Disproportionality in Special Education

  • Uncategorized


Disproportionalityin Special Education

Disproportionalityin Special Education

Specialeducation is a provision created in the education sector for studentswho have disabilities or conditions that affect their studying, tohave a chance of studying at the same pace as their peers, but in amore suitable setting. Special education creates a chance forstudents who are found to be deficient of key learning qualities tostudy in placements where they have the chance to use facilities andmaterials that will enable them to learn better than if they were ina general class setting(Kent McIntosh, 2016).In general, special education is a system created for students whohave special needs. Statistics from several studies show that thereis disproportionality in special education. The termdisproportionality refers to a certain group in a program being overor under represented. The groups can be identified o the basis ofrace, gender, sexual orientation or the socioeconomic status amongmany other social groupings.

Disproportionalityis a term that is heavily associated with the minority groups in theUnited States and especially the African American community. Thestudies that have been carried out on the special education programshave revealed that the African American community is over-representedin special education programs. To put this statement intoperspective, one has to look at the statistical data. For instance,the African Americans make up approximately 17% of the generalpopulation in the United States. However, 20% of students who areenrolled in various special education programs around the country areAfrican Americans(Lott-Daley, 2013).The statistic shows how over-represented the community is in specialeducation. The numbers are disproportionate thus leading todisproportionality in special education.

EconomicAdvantages When Looking at Assessment

Assessmentsare an important part of the special education process. Before astudent is placed in a special education program, he or she first hasto be assessed by professionals. The results will determine whetherthe child will receive special education. For better results, severaleconomic benefits are usually associated with the assessments. Thefirst is that it saves on resources. Each school has a budget that ithas to use on an annual basis. Funds are allocated to variousactivities and programs in the school. Assessments are planned for inthe budget. They help to identify students who need help with theirschoolwork. If these students are not identified early, they tend tolag behind in class and the school ends up spending funds on studentswho are not equipped to study in a general classroom setting. Fundshave to be provided to make provisions for such students. However,with special education assessments, once a student is identified, thestate can step in and help with funding the education of the student,thus, relieve the school of some of its financial burdens. Studentsin special education programs get the necessary materials andfacilities that are needed to help them study easier in school(M Henfield, 2008).This proves to be a much more productive end than ignoring thespecial needs of the child. Assessments are necessary for theidentification of students with special needs.

AssessmentPractices to Reduce Disproportionality

Theoverrepresentation of African American students in special educationprograms is heavily attributed to the discriminatory way thatassessments are carried out. The criteria for choosing students whoqualify for the special education programs leans towards the AfricanAmerican student leading to having large numbers of African Americanchildren in special education classrooms. Several practices duringassessment can be used to reduce disproportionality.

Affirmationof diversity is a major step towards reducing disproportionality inspecial education. The United States has a wide variety of citizensfrom various backgrounds. Holding everyone to a similar standard willfavor some students and heavily disadvantage others. Therefore,schools should look into using culturally responsive assessments thatwill respect the differences in students that makes them unique(Ford, 2012).For instance, there are some behaviors that might seem deviant inonce culture, but perfectly acceptable in another. Therefore, whenassessing a student, one should ensure that the background of thestudent is factored in so that the student gets the right assessmentrather than a generalization. The same can be said about how variouscultural groups in the country view involvement in school. Affirmingthe diversity of the student population goes a long way in reducingdisproportionality in special education.

Thesecond step to reducing disproportionality is to developsocio-cultural consciousness. As mentioned earlier, the United Stateshas a large variety of cultures. The many students who attend thepublic schools are not similar when it comes to culture. Therefore,the schools should be sensitive about the way that they deal with allstudents(H Richards, 2012).Rather than use a generalized approach, they should find ways throughwhich they can raise awareness about the importance of socio-culturalconsciousness. This awareness should also lead to better assessmentmethods that will not favor one group of students and heavilydisadvantage another.

Benefitsin Response to Intervention

Themulti-tiered system of support (MTSS) is a better way of approachingthe issue of special education in schools across the country. Thissystem of support has three tiers through which a student can getsupport in case he or she needs special education services. The threetiers are progressive and allow the assessment to be based onperformance a criterion that is less culturally discriminatory. Thefirst benefit is that it can be applied to students of all ages. Theresponse to intervention approach can be used for students inpreschool and those in high school. The study can be custom made foreach class and student. Another benefit of the MTSS approach is thatschool administrations are forced to be proactive in the process ofavailing the interventions to the students. Under the MTSS approach,the school administration has to avail extra resources like schoolstationery and staff to aid students during the extra learningsessions used in the MTSS. Therefore, the issue of improvingperformance for the children becomes a mandate that they have tofulfill rather than taking a back seat and leading the students tospecial education programs.

TheMTSS and multi-tiered systems of support require very littledisruption of education for students. Most response to interventionapproaches usually aid the process of learning. For instance, if astudent is found to have a problem in understanding mathematicalconcepts introduced in class, the MTSS approach encourages the schoolto offer additional classes and materials to assist the student studybetter(Special Education within a Multi-Tiered System of Supports, 2015).In case the first tier of intervention fails, the student is taken tothe second one. Special education is only resorted to after thestudent has shown insignificant progress after several tiers ofintervention. Most students tend to improve after a tier or two ofintervention. This approach cuts down on the number of students goingto special education. This is a good thing if the school wants toreduce disproportionality in the special education programs.


Mostof the activities discussed in this paper are not present in allschools for various reasons. For instance, the change of socialconsciousness should start from the administration and trickle downto the students. There are instances where the change in attitude hasnot been encouraged or enforced. Besides, it takes very long forschools to change the systems that they have in place.

Severalempirical studies highlight the benefits of MTSS. Slowly, more andmore schools are beginning to adapt to this change, which is a goodthing for the special education program. Educators can enhance MTSSin their schools in various ways. The most important way thatteachers can enhance MTSS is by providing education services that aresupplemental to ensure that the students get the extra practicenecessary for their success. Taking such initiative individually isimportant especially for the teachers who work in schools that arenot keen on using MTSS. The results of MTSS are encouraging with manystudents showing improvement of educational performance with fewerand deserving students gaining access to special education programs.Disproportionality is a symptom of a problem, and it is high time itwas addressed and fixed nationwide.


Ford,Y. (2012). Culturally different students in special education: Lookbackward to move forward. ExceptionalChildren,391-405.

HRichards, M. G. (2012). To label or not to label: the specialeducation question for African Americans. EducationalFoundation,143-155.

KentMcIntosh, S. G. (2016). IntegratedMulti-tiered Systems of Support: Blending RTIs and PBIS.New York, NY: Guilford Publications.

Lott-Daley,M. (2013). The Disproportionality of African Americans in SpecialEducation. EducationMasters,Paper 256.

MHenfield, M. M. (2008). African American males in special education:Their attitudes, perspectives and perceptions towards high schoolcounselors and school counseling services. AmericanBehavioral Scientist,907-92.

SpecialEducation within a Multi-Tiered System of Supports.(2015, September). Retrieved March 29, 2017, from ColoradoMulti-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS): www.cde.state.co.us/mtss/sped