Effect of students' ethnicity on teachers' cultural sensitivity and treatment recommendations in a Texas school district
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Parents and teachers alike are especially concerned about the growing dropout rates among Latino and African American minority students. Empirical data suggests student. biases continue to be problematic in terms of the discrepancy between teacher referrals for special education. Students' ethnicity played a significant role on certain patterns of teacher referrals. Caucasian and Asian American students were more likely to be nominated by teachers for gifted and talented programs, whereas Latino and African American students were more likely to be referred for special education services. However, it is unclear what type of school related services are affiliated with each ethnic group. This study was designed to examine if students' ethnicity influences teachers' decisions for treatment recommendations. The sample consisted of 99 teacher participants from Irving Independent School District (ISO) located in the state of Texas. After completing an online demographic background questionnaire, participants were randomly assigned to one of five stimulus conditions (student vignettes). Immediately after reading the vignette, teachers were instructed to answer two questions regarding their conceptualization of the student's problem and specific treatment recommendations. Participants were then instructed to complete the Teacher Multicultural Attitude Survey (TMAS) to measure their self reported level of cultural sensitivity. The study utilized two separate 5 X 2 (students' and teachers'ethnicity) and 3 X 2 (number of multicultural trainings and level of self reported cultural sensitivity) MANCOV A designs to analyze the relationship between the independent variables and the two dependent variables (treatment planning and teachers' TMAS scores). Analysis of the results suggested that the ethnicity of the students in the vignette had no impact on how the teachers responded. However. there was a statistically significant difference between the ways White and non-White teachers responded to the dependent variables. Significance of .05 (academic), .02 (counseling), and .04 (parental) interventions were observed in this study. Additionally, there was a statistically significant difference among the TMAS scores of teachers who rated themselves as having High versus Middle or Low level of cultural sensitivity. Length of time spent teaching and the number of multicultural trainings did not have an effect on how partcipants' responded to the dependent variables. Implications, limitations, and directions for future research are presented at the end of the paper.