The Importance Of Research In Education

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Is Hispanic limited knowledge of learning disabilities the main impact on the placement of students in Special Education? According to IDEA Section 601 findings from almost 30 years of research indicate that, the education of children with disabilities can be made more effective by strengthening the role and responsibility of parents and ensuring that families of these children have meaningful opportunities to participate in the education of their children at home and at school.

From teacher experiences of working with students that demonstrate learning difficulties, one can say that parents are not too supportive when it comes to accepting evaluations of learning disabilities. The first thing that comes through the parents’ minds is that their child will be labeled as “crazy”. It can be said that the lack of knowledge of how certain learning disabilities work, is the main reason parents do not seek special education evaluation or intervention.

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This topic is important to the education field because it could be the source of another problem like Hispanic dropout rates. In this review however we will not address this issue. If parents are advised more thoroughly about the benefits and implications of receiving special education services, then children will not be faced with inequality in their education.

The literature addresses parental involvement in the identification, evaluation and planning of special education services. It also evaluates the different types of screening tools used to identify students as well as how reliable these tools can be. It examines the idea that minorities are more prone to be identified as needing special education services and that there is an overrepresentation of such students in this population. The literature goes furthermore to investigate the types of interventions that are already being put in place to remedy parent involvement, screening and evaluation tools, and the overrepresentation or under representation of Hispanics in the special education population. .

Parental Involvement

It is important for teachers and parents to work together in order to enhance the child’s school performance. Parents that are involved with school functions and build a healthy relationship with the teachers tend to support their child better than parents that don’t establish a relationship with the school.

Are Hispanic parents the ones initiating the referral process of their child? According to Guiberson (2009), most of the referrals are done by the teachers. This is mainly because parents have already developed some negative perceptions about the school. Parents are confused about the disability determination and classification and feel intimidated by the professional staff. Due to negative experiences with the schools and because of discrimination, parents do not initiate the referral process. In a study done on two focus groups that were interviewed, it was found that the parents reported language barriers to be the main reason for not initiating the process followed by time constraints and procedural issues (Hardin, Mereoiu, Hung & Roach-Scott 2009, p. 96).

Let’s say then that the referral process is initiated by the teacher. IDEA 2004, wants parents to be involved in the IEP process. IEP meetings represent most exchanges between parents and school district personnel, yet these meetings typically include numerous school officials who use technical language to describe the child through a deficit/medical model; that is, they use medical jargon to compare the child with a typically developing child and focus on the skills he or she cannot perform rather than what he or she can do (Mueller, Millian & Lopez 2009, pg. 113). In a survey done with 200 parents of Hispanic children with disabilities it was revealed that the majority of parents reported moderate levels of satisfaction with special education services and 17% of these families were completely dissatisfied with the service (Guiberson 2009, p. 169). Parents feel out of place at such meetings and prefer to remain silent in order to avoid the conversation, for fear they will say something out of context. In most cases, they just agree with whatever has been set in the IEP.


In succeeding to have parental approval for further learning disability evaluations comes the next question. Are the evaluations used a one size fits all? In diagnosing a disability a variety of tests need to be done. The diagnosis should include intelligence tests, achievement tests, visual-motor integration and language tests.

School districts use different screening tools and tests to evaluate a student’s abilities. Part of the screening includes parent and teacher surveys. Some of the most common tests used by school districts include the WJ test of Cognitive Abilities, WJ test of achievement, The Kaufman Test of Educational Achievement (KTEA), Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC-V). Although a variety of tests are available, developing and validating screening and evaluation tools using methods to ensure fidelity; including consistent translation/adaptation procedures and representative samples are still a concern (Guiberson 2009).

With these concerns comes into question the reliability of the evaluations and tools used. With the parent input, parents have voiced concern about not being able to understand it and complete it correctly. Some parents are afraid to answer certain questions because it makes them feel as if they have done something wrong in the home. In evaluating the other tests, concerns arise about biases. It has been found that certain IQ tests are not appropriate for minority students, because the students have not been exposed to certain cultural backgrounds. This can affect the outcome of the results for a Hispanic student.


If parents are reluctant to refer their child to learning disability evaluations and the evaluations seem to be unreliable in some cases then why do we have an “overrepresentation” in special education. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act mandates states to have policies and procedures in place to prevent inappropriate overidentification or disproportionate representation by race and ethnicity of students with disabilities (Zhang, Katsiyannis, Ju & Roberts 2019, p. 118). Is there really an over-representation of the Hispanic population in the special education community?

Factors that may influence the sense of having over-representation in the Special Education community include, test bias, poverty, special education processes and inequity in general education and possible behavior management issues. It is believed that students that fit into these categories have not been evaluated correctly. For example, a child coming from poverty is unlikely to have the same background knowledge as a child coming from a middle class background. This means that test results could give different results.

Since several factors influence the over-representation of minorities in Special Education, is there truly such over-representation for the Hispanic population of students? The truth is that Hispanics are actually under-identified. For example, Hispanic students were less likely to be identified with autism than White students in 44 of 46 states and were at least half as likely as white students to be identified with autism in half of the states in the country (Sullivan 2013, p. 307). Of course, representations of Hispanics vary in states depending on the population of Hispanics in that particular state. In analyzing six separate survey waves of the

National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) it was found that racial ,ethnic, and language minority children were less likely than white students to be identified as having a learning disability (Morgan & Farkas, 2016). The analysis goes further to say that children who are Hispanic are 43% less likely to be identified as having a disability. In analyzing the data we can conclude that Hispanics are underrepresented, yet fit into the minority and ELL sub pops which indicate an over-representation as a whole.


In order to avoid Hispanic students from being receiving the special education services that they might or might not need, some interventions are in order. Several studies have been conducted to determine what types of interventions need to be made for parents to feel included in the special education of their children. A study done with 6 Latina mothers indicated that the mothers actually felt that they received more support from a support group than from their child’s teacher and school (Mueller, Millian & Lopez 2009). There is an awareness in schools as well as in the legislature of the need for interventions in the area of parental involvement, evaluation reliability and in avoiding overrepresentation and under representation of a sub pop group.

Researchers interested in working with families to promote parent-school partnerships have identified family support as one effective solution (Mueller, Millian & Lopez 2009, p. 114). At the school level an effort should be made to initiate a group of parent to parent support. Having parents with similar backgrounds can help them relate to each other and be more comfortable to discuss their situations. Teachers are getting training in order to avoid biases in their classrooms. There is also an effort being put into training interpreters so that they can assist parents in their native language. These interpreters are being taught how to simplify the “medical jargon” for parents to understand and not feel intimidated. It is very imperative to have parents have a good relationship with the school, so that they will feel comfortable advocating for their children. Schools are also interested in offering parents training on certain procedures to follow when referring students to special education evaluations.

The government is also making efforts to avoid the over-representation and under-identification of Hispanic students in the special education population. Under the IDEA, states are required to have ‘‘policies and procedures designed to prevent the inappropriate overidentification or disproportionate representation by race and ethnicity of children as children

with disabilities, including children with disabilities with a particular impairment (Zhang, Katsiyannis, Ju & Roberts 2012, p. 120). There are several government organizations that are available to give information to parents about procedures and policies to follow in order to ask for an evaluation for their child. For example, the US Department of Education is a great resource for parents to learn about several topics in special education.


While conducting the research for this literature review, it was discovered that a lot of factors came into effect when placing Hispanic children in special education. Parent limited knowledge of the special education process is indeed an impact but it is not the main or only impact. Even if parents were knowledgeable enough about the process that they should follow in the special education system, there would still be other factors that can cause mis identification.

Teachers and school officials have to be cognizant of the evaluation methods that are being used to identify the students. Hispanic students could be missing out on fair and appropriate education due to the unreliability of the evaluations being used.

The misconception that Hispanics are being over-identified is also a grand factor because this could cause administrators to not qualify students who truly need the services in order to avoid over-representation.

The schools hold the key to making a difference in aiding Hispanic parents and children with interventions that will enhance parent knowledge. As Mueller, Millian & Lopez (2009) found in their study, conducted with 8 Latina mothers who were all part of a parent support group, parents feel like the school is the worst place to find support. The school should be the first place in which parents should find support and then branch out to other groups. The school should focus on having sessions for parents to become more informed of the systems and also should bring in groups from the community to work with the parents. Something else that could make a difference in Hispanics being properly identified is an intervention with the evaluations. The legislative is trying to remedy the situation but the truth is that more training with evaluations should take place.

Further research should be conducted to develop a plan to intervene with parents and their involvement in schools, and to develop a team to find evaluations that are unbiased and reliable in the results for Hispanic students.

  1. References
  2. Guiberson, M. (2009). Hispanic Representation in Special Education: Patterns and Implications. Preventing School Failure: Alternative Education for Children and Youth, 53(3), 167-176. doi:10.3200/psfl.53.3.167-176
  3. Hardin, B. J., Mereoiu, M., Hung, H., & Roach-Scott, M. (2009). Investigating Parent and Professional Perspectives Concerning Special Education Services for Preschool Latino Children. Early Childhood Education Journal, 37(2), 93-102. doi:10.1007/s10643-009-0336-x
  4. Moreno-Torres, M. (2019). Neuropsychological Profiles to Achieve Cultural Justice for Hispanic Children with Specific Learning Disabilities (SLD). Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology, 34(7), 1263-1263. doi:10.1093/arclin/acz029.30
  5. Morgan, P. L., Farkas, G., Cook, M., Strassfeld, N. M., Hillemeier, M. M., Pun, W. H., . . . Schussler, D. L. (2018). Are Hispanic, Asian, Native American, or Language-Minority Children Overrepresented in Special Education? Exceptional Children, 84(3), 261-279. doi:10.1177/0014402917748303
  6. Morgan, P. L., & Farkas, G. (2016). Evidence and Implications of Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Emotional and Behavioral Disorders Identification and Treatment. Behavioral Disorders, 41(2), 122-131. doi:10.17988/0198-7429-41.2.122
  7. Mueller, T. G., Milian, M., & Lopez, M. I. (2009). Latina Mothers’ Views of a Parent-to-Parent Support Group in the Special Education System. Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities, 34(3-4), 113-122. doi:10.2511/rpsd.34.3-4.113
  8. Rodriguez, R. J., Blatz, E. T., & Elbaum, B. (2013). Strategies to Involve Families of Latino Students With Disabilities. Intervention in School and Clinic, 49(5), 263-270. doi:10.1177/1053451213513956
  9. Sullivan, A. L.(2013). School-based Autism Identification: Prevalence, Racial Disparities, and Systemic Correlates. School Psychology Review, 42(3), 298-316.
  10. Valdez, C. R., Shewakramani, V., Goldberg, S., & Padilla, B. (2013). Parenting Influences on Latino Children’s Social Competence in the First Grade: Parental Depression and Parent  Involvement at Home and School. Child Psychiatry & Human Development, 44(5), 646-657. doi:10.1007/s10578-013-0358-x
  11. Zhang, D., Katsiyannis, A., Ju, S., & Roberts, E. (2012). Minority Representation in Special Education: 5-Year Trends. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 23(1), 118-127. doi:10.1007/s10826-012-9698-6


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