Our work within the U.S. public schools has increasingly required us to clarify the meaning of terms such as “culture,” “race,” and “ethnicity” to understand why students from certain racial/ethnic, linguistic, and sociocultural communities, as a group, do not benefit from schooling at rates comparable to those of their White, middle-class peers. As special educators, we came to this work with growing concerns about the validity of the identification and placement process involved in diagnosing disabilities as well as talents and gifts among multicultural communities in the United States, particularly students who are Latino, African American, American Indian, and Asian American (e.g., Betsinger, García, & Guerra, 2000; Chamberlain, Guerra, & García, 1999; García & Dominguez, 1997; García, Wilkinson, & Ortiz, 1995). Distinguishing learning difficulties that result from disabilities from those that reflect an inadequate learning environment plagues education despite several decades of school reform. For example, national statis-
tics compiled by the Office for Civil Rights (1978-1998) indicate that minorities remained disproportionately represented in selected “judgmental” categories of special education although rates of placement for all racial and ethnic groups, including White students, have increased (Donovan & Cross, 2001). Rates of participation in programs for students with learning disabilities increased for all groups, but were higher for African American and Hispanic students. Conversely, although rates of placement in gifted programs also increased for all groups, African American and Hispanic students experienced the lowest rates of change.