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Chuck Carney
IU School of Education
ccarney@indiana.edu
812-856-8027

Last modified: Monday, December 3, 2007

Understanding culture, disproportional representation in school services focus of panel discussion

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Dec. 3, 2007

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The need for teachers to understand the cultures of their students and how to address the overrepresentation of students of color in the juvenile justice system and who receives special services is the focus of this week's CEEP Policy Chat.

The panel discussion is Wednesday (Dec. 5), at 1:30 p.m. in the Dogwood Room of the Indiana Memorial Union. It is sponsored by the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy (CEEP) and the Indiana University School of Education.

Panelists include Indiana State Rep. Greg Porter, D-Indianapolis, Christine CdeBaca (pronounced sed-eh-bah-ka), the deputy director of the Indiana Civil Rights Commission, Clara Anderson, executive vice president of Children's Bureau, Inc., in Indianapolis, and Barbara Korth, associate professor in the IU School of Education and coordinator of undergraduate multicultural education.

"I think there's a disconnect from some educators understanding the student whom they are trying to teach," said Porter, who authored the 2004 cultural competency law. Cultural competency refers to the ability to function in cross-cultural settings and to interact with people from other cultures and races.

Porter said this is a problem across Indiana that he seeks to remedy in part by enhancing the legislation passed three years ago.

"Everyone needs to understand what types of students they're dealing with and how to motivate those students to do better in school," he said. "Professional development is a key, but also when those educators come out (of professional development classes), that they have mentors that stick with them over a year or two or three years to help them understand how to become good educators."

CdeBaca agrees that more legislation is needed to address the issues, which she says are intertwined.

"Cultural differences between teachers and students are a reality in our school systems," she said. "Teachers should become culturally competent so they don't misinterpret cultural differences as a problem for which they refer a student for special education services or as a problem for which they suspend a student of color, when they would not suspend a student from the dominant culture for the same behavior."

Anderson chairs the Indiana Disproportionality Committee, which promoted a new commission to address the problem. Legislation passed in the last session of the General Assembly created a 33-member commission now being formed through appointments by the governor, speaker of the Indiana House of Representatives, and the president pro tempore of the Indiana State Senate.

"That group is to work on trying to come up with a master plan," Anderson said. "It is to address education, child welfare, juvenile correction and mental health for youth. All of those systems seem to have children of color overrepresented in the state of Indiana."

National studies regarding incidents of child abuse indicate no difference in the rates of abuse by race, Anderson said. "Is this also true in Indiana," she said. "We've got to look at it."

Wednesday's panel discussion is free and open to the public. CEEP promotes and supports rigorous program evaluation and policy research primarily, but not exclusively, for education, human services and non-profit organizations. Its research uses both quantitative and qualitative methodologies. To learn more about CEEP, go to http://ceep.indiana.edu.

MEDIA OUTLETS: The following comments are available as mp3 files on the IU School of Education Web site at http://site.educ.indiana.edu/news/tabid/5663/Default.aspx. Look for the story headline under "Podcasts."

Rep. Porter says more and continuing training for teachers in regards to cultural competency is necessary:

"Just because you're an educator of color doesn't mean that you're culturally competent, okay, first and foremost, everyone needs to understand what types of students they're dealing with and how to motivate those students to do better in school. So professional development is also a key, but also when those educators come out, that they have mentors that stick with them over a year or two or three years to help them understand how to become good educators."

Anderson describes the work of the new Indiana Disproportionality Commission:

"That group is to work on trying to come up with a master plan to come up with long-term solutions to what's going on within our system. And I say systems, because it is to address education, child welfare, juvenile correction, and mental health for youth. All of those systems seem to have children of color overrepresented in the state of Indiana."

While children of color might be referred to services more often, Anderson says data indicates it might not be warranted:

"When there have been the national incident studies on this issue, it has shown that there is no discrepancy based on race of the incidents of abuse of kids by race. So when you see that, is this also true in Indiana? We've got to look at it. We've got to begin to bring numbers to demonstrate for us is outcomes are different for different populations."

For More Information, contact Chuck Carney, director of communications and media relations for the IU School of Education, at 812-856-8027 and ccarney@indiana.edu.