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Title:Locating Ideology in Talk and Practice: Understanding the Referral of African American Students to School Social Services and Special Education
Author(s):Gathright, Tamara Donyale
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Rappaport, Julian
Department / Program:Psychology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Black Studies
Abstract:This study analyses the ideological discourse of educators working in an academically struggling elementary school to better understand the culture in which they make decisions about student ability via social service and special education referrals. Twenty-six percent of their students carry a special education disability label. In theory, teachers and school social service professionals work together to provide assistance to students experiencing difficulties. This often takes the form of referring, assessing and labeling students en-route to special education. This is especially true for African American students, as they tend to be disproportionately over-represented in special education referrals and placements. Decisions throughout the referral process are informed by the personal and collective beliefs of school staff that have considerable decision-making discretion. These beliefs may best be understood as ideology and can be represented on different levels such as that of a staff of teachers and social service providers, as well as school/district policies and procedures. Ideology is conceptualized as individual and collective belief systems as well as commonsense understandings and explanations by which people make sense of the world around them. Teachers and other school staff bring to their daily work their social identities, complex ideologies and normalized ways of viewing the school and their students. This ethnographic study explores the role of the ideologies of school staff involved in special education referrals at Woodson Elementary School. Teachers describe the referral as an act of mercy wherein they are obtaining needed services for struggling students. However, analyses of teacher discourse and practice unveil the referral as an artifact of a negative student-blaming culture within the school. Under the rubric of student disability, competing ideologies of meritocracy and racism/classism can co-exist without recrimination. For these educators, special education referrals are a way to explain and cope with failure while insulating ideologies about students, and preserving teachers' sense of professional efficacy.
Issue Date:2002
Description:309 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2002.
Other Identifier(s):(MiAaPQ)AAI3044093
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-09-25
Date Deposited:2002

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