Representational status of minority students in special education in the state of Rhode Island

Megan O'Reilly Foran, University of Rhode Island


The issue of overrepresentation of certain ethnic groups in special education has been a documented problem for decades. Several variables are hypothesized to be related to the overrepresentation of minority groups in special education including economic, demographic, and academic variables, as well as biases in the special education referral and placement process. The purpose of this investigation was to analyze characteristics of minority and non-minority children in special education in the state of Rhode Island to determine if there was a disproportionality problem in special education. Specifically, the study examined if there was a disproportionate representation of students of specific racial/ethnic backgrounds in special education and identified which variables were most related to the prediction of special education status for students in 4th, 8th, and 10th grade. Composition indexes, risk indexes, and odds ratios indicated that Asian students were underrepresented in special education in all grade levels. Pacific Islander/Native Hawaiian and Hispanic/Latino students were either underrepresented or proportionally represented in special education and always were less likely than White students to receive special education services. However, in certain grades African American/Black and American Indian/Alaskan Native were found to be overrepresented in special education. Logistic regression analyses found that 13%-21% of the variance in special education identification was accounted for by specific demographic, economic, and academic variables. Specifically, being of Asian, Hispanic/Latino, and African/American backgrounds was associated with a decrease in odds in the likelihood of having an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), while those students who qualified for a free or reduced priced lunch were significantly more likely to have an IEP. Furthermore, female students and those who were achieving academically were less likely to have an IEP. Research limitations and directions for future research are discussed. ^

Subject Area

Education, Special

Recommended Citation

Megan O'Reilly Foran, "Representational status of minority students in special education in the state of Rhode Island" (2007). Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access). Paper AAI3276983.