Date of Award


Degree Type



Education and Human Services

First Advisor

Stahlman, Judy

Subject Headings

Special education -- Ohio, Children with disabilities -- Education -- Ohio, Education and state -- Ohio, Special education, Overrepresentation, Ethnic disproportionality


The disproportionate representation of ethnically and culturally diverse students in special education has been the topic of significant research and policy debate for the last forty years. Disproportionality occurs when the proportion of students of a specific ethnic group in a disability category is greater or less than the proportion of Caucasian students in the same disability category. The prevailing logic asserts that disproportionality is the result of ethnically and culturally diverse students being differentially affected by the deleterious effects of poverty. Despite considerable research regarding the prevalence of overrepresentation, few studies have been undertaken to examine the relationship between multiple variables and district rates of disproportionality. The purpose of this study is to determine the impact of multiple district-level variables on ethnic disproportionality in special education and to address one limitation in the work of Skiba et al. (2005), which examined the relative impact of multiple variables on overrepresentation in special education in the State of Indiana. Additionally, this study will examine the role of multiple variables for ethnic groups that were previously excluded from analysis. District-level data from across Ohio will be examined for four disability categories. Disproportionality will be measured using the rate ratio method. A hierarchical multiple linear regression analysis will be conducted to determine the relationship between disproportionality and district-level variables using the SPSS program. The significance of this study is to further illuminate the extent to which economic and other variables may account for the disproportionate representation of ethnically and culturally diverse students in special education, and to guide future discussions of educational policy reform. The results support the hypotheses that diverse students are disproportionately represented in Ohio and that variables do not operate in the same way with respect to disproportionalit

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