Blacks in education, Effects of poverty on black students, Minority education, Multicultural education, Psychological testing on minorities, Special education


Placement into educable mentally handicapped (EMH) programs is necessary for some students in order to allow them the opportunity to receive an education appropriate for their special needs. Nonetheless, identification as EMH is often perceived as negative and demeaning. Decades of research have substantiated the over-representation of black students into certain categories of special education, including EMH, in comparison to white and Hispanic students. This disparity has raised questions within schools, academe and research communities, and legislative and governing bodies as to the causes, compelling factors, and related variables impacting the phenomenon. This study investigated the apparent over-representation of blacks identified as EMH in the 67 public school districts in Florida in 2001-2002. It also analyzed the effects certain school district characteristics had on the identification of white, black, and Hispanic students as EMH. Analysis of data derived from the Florida Department of Education database for school year 2001-2002 led to the following findings: (1) there was over-representation of blacks in EMH within the 67 public school districts in Florida, since results showed that blacks were identified as EMH 2.5 times more often than whites and Hispanics; (2) socioeconomic status of school districts had a significant effect on the identification of black students as EMH,for example, when the school district was identified as a high socioeconomic status district, there was a greater likelihood that a larger proportion of black students would be identified as EMH; (3) as the wealth of school districts rose, there was a significant likelihood that the proportion of black students identified as EMH would also rise; (4) black students had a greater likelihood of being identified as EMH in suburban school districts; (5) blacks were over-identified in school districts that had 60,000 to 89,000 students; (6) when there was a high percentage of white, full-time, non-instructional staff (80% or more) in school districts, blacks had a greater likelihood of being over-identified as EMH; (7) blacks were three times more likely to be identified as EMH regardless of the type of degrees teachers had; and, (8) as district expenditure per student (FTE) increased, the tendency for over-identification of blacks as EMH decreased. For every variable analyzed, the proportion of black students identified as EMH was significant when compared to the proportions of white and Hispanic students also identified as EMH.


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Graduation Date





Murray, Barbara A.


Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


College of Education


Educational Foundations

Degree Program

Educational Foundations








Release Date

October 2005

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)


Dissertations, Academic -- Education; Education -- Dissertations, Academic