December 3, 2023

I (Ford) read the commentary on the most “problems” facing education/educators and became even more outraged and outraged by the terminology used to describe children living in poverty, blacks and other minority students. My colleagues and I believe that this framing and mislabeling are the real “issues,” which we use interchangeably with “problems.” As minority individuals and scholars, we need to put into perspective some of the very real “problems/problems” that students of color face. We also offer culturally-based recommendations that educators should adopt to be more effective with low-income students and students of color; along the same lines, recommendations are offered to help marginalized students experience schools as places of affirmation at all levels of education.

Student diversity is not a problem. We need to stop (mis)interpreting “diversity” and minority students as so different from white students that they are unteachable and unattainable; that is, educators must stop seeing nonwhite students as problems and issues to be “solved” rather than taught. Such terminology and subsequent beliefs, behaviors, and actions prevent educators and decision makers (e.g., teachers, school board members, superintendents, principals) and policymakers from seeing, appreciating, and honoring the cultural capital that students of color bring. education, counseling and mental health services. At the very least, colorblindness/cultural blindness and cultural attacks are unacceptable, as noted below.

AND. Counseling and mental health. Educational counselors receive extensive training in social-emotional learning (SEL) as part of school counseling and mental health counseling. This is necessary, but it must include intentional and proactive scholarship and resources for racial identity development. An understanding of the development of racial identity and pride must be included All SEL discussion and curriculum; and in courses and professional development. Additionally, school counselors are able to impact the academic outcomes of students of color as well as contribute to closing opportunity gaps through collaboration with other school personnel and the use of data-driven approaches. School counselors must be further trained to use an equity-based lens to help students of color explore diverse career options and postsecondary opportunities in preparation for entering a global, diverse, and technological workforce. Finally, school counselors can assist students by providing short-term mental health services to remove barriers to academic success (American School Counseling Association).

b. Over-referral and over-representation in special education. Decades of studies, along with the lived experiences of minority families/caregivers, show that race/race-based deficit thinking by educators contributes to the unnecessary (over)referral of minority students, especially Black males, Black females, Latino males, and Latino females. , respectively to high-incidence and stigmatized areas of special education (e.g. intellectual disabilities, emotional and behavioral disorders, learning disabilities, ADHD, developmental delays). When cultural ways of being and cultural differences are framed as strengths rather than problems, unnecessary special school referrals, labeling and placement will be reduced.

C. Disciplinary overrepresentation. There is a litany of national, state, and county information—studies and lived experiences—on the hyperpolicing and unfair profiling of black bodies—at every age. Even in early childhood, Black boys and girls are unfairly suspended and excluded. The Office for Civil Rights ( paints a truly disturbing picture of the school-to-prison pipeline where our children grow up ; they are not subject to the presumption of innocence. It reminds us of Upchurch’s “condemned in the womb.”

d. High quality testing and evaluation. Assessment and decision-making based on highly relevant tools are widespread (e.g., admissions to accelerated programs such as gifted and talented programs, honors classes, advanced placement, dual enrollment, international baccalaureate, early kindergarten, STEM, preparatory pathways to college) attitudes, beliefs, prejudices regarding race, gender, socio-economic background, perceived abilities and values. All professionals who make decisions based on test results must receive training and preparation on test bias and inequities. While we pay most attention to intelligence and aptitude tests based on our experience, All tools need to be explored and examined for racial and ethnic biases. The Association psychological association (APA) issued its long-awaited apology for test bias and other consequential discrimination against blacks and other people of color. Since their inception, the tests have disproportionately hindered access to Gifted and Talented Education (GATE), AP, college admissions (especially elite higher education institutions), scholarships, etc.

E. Gifted and talented underrepresented and underrepresented. IRegardless of the 1933 date, Woodson’s Poor Black Education the book remains current and timeless. When students are denied access to needed advanced courses and opportunities, students underachieve and black-white achievement gaps persist. Deficit thinking is undeniably the reason why teachers do not recommend black students for GATE, even if they have the same achievement profiles as white students. Implanted GATE is a form of both ability grouping and tracking. We agree with Oakes’ seminal work and the view of the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) that “…while surveillance was originally intended for practical pedagogical purposes, its unintended consequences make it an outdated practice in a context of high expectations for all. NASSP argues that school improvement includes finding alternatives to tracking by eliminating low-level courses and opening challenging courses to all.

F. Inadequate college and career preparation. The culmination of the above inequities confronts minority students with ill-preparedness for college acceptance/acceptance, readiness, and success, as well as acceptance and career success. Thus, it is critically important that all students have access to a rigorous curriculum in high school that prepares them for college and/or careers. This proactive cultural response and affirmation includes equipping marginalized students with the abilities, skills, and dispositions needed to enhance their basic academic content knowledge (e.g., math, science, English), employability skills (e.g., collaboration, critical thinking, problem solving, work). ethics), technical skills (e.g. skills needed in specific occupations) and professional expression of academic skills (e.g. ability to translate basic academic knowledge into a real workplace environment) (Fletcher et al., 2018). These are essential skills students need to successfully transition from high school to postsecondary education. Schools can provide students with this necessary preparation by offering accelerated courses/programs, rigorous career and technical education (CTE) programs (e.g., STEM programs/academies), college preparatory activities, and college activities (e.g., college visits , application preparation and scholarship information) and work-learning opportunities (e.g. internships).

“Get out old man.” In with the new” is a fitting way to close this comment. At the beginning of 2023, there is no time for change. Allies and advocates must be tireless and tireless in being anti-racist and culturally sensitive professionals and change agents who want the best for their minority students. Abandoning minority students is not the answer.

Dr. Erik M. Hines is Associate Professor and Program Coordinator of Counselor Education at Florida State University.

Dr. Donna Y. Ford is Distinguished Professor of Education and Human Ecology at The Ohio State University

Dr. Tanya J. Middleton is a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Educational Studies at The Ohio State University

Dr. Edward C. Fletcher Jr., is Distinguished Professor of Education and Human Ecology in the Department of Educational Studies at The Ohio State University.


The recommendations below capture and reinforce what we have argued for as Black professionals dedicated to equity, anti-racism, and cultural competency. Our commitment is professional and personal. Passivity and apathy do little to correct and eliminate inequalities at the individual and systemic level.

  1. Greater representation of minority professionals is needed in P-12 and higher education. #RepresentationMatters

  1. A university degree is required in all disciplines focused on anti-racism and cultural competence. #Preparation matters

  1. Professional development in anti-racism and cultural competence must be provided with required (optional) participation. #Training matters

  1. Educators must examine their preconceptions and beliefs about students of color and their families in order to better serve and assist them. #BeliefsMatter.

  1. Increase interaction with students and families of color during and outside of school. An example is participation in social events. #InteractionMatters

  1. Educators need to understand the role adulthood plays in increasing punitive or harsh punishment for students of color, especially Black boys (Hines et al., 2021). #StopAdultification

  1. Be proactive and take responsibility for your own learning to avoid bad education and bad education. Educators must not be passive recipients of their learning. Read the works of scholars of color. There is also no shortage of culturally based educational opportunities – attend conferences of minority professionals and organizations; register for courses. #Be proactive

  1. Administrators can use their school counselors to bridge school-parent partnerships with students of color because they are trained in cultural sensitivity. #LeadershipMatters

  1. Empathy and caring should be essential components of teaching skills to understand the challenges that students of color face, rather than dismissing their experiences or feelings, and rather than viewing such students as problems and issues. #Empathy matters

  1. High expectations for students of color, especially when it comes to pursuing postsecondary opportunities, should be the norm, not the exception (Hines & Owen, 2022; Sewell & Goings, 2022). These standards should include offers accelerated courses/programs, rigorous career and technical education (CTE) programs (e.g., STEM programs/academies), preparatory and college activities (e.g., college visits, application preparation, and scholarship information), and employment opportunities (e.g., internships) . #HighExpectationsMatter


Fletcher, E. C., Warren, N., & Hernandez-Gantes, V. M. (2018). Preparation for high school

students for a changing world: college, careers, and future-ready students. Career and Technical Education Research, 43(1), 77-98. doi:10.5328/cter43.1.77.

Hines, EM, Fletcher, EC, Ford, DY and Moore III, JL (2021). Preserving innocence:

Ending adulthood and toxic masculinity among black boys. Family diary

Strengths, 21(1). 1-11.

Hines, E. M. & Owen, L. (eds.). (2022). Equity-Based Career Development and Postsecondary Education

Transitions: The American Imperative. Information Age Publishing.

Sewell, CJ & Goings, RB (2020). “I Struggled But I Made It”: Black Gifted

Weaker about transitioning to college

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