Disproportionality of racial/ethnic groups in special education is a longstanding national issue. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA 2004) requires states to define significant disproportionality of racial/ethnic groups with regards to identification in special education, identification in specific disability categories, placement, and discipline.
What is Significant Disproportionality?
The purpose of the Significant Disproportionality regulations under IDEA section 618(d) (20 U.S.C. 1418(d)) and § 300.646) is to promote equity in IDEA. Specifically, states must collect and examine data to determine if significant disproportionality based on race and ethnicity is occurring in the State and the local educational agencies (LEAs) of the State with respect to:
(A) the identification of children as children with disabilities, including the identification of children as children with disabilities in accordance with a particular impairment;
(B) the placement in particular educational settings of such children; and
(C) the incidence, duration, and type of disciplinary actions, including suspensions and expulsions.
The standard methodology for identifying districts showing significant disproportionality in one or more areas uses risk ratios to analyze disparities for seven racial or ethnic groups, comparing each to all other children within the LEA in 14 different categories of analysis.
As used in these regulations, risk is a measure of likelihood expressed as a percentage or proportion. Specifically, it is the likelihood of a particular outcome, such as identification of a child as a child with a disability, placement in a particular setting, or disciplinary removal, for a specified racial or ethnic group.
Each state is required to set its own standard methodology. With input from school districts, communities, and families, in 2022 Oregon updated the methodology by which districts are identified as showing significant disproportionality by race/ethnicity.
Identification of Significant Disproportionality
Risk Ratio Thresholds and Significant Disproportionality Identification