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Understanding the Problem of Disproportionality

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[...] others assert that if bias or inappropriate practices are present at any stage in the general or special education processes that lead to labeling and placement, disproportionality must be considered problematic (Heller, Holtzman, & Messick, 1982; Klingner et al., 2005). [...] to many, special education represents a "double-edged sword" because it ensures access for children who were traditionally excluded from public education but simultaneously serves to marginalize students from the general education environment.

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									                               Th e N e w s pa p e r o f t h e N a t i o n a l A s s o c i a t i o n o f S c h o o l P s y c h o l o g i s t s




Communiqué
September 2009                                                                                                                                                                                                       Volume 38, Number 1




Multicultural Affairs                                                                                                                                      Research-Based Practice

CONFRONTING INEQUITY IN SPECIAL EDUCATION, PART I:
Understanding the Problem
of Disproportionality
B Y A M A N DA L . S U L L I VA N , E L I Z A B E T H A’ VA N T, J O H N B A K E R , DA P H N E C H A N -
D L E R , S COT T G R AV E S , E D WA R D M C K I N N E Y, & T R E M A I N E S AY L E S

This article is one in a series developed by NASP’s African American Subcommittee for school psychologists and other educa-
tors working with culturally and linguistically diverse student populations. In this article, part one of two addressing dispro-
portionality, the subcommittee presents an overview of the problem of disproportionate representation of Black students in
special education. In next month’s edition, part two will provide school psychologists with promising practices in addressing
disproportionality and supporting equity in schools. The authors acknowledge the support of the African American Subcom-
mittee, under NASP’s Multicultural Affairs Committee, for their insightful discussions on the article topic, as well as for the
group’s professional allegiance.

          ne of the most persistent and controver-                    to describe these groups, as they fail to capture

O         sial issues in education is the overrepre-
          sentation of culturally and linguistically
diverse (CLD) students identified as disabled in
                                                                      the vast diversity both within and between groups
                                                                      (e.g., see Chandler, A’Vant, & Graves, 2008).
                                                                          Even before special education was formally
schools. The term “culturally and linguistically di-                  codified in the Education for All Handicapped
verse” is used to refer to students from racial/eth-                  Children Act of 1975 (P.L. 94-142, now the Indi-
nic minority groups and linguistic minority groups.                   viduals with Disabilities Education Improvement
Throughout this paper, we compare CLD students                        Act), students of color, as well as those from immi-
                                                                                                                                     FENG YU/ISTOCKPHOTO




to their mainstream White peers, while acknowl-                       grant or economically disadvantaged households,
edging the inherent limitations of any term used                      were overrepresented in [ continued on page 14 ]


Implementing RTI                                                      school psychologists with whom we work are
                                                                      eager to adopt an RTI model because it is seen as                            School Psychologists
Response to                                                           a faster way to get students help. However, those
                                                                      same school psychologists are also frustrated by                             as Instructional and
Intervention and                                                      the lack of consensus about how to best use RTI
                                                                      models to determine student eligibility in the cat-                          Behavioral Coaches:
Eligibility Deci-                                                     egory of specific learning disability (SLD). The
                                                                      very important question of “What are the specific                             A Natural Fit
sions: We Need to                                                     requirements to classify a child as SLD?” seems to
                                                                      remain fuzzy in practice and mostly absent from                                      B Y G R E G S . E R N , K AT H RY N H E A D,
                                                                                                                                                           & SIMS ANDERSON
Wait to Succeed                                                       the research literature.
                                                                          It is interesting to note that the federal pro-                                           ver the years, the roles and functions of school psycholo-
B Y M AT T H E W B U R N S &
T. C H R I S R I L E Y-T I L L M A N
                                                                      vision for RTI exists in the eligibility criteria for
                                                                      SLD, but the focus in policy and research tends
                                                                      to deemphasize eligibility decision making in
                                                                                                                                                 O                  gists have expanded, especially with the advent of response
                                                                                                                                                                    to intervention (RTI). Increased emphasis has been placed
                                                                                                                                                           on consultation, collaboration with other professionals, interven-
      chool psychologists in this country are fed                     favor of concentrating on RTI as a method to                                         tion assistance, and coaching. The types of assessment methods that

S     up. We are both fortunate enough to con-
      sult with school districts all over the coun-
try about implementing response to interven-
                                                                      enhance student learning (Batche et al., 2005;
                                                                      Burns & VanDerHeyden, 2006; Tilly 2008). Un-
                                                                      fortunately, both aspects of an RTI model are
                                                                                                                                                           school psychologists utilize on a routine basis have broadened to in-
                                                                                                                                                           clude universal screening measures and other sensitive measures for
                                                                                                                                                           monitoring student progress and assisting in the design of classroom
tion (RTI), and w
								
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