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  September 5, 2020

Racial differences in special education identification and placement: Evidence across three states

Citation

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Grindal ,T., Schifter, L., Schwartz, G., Hehir, T. (2019) Racial differences in special education identification and placement: Evidence across three states. Harvard Educational Review, 89(4), 525–553.

Abstract

In this article, Todd Grindal, Laura Schifter, Gabriel Schwartz, and Thomas Hehir examine race/ethnicity differences in students’ special education identification and subsequent placement in segregated educational settings. Using individual-level data on the full population of K–12 public school students in three states, the authors find that racial and ethnic disparities in identification persist within income categories and are stronger for those disabilities that are typically identified in a school setting, such as learning disabilities or emotional disabilities, than those more often identified by a health-care provider, such as blindness or deafness. Also, Black and Hispanic students with disabilities were more likely to be placed in a substantially separate setting, compared to white students, regardless of income status. These results suggest that low-income status is insufficient to explain observed inequalities in the rate at which students of color are identified for special education and placed in substantially separate settings. A better understanding of the ways income status and race contribute to students’ interactions with the special education system are critical for building a more equitable and just K–12 education system.

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