Graduation Year


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Sheila Walker

Reader 2

Jennifer Ma

Reader 3

Eric Hurley

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© 2017 Martha B. Parker


Black youth are diagnosed with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) at a higher rate than their White peers. The process of diagnosing young students with ADHD relies heavily on teacher recommendations that are frequently based on perceptions of behavior, to which the assessment of may be influenced by racial bias. A child’s ethnicity has been shown to have an impact on teacher descriptions of ADHD-related behavior (Epstein, Willoughby, Valencia, Tonev, Abikoff, Arnold, Hinshaw, 2005) such that in this study African American students were perceived by their teachers as more likely to have ADHD than their Caucasian peers. Research has also shown that the typical fifth-grade classroom is a low verve setting that is restrictive to communal learning (Johnson, 1982), while high verve settings have been shown to improve the academic functioning for many Black students (Bailey & Boykin, 2001; Carter, Hawkins, & Natesan, 2008; Young, 2017). By measuring the difference in teachers’ likelihood to recommend a described student for ADHD in both a traditional and high-verve classrooms, this study aims to investigate the role of verve in how teachers perceive Black students in relation to ADHD characteristics. The primary aim is to examine how increased task variability and a high verve classroom can shift teacher ratings of Black students’ abilities and lessen the degree of racialized difference of behavior-dependent diagnoses of ADHD. It is predicted that in the high verve setting these recommendations for Black students will drop significantly so that they will be equal to that of White students, reflecting the accurate prevalence of this learning disability.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.