Chicago, IL, October 8, 2021
Findings Identify Wide Inequities in Services for Black Students Within Specialized Education Programs Nationwide; Culturally Appropriate Resources and Training for These Students, Their Families, and Advocates Introduced
Easterseals convened national leaders, including U.S. Representative Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-VA Third District), Chair, U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor, and National Education Association President Becky Pringle, for an all-too-relevant discussion on the significant disparities that Black students with disabilities experience within specialized education programs nationwide and solutions to address these inequities to ensure equity, inclusion, and access to quality education for these students.
The 90-minute virtual event, hosted in partnership with EducationWeek, provided a forum for members of Easterseals’ Collaborative on Racialized Disabilities (CORD) initiative – including Dr. Mildred Boveda, Associate Professor of Special Education at the Pennsylvania State University; Dr. Maleka Donaldson, Assistant Professor of Education and Child Study at Smith College; and Dr. Aubry Threlkeld, Dean of the School of Education, Endicott College – to share outcomes from the initiative to date with more than 500 educators attending the event.
Students with disabilities, especially students of color, have long faced myriad challenges in navigating classrooms, IEP protocols, and advocating for their specific needs across the education system. These challenges are now only exacerbated by the pandemic.
The need for culturally appropriate resources and training for Black students, their families, and advocates resonated from the initial phase of the Easterseals CORD initiative through which its training modules were piloted with veteran Special Education advocates from across the country. Participants provided input on the training with many of them sharing additional input during focus groups conducted by Accenture. Future iterations of the initiative will focus on additional opportunities to facilitate connections among the participants as well as to advance the resources and training among educators, advocates, and Black students and their families to address the pressing need to better serve Black youth with disabilities in the classroom.
“I’m incredibly grateful to Education Week for extending their platform for this important conversation on a topic that is incredibly close to home for me, and a key focus of our mission as an organization,” remarked Angela F. Williams, CEO, Easterseals. “What a gift to have a lineup of such powerful, dynamic speakers with a wide range of thoughtful perspectives and progressive visions. I truly feel like ground was broken today.”
Outcomes of the Easterseals CORD initiative supports the work being done through Easterseals’ Black Child Fund with funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Comcast Foundation.
The event provided the opportunity to introduce Erika Watson, Easterseals National Director of Childhood Development, Education, and Equity, who will be driving this work at the national level for the organization.
Easterseals is leading the way to full equity, inclusion, and access through life-changing disability and community services. For more than 100 years, we have worked tirelessly with our partners to enhance quality of life and expand local access to healthcare, education, and employment opportunities. And we won’t rest until every one of us is valued, respected, and accepted. Through our national network of Affiliates, Easterseals provides essential services and on-the-ground supports to more than 1.5 million people each year – from early childhood programs for the critical first five years, to autism services, to medical rehabilitation and employment programs, to veterans’ services, and more. Our public education, policy, and advocacy initiatives positively shape perceptions and address the urgent and evolving needs of the one in four Americans living with disabilities today. Together, we’re empowering people with disabilities, families, and communities to be full and equal participants in society. Learn more at www.easterseals.com.