Are black and Hispanic students identified for special education too often, or not often enough?
For several years, that question has been the focus of a simmering policy debate. Federal regulations require districts to guard against greatly overidentifying minority students with disabilities—also known as “significant disproportionality” in the regulations of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Nationally, 14 percent of white students ages 3-21 are in special education; for black students it is 16 percent and for Hispanic students, 13 percent.
In recent years, however, other research has shown that black and Hispanic students are actually less likely to be placed in special education than white peers who have similar academic and behavioral backgrounds. That could potentially leave them at risk of not getting the help they may need to succeed.