The purpose of this memo is to inform you of my recent research on the overrepresentation of minority students in Georgia. Minority students, English language learners, and students with disabilities are noted as being the primary groups of students who do not have equitable access to a high-quality education. These inequities eventually lead to unfavorable student outcomes, including disproportionality. Across the state, African-American and Hispanic students are more often identified as having a learning disability.
These two groups also tend to have the lowest high school graduation rate. Graduation RateUnfortunately, Georgia has the nation’s third-lowest graduation rate for students with disabilities. Only 36.5% of the state’s disabled students receive a high school diploma. This is significantly lower than the national average which is 62% (Stirgus, 2015). One reason for this may be that Georgia has some of the most rigorous prerequisites for graduation in the nation.
The rigorous standards are difficult for many special education students as these students tend to have more absences due to their disability. What is our school doing to improve these statistics?Poverty and Cultural BiasWith over 47% of students at our school being eligible for a free or reduced lunch (Georgia Connections Academy, 2017), we know that poverty may be an issue for many of them. Statistics show a strong connection between poverty and special education placement. Students are not able to work effectively if they are hungry, cold, or worried about family issues. In turn, the stressful situation they live in may keep students from meeting educational indicators and may be considered for special education (Thompson, 2017).
African-American and Hispanic students are the most over-represented in Georgia as having a disability. According to Friend (2014, p. 81-82), the “two major factors that contribute to the issue of disproportionality are poverty and systemic bias (favoritism towards a certain group).” Cultural bias and teacher attitude are also factors. SuggestionsAll of this information suggests an obvious problem with equity in education in the state and possibly at Georgia Connections Academy (GACA). In order to address the issue of disproportionality in education, the problems of inequitable access to quality education for all students, especially those from minority, ELL, low-income, and special needs backgrounds, need to be addressed. These issues concern me greatly and I would like to begin a conversation on how best to address these problems at GACA.
Perhaps some teacher training on cultural bias would be a good place to begin. I am happy to work with our special education department to present this information at our next faculty meeting so that we may begin attending to these topics.