Disproportionality in Special Education Programs

Over-identification of Minorities
Over-identification of Minorities. Minority Over-identification - Getty


What is Disproportionality?

Disproportionality is over-representation of minority students identified with a learning disability or other type of disability under the IDEA. When a minority group's numbers in special education are statistically higher than they should be, they are considered disproportionate.

Why is Disproportionality a Problem?

When schools have higher numbers of certain ethnic or minority students enrolled in special education that they should have by statistical standards, it signals the possibility that some of the students may not be truly disabled and may have been incorrectly identified. Disproportionality is a problem because it can:

  • Prevent children from reaching their academic potential;
  • Fuel negative stereotypes regarding minority groups;
  • Result in a type of racial profiling that places minority students at a disadvantage throughout their school year;
  • Result in lowered expectations among teachers, parents, and the students themselves; and
  • Prevent schools from recognizing the need to adjust curriculum and teaching methods to reach a broad range of instructional needs of a diverse student body.

What Causes Disproportionality?

Disproportionality may be caused by:

Also Known As: over-representation, over-identification, racial profiling in education

Examples: In many states, disproportionality affects more African American students than students from other groups.

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