COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA
DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
P.O. BOX 2120
RICHMOND, VIRGINIA 23218-2120
SUPTS. MEMO NO. 166
December 6, 2002
Jo Lynne DeMary
Superintendent of Public Instruction
Disproportionate Representation Relative to Race For Students with Disabilities
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Reauthorization of 1997, directs states to "provide for the collection and examination of data to determine if significant disproportionality based on race is occurring" in identifying children with disabilities, including the identification of children with a particular impairment as defined by federal and state definition. States are also required to "provide for the collection and examination of data to determine if significant disproportionality based on race is occurring" with respect to the placement in particular educational settings of children with disabilities. To meet this requirement, the Virginia Department of Education has analyzed data collected from the December 1, 2000, Special Education Child Count, and by this memo notifies all school divisions of the results of this analysis.
The attached materials should not be considered a notice or determination of significant disproportionate representation. Rather, the attached materials are the first step in a process of state and local review and analysis of data that could ultimately result in a determination of significant disproportionate representation. Please review these attachments to detect trends or signals that could indicate there could be a problem. Look at your school divisions data and make your own analysis. Totals for all race categories are provided, but focus of the analysis is on African-American (black) representation and the disability category of Mental Retardation.
Where a signal of possible significant disproportionality is present, the department may provide for the review of a school divisions policies, procedures, and practices used in the identification and placement of students with disabilities to ensure that such policies, procedures, and practices comply with the requirements of IDEA.
The department recognizes that, as a matter of law and good educational practice, many individual factors and procedural safeguards are involved in the identification and placement of students with disabilities. The department also recognizes that there are many factors involved in gathering and reviewing data. Caution should be applied before reaching any conclusions about the data in these attachments. In the absence of any federal definition of "significant disproportionate" representation, the department has chosen the following process for gathering and reviewing data on students with disabilities relative to race.
The departments first step was to identify school divisions whose percentage of black students is less than 5 percent of their general school age population and the raw number of black students enrolled in special education is less than 100. These divisions are not included in the analysis if both of these conditions are met. If the raw number of black students enrolled in special education is 100 or more, these divisions were included in the review.
In signaling whether possible significant disproportionality might exist relative to the identification of students with disabilities, the department determined the percentage of each race category in the general school age population and applied the same percentage to the population of students with disabilities. This percentage is then used to generate an expected number of students in each race category in the population of students with disabilities. A tolerance range of 20 percent is then applied to this expected number. Possible significant disproportionality was signaled where, after the 20 percent tolerance factor was applied, the adjusted number of students still exceeded the expected number of students in each race category. (See one-page attachment titled: Disproportionality Test, tolerance percentage used 20%). The same calculation was used to signal a possible significant disproportionality in individual disability categories. (See three-page attachment titled: Disproportionality Test by Ethnicity by Disability based on Fall Membership). This calculation has been recognized by the U.S. Department of Educations Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) as appropriate for states to use.
In signaling possible significant disproportionality relative to placement of students with disabilities, the department compared the percent of time white students with mental retardation receive special education to the percent of time black students with mental retardation receive special education. Possible significant disproportionality was flagged if black students with mental retardation spent more time in special education programs than white students with mental retardation. (See two-page attachment titled: Percentage of Special Education by Disability, by Race, by Placement).
Data for your school division are attached for all three possible disproportionate types. A signal of not within criteria is given for areas where you should analyze the data. If your division has possible significant disproportionality signaled in one or more of the three areas described above, please examine the data, review your local policies related to referral, identification, evaluation and placement and determine why the totals exceed the expected number of students in the race categories, the disability categories, or the placement categories indicated.
The department suggests that school divisions address this issue in the context of student achievement. Providing special education services is one way to address needs of students who have problems in school because of their disability. If an analysis of your data shows that provision of special education was questionable as the most appropriate intervention for certain students, school divisions can examine system practices for providing appropriate instructional interventions in the general education setting. Even though you are addressing data on students with disabilities, it is anticipated that general education staff will be involved in the plan for addressing the resolution for any possible disproportionate situations.
The department will make technical assistance and personnel development information, including cultural competence training, available to school divisions. In the near future, the department will identify the steps school divisions should take in addressing areas of disproportionate representation.
If you have any questions on this matter, please contact Paul J. Raskopf at 804-225-2080, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.