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The Center's Resources:

Subgroup Performance and School Reform: The Importance of a Comprehensive Approach
The January 2006 newsletter highlights recent research that suggests a different approach. It looks at three studies in which schools that succeed — and all of them serve high percentages of at risk students — take a more comprehensive approach to improvement.

School Culture: "The Hidden Curriculum"
In this December 2006 issue brief, Craig Jerald discusses the impact of organizational culture on student achievement in this issue brief.

Gifted and Talented Students at Risk for Underachievement
Educators and policymakers can address gifted underachievement through changes in classroom and systemwide practices. This August 2008 issue brief summarizes the issues underlying promising practices for supporting the gifted and talented. It also offers a series of questions to ask when planning schoolwide improvement efforts that address the needs of gifted and talented students—especially those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and low SES families—who are at risk for underachievement.

School Reform and Improvement Database
The Center’s School Reform and Improvement Database provides almost 5,000 citations and abstracts of screened, high-quality research reports, articles, and studies on school reform and improvement from scholars throughout the United States. In addition to the articles listed on this page, several new items on disproportionality in special education and discipline have been added to the database.

Resources and Tools:

Elementary and Middle Schools Technical Assistance Center (EMSTAC)
One of 40 technical assistance and dissemination centers set up by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), between 1998 and 2003, this site offers resources on disproportionality to assist educators in serving diverse student populations.

Indiana Center for Evaluation and Education Policy: Indiana Disproportionality Project
As part of the Equity Project, the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy (CEEP) at Indiana University, in collaboration with the Indiana Department of Education, has created a website that offers information on disproportionality in the state of Indiana. The resources available include reports and an overview of the project.

Articles and Reports:

Achieving Equity in Special Education: History, Status, and Current Challenges, 2008
This article reviews the history of the disproportionality of minority students in special education and reports on current disproportionality. The article discusses some causes of disproportionality and review some interventions. The authors examine and interpret current data and present culturally responsive methods of intervention and evaluation. The fact that multiple social forces are at play lead the authors to suggest that intervention and evaluation need to be individualized and take many factors into account, considering the student’s context.

Alternate Achievement Standards for Students With the Most Significant Cognitive Disabilities, 2005
U.S. Department of Education's nonregulatory guidance was written to assist states in the implementation of the December 9, 2003, regulation on alternate achievement standards for students with the most significant disabilities. This document provides detailed information and assistance on using alternative assessments, implementing alternate achievement standards, and reporting and aligning assessment results. It also includes a clarification of how the 1.0 percent cap applies to proficient scores that are based on alternate achievement standards when assessing adequate yearly progress.

Discipline, Disability, and Race: Disproportionality in Indiana Schools, 2006
ERIC abstract: The purpose of this policy brief is to describe the usage and trends of discipline for students with disabilities in Indiana to help inform local and state policymaking. The brief begins with a review of national and Indiana studies, followed by data that illustrate (1) how general and special education students compare with respect to suspension and expulsion; (2) the extent of use of the special disciplinary provisions under the Individuals With Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA); (3) differences in suspension and expulsion rates for students in different disability categories; Show Full Abstract

Disproportionality: A Look at Special Education and Race in the Commonwealth, 2008
This research brief from the Office of Strategic Planning, Research, and Evaluation at the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education investigates disproportionality in special education in Massachusetts schools. Factors such as ethnicity, likelihood of special education identification, and disability type are detailed. The brief also discusses preventive practices. (Contains 5 figures and 13 footnotes.)

Disproportionality: Inappropriate Identification of Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Children, 2008
This policy brief from the National Education Association discusses underrepresentation and overrepresentation of certain populations in special education and gifted programs and why misidentification of culturally and linguistically diverse students for participation in these programs is a concern. The brief focuses on policies and procedures that contribute to disproportionality of culturally and linguistically diverse students in special education. (Contains 5 footnotes and lists 5 resources.)

Disproportionality in School Discipline Among Minority Students in Indiana: Description and Analysis. Children Left Behind Policy Briefs. Supplementary Analysis 2-A , 2004
ERIC abstract: This analysis describes and analyzes disproportionality among Indiana's minority students. Specifically, it shows that: (1) Indiana's two largest minority groups are overrepresented in all four locale designations, with the greatest disproportionality occurring in suburban schools for both out-of-school suspension and expulsion; (2) Disproportionality is the greatest for both minority groups in the disciplinary categories of Disruptive Behavior and Other for out-of-school suspension and expulsion; (3) The highest rates of out-of-school suspension occur at the secondary school level for all racial categories; Show Full Abstract

Enhancing the Participation of Students With Disabilities in CSR Models, 2006
This guide from the Comprehensive School Reform Quality Center (CSRQ) builds on the comprehensive review of 22 elementary and middle grade models in the CSRQ Center Report on Elementary School Comprehensive School Reform Models by focusing on specific model features that address the needs of students with disabilities. The guide presents each model in four sections: an introduction to the model, model features related to diverse populations, strategies addressing special needs, and a list of related resources.

Examining Minority Enrollment and Out of School Suspension Rates of Massachusetts Public School Districts, 2008
ERIC abstract: Traditionally, studies have consistently shown that minority students are treated differently when it comes to school discipline practices. This is one example of second-generation segregation. Low socio-economic status (SES) is highly correlated with minority populations, and therefore hypothesized to play a strong role in the relationship to out of school suspension. Data from all 389 public school districts in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts were analyzed for percentage minority enrollment, percentage low-income (SES) enrollment and out of school suspension rate. Minority and low-income enrollments were hypothesized to affect suspension rates. At the multivariate level, low-income enrollment status was found to play a more influential role than minority enrollment when it comes to out of school suspension rates. As SES is correlated to race, the implications of this analysis call for actions to reduce second-generation segregation in terms of disciplinary actions.” (Contains 2 tables.) (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. 501198).

An Exploration of Discipline and Suspension Data, 2004
The author conducted an analysis of three years of student discipline data from an urban school district in the Midwest. The analysis centered on the overrepresentation of minority and low-income students referred for disciplinary infractions. The quantitative data of 1996–2000 was analyzed using descriptive statistics and corrections. The results showed a decline in the ratio of minority to majority students referred for discipline infractions; the authors found significant correlations, however, between low-income students and discipline referral. The author provides an extensive review of the literature and recommends more preservice and inservice teacher training on classroom management.

Individual, Family, and School Factors Associated With the Identification of Female and Male Students for Special Education, 2006
This study was conducted to address concerns about gender disproportionality in special education, specifically, that males are overreferred for special education services because of problems behaviors and that girls are underreferred. Evidence has shown that girls are older and more severely disabled by the time they are referred for special education services. The purpose of this study was to explore gender disproportionality in referral for special education services using a logistics regression analysis of 15 independent variables for family, community, individual, and school from the national longitudinal database, NELS-88, with special education referral as the outcome variable. The study found only one factor, self-concept, to be significant in defining differences in referral rates between boys and girls. Boys with a poor self-concept were significantly more likely to be referred for special education. Oswald.doc

Methods for Assessing Racial/Ethnic Disproportionality in Special Education: A Technical Assistance Guide, 2003
This guide from Westat investigates two common methods of calculating disproportionality by formula and summarizes how to apply these methods to state and district data for assessing racial/ethnic disproportionality. The guide briefly discusses how to interpret the results, as well as strengths and limitations of the methods. The discussion raises issues that states should consider when evaluating the data. (Contains 2 tables and 9 references.)

The Politics of Discipline: Balancing School Safety and Rights of Students With Disabilities, 2007
This study examined how public school administrators in New York State negotiate the balance between assuring fair and legal treatment of special-needs students and the need for a common standard of school safety and of decisions about student discipline. The study used a purposeful sample of administrators in nine high schools representing regional and demographic diversity. Background information was collected on each school and interviews were conducted with the person whom the principal designated as being in charge of discipline. The study found that the degree of tension between the rights of the individual special-needs students and the common good varied with the way discipline hearings were conducted and with the availability of resources for the school to provide alternative programs. The study also found that school administrations rely heavily on negotiation skills in the discipline hearings.

Race, Class, and Disproportionality: Reevaluating the Relationship Between Poverty and Special Education Placement, 2006
ERIC abstract: This article analyzes how a recent National Research Council report...defined the impact of poverty in explaining the overrepresentation of minority students in special education. Echoing the perspective of mainstream special education literature, the report offered a latent theory of compromised development which indicated that minority students are more likely to be poor and that "being" poor heightens their exposure to risk factors that compromise human development and increase the need for special services. We elucidate how this theory oversimplifies the concept of "development" and consequently underanalyzes how the culture and organization of schools situates minority youths as academically and behaviorally deficient and places them at risk for special education placement” (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. EJ750544).

The Relationship Between Discipline Infractions and Communication Disorders in Public School Students, 2007
The research question addressed in this study was whether second-grade students enrolled in regular education classes diagnosed with speech and language impairments receive more discipline slips than their peers without speech or language impairments. The sample included 125 students enrolled in the second grade at various public schools in a mid-South state. Forty-seven of those students served as a control group and had no speech or language impairments, 39 students were diagnosed with speech impairments, and 39 were diagnosed with language impairments. Discipline records for the fall semester of the academic year were checked for all subjects, and the number of infractions for each subject was recorded on a standard form. A chi-square test was applied to statistically Show Full Abstract

Truth in Labeling: Disproportionality in Special Education, 2007
This educators’ guide, a collaborative project from the National Education Association Education Policy and Practice Department and the National Association of School Psychologists, defines disproportionality and identifies its issues and contributing factors. The guide discusses practices that make a difference, including response to intervention and culturally responsive teaching and assessment. (Contains extensive references and web resources.)

2005 State Special Education Outcomes: Steps Forward in a Decade of Change , 2005
This report summarizes a national survey of state special education directors in all 50 states. The study found that “the number of students with disabilities achieving proficiency on state accountability assessments is increasing.” Those surveyed believe that several factors led to this increase: “clearly communicated participation policy, better alignment of IEPs with state standards, improved professional development, development and provision of accommodation guidelines and training, increased access to standards-based instruction, improved data collection.” The article also discusses alternate assessments and emerging assessment practices. (Contains 11 figures, 9 tables, and 6 references.)

Using Data to Address Equity Issues in Special Education, 2008
ERIC abstract: No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) have increased the emphasis on analyzing data on disproportionality. Data required to answer basic questions include: (1) total number of students enrolled; (2) total number of each racial/ethnic group enrolled; (3) total number of students in the category under investigation; and (4) total number of students from each racial/ethnic group in the category. Widely-used measures of disproportionality include: (1) composition index (percentage of students in special education represented by a given group); (2) risk index (percentage of a given racial/ethnic group that is served in special education); and (3) risk ratio (comparison of the risk indices of different groups). Show Full Abstract

Variability in Schools' Suspension Rates of Black Students, 2007
This study examined between-school variability in black student suspension rates. Data were obtained from 69 middle and senior high schools in a large urban district in the Southeast for the academic years 2000–01, 2001–02, and 2002–03. Black students in the study were more likely to be suspended from schools that suspended high proportions of other students, from schools where teachers' average experience was low, and from schools with achievement disparities between black students and other students. Results indicate that these three factors can explain a high proportion of variance in black student suspension rates.

Related Organizations:

The National Center for Culturally Responsive Educational Systems (NCCREST)
Funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, NCCREST makes available research and publications to help educators close the achievement gap and reduce inappropriate referral to special education.

Civil Rights Project at UCLA
Founded in 1996, the Civil Rights Project (CRP) is a clearinghouse of research and knowledge on issues related to equity in education. The CRP has commissioned a multitude of reports and published several books. The CRP addresses the topic of disproportionality in special education and discipline.

The Equity Project at Indiana University
The Equity Project seeks to combine research and practice by providing evidence-based information on special education and school discipline and provides support and technical assistance to educators.

The National Center on Education, Disability, and Juvenile Justice (EDJJ)
The EDJJ is a collaborative project between the University of Maryland; Arizona State University; the PACER Center in Bloomington, Minnesota; and the American Institutes for Research. The EDJJ provides resources to address the overrepresentation of youth with disabilities who are at risk or have been in contact with the juvenile justice system. The EDJJ focuses on prevention of school failure and delinquency, education and special education for detained and committed youth, and transition services for youth returning to schools and communities.

Project Forum
Designed for administrators of state and local Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) programs to share information and support services for students with disabilities. This site offers a database of documents on special education, including articles on disproportionality.

Elementary and Middle School Technical Assistance Center
The Elementary and Middle Schools Technical Assistance Center (EMSTAC) was a five year contract between the American Institutes for Research (AIR) and the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP). The EMSTAC is no longer funded, but it continues to maintain its website and publicize several resources on disproportionality.

National Dissemination Center for Children With Disabilities at AED
This national center, funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, provides a wealth of information on IDEA, NCLB, and youth with disabilities, including disproportionality.

Indiana Information on Disproportionality

Michigan Information on Disproportionality