Special Education Report Roundup

Study: Minorities Less Likely to Be in Spec. Ed.

By Christina A. Samuels — July 07, 2015 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Black students and Hispanic students are less likely than their white and non-Hispanic peers to be labeled with a disability, when factors such as household income, low birth weight, and parents’ marital status are taken into account, according to a new study.

The findings challenge the notion that overt or unconscious bias has funneled a disproportionate number of minority students into special education. The study was published online June 24 by the journal Educational Researcher.

Researchers analyzed a national sample of students from five of the 13 federal disability categories—emotional disturbance, intellectual disability, “other health impairment,” specific learning disability, and speech and language impairment. They looked at not only race but at other variables that correlate with educational outcomes: English-language status, birth weight, insurance status, household income, and mother’s marital status. They also controlled for the child’s achievement and behavior. After accounting for such factors, the probability of being identified for special education was lower in every category for minority students.

Lead author Paul L. Morgan of Pennsylvania State University said just reporting the share of black children identified with a disability is not enough: Risk factors seem to make a difference. For example, black children may be more likely to be born at a low birth weight, or in low-income households.

A version of this article appeared in the July 08, 2015 edition of Education Week as Study: Minorities Less Likely to Be in Spec. Ed.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Classroom Technology Webinar
How to Leverage Virtual Learning: Preparing Students for the Future
Hear from an expert panel how best to leverage virtual learning in your district to achieve your goals.
Content provided by Class
English-Language Learners Webinar AI and English Learners: What Teachers Need to Know
Explore the role of AI in multilingual education and its potential limitations.
Education Webinar The K-12 Leader: Data and Insights Every Marketer Needs to Know
Which topics are capturing the attention of district and school leaders? Discover how to align your content with the topics your target audience cares about most. 

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Special Education Letter to the Editor Schools Must Do Better to Meet IDEA Requirements
More states must follow through on this law.
1 min read
Education Week opinion letters submissions
Gwen Keraval for Education Week
Special Education Test Your Knowledge: How Does Universal Screening for Dyslexia in Schools Work?
Take our quiz to gauge your knowledge of the language processing disorder—and find links to further reading.
1 min read
 Conceptual image of wooden alphabet tiles scattered across blue metallic surface.
Special Education Letter to the Editor Reevaluating My Language Around Disability
A recent opinion essay encouraged this teacher to unpack her approach to labeling students with specific disability classifications.
1 min read
Education Week opinion letters submissions
Gwen Keraval for Education Week
Special Education Can AI Write a Good IEP? What Special Education Experts Say
AI tools could ease paperwork burdens and offer new supports for students—but privacy and efficacy concerns are real.
3 min read
Image of a plan with a goal, with a digital texture.
Collage via iStock/Gettty