibited in the society majorly as a result of race and racism. Lasdson-billin (2005) explains that the theory has four distinct tenets; permanence of racism, whiteness as property, interest convergence and critique of liberalism. The five tenets work to unravel how race continues to be a crucial factor in maintaining inequality in America. The first tenet, permanence of racism, provides an evaluation of just how racist views are created and maintained. The second tenet displays the historical evidence of the advantages to the white identity as seen in laws and various policies as well as education. The third one, interest convergence, offers details on how the interests of the African Americans in achieving the racial equality has been accommodated only when the interests have been converged with those of the whites (Schutz & Pekrun, 2007). A clear understanding of the theory will help in the elimination of such incidences as segregation and overrepresentation of African Americans in special education facilities.