Date of Conferral

2017

Degree

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)

School

Education

Advisor

Dr. Andrew Thomas

Abstract

Patterns of representation of African Americans in K-12 special education programs vary across the United States. A school district in Arizona has a 13% African American population, yet the African American special education representation is 17%. The purpose of this grounded theory study was to generate an understanding of the processes related to special education referral and assignment of African American elementary students as perceived by 7 teachers and 6 parents in the school district. Inductive analysis including open, axial, and selective coding led to the categorization of three themes: complexity in the referral process, inadequate teacher-parent communication and lack of shared knowledge, and inadequate teacher training. A key finding was parents' dependency on teachers for placing children in special education without the requisite knowledge to ask questions or make critical choices for their children. Parents' powerlessness and lack of knowledge may contribute to the overrepresentation of African American children in special education programs in the district. Findings may be used to educate parents and train teachers in the processes of referral and assignment of students to special education programs.