Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Department of Special Education

First Advisor

Mark Zablocki


More than 80% of African Americans in the United States of America speak the dialect African American Vernacular English (AAVE) (Green, 2002); however, misperceptions of AAVE may have a direct impact on African American students’ equitable access to education in United States public schools (Beneke et al., 2015). African Americans are disproportionality over-represented in special education in disability categories that require subjective clinical judgements, including specific learning disabilities. Numerous factors may contribute to this phenomenon, including the subjective process for special education referrals (Herzik, 2015) and teachers’ biased perceptions of cultural differences, including students’ use of AAVE (Gupta, 2010). The need for educators to build cultural competence and gain knowledge about cultural communication patterns like AAVE is discussed. The purpose of this research study was to investigate the special education referral process amongst teachers, administrators, and support personnel for third graders who communicate using AAVE in writing. A mixed method concurrent design was used for this study (Creswell et al., 2017). Results suggest that vignettes written in AAVE were referred for evaluation 6.5 times more frequently than vignettes written in MAE. Referrals were only made by general education classroom teachers and speech-language pathologists. Educators listed a variety of reasons for making decisions regarding referral to special education, including diversity, dialect, and AAVE. Implications include the need to develop a more complete understanding of choices made for a special education referral that may impact AAVE speaking students and disproportionality in special education.


Imported from OQuin_ilstu_0092E_11947.pdf


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