At Exceptional Children, Paul L. Morgan and colleagues have an article titled "Are Black Children Disproportionately Overrepresented in Special Education? A Best-Evidence Synthesis."
We synthesized empirical work to evaluate whether Black children are disproportionately overrepresented in special education. We identified 22 studies that met a priori inclusion criteria including use of at least 1 covariate in the reported analyses. Evidence of overrepresentation declined markedly as the studies included one or more of 3 “best-evidence” methodological features (i.e., analyses of individual-level data, a nationally representative sample, a control for individual-level academic achievement). Among 48 coefficient estimates from studies with the strongest internal and external validity, only 1 (2.1%) indicated significant overrepresentation. This coefficient suggested a school characteristic (a high percentage of minority students) that may help explain underrepresentation. None of the remaining 47 (97.9%) regression coefficients indicated that Black children’s overrepresentation in special education was explained by misidentification based on race or ethnicity. Instead, the best evidence indicates that Black children are significantly less likely than otherwise similar White children to receive special education services.From the article:
Collectively, our synthesis provides little support for the view that Black children are overrepresented in special education based on race or ethnicity. The best available studies instead indicate that among children displaying similar needs, White children are more likely to be identified and provided with special education services
Policies emphasizing reducing minority overrepresentation risk exacerbating inequities by further limiting children’s access to special education as well as to IDEA’s extensive legal protections. The view that Black children’s overrepresentation in special education
is the result of widespread misidentification based on race or ethnicity currently lacks mpirical support from well-designed studies. Yet calls are currently being made to strengthen compliance monitoring as well as implement additional federal policies designed to reduce minority overrepresentation. These well-intentioned policy efforts are not currently based on well-designed empirical studies and would instead be better directed by ensuring that all children with disabilities, regardless of race or ethnicity, are properly evaluated and provided access to the high-quality special education services to which they have a civil right.