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Schooling and the Construction of Identity Among Minority Students in Spain and the United States

Harry, B., Arnaiz, P., Klingner, J., & Sturges, K. (2008). Schooling and the construction of identity among minority students in Spain and the United States. Journal of Special Education, 42, 15-25. Available online at

Based on a study of the special education placement process in a large city in the United States and two studies in different regions of Spain, the authors offer a comparative analysis of the relationship between professional beliefs and practices and the achievement of culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) students. The data focus on African American and Hispanic students in the United States and on Gitano (Gypsy) and Moroccan students in Spain. Although professional attitudes in both countries revealed deficit views of CLD students, a key concern in Spain was professionals' assumption that students' cultural assimilation was a requirement for success. In the United States, deficit views, entwined with the entrenched categorical approach to school-based disabilities, contributed to ethnic disproportionality in special education. The studies illustrate how the hegemony of mainstream culture and language in schooling contributes to inappropriate academic and social exclusion for students from historically oppressed minority groups.