Paradoxes and Inequities in Special Education and the Law

How do historical, social, and economic factors within school districts affect their response to receiving a federal citation for racial disproportionality in special education?

Although special education placement is intended to increase educational opportunities for students with disabilities, students of color are overrepresented in lower-quality programs, receive fewer services than white peers with the same disability, and ultimately fare worse with regard to educational outcomes. Tefera will examine annual school district-level data on district size, demographics, and disproportionality citations from 695 districts in New York state to identify similarities and differences in districts’ citation histories and responses to citations. Using an event history analysis, the investigator will measure whether and when a district received a citation and was able to transition off the citation. Preliminary data suggest that suburban districts are most likely to receive citations and to receive repeated citations. Thus, Tefera will include a qualitative component with three suburban school districts that have citation histories. Qualitative interviews and focus groups will explore how the citation was received by stakeholders, including administrators and teachers; how they reacted; and what steps they took to address the citation. Findings will provide information about how a school district’s context may impact responses to policies designed to reduce unequal outcomes in education.

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