What is Significant Disproportionality in Education?
Having significant disproportionality means that students of a particular race/ethnicity are significantly more likely than their other-race peers to be identified as students with disabilities, identified in a particular disability category, placed in a particular educational setting, or suspended/expelled as a disciplinary measure. The Federal government under IDEA Section 618(d) requires that each state examines whether significant disproportionality based on race and ethnicity is occurring at the local education agency (LEA) and State levels on an annual basis. If significant disproportionality exists, a review of policies, practices and procedures is required, which must be revised as appropriate.
These requirements stem from national historical trends that “Children with disabilities are often disproportionately and unfairly suspended and expelled from school and educated in classrooms separate from their peers. Children of color with disabilities are overrepresented within the special education population, and the contrast in how frequently they are disciplined is even starker” (U.S. Department of Education, 2016).
The long-term impacts of significant disproportionality can include: lost instructional days; reduced access to rigorous curriculum, lower academic expectations and achievement, lower graduation rates, higher dropout rates, emotional and social issues, stigmatization, and fewer opportunities for post-secondary academic and career opportunities.
What is Root Cause Analysis?
Root Cause Analysis is a process school districts, regional/county organizations, and state departments of education use to identify the basis for the disproportionality. Stakeholders triangulate and analyze multiple data points to discern patterns of behavior and determine impetus for the disproportionality. From these findings, the stakeholders are able to hypothesize the problem and formulate solution-based plans.