Term of Award

Spring 2023

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Curriculum Studies (Ed.D.)

Document Type and Release Option

Dissertation (open access)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Department of Curriculum, Foundations, and Reading

Committee Chair

Peggy Shannon-Baker

Committee Member 1

Ming Fang He

Committee Member 2

John Weaver

Committee Member 3

Kristen Duncan

Committee Member 3 Email



African American students are overrepresented in special education programs which hinders equitable access to enriching educational opportunities. This study aimed to examine the lived experiences of African American students overrepresented in special education programs through fictionalized counternarratives. Theoretically, I employed Critical Disability Studies (Connor, 2013; Connor et al., 2008; Erevelles, 2011), Critical Race Theory (Bell, 1992; Delgado & Stefancic, 2000, 2001; Dixson & Rousseau, 2006; Ladson-Billings, 2003; Lynn & Dixson, 2013; Solórzano & Yosso, 2002) and more specifically DisCrit (Annamma et al., 2016; Connor et al., 2016; Erevelles, 2011) to examine racism and social constructions of race and disability for African American students in special education programs. Methodologically, I used counternarrative (Bell 1992; Delgado & Stefancic, 2001; DeCuir & Dixon, 2004; Yosso, 2006) to highlight the strengths of African American learners and question the deficit “at-risk” narratives. I employed fictionalized storytelling as my mode of inquiry to craft majoritarian narratives and counternarratives that examined the lived experiences of three African American students based on fictionalized composite characters. To craft these stories, I drew my literature review on the miseducation of African American students, incorporated words from my journal entries about perceptions of African American learners, and drew from my professional experiences as a special educator and personal experiences as a mother, neighbor, and friend. Events, names, locations, settings, and time frames have been fictionalized to both challenge hegemonic practices and question the majoritarian narratives that present African American learners as “at-risk” for failure. Based on these stories, I developed the following themes from this examination: (1) Interest Convergence and African American Students; (2) Power of Fictionalized Counternarrative; (3) Valuing Differences and Honoring Strengths of African American Students; (4) African American Students Reclaiming Their Agency and (5) African American Students Gaining Equitable Educational Access. This study served to highlight the learning experiences, strengths, and needs of African American students. To address overrepresentation, more connections are needed in Curriculum Studies and DisCrit to continue conversations that keep the focus on practices that increase educational access. Educators must create opportunities for students to be included in the decision making process to promote change.

Research Data and Supplementary Material


Available for download on Friday, March 24, 2028