Minority Representation in Special Education: 5-Year Trends

Abstract

The disproportionate representation of minority students in special education has been a concern for decades. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act mandates states to have policies and procedures in place to prevent inappropriate over identification or disproportionate representation by race and ethnicity of students with disabilities. The purpose of this study was to investigate the current status of minority representation in special education given the mandate and related efforts to reduce overrepresentation and to identify trends for the 5-year period from 2004 to 2008. Growth models were used to analyze trends in national data collected from the 50 states and the District of Columbia for these 5 years. Findings indicate some improvements from 10 years ago, especially noteworthy are a significant decrease in the number of African American students and a moderate decrease in the number of Hispanic students categorized as having intellectual disabilities. However, during the same period, the number of Hispanic students in learning disabilities increased. Otherwise, the trend of racial/ethnic representation in special education remains the same as it was a decade ago.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3

References

  1. Albrecht, F. S., Skiba, R. J., Losen, D. J., Chung, C., & Middleberg, L. (2012). Federal policy on disproportionality in special education: Is it moving us forward? Journal of Disability Policy Studies, 23, 14–25.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Algozzine, B. (2005). Restrictiveness and race in special education: Facts that remain difficult to ignore anymore. Learning Disabilities A Contemporary Journal, 3(1), 64–69.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Artiles, A. J., Kozleski, E. B., Trent, S. C., Osher, D., & Ortiz, A. (2010). Justifying and explaining disproportionality, 1968–2008: A critique of underlying views of culture. Exceptional Children, 76(3), 279–299.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Artiles, A. J., Rueda, R., Salazar, J. J., & Higareda, I. (2005). Within-group diversity in minority disproportionate representation: English language learners in urban school districts. Exceptional Children, 71(3), 283–300.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Balcazar, F. E., Taylor-Ritzler, T., Dimpfl, S., Portillo-Peña, N., Guzman, A., Schiff, R., et al. (2012). Improving the transition outcomes of low-income minority youth with disabilities. Exceptionality, 20, 114–132.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Blanchett, W. J., Mumford, V., & Beachum, F. (2005). Urban school failure and disproportionality in a post-Brown era: Benign neglect of the Constitutional rights of students of color. Remedial and Special Education, 26, 70–81.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Cameto, R. (2005). Employment of youth with disabilities after high school. In M. Wagner, L. Newman, R. Cameto, N. Garza, & P. Levine (Eds.), After high school: A first look at the post school experience of youth with disabilities (pp. 1–19). Menlo Park, CA: SRI International. Retrieved from http://www.nlts2.org/pdfs/afterhighschool_chp5.pdf.

  8. Civil Rights Data Collection. (2012). Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) projections and documentation: 2006 national and state projections. Retrieved from http://ocrdata.ed.gov/Projections_2006.aspx.

  9. Contopidis, E., Leroux, J. M., & Halpern, D. (2007). A closer look: Disproportionality among rural school districts. Multiple Voices for Ethnically Diverse Exceptional Learners, 10(1–2), 147–159.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Coutinho, M., & Oswald, D. (2000). Disproportionate representation in special education: A synthesis and recommendations. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 9, 135–156.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Donovan, M. S., & Cross, C. T. (Eds.). (2002). Minority students in special and gifted education. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.

    Google Scholar 

  12. Duran, R. P. (2008). Assessing English-language learners’ achievement. Review of Research in Education, 32, 292–327.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Fierros, E. C., & Conroy, J. W. (2002). Double jeopardy: An exploration of restrictiveness and race in special education. In D. J. Losen & C. Orfield (Eds.), Racial inequity in special education (pp. 39–70). Cambridge, MA: The Civil Rights Project at Harvard University, Harvard Educational Press.

    Google Scholar 

  14. Grant, P. A. (2005). Restrictiveness and race in special education: Educating all learners. Learning Disabilities A Contemporary Journal, 3(1), 70–74.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Harris-Murri, N., King, K., & Rostenberg, D. (2006). Reducing disproportionate minority representation in special education programs for students with emotional disturbances: Toward a culturally responsive response to intervention model. Education and Treatment of Children, 29(4), 779–799.

    Google Scholar 

  16. Hodapp, R. M., & Krasner, D. V. (1995). Reflections on using large, national data bases in special education research. Exceptionality, 5(2), 109–112.

    Google Scholar 

  17. Hosp, J. L., & Reschly, D. J. (2003). Referral rates for intervention or assessment: A meta-analysis of racial differences. Journal of Special Education, 37, 67–80.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Hosp, J. L., & Reschly, D. J. (2004). Disproportionate representation of minority students in special education: Academic, demographic, and economic predictors. Exceptional Children, 70, 185–199.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Hox, J. J. (2010). Multilevel analysis: Techniques and applications (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  20. Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004, 20 U.S.C. § 1400 et seq. (2004). Reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1990.

  21. Kauffman, J. M., Simpson, R. L., & Mock, D. R. (2009). Problems related to underservice: A rejoinder. Behavioral Disorders, 34(3), 172–180.

    Google Scholar 

  22. Larry P v. Riles. (1979). 495 E Supp. 926 (N.D. Cal. 1979), aff’d793 E 2d 969 (9th Cir. 1984).

  23. Liu, Y., Ortiz, A. A., Wilkinson, C. Y., Robertson, P., & Kushner, M. I. (2008). From early special education to special education resource rooms: Identification, assessment, and eligibility determinations for English language learners with reading-related disabilities. Assessment for Effective Intervention, 33(3), 177–187.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. McCall, Z., & Skrtic, T. M. (2009). Intersectional needs politics: A policy frame for the wicked problem of disproportionality. Multiple Voices for Ethnically Diverse Exceptional Learners, 11(2), 3–23.

    Google Scholar 

  25. Ortiz, A. A. (2002). Prevention of school failure and early intervention for English language learners. In A. J. Artiles & A. A. Ortiz (Eds.), English language learners with special education needs: Identification, assessment and instruction (pp. 31–48). McHenry, IL: Center for Applied Linguistics, Delta Systems Co., Inc.

    Google Scholar 

  26. Oswald, D. P., Coutinho, M. J., Best, A. M., & Singh, N. N. (1999). Ethnic representation in special education: The influence of school-related economic and demographic variables. The Journal of Special Education, 32, 194–206.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Skiba, R. J., Bush, L. D., & Knesting, K. K. (2002a). Culturally competent assessment: More than nonbiased tests. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 11, 61–78.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Skiba, R. J., Michael, R. S., Nardo, A. C., & Peterson, R. (2002b). The color of discipline: Sources of racial and gender disproportionality in school punishment. Urban Review, 34, 317–342.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Skiba, R. J., Poloni-Staudinger, L., Gallini, S., Simmons, A. B., & Feggins-Azziz, L. R. (2006a). Disparate access: The disproportionality of African American students with disabilities across educational environments. Exceptional Children, 72, 411–424.

    Google Scholar 

  30. Skiba, R. J., Simmons, A. B., Ritter, S., Gibb, A. C., Rausch, M. K., Cuadrado, J., et al. (2008). Achieving equity in special education: History, status, and current challenges. Exceptional Children, 74(3), 264–288.

    Google Scholar 

  31. Skiba, R. J., Simmons, A., Ritter, S., Kohler, K., Henderson, M., & Wu, T. (2006b). The context of minority disproportionality: Practitioner perspectives on special education referral. Teachers College Record, 108, 1424–1459.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Sullivan, A. L. (2011). Disproportionality in special education identification and placement of English language learners. Exceptional Children, 77(3), 317–334.

    Google Scholar 

  33. Trent, S. C., Kea, C. D., & Oh, K. (2008). Preparing preservice educators for cultural diversity: How far have we come? Exceptional Children, 74, 328–350.

    Google Scholar 

  34. U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. (2009). Minorities in special education: A briefing before the United States Commission on Civil Rights held in Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://www.usccr.gov/pubs/MinoritiesinSpecialEducation.pdf.

  35. U.S. Department of Commerce (2004). Annual-estimates of the population by sex, race, and hispanic or latino origin for the United States: April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2003. Retrieved on August 13, 2011 from http:/www.census.gov/popest/national/asrh/NCEST2003/NC-EST2003-03.pdf.

  36. U.S. Department of Education. (1997). Nineteenth annual report to Congress on the implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Washington, DC: Author.

    Google Scholar 

  37. U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, Data Analysis System. (2010). Children with disabilities receiving special education under part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Retrieved from http://www.ideadata.org.

  38. Valencia, R. R., & Suzuki, L. A. (2000). Intelligence testing and minority students: Foundations, performance factors, and assessment issues. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  39. Van Tassel-Baska, J., Feng, A. X., Swanson, J. D., Quek, C., & Chandler, K. (2009). Academic and affective profiles of low-income, minority, and twice-exceptional gifted learners: The role of gifted program membership in enhancing self. Journal of Advanced Academics, 20(4), 702–739.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Yoon, S. Y., & Gentry, M. (2009). Racial and ethnic representation in gifted programs: Current status of and implications for gifted Asian American students. Gifted Child Quarterly, 53(2), 121–136.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Zhang, D., & Katsiyannis, A. (2002). Minority representation in special education: A persistent challenge. Remedial and Special Education, 23, 180–187.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Dalun Zhang.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Zhang, D., Katsiyannis, A., Ju, S. et al. Minority Representation in Special Education: 5-Year Trends. J Child Fam Stud 23, 118–127 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-012-9698-6

Download citation

Keywords

  • Minority representation
  • Overrepresentation of minority student
  • Disproportional representation
  • Special education
  • Disparity