About Disproportionate Representation and Significant Disproportionality | Disproportionate Representation
The disproportionate representation of children from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds in special education is a longstanding national issue and continues to concern the public. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) 2004 notes that:
greater efforts are needed to prevent the intensification of problems connected with mislabeling minority children with disabilities;
African-American children are identified as having mental retardation and emotional disturbance at rates greater than their white counterparts;
more minority children continue to be served in special education than would be expected from the percentage of minority students in the general school population;
in the 1998-1999 school year, African-American children represented 14.8% of the population aged 6 through 21, yet comprised 20.2% of all children with disabilities served in our schools; and
studies have found that schools with predominately white students and teachers have placed disproportionately high numbers of their minority students into special education.
Significant Disproportionality Analysis
States are obligated under federal statute and regulation (20 U.S.C. 1418 (d) and 34 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) §300.646) to collect and examine data to determine whether significant disproportionality based on race or ethnicity is occurring in the state and the LEAs of the state with respect to:
the identification of students as students with disabilities, ages 6-21, including identification as students with particular impairments;
the placement of students in particular educational settings; and
the incidence, duration, and type of disciplinary actions occurring for students, including suspensions and expulsions.
States must conduct this analysis on the three elements of identification, placement, and disciplinary actions on an annual basis.
When a state educational agency (SEA) identifies an LEA with significant disproportionality in one or more of these required elements based on the collection and examination of their data, the state must require the LEA to:
review (and, if appropriate) revise policies, procedures, and practices;
to publicly report the revision of any policies, procedures, and practices.
Each state has the discretion to define what constitutes significant disproportionality for the LEAs in the state and for the state in general. The state’s definition of significant disproportionality must be based on an analysis of numerical information only, and may not include consideration of the state’s or LEA’s policies, procedures, and practices. This reflects statutory language at section 618(d)(2) of the IDEA that explains a review of policies, procedures, and practices is a consequence of, rather than a part of, a determination of significant disproportionality by race or ethnicity.
Each spring, the TEA follows a methodology for analyzing the three required elements of significant disproportionality. LEAs determined to have significant disproportionality are subject to the following required actions:
Review and revision of policies, procedures, and practices
LEAs are required to review policies, practices, and procedures for identifying, placing, and disciplining children with disabilities when identified as having significant disproportionality in identification, placement, or discipline. The purpose of this review is to determine if the policies, practices, and procedures are consistent with the requirements of IDEA.
Required use of maximum amount (15%) of the flow-through funds for early intervening services
LEAs are required to reserve the maximum amount (15%) of the flow-through funds it receives under Part B of IDEA to provide comprehensive CEIS to serve children who have not been identified as children with disabilities in the LEA, particularly, but not exclusively, children in those groups that were significantly over-identified. The phrase “reserve the maximum amount of funds” is interpreted as meaning use of the funds for CEIS early intervening services. The statute does not authorize LEAs to use these funds for any other purpose. An LEA that is required to use 15% of its IDEA Part B allocation on CEIS because the TEA identified the LEA as having significant disproportionality under 34 CFR §300.646, will not be able to reduce local maintenance of effort (MOE) under IDEA Section 613(a)(2)(c). It is important to note that the obligation to use 15% of the LEA’s IDEA funds for EIS is triggered solely on a determination of significant disproportionality. In other words, the obligation to reserve funds for CEIS occurs independent of any analysis of whether that disproportionality is the result of inappropriate identification.
Public reporting of revisions to policies, procedures, and practices
LEAs are required to report publicly on the results of any revision of policies, practices, and procedures used in identification, placement or discipline of children with disabilities (described under 34 CFR §300.646(b)(1)). Examples of public reporting include, but are not limited to: school board meeting announcement, public notice in the local newspaper, posting on the LEA's web page, correspondence to parents, etc.
Additional guidance regarding disproportionality is available on the Education Service Center (ESC) Region 1 Texas Initiative for Disproportionate Representation in Special Education web site.
Division of Federal and State Education Policy
1701 North Congress Avenue | Austin, Texas 78701-1494
Telephone: 512.463.9414 | Fax: 512.463.9560
Last Updated: July 26, 2012 | Created: June 25, 2007