Teacher and Student Demographic Variables Which Predict Teacher Referrals of Males for Special Education Evaluation

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Journal of At-risk Issues

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Past research has shown that African American/Black males are referred for special education evaluation at disproportionately higher rates compared to males of other racial/ethnic groups. Special education placement for African/American/Black males has been linked to adverse outcomes such as lower teacher expectations, low academic performance, and increased likelihood of dropping out of school. This study addressed the question of whether student and teacher demographic variables predicted how likely a teacher would refer male students for special education evaluation and whether there were significant differences in teacher ratings of severity of behavior based on race/ethnicity of male students. Principles from cultural theory and social exclusion theory were used as the conceptual framework to guide this research. Results from a multiple linear regression revealed that teacher years of teaching experience, race of teacher, race of student, and teacher attitude toward inclusion were statistically significant predictors of teacher referral to special education. However, results from an ANOVA did not show any significant differences in teacher ratings for severity of described classroom behavior based on male students' race/ethnicity. Findings from this study could be used to advocate for educational and professional development programs which promote teacher awareness of how teacher and student demographics may influence teachers' decisions to issue referrals to special education. The educational training and professional development seminars could also guide teachers in developing culturally sensitive and responsive practices for teaching students of various cultural backgrounds that, in turn, could promote social change by reducing the number of referrals for special education evaluation among African American/Black male students.