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:
- Failure to recognize and accommodate cultural differences among minority groups;
- Use of inappropriate assessment strategies for English Language Learners and racial and ethnic minorities;
- Failure to accommodate parents of students with Limited English Proficiency or language minorities; and
- Lack of responsiveness to cultural and socioeconomic differences among children and their families.
Learn about under-representation of minorities in gifted education.